Summary: Jesus didn’t die to make us good. Jesus died and rose again from the dead so that we may have new lives.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 “New Life in Christ”
What makes something new? Does “new” mean the same as “never-been-used-before”? We talk about getting a new car, and many of us purchase a car with four or five miles on the odometer and that wonderful new car smell. Others of us purchase a “new” used car. Though it may have thousands of miles on it and be several years old the used car is new to us. Some of us who are the younger members of our families remember all those hand-me-downs that were “new” clothes to us.
The reason I’m asking us what we mean when we use the word, “new” is because we are going to be talking about our new life in Christ. It is the second phrase of our mission statement, “Inviting everyone to a new life in Christ, a deeper relationship with Christ, and spirit-filled service for Christ.” What are we referring to when we talk about a new life in Christ? Are we talking about a new, new life complete with new life smell, or are we talking about the slightly used by new to us of a used car or hand-me-downs?
Paul talks about a new life in Christ in his second letter to the Corinthians. We can learn a great deal about the new life in Christ from the words of Paul.
THE OLD HAS GONE
Paul makes the claim in verse 17, “That if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; everything new has become new!”
It is first important to point out the verb tense of the new life Paul is talking about. He says that the “Old HAS passed away.” Our new life is something that that has happened when we have become “in Christ.” Our new life is not something that we attain by hard work over a long period of time. Its gestation period is Jesus Christ hanging on the cross on Good Friday and being raised from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Martin Luther writes about the old person in his explanation to baptism. He writes that the old person in us with all its sins and evil desires is drowned in the waters of baptism and in our daily acts of confession and repentance.
A sinful life is a self-centered rather than God centered life. “I” is at the center of sin, and focused on the “I” we ignore God or live in rebellion against God’s will and kingdom.
Our old life is replaced by a new life that enables us to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. Our desire becomes the accomplishment of God’s will rather than the realization of our will. This is a big new! It is much more than tweaking our lives by improving our speech, or attending worship more regularly. The passing of the old is a fundamental change in our lives.
Paul continues to teach us what it means to have a new life in Christ by telling us that we have been reconciled with God.
Our sinfulness and self-centered ambitions have broken our relationship with God. In Romans Paul writes that we were enemies of God. The cross of Jesus Christ, though, has reconciled us with God; the gap between God and us has been bridged. We are now identified as people of God and friends of Jesus.
The change from being estranged from God to being reinstated as God’s people has a profound effect in our lives. Hate has been replaced by love. Conflict has been removed and peace had been added. Loneliness is no longer a part of our lives because we have God’s presence in us in the person of the Holy Spirit, and our silence has ended with our ability to enter God’s presence as children enter the presence of a loving parent.
Our new life also comes with a new purpose. At one time our goals were to make ends meet, to be successful and affluent, or to “eat, drink and be merry.” These are no longer our goals. Our goals now are to pursue our calling to mission and ministry.
Our new life causes us first to view everyone around us as people whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. This is very different from the way the world views people. From the world perspective people are separated by their differences and judged by preconceived notions and a collection of arbitrary standards.
Seeing everyone as loved by God and forgiven through the cross of Jesus Christ, we seek to reconcile those around us. Those who think they are enemies of God we are able to tell that they have been forgiven and made friends of God because of Jesus. To those who feel judged by God, we are able to share God’s love.