The New Creation

Scriptures: Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17

It is human nature look for new things. We call January 1 “New Year,” though it is the same as any other day of the year. We’re fascinated by new things like cellphones, new houses, new cars, new clothes, and changes in routine. And the idea of vacation is exciting sometimes, because we expect a new place perhaps, or at least new experiences.

I have this flip phone. And I can’t tell you how many people have told me, “You should be getting a smartphone,” and I said, “I tried, and I was too dumb to use it.” So I went back to a flip phone. Part of it was I kept making pocket calls. (Although I have to say that my son has shown me that you can make multiple pocket calls even with a flip phone.)

But like all guys, I like gadgets and remotes and new things like that too. Most of the time, the excitement of new things does not last long, because new things become old soon. The external newness is temporary.

But how about the newness that begins with our hearts and our minds? When we are in Christ, we are a new creation. We are born again, or born from above. But did you ever notice, that even though we’re new creatures, we still like to do the old things.

The old you – the old person, as Paul calls it, the old self despises the new self, because it means change. And as much as we might like things new, most of us don’t like change. We’ve found a place where we’re comfortable. We’ve found a place where we want to be. We’ve found a place where, even if it’s not comfortable, at least we’re familiar with it.

Apropos, when you’re in the womb. As any mother can tell you, and as any dad likes to watch, the kicking in the punching that goes on shows it’s obviously cramped and uncomfortable in there. But no child wants to leave the womb.

Which is why women have to labor so hard, to bring them out into the new world. And of course the first thing that happens when you come into the new world as a child is a major change. In some ways I sympathize with the baby. They’ve been in a warm, dark place, where they get to hear loving sounds all the time, from the mother’s heartbeat, sometimes singing.

Then they’re brought out into this cold bright world. And if they don’t cry from fear of that, they get slapped on the butt so they do. And that is for health reasons, but nevertheless, I can’t help but be struck by the fact that as soon as you come into the world, the first thing you feel is pain. But it’s a new life. The potential is infinite, before us.

It’s the same way with Christ. We are made new creatures. We are a new creation, in Christ. The whole of creation, it says, has been redeemed in Christ, and restoration is under way. Paul says it groans, like it’s in childbirth, as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And in that new creation, we have been completely changed, in our regeneration.

The old self is concerned with “me, myself, and I.” No matter how altruistic you may seem, it’s really, in the end, for your benefit. You are the center of your universe. You get to control things – or you want to. You are doing things for your good. You benefit from them, even if you’re helping somebody else.

When we come to know Christ as Lord and Savior, then hopefully our perspective, our view, the way we look at things, changes. God becomes the center of our universe. We begin to look at others first, for service, and to love. Even when they’re not being lovable, even when they’re our enemies. Christ says to pray for them, to bless them.

It’s a totally radical shift in how we think and how we see. Paul talks about that, when he talks about not seeing people as they are, but seeing people as God sees them, as they can be. He talks about not seeing the old self in people, but seeing the new creation, looking upon them with the Spirit’s eyes.

One of the changes we get from our acceptance of Christ as Savior and the Spirit dwelling within us is the ability to look and see as God sees. We begin to understand the world as God understands the world, and we strive to love, as God has loved each one of us.

It’s a struggle. We have to totally change the way we work and the way we think. Paul says we need to learn to look past what the old person would look at. We need to look past those surface things. And sometimes surface things is not just size, weight, height, clothes, but rather perhaps some attitudes, reactions, responses.

We’re supposed to be looking at something different. We’re supposed to be looking at the new creation. And sometimes it’s hard to see, because no one likes the new creation. I mean, we do but we don’t. Paul himself said, “I do what I don’t want to do and I don’t do what I do want to do.” That’s the new creation warring with the old, the new self warring with the old self.

We have to constantly be recreating ourselves as new creations in Christ. Because that’s the cool thing about the new creation – it never stops growing and maturing.

You know, for our old selves, I have a birthday card (I actually don’t know if I still have it but I kept it for a lot of years) that somebody got me on my twenty-fifth birthday. It showed a picture of a guy that was built kind of big like me, with a beanie cap on his head, sitting on a tricycle with toys all around him. And it said, “The secret to staying young,” and you open it up and it says “is to pick an age you like and stay there.” We don’t want to grow and mature even though we do.

But with Christ, as a new creation, we do want to grow and mature. Because as we grow and mature, we get to know Christ more, we get to know the Father more, we get to love the Father more, and we get to reflect God’s love in an ever more perfect fashion.

We get to show people who God is, in our new creation. We want what is inside to begin to shape and show on the outside. In how we interact with others, how we have relationships with each other, how we respond to various things that happen in our world.

A new creation is hard. You know, my dad was in the Air Force, but before he went into the Air Force, first he went through the Army for four years, and he decided he did not want to be a grunt. So he went into the Air Force and into OTS, Officer Training School.

But in the military, particularly famous for it is the Marines. The process of boot camp is a process of changing you, extensively. It changes your way of thinking about yourself. They strip you of your old civilian clothes, haircut, things like that, belongings. They dress you in a uniform, they give you similar hairstyles.

You are called “soldier.” You are given a new identity. You wear the uniform as a constant reminder. You learn to view relationships from the perspective of who you are now. You salute officers and operate according to military protocol.

