Written by Vicky Ng, Art by Christine Hwang
When I first became a Christian, I was told this now familiar verse: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17a). At first, I was excited at the chance for a fresh start, but as the days went on, after attending hundreds of worship services and fellowship meetings, everything started to feel mundane and routine. I found myself unable to conquer old habits. I was pessimistic, short-tempered, and moody. How could I ever be a new creation?
Then, I realized that being a new creation in Christ does not always mean that I have to be excited and high all the time, but rather it is a call for us to involve Christ’s will and decisions in our lives on a daily basis. The Bible says that God is going to give us a heart of flesh, not a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26). In the same way, God also rewires our minds to transform the way we think and our attitudes towards people and the things that happen to us. Scientists used to think that our brains had defined time windows during which we could learn new skills. In recent decades, however, neuroscientists have realized that our brain is actually more similar to plastic or clay and can be constantly molded, taught to do new things or give up old habits. This plasticity of the brain is how God created our brain to be, allowing our thoughts and actions to be reformed into a new creation in Christ. To understand how this rewiring is possible, let’s imagine the following scenario:
You always take the same route home. It’s the fastest and most direct one. From day one until now, you have been taught to take this route and have traveled on it hundreds of times by now. You don’t even have to think when you are on it. It’s almost as if you’ve entered an auto-pilot mode. Your subconscious mind does all the traveling and it feels like it does not take any conscious effort or attention. This saves you energy to do other things while you travelâ€”sip your drink, talk to others, mentally plan out your week, or reflect upon your day.
Today, however, is different. The usual route home is blocked and you are told to make a detour. You become anxious and apprehensive, not knowing how to get home since you have always been travelling on the exact same road. “How much longer will it take?” “Why don’t they show me the fastest detour?” Since you don’t want to get lost, you give your full attention to this task. It ends up taking much longer than usual to get home, but you instead find yourself pleasantly surprised and even delighted. This new route proves to be more interesting, filled with new things to look at. The neighbors in this area are friendlier; some even stopped what they were doing to say hi. The gardens are more well-kept and colorful. There are more varieties of birds and butterflies. You start to enjoy things that you didn’t even know existed! Though the detour was an inconvenience, this new route turned out to be a blessing.
Sometime later, you are told that the earlier route has been fixed. You now face a dilemma: should you use the first route, which is faster and saves you time and energy, or should you stick to this new and interesting route, which takes longer but adds a little excitement and fun to your life?
Being aÂ new creation in ChristÂ is a collaborative project: it takes our conscious effort to take a new approach to life and God’s molding fingers to shape us through everyday events. When I worked hard to establish new habits and experienced the results of that labor, I decided to choose the new path to continue my daily walk with God. Which will you choose?
Want to learn more about being transformed in Christ? Check outÂ The Re:creational Present!