A renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11 NASB)
"A young man was eager to grow in His Christian life. He got a piece of paper and made a list of all the things he would do for God. He wrote down the things he would give up, the places he would go to minister and the areas of ministry he would enter. He was excited. He took that list to the church and put it on the altar.
He thought he would feel joy, but instead, he felt empty. So, he went home and started adding to his list. He wrote down more things he would do and wouldn’t do. He took the longer list and put it on the altar, but still, he felt nothing.
He went to a wise, old pastor, told him the situation and asked for help. The pastor said, “Take a blank sheet of paper. Sign your name at the bottom. Put that on the altar.” The young man did, and then peace came to his heart." - R. B. Ouellette.
The True Nature Of The Christian Life Is Total Transformation. Believers in Jesus Christ do not receive or add something new, they become somebody new.
The key to the story about this young man and what was causing him trouble is he was failing to understand that the Christian life, that salvation means total transformation. As long as his life was defined by things he would do and things he would give up, he would never know the true joy and peace of the Christian life. This is why the Pastor told him to put his name on a piece of paper and put that on the altar because it was symbolic of the fact that for the Christian when Christ died, we died.
Sanctification means to set apart, to make holy. There is both a definitional and experiential aspect to our sanctification and to our transformation.
1. Transformation Defined
I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me. (Galatians 2:20 NASB)
Our identity is not in what we do but who we are and who we are is alive in Christ. What we do is a result of our identity in Christ and is not definitional to our identity. It is because of our transformed identity that we now perform works of righteousness but even the very righteousness we do is Christ's righteousness working in us (2 Cor. 5:21), for we died and we now live in Him.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB)
Salvation is not adding something to our life. It is not an improving on or perfecting of something that is already there. It is a literal new creation. It is a total transformation. Old things and the old self has passed away because it was crucified with Christ and behold, new things have come!
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NASB)
John MacArthur said, “It’s not the perfection of one’s life but the direction of a life that provides evidence of regeneration.” Those who have been saved, those who now live in Christ will not live for themselves. They will die to self and live for the One who raised them to life and created them in righteousness.
That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22-24 NASB)
The new self is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. It is made in the likeness of God. The new self or new nature is not something added to or placed on top of the old self of the old nature, it is a replacement of the old nature.
Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him - a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:9-11 NASB)
We only have 1 nature. It is an unbiblical cliché to say that we have two natures at war with one another. It is unbiblical to say that we still have a sin nature. We are a new creation in Christ and we have put off the old self and have put on the new self in salvation.
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 NASB)
We have 1 nature and we live by the Spirit but we reside in old bodies. We reside in sinful humanness. We reside in sinful flesh that has not been perfected and transformed yet. Our nature and our spirit have been transformed but our flesh has not. This is why we have a spiritual war. This is why we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against powers and wicked forces.
Our flesh sets its desire against the Spirit and this is why we have difficulty and trial in doing what our nature which is created in Christ wants to do and that is please God; something our previous nature, our old self could not do.
2. Transformation Experienced
John MacArthur said, “Possession of the new self does bring the believer new life, but not instant spiritual maturity. The battle against the flesh will go on throughout this life. It is God’s plan to make believers like Jesus Christ" (MacArthur, p.150).
We are being daily sanctified experientially as we grow into a true knowledge and grow in greater submission to Christ and His Word.
This Transformation & Sanctification Carries Certain Characteristics:
1. There are zero distinctions between believers spiritually. (Col. 3:11)
2. No man-made barriers allowed. (Col. 3:11; Eph 4:1-6)
3. It is a transformation that is "total" in scope. (Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 3:18)
4. It is a denial of self. (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23; 2 Timothy 3:1-5)
MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon. Chicago, Illinois. Moody Publishers. 1992.