Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Am Being Made New (Part 1)

Picking up where I left off, I want to draw out the continuous nature of gospel renewal through the ongoing work of sanctification.  Behind these posts is the central theological motif that our union with Christ is the fountainhead of all genuine renewal in the Christian life, and therefore we should center our lives, churches, and ministries on the gospel of Jesus Christ and experience its satisfying and strengthening work from beginning to end.

Justification and Sanctification

We are made new by the justification of God where the new covenant promises of the Father are fulfilled in new and living way of Christ’s atoning death through which we experience regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.  This work of renewal continues as those who are being saved continually repent and believe the good news which is forever theirs in Christ Jesus.  God is committed to perfect a people for Himself by reversing the curse of sin through the Fall as His people are changed into the likeness of Christ, the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).

In justification, we are made a new creation in Christ by the sovereign work of God in bringing those who are dead in trespasses and sin and making them alive (Eph. 2:1-5).  The continuing work of this resurrection power is seen as “the old passing away as all things become new” (2 Cor. 5:17b).  We are being made new (sanctification) only because we have been made new (justification).  Those who seek renewal upon spiritual performances and not the gospel are trying to be made new without having been made new, thereby replacing justification with sanctification.  This deathly treadmill is a cycle which does not breed new life but new despair in the heart of those whose hopes are in what they can do for God rather than what God has done for them.

The goal of the gospel’s work is seen in the “golden chain of redemption” where, for everyone in Christ, God has foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8:28-29).  The goal in all of this is so that we may be “conformed into the image of His Son.”  The in-breaking of the kingdom of God established in our hearts results in the outworking of our salvation with fear and trembling in a process called sanctification where the image of Christ is daily being formed in the new man God has created having been united with His Son.

Sanctification says, “I am being made new”

The relationship between having been made new and being made new is spelled out for us in Ephesians 4:17-24 where Paul writes:

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:17-24

The pivotal moment from what we read in verses 17-19 about life outside of Christ and verses 22-24 about being made new through a ongoing basis is verses 20-21 which speak of “learning Christ” and the change it brings.  There is to be a sharp contrast between those who are “alienated from the life of God” and those who are “created in the likeness of God” through the process of being “renewed in the spirit of your minds” and “putting on the new self.”  Without daily renewal through the gospel, there will be little distinctiveness between the two kinds of people in this text (the old man vs. the new man).

But notice also how we are to regularly be renewed–“in the spirit of your minds.” Those outside of Christ walk “in the futility of their minds” with a “darkened understanding” while those who are being sanctified are not being conformed to such thinking but are “being transformed by the renewing of their minds” (Rom. 12:2).  Consequently, we “learn” Christ by being “taught” in him because the “truth” is in Christ Jesus.  The role of the mind in apprehending biblical truth by the illumining work of the Spirit is essential as such knowledge is intended to help form the character of Christ who has been revealed in our hearts.  Becoming like Christ is impossible without intimate knowledge of Christ.  Being renewed into His image is preceded by a genuine understanding of His character (“true righteousness and holiness”).

The means by which we are conformed into the image of Christ is through the daily renewal of Spirit-inspired, Spirit-illumined biblical truth whereby the pattern of our lives is programmed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and nothing else.  Everyone united with Christ are in the process of becoming like Christ, and everyone of us have been gospel truths to learn, meditate, pray through, and enjoy as our satisfaction of what Christ has done our behalf overflows with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Pet. 1:8).

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5 Comments on “Gospel-Centered Renewal: I Am Being Made New (Part 1)”

  1. Dr. Paul W. Foltz Says:

    That which is renewed is the new man [nature]implanted in regeneration. God does not remove, nor does He change the old man [nature]. it will be with us until death, or until Christ comes again.

  2. Good stuff Timmy. This type of teaching is why I am excited that young leaders are becoming a part of the Convention. Keep it coming.

  3. Sallie Says:

    Great post!

    Have a blessed week!!

  4. Timmy,
    First of all forgive the lateness of this comment. This has been a busy summer and I’m nowhere near caught up on reading my favorite blogs.

    The distinction you draw between justification and sanctification is an important one that is not often understood. I’ve witnessed too many theological contentions that center on a misunderstanding where one side was arguing within the context of sanctification and the other side was arguing within the context of justification. As an example: “But we shouldn’t need to mortify our sins,” one says, “because if we are truly saved then we won’t want to sin.”

    I consider that justification is an eternal condition and sanctification is a temporal progression. Thus observed, I want to get your take on something:

    It seems that there is a temporal manifestation of justification where one comes to a realization of one’s salvation in Christ, where there is a “before” and “after”. From eternity, there is no before and after, but one’s salvific justification is absolute. If justification is eternal with a temporal manifestation and sanctification is temporal only, then would the temporal justification actually be a part of sanctification that began prior to the point of temporal justification, or does sanctification only begin after temporal justification, such being precisely distinct from sanctification?

    I tend to lean toward the former taking the high view from a reformed perspective, but consider that Paul’s teaching may only consider the latter. It’s not that his theology isn’t precise, but that the passages he wrote for instruction were perhaps intended to address more practical considerations and did not seek to specifically address this question. I admit that I have more study to do here, but wonder if you have looked into this closer and have some insight I have not considered.

  5. […]  I Have Been Made New 2.  I Am Being Made New (Part 1) 3.  I Am Being Made New (Part 2) 4.  I Will Be Made New 5.  Renewal Through Remembering 6. […]

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