Christians are creatures pulled between two extremes: between old Adam’s need to be a god and the new man in Christ’s recognition that concerning God, he’s “a worm and not a man” (Ps 22:6).
Old Adam imagines a future of limitless possibilities. He wants a world that’s entirely within his hands to fix and improve. Old Adam’s destiny, he believes, is in his hands if he can only make what’s possible a reality.
The new man in Christ lives through faith. He accepts that the kind of freedom old Adam seeks actually ties his hands. The new man in Christ knows in faith that God-given freedom is a gift received, not a goal to be achieved.
Our anxiety about the future is a consequence of our old self’s attempts to achieve freedom for himself apart from Christ Jesus. We want to be the captain of our destiny, but we also fear what could happen. For old Adam, anxiety is the shadow of freedom. Thus, the future he envisions, a future that will save him from aches and pains, hardship, and poverty, is future salvation that can only be achieved through great personal suffering.
Our anxiety about the future is a consequence of our old self’s attempts to achieve freedom for himself apart from Christ Jesus.
We sinners may be godlike in our ability to know right and wrong, but we lack the divine power to permanently change what’s wrong about ourselves and the world and achieve the good we desire. We lack Almighty God’s wisdom to know if we are correct in our judgment, and so we too often call good evil and evil good.
This truth about old Adam is revealed to us by the Spirit through his word and gifts. That’s why the new man dreads what will become of him if he turns from what has been achieved and given to him by Christ Jesus. His desire is for true freedom to live wholly according to the will of God: to love God and love his neighbor as he needs to be loved. This is what creates two-fold anxiety in us. On the one hand, old Adam is anxious with dread about the future he could possibly construct for himself. But the new man in Christ is hopeful about the present, about his relationship with his Savior.
Old Adam’s anxiety makes him impotent. The new man in Christ’s hope sets him free to serve God and neighbor. One is a mechanism of enslavement, the other of liberation. Old Adam always attempts to live out a fantasy where he is a god, which will inevitably lead him into a dystopian future. His life will be physically and psychologically injurious to himself and others, self-defeating, humiliating, and unduly self-sacrificial.
The new man in Christ lives in concrete reality as revealed by the Creator. His future is already affirmed by God’s promise in Christ. His life is already settled. As the apostle writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
Old Adam knows from experience that he is not a god. He can never achieve the freedom that can only be claimed by divinity. That’s why his life’s project is actually to be freed from freedom. He seeks to achieve this goal through appeals to common sense, science, psychological health, appeals to normality, and even public opinion when it aids his escape.
The new man in Christ enjoys the certainty that he is chosen by God to enjoy being a creature. He is embraced by Christ. Uncertainty about his future is driven out of his life by Jesus, who is life.
We don’t need to be freed from freedom, like old Adam. Instead, we are liberated by the blood of Christ to be truly free.
In Christ, then, we are made resilient towards the future. We don’t fear the future or suffer from crippling anxiety about possible failure. Through his word and Spirit, God strengthens us to be of good courage. In faith, we rely on him for our every need. We depend on his promises, and hence, respect his words and works for us.
We don’t need to be freed from freedom, like old Adam. Instead, we are liberated by the blood of Christ to be truly free. We don’t have to achieve liberty. It’s chosen for us in Christ. Then, when we are pulled between the two extremes of old Adam’s desire to be a god and the new man in Christ’s faith that he already has a good and gracious God, we don’t suffer from fear and anxiety, like those who have no hope.
Jesus has taken the actions necessary to set us free from sin, death, and hell. He comes today, from the future, to offer us more: more of himself, more of his gifts, more grace upon grace, and full salvation that overcomes and defeats all our old Adam struggles to be free from the future, to be free from Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.