2 Corinthians 5:17-19 CEV
Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others.
This version encapsulates the flow of Paul's thought in this section of Scripture quite brilliantly! What does it mean to be a new creation? How do we live this reality out? What must we do? Do I squeeze really hard and Christlikeness will just pop out?
Well I wouldn't recommend squeezing too hard. Indeed something will pop out but I don't think it will be Christlikeness. Paul understood faith in Christ through the lens of the sacrificial system of second temple Judaism. He saw our faith, or trust in Jesus' finished work, as akin to Christ dying as us. Therefore to Paul who you were as a sinner was obliterated in Christ. Your guilt has been removed, your condemnation from the court of heaven has been canceled, and you have been acquitted of all charges! Therefore who you are now is a clean, innocent, pure, holy child of God. You are not merely declared righteous, you are actually innocent and right.
Upon believing you received the Holy Spirit as a down payment and a guarantee that you will inherit the kingdom of God. You have been sealed and thus you are set a part or holy. The Spirit unites with you and you actually share in His heart, thoughts, and desires. Now you want to serve God, you want to lay your life down for Him, you want to honor Christ in your life.
Through the Holy Spirit, God desires to Father you, to teach you what it looks like to be His child and an heir of His kingdom. He wants you to learn how to be merciful, kind, gentle, loving, selfless, and how to become an instrument of restoration to those around you. God does this in the sacredness of holy intimacy. Where He speaks to you through gentle and holy nudges. He urges you to trust Him, and His ability to deal with that anger problem of yours. And as you yield to Him, and relinquish control, the Spirit is free to manifest the fruit of gentleness and patience. He invites you to let Him carry that burden of lust you have been dragging around, and through the same Spirit, He manifests the fruit of self-control.
Everything in Christ happens through faith and relationship. God is not banging down your door commanding you to be a better person, rather He is gently and lovingly Fathering you, teaching you what it looks like to be His child, and preparing you to rule with Christ by showing you what true royalty looks like. To rule like Christ is to be an agent of restoration, a beacon of love, kindness, and mercy.
Being a new creation means first and foremost that who you were as a sinner has been put to death and now you are a righteous child of God. Then we walk that out through holy intimacy with Him, allowing Him to heal our hearts, fix our twisted perspectives, and manifest His fruit in our lives. This is all in preparation of becoming rulers in His glorious Kingdom! Praise the crap out of God! This is truly awesome!