Samantha grew up attending church and being a “good girl.” She didn’t really understand Christianity, but she did what her parents expected.
Things changed when Samantha moved to college. She became involved with people who drank and did drugs constantly. She was excited to have new friends, but they and her classes began to convince her that God didn’t exist. It felt good to be free of a God she feared would kill her if she didn’t keep all His rules, so she became an atheist. Yet when she was sober and alone, Samantha felt very depressed. Life seemed so pointless.
One day, Samantha’s parents sent her a Bible, thinking she was still a Christian. She ignored it at first, but later she decided to read it through. After a while, she was reading it every night.
“I began to think maybe, possibly, this could be real,” she recalls.
Slowly, conviction took hold. Samantha knew she had to confess her sins and “get right” with God, but she didn’t want to list everything she’d done wrong. It wasn’t until she had a big breakup with her boyfriend that she hit rock bottom.
“Ok, God,” she prayed, “if You are there, You can have my life. I don’t care what You do with it. If You want to kill me, fine. I’m tired of feeling lonely when I’m not drunk.”
Samantha sat for an hour, listing and confessing her sins. She didn’t know if anything was going to change, but suddenly, “I felt this entire weight lifted. I felt so different; it was just incredible.” She opened her Bible and began reading with the Holy Spirit’s illumination.
“The things I’d learned from church about Jesus now made sense. Suddenly, all I’d done didn’t seem like a good way to spend my time. Drugs? Why did I bother?”
Samantha became really hungry for the Word. She began thinking, I have to go to church! I can’t wait to meet other Christians! Now that she was sure of God’s love and acceptance, she began to make changes—not from fear of punishment, but because she wanted to. She joined a Bible study group, attended church, and made Christian friends.
“I have a new attitude,” she comments. “I don’t belong to sin anymore.”¹
Samantha was not “trying to do better.” She was living a new life! What does the Bible say about this change?
1. The Bible speaks of two different mindsets and lifestyles possible to humankind. What are they called in these verses?
Romans 8:1, 6 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.... For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Ephesians 4:22‒24 Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and...put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Note: The Bible gives different names for the same two options: “the flesh” and “the spirit,” “carnally minded” and “spiritually minded,” or “the old man” and “the new man.” Human beings are born with the first kind of mindset and find it easy to live it out. The second kind may only be received from God.
2. What does the carnal mode look like at its worst?
Galatians 5:19‒23 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like;...those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
3. What is another variation on the carnal mode?
Romans 7:18, 19, 25 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.... So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Note: This is extremely frustrating and discouraging! There’s a desire to do right but no ability to follow through consistently. It’s easy to fall into this mode when we try to do better in our own strength.
4. What does the spiritual way of thinking and living look like?
Galatians 5:22, 23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Note: The spiritual mode takes us beyond wishful thinking to actually being able to demonstrate these Christlike character qualities through the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives.
1. How can we move to a spiritual mindset and lifestyle?
John 3:5, 6 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Note: We can’t make this change ourselves. It takes power we don’t have.
2. Who makes this new birth possible for us?
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ.
Note: God has made a way for us to become a whole new creation. He does it through linking us with Jesus, who took on human nature, died to pay the price for our sins, and was raised to immortal life still bearing His humanity. God offers us a share in Jesus’ death and resurrection simply because He loves us. See Ephesians 2:4‒6. He wants to wipe out the separation our sin has made between us and Him.
3. What takes place in us when we are born of the Spirit?
Ezekiel 36:25‒27 I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.... I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Note: When we confess our sins, God cleanses us and places the Holy Spirit in us, bringing us to a completely different mindset of unselfish kindness. We put God and others before ourselves and want to make them happy, and by God’s power, we can follow through with actions. In this way we obey God’s law from the heart.
4. When the Holy Spirit comes to us, whose presence does He bring?
John 14:17, 18 [Jesus speaking]...the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
Note: The Holy Spirit brings us the loving presence of Jesus. It is union with Him spiritually that transforms us. See John 15.
5. How does this new spiritual life help us to follow through on good choices?
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And He [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Note: The power of Christ, given through the Holy Spirit, enables us to resist the selfish leanings of our “old man.” Notice that we still have the option of living according to the flesh, and we are still weak without Christ’s power.
1. What happens to our old self when we’re reborn?
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with [rendered inoperative], that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Note: It’s very important to understand that the Greek word translated “done away with” can also mean “rendered inoperative.” Our old tendency to please ourselves no longer dominates us, but it still tempts us sometimes. It comes back to full strength if we indulge it, and it quickly draws us into sin. Then we’re back in the carnal mode and need God’s rescue again.
2. When our old nature tempts us, what can we do?
James 1:14, 15; 4:7 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.... Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Note: When tempted, we need to immediately renew our allegiance to God and ask for His help. Then we can successfully reject wrong desires by switching our minds to what God would want. A wrong thought or impulse only becomes sin if we cherish it.
3. If we fall back into the carnal mode, is there still hope?
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Note: This wonderful privilege is not to be abused. God sees our hearts. See Proverbs 28:13.
4. How can we habitually stay in the “new man” mindset?
Romans 8:5, 14 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.... For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Note: Love for God helps us focus on spiritual things and follow the Spirit’s directions as they’re found in the Bible. We need to make a full commitment to God and receive a new birth every morning.
Summary: Through a full, daily commitment to God, we may receive and maintain a new life and Jesus’ presence with us. God provides power through the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation and live in a Christlike way, and He offers forgiveness if we fall.
Commitment: I would like to surrender my life fully to God and receive the Holy Spirit so I can live a new life with Jesus.
“Samantha’s Story,” Cru.org.
All Scripture references taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.