September 18 I Sunday
2 Corinthians 11:1-15
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” —Colossians 3:9-10
There are some people who have very little expectation that people can change. The argument goes that we experience slight changes in attitudes and actions throughout our lives, but our general character, routines and ways of thinking remain the same. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” they say, but what if you could change the dog? Maybe a new dog will know new tricks?
When we read through the New Testament, it is full of expectancy of change, growth and transformation. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” Paul also writes that as we contemplate the Lord’s glory, we “are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The goal of the Christian life is that we be renewed in the image of our Creator. This is a process that occurs because Christ lives in us and longs to express Himself through us. Paul calls it the mystery that God once kept hidden but has now disclosed to His people, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, His moral character, but Christ in us is our hope of being restored to that glory.
Some reverse this process, thinking godliness works from the outside in. The first-generation church struggled with falling back on the law because it provided them with external measurements of holiness instead of living by the Spirit. Many Christians today also try to reduce the Christian life to a checklist of what we do for Jesus instead of a life that He lives in us and through us as we depend on Him. But as Paul writes to the Galatians, “After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).
We can no more live the Christian life by human effort than we can become a Christian by human effort. Christ works from the inside out so that our changed behaviour is the result, not the cause, of Christ indwelling us. This may explain why in most of Paul’s letters his doctrinal teachings precede his practical teachings. First comes belief in the truths about Christ and His work, then comes changed behaviour; first comes the resources we have in Christ, then comes our responsibilities that flow out of those resources. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Christ is in the business of changing old sinners into new creations from the inside out.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for loving me so much that You were willing to save me and are willing to live within me. Transform me from the inside out and bring me to a deeper dependence on You.