Every once in a while I get a hankering for one of my favorite foods. It’s all I can think about the moment it happens. My mouth begins to water and I can taste that food. It’s almost like the experiment with Pavlov’s dog all over again.
When we become new creatures in Christ, we develop a hunger for God, an unquenchable desire to know him more and go deeper in our relationship with him. We want to grow in holiness and be like him.
This is the other side of holiness. We have talked extensively about the negative side, the commands and principles we follow, avoiding and escaping temptation, dealing with momentary sins. But now we want to talk about the positive side, the relationship and hunger we have to love and serve Jesus.
New Creatures in Christ
The Bible tells us we are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). But what does that mean? Throughout our Holiness Matters blog series, we have talked a lot about the changes the Holy Spirit makes under the hood.
He makes our character holy, more like Jesus. But this opens up a new realm of possibilities for us. When the Bible describes the old life and the new life in Christ, there are definite changes that make us unlike what we used to be and what this world wants us to be.
A new creature in Christ has a different mindset, desire, approach, spirit, heart, and a host of other changes. God has a plan to take us from fledgling Christians at the altar to strong overcomers for his kingdom and glory (Romans 8:28-30).
We used to be alone in this world before we met Jesus. We served ourselves and were out to please ourselves. We listened to our fleshly desires. In fact, we were bound up as slaves to ourselves. We had no idea what freedom is.
All that changed when we met Jesus and became his disciples. While the cost is great, being new creatures in Christ means that he is re-creating us from the inside out. Some people think this is a strange concept, that some things from the old life remain, like the sinful nature.
But that kind of thinking puts Jesus in a box and takes away his victory at the cross. The Holy Spirit’s power is greater than our sin. And he can teach us to live a righteous and holy lifestyle. We learn to serve Jesus in everything we do.
Be patient. This new creature in Christ is forming. You are not perfect yet. You are not fully mature. If you were, heaven would be your home. But while you are here, God wants to do great things in and through you. God began this good work and he will bring it to completion (). Buckle up for the ride of your life!
A New Heart
The Bible describes this new creature you are becoming in the prophecies concerning the new covenant. Jeremiah 31:33 points out that God will take his law he wrote on stone in the old covenant and write them on the flash of our hearts.
What is this prophetic language mean? The new covenant, which every Christian is part of, changes our hearts. We internalize the laws God gave the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The three types of laws are fulfilled through our obedience.
When Jesus came on the scene, he preached the Sermon on the Mount. Most of that sermon refers to how we internalize the Old Testament laws. We apply the moral laws through our obedience to Jesus and his teaching.
As long as we follow Jesus’ teaching he gave us in the New Testament, we are fulfilling the Ten Commandments and every other part of his law. If we don’t follow what Jesus has told us to do, and we disobey the Holy Spirit, we violate God’s moral code.
When Jesus came, he fulfilled the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17-20). The sacrificial laws mostly found in Leviticus point to a perfect, spotless, and blameless sacrifice among the animals. The book of Hebrews, especially Hebrews 10, explains how Jesus is that perfect sacrifice the law look forward to. It foreshadowed Jesus dying on the cross in our place.
The civic laws for Israel in the Old Testament speak of purity. Purity is one of the keys to the holy life. We must not mix godly and worldly principles. The laws that describe mixing two different fabrics for clothing and mixing meat and cheese teach us to be separate from the things of this world.
The laws concerning clean and unclean foods, animals, and practices also point to purity. God wants a pure heart from us. He can use a hard devoted only to him, unhindered by the world and its system of standards.
The new hard is a heart of flesh, soft and moldable by the Holy Spirit. We focus on Jesus and follow him instead of turning to the right and to the left where evil temptations try to snag us along the road to holiness.
This heart of flesh is sensitive to God. We seek to know Jesus and obey all of his commands. Idols and selfish desires are thing of the past. We live to serve Jesus in love and gratitude for his sacrifice for us.
A New Spirit
Throughout the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon select individuals who fulfilled the roles of prophet, priest, and king. Through the anointing ceremony the Holy Spirit came upon them, giving his power to them.
Joel 2:28-29 describes a characteristic of the new covenant when the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all people who believe. Although it uses the same language of “pour out on all” we see the fulfillment at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
There, the Holy Spirit fills and indwells believers, preparing them for bold witness of Christ and Christian ministry. The pouring out of the Spirit is expanded to sons and daughters, old men and young men, even male and female servants.
Peter quotes this passage on the Day of Pentecost. It is the fulfillment of the Joel prophecy in the new covenant. This new Spirit is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer. His power for witnessing, charismatic and service gifts, and intimacy with God empower Spirit-filled Christians.
The Spirit walks alongside of us and gives us his power for every situation. As part of Jesus’ new creation, we have these benefits in our relationship with him. The Holy Spirit leads us and makes us mature in Christ, helping us live a holy lifestyle.
Being hungry for God happens because Jesus has made us new creatures with a new heart, a new spirit, and a desire for him. We shun temptation, sin, the pleasures of this world, and anything else that doesn’t get us closer to Jesus.
As we continue to talk about holiness in loving and serving Christ, we will see how this new creation and our hunger for God enhance our relationship with Jesus. This is often the neglected side of holiness, even though it is the best part. All of our obedience to the Holy Spirit pays off as we chase after Jesus.
Like Paul, we want to know Jesus, the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his suffering (Philippians 3:10). We run the race he marks out for us. And we seek him above all other things. Join me on this journey, the most rewarding part of holiness.