They put you through a rigorous training that, no matter how athletic you were when you were in high school or college, it’s not the same. Running for ten or twenty miles with a fifty-pound pack on your shoulders is not something anybody purposefully trains for, till you’re in the military.

The boot camp experience is designed to transform the mind, so that you live, eat, and breathe military. They tear you down so that they can build you up. They strip away everything that might hinder your practice as a soldier, in order to build up and give you what helps.

Over the course of ten weeks, recruits learn about the seven core Army values, how to work together as a team, and what it takes to succeed as a soldier. The first thing they learn are those values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. So that on the battlefield these values, your identity as a soldier, knowing who you are and why you are there, will drive specific decisions that you make.

The way we view ourselves is a powerful factor in the way we behave. The army is smart enough to know that embracing their new identity as soldiers is absolutely essential for their success. I would extend that to all branches of the military.

In much the same way, when we become new creatures in Christ, we need to be torn down, so that we can be rebuilt by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. We don’t have sergeants yelling at us and chewing us out. But we do have great advice, in the words of the Scriptures. You hopefully have mentors that you can turn to.

You have accountability partners and people that you can use to keep you on that path that God is calling you to be on. So that you do your devotional time. So that you work at being a disciple. So that you place your trust in the loving hands of the Father who is sovereign, in the love of Jesus Christ who died for us, and in the love of the Holy Spirit who is with us each and every day.

As you do that, the old self begins to fall away. The old life, where we love sin, where we’re centered on ourselves, where we are in it for what we get, becomes radically changed. The center of our focus is now, hopefully, on God.

We are looking at others, and serving others rather than ourselves. We begin to have courage that we wouldn’t have had, to do certain things to risk, to be vulnerable. And that is important.

For those of you that have access to my Facebook, there two TED Talks are twenty minutes each. I suggest you watch them. One is on vulnerability. The other is on shame. Shame is an attempt to not be vulnerable. And it goes back to Genesis, and I may actually change some of my Scriptures in the coming week to talk about that.

But the speaker, Brené Brown, said something very profound, to my eyes and mind. She said vulnerability is also where innovation, creativity, and joy come from. Yes, vulnerability can lead to shame, it can lead to pain, but it also can lead to those other positive things

If you do not allow yourself to be vulnerable, if you do not allow yourself to risk, then you can never experience the fullness of creativity and innovation, of a new look on life, of looking beyond the old person that you see around you, looking for the Spirit that is lying within each person, that God sees when he looks.

And you’ll never know joy. Not real joy. The kind of joy that comes from placing yourselves in the hands of the Father who loves you, and the son who died for you, and the Spirit who walks with you always.

We need to draw our self-image and self-esteem, and I tell you openly, I struggle with this. If I didn’t struggle with it, I wouldn’t look the way I do. But we need to draw our self-esteem and self-image from God, and the Spirit within us, that God loved us this much, and that we are a new creation. The old life is gone, the new life has begun, each and every morning as you get up.

Maybe what we need to do, as we get up, as we swing our legs out of bed, or my case, pull the chair up, because I sleep in a recliner most of the time, as we get our feet on the floor, is say, “OK God, what’s going to be new today? I’m looking forward to it.”

And I know, if you’re like me and you’re slow waker, that’s going to be totally antithetical to everything you’re actually feeling in the morning, where you’re mostly blank and you’re answering in one-word grunts, until you’ve gotten some caffeine in you.

But it starts our attitude from the get-go. It starts our recognition, from the moment we wake up. It starts our perspective being changed, immediately.

Immediately. There’s a reason why most people that are leaders in the church try to tell you to pray in the morning. You should have a devotional time in the morning, even if you’re afraid of falling asleep during it. You might wonder, why can’t I do it at lunch? Why can’t I do it at bedtime?

Because spending that time with God in the morning, early when you get up, early in your day, however that day might be, changes your perspective for the whole rest of the day that you’re awake, having spent time in the presence of the Father, having given praise to the Holy Spirit and thanks to the Son, knowing that you’re new, new as this day is. You begin to see things the way God sees them, and you look at people the way God looks at people.

And some of the same old same old will be there. There’s no getting around that. It’s a lifelong struggle. But we keep doing it. You fall, you pick yourself up – or you get picked up by those who love you. It takes time. Thank God labor doesn’t take as long – though I’m sure you women think it’s forever while it’s occurring. But eventually that new life will come forth from within you.

Eventually that new person will show forth to those around you. And eventually, as you continue to work on it and practice and disciple yourself, your new vision will give you the perception of the people around you that God sees.

And that, to me, can be nothing short of exciting. To see people as God sees, to see the potential that’s there, to see where you can serve them, to help them as they struggle with their own selves. And to love them, as God has loved you.

We’re going to be having Communion here in a couple of minutes. And it’s a sign and seal, as it says, of God’s grace that was extended to us through Jesus Christ. We remember Christ’s death and resurrection. We remember Christ sacrifice, but also Christ’s victory, and how, through it, we are made new.

So that we know no matter what the struggle is, no matter how difficult the new things are, that ultimately we’ll win, because God is on our side. And God has defeated even death itself, for us.

As we go through that time of Communion, concentrate, think about the new creation. Think about who you are in Christ. Think of whose you are, with the Father. Think about who you can be, with the Spirit. And give praise to God for the many things He does in your life.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

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