When the believer first accepts Christ, he forsakes his evil past, and dies to the lusts of the flesh. He becomes a new person in Christ, and the Holy Spirit dwells in him. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is a supernatural process. For to change a sinner into a “new creature” necessitates the same creative power that originally created life (John 3:3, 5; Romans 6:5, 6; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:9, 10).
Conversion and the new birth experience mean more than a simple modification of confession and habits. It is a full change in the inner heart, which can be done only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the plan for man’s salvation brings not only freedom from judgement but also freedom from the bondage of sin. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
The lusts of the flesh
However, being born again of the Holy Spirit does not eliminate the earthy lusts of the flesh. Paul wrote, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:16-17).
Though the “old man” of sin is described as crucified with Christ (Romans 6: 6), the believer will still have to fight in his “mortal body,” the lusts of the flesh. If he so permits, sin may still have dominion over him. It is because of this that the believer must gain a “fresh conversion” every day through study of the Scriptures and prayer. Though he may have crucified himself to the lusts of the flesh yesterday, his “old man” may attack him today.
The good news is that the conversion experience places the believer in connection with the heavenly power by which He may successfully resist the temptation of Satan. But it is up to the believer to choose whether he will give his continual loyalty to sin or to God. Therefore, “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:13,14).
Paul stressed, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). Only by keeping his old self continually and fully dead to sin, as signified by his baptism, is the believer able to live daily unto God. And this experience is possible only through daily abiding in Christ by faith (John 15:4). This unity becomes so genuine that like Christ, the believer will hate sin and love righteousness. For by beholding he is “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In His service,