Breaking From The Past To New Life | 2 Corinthians 5:15-17
I like New Years. I like them because I see them as new opportunities. Opportunities to better myself, to set new goals. I’m like this every year, and as I wrote in today’s church paper, even though I usually don’t fulfil some of my stated goals, at least some have been fulfilled. And this new year is no different. On Tuesday, New Year’s Day I went for my walk, gave thanks to God for 2018 but then committed my 2019 goals to the Lord. A new year for me often means hope for a better year to come.
There is something about newness. New brings hope, excitement and challenge. And for some, a new season has begun for you and you are excited.
In our passage this morning from 2 Corinthians 5:15-17, Paul gave a great message filled with new hope. It is an exciting and challenging message to us today. A great message as we begin another New Year.
Note what the context of this passage isn’t saying…
* If you have just been through a difficult relationship, then become a Christian and all those hurts will go.
* If you were abused and have since become a Christian, then you no longer have emotional scars.
* If you have an addiction, wrong attitudes, bad behaviour – then stop worrying. You are a new person. The old has gone and the new has come. Simple!
This verse does not describe a Christian’s practice but rather their position. However, it could well be the case that during people’s new position in Christ that practices may change.
This is what the context of this passage is saying...
When a person comes to God “in Christ” they have a…
* new perspective on Jesus;
* new understanding on who they are “in Christ”.
and so, for many of us, since we’ve become a Christian we have a...
* new perspective on Jesus;
* new understanding on who we are “in Christ”.
The key phrase in this passage is “in Christ” - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). It is a significant phrase for Paul as he used it 88 times throughout his letters. My Bible College lecturer Dr Dennis Nutt did his entire PhD on this phrase alone.
To be “in Christ” means to be so united to Christ by faith. Jesus illustrated this in John 15 when he spoke about the vine and the branches, that is, to be in Christ is to be so united to the vine as to gain all its nourishment and support from it, and to be sustained entirely by it. Jesus, referring to Himself as the Vine, said that every branch (that’s us) must remain and abide in me, and then Jesus says, “and I will remain in you” (John 15:2,4). As a branch is dependent on the vine to produce new fruit, those who are “in Christ” become a new person.
And that’s the significance of the next phrase in 1 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” (1 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). See that phrase… we who are in Christ become a new creation. Understand what this means. The Life Application Study Bible puts it so well: Describing that the Holy Spirit gives Christians new life and how that they are not the same anymore, it goes further by saying: “We are not reformed, rehabilitated, or reeducated—we are re-created (new creations), living in vital union with Christ (Col_2:6-7). At conversion we do not purely turn over a new leaf; we begin a new life under a new Master”.
And then it says this: “While this newness is true individually, Paul is saying much more. Not only are believers changed from within, but a whole new order of creative energy began with Christ. There is a new covenant, a new perspective, a new body, a new church. All of creation is being renewed. So take notice. This is not a superficial change that will be quickly superseded by another trend. This is an entirely new order of all creation under Christ's authority. It requires a new way of looking at all people and all of creation. Does your life reflect this new perspective?”
1. Our New Perspective on Jesus
Our reading says that when we are “in Christ” our perspective of Jesus changes: “He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer
live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them …At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know Him now!” (2 Corinthians 5:15, 16 NLT).
Obviously, many hold differing views on Jesus. Buddhists believe that Jesus was only a wise man but an enlightened man who taught similar things to Buddha. Hindus have various views about Jesus with some saying that he was a guru while others say he was the incarnation of God as Krishna was. Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet sent by God but was superseded by Muhammad. Jews may believe that Jesus was an historical person but was not the Messiah. Atheists who hold little regard for any religion hold various views about Jesus from being just a myth, to being a liar, to be an actually person with wise sayings.
Now, when we from any of these backgrounds became “in Christ” our perspective on Jesus changed. We have a new view of Jesus – that He is the Son of God who died and was raised to life for us. Our new perspective sees Jesus as more than just a prophet. He is the Messiah who proclaimed that He is the Way, the Truth and the Light for all people to come to God the Father through Him. When Jesus approached Thomas in that room after His resurrection, Thomas’ perspective on who Jesus really is was changed, for declared with conviction: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 NIV).
And so, when we do come to Christ and in Him our position about Jesus changes. Our old view is gone; the new view has begun!
2. Our New Position “in Christ”
Next our reading says in verse 15: “He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them” (2 Corinthians 5:15-17 NLT).
When a person follows Jesus, they have a new position on who the are “in Christ”. For many, their view on who they are is obviously varied. Many believe that they simply exist to survive and when they die, they cease. So, life is work, rest and death. Little hope and purpose.
When a person comes to Christ, our reading says they “receive His new life”. Verse 17 says that they have “become a new person”. The Bible teaches that “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God...” (1 John 5:1 NLT). We become God’s children.
Here are four theological, doctrinal orthodox teaching of our new position “in Christ”. They are pretty deep but pretty cool:
* We are saved: We are saved from God’s anger at our sinful life. Paul says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 NIV).
* We are redeemed: We are saved because we have been redeemed. We have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus. In Galatians, Paul has written, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole” (Galatians 3:13 NIV).
* We are justified: We are saved because we have been redeemed and now we are justify. Romans 3:24 says, “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24 NIV). Justification is an act of Christ where we now have a new position in Christ, just as if we had never sinned.
* We are sanctified: We are saved because we have been redeemed and justify, leading to us now being sanctified. Our new position in Christ means that we are now being sanctified. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “May God himself… sanctify you through and through” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV). Sanctification is the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit making us holy ready for heaven.
Our new position, those who are in Christ, are these:
* We are saved!
* We are redeemed!
* We are justified!
* We are sanctified!
3. Our New Understanding of Who We Are “in Christ”
When we accept our new position, we then need to believe our new
understanding of who we are in Christ. Paul says that we actually become a new person. Who is this new person?
Christian identity, or one's identity in Christ, simply believes in God's opinion of us. It is summarised in The Seven Great Truths that are based on creation and new creation (redemption):
1. I am created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27, Psalm 8:4-5).
2. I am loved unconditionally by God (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).
3. I am precious and priceless in God's sight because of redemption in Christ Jesus, purchased by his precious blood (Psalm 49:7-8, 1 Peter 1:18-19).
4. I am a saint of God, justified and sanctified (Romans 5:1, Hebrews 10:10, 1 Corinthians 1:2).
5. I am a prince/princess in God's kingdom (Psalm 113:7-8, 1 Peter 2:9).
6. I am a child of God and a member of his household (Ephesians 2:19).
7. I am adopted as one of God's eternal sons/daughters. This is the greatest of all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3-5). (www.willsmith.com.au).
These Seven Great Truths of God need to be confessed over and over and believed in the heart.
To be in the here and now, to accept your new perspective, new position, and new understanding, we have to move on from the past. I think that is why Paul says in our reading: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone…” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV84).
The old has to be left behind in order to go forward in the new! Do not let your past define you today. What defines you is who you are in Christ.
* You have a rotten past? Don’t let your past define who you are today. What defines you is who you are in Christ.
* You may had made some pretty big mistakes, even as recent as last year. Don’t let last year’s mistakes define who you are this year. Learn from them, correct them, but be defined this year by who you are in Christ.
* Some people last year or perhaps over many years, have tried to define you with lies. Guess what? Satan is the master liar and Jesus has defeated Satan. You are not defined by lies; you are defined by the very truth of God’s Word – who you are in Christ
Here are some real people:
Christine Caine – an Aussