A new year a new creation - 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

This is a sermon by Tim Benstead from the morning service on 7th January 2001.

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11Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Whenever we enter a new year, there are so many things that cross your mind. We become very nostalgic. Every time we sing, badly, Burns ‘Auld Lang Syne’, are we not being particularly mawkish?

I don’t know what it is in your household. People feel that they ought to somehow try to start afresh. A new year is a new page and all that is past can be forgotten and somehow lost in the past year. But sadly, like the chains that Jacob Marley carries around with him for eternity we know that although there might be a new page, there is a whole book filled with all our faults, that we know we are going to start filling even tomorrow.

Isn’t it strange that our resolutions fade in such a short order? As Christians this can sound like a school report written by ourselves-can do better. And we then start to think of our Father God as some sort of disciplinarian who is only happy with us when we get our A*s. we think that by our own efforts we can somehow earn Gods favour.

If we cannot honestly say that we are Christians, then we usually have a sense that we really ought to do better, but that it is so very hard. All our best intentions get lost in the everyday circumstances of life. I will be more caring with my mother-in-law. I will walk the dog. I will give up smoking. I will get rid of this or that. The list is as endless as the mind of man can conceive.

It is right to consider and learn from the past, as it is right to look to the future and hope. However, we are called to live today and as Christians, we know what the future holds, or who it is that holds the future. We too often put our Sunday mask on and yet forget what it is that God has called us to.

In this wonderful passage of Scripture Paul gives us an insight into the inconsistency that we can all express in our daily lives.

We will look at three aspects of one verse.

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

 

In Christ

14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

This is a very simple question. Are you ready for this? It isn’t a long question and only requires a yes or no answer.

Are you in Christ?

Do you see how simple it is? We can get so entangled by all sorts of nonsense in our answers. A simple yes or no will suffice. It is one that you cannot phone a friend about, or ask for fifty-fifty. In a sense you already have a fifty-fifty.

I am not asking, ‘Have you been baptised?’ important as that is. I am not asking if you have taken your first communion, important as that might be. I have not asked whether your parents were Christians, or whether you are C of E. Neither have I asked whether you have made a decision, whatever that might be.

We cannot say, ‘I think I am’, or ‘I hope I am’. Yes or No!

Why is this so important?

14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

Because one died for all. By this the Bible is not saying that everyone is or will be saved. The Apostle Paul is telling us that when Christ died he died the death that we all deserve and that when we become Christians the death that Jesus died was for me.

Allied to this is the resurrection.

15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So not only did the Lord Jesus Christ die in my place, he also was raised to life so that all the benefits can accrue to me.

Have you ever dealt with the fact that the God of Heaven died for you? It was Anselm that wrote, ‘You have not yet considered the heavy weight that sin is’. On the cross, Jesus paid the price that God required to redeem men and women. It was on the Roman execution instrument that God’s anger at our sin was dealt with. It was on the cross that the justice of God was dealt with. A sinless man died in the place of sinful men and women like you and me.

21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Have you ever come to that position of realising that anything else other than trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation will appear to God as utterly contemptible. His own Son was killed so that we might come into a loving relationship and we then start to think that by adding new years resolutions we can somehow get right with God? When we start to see things straight then there can be only one way to get right with God and that is God’s way. Trust in Christ alone and become a new child of God.

C.S.Lewis writes, ‘If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prizes which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?

 

New creation

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

The amazing and wonderful thing that the bible tells us is not just that God should come to this earth and live as one of us. That is remarkable and should fill us with wonder. Neither is it that he should live with us, working with us for just over thirty years. Neither is it that he died like one of us, unjustly, brutally, painfully. That is more than we can comprehend. The wonderful thing is that God wants us to be his children. This is also why we can all be considered to be sons of God, whether we are male or female. We have entered into a relationship where all the rights and privileges of sons are ours-male and female, rich and poor, young and old, clever and not so clever. The measure is not us, but the fact that we are all called to enter into a father-son relationship with God. We are to be little Christ’s.

Have you ever just meditated on that for any period of time? The God of the universe, who created all things, who sustains all things by the power of His word, wants people like me and you to be adopted into His family.

Now of course we cannot just follow a set of rules. We have already had the Ten Commandments and we know that we cannot obey them properly. We cannot even live by our own moral code, for in the end, we create our own sets of moral codes and so as a society we degenerate. My set is not exactly the same as yours and when I am tired and ratty I can suspend my own, and I expect you to accept that. We are inconsistent and wretched in our sin.

So what does God do?

He remakes us. We are born again; we are made anew; we put on Christ. The Bible is rich in its description of what happens to men and women when they become a Christian. It all boils down to one simple fact. We are re-born.

The same challenge comes to us as it did Nicodemus. You must be born again. We enter the new relationship as new people, not just people who have a longer set of new years resolutions.

We were once enemies of God, hating Him, not necessarily by our words, but certainly by our actions, and now we are made anew and wonderfully adopted into His family.

 

Old has gone - New has come

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

When we enter into that new relationship then everything changes. In v.16 Paul confesses that he used to judge by worldly standards, even judging Jesus by that same criteria. But all has changed. He has started to see things through God’s eyes.

C.S.Lewis talks about what happens when we are made anew. He talks about a game of ‘Let’s pretend’. He writes about the Lord’s prayer, ‘Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending.’

What this new creation is therefore is not merely a reading of the guide book-the Bible-and trying to do what it says. We are dealing with something wholly new. Our whole mindset has been altered and is the process of being altered

Some expect that when you become a Christian everything will be great and all problems will end and we will suddenly be perfect. We then get our first disappointment; we seem to be little better than before.

As an example, think about what happens when someone cuts you up while you are driving. How angry do you get? That initial response is more likely to be the true you. Our sinful acts seem always to be beyond our control. Sure, we can, given enough time, put on our mask and we can control ourselves. The provocation does not make me a bad tempered man: it merely shows me what a bad tempered man that I am.

The control of the inward man is beyond me. My temperament is beyond the control of my will. The change that I need to undergo is an alteration in my soul. This can only be done by God.

The great thing about being a Christian is that God does something even about this aspect of my life. He saves me by dying on a cross. He receives me into His family as a son. He comes to live in me so that my inner motivations are steadily changed. I become more aware of the wrong things that I do and he works on that. He changes my inner motivations. Sometimes it will seem that I have taken two steps forward and one step backwards. But with time and my cooperation God the Holy Spirit so works in me that I become more and more like Jesus. This work of the Spirit of God is called sanctification.

When we trust in Christ and Christ alone we enter into a new life, we are born again. We will still operate in many ways like the old man that we were; however, we have an infection. It is a good infection. It is bringing new life. It will steadily work through our systems in such a way that we are steadily changed.

This is all of Christianity.

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Are you in Christ?


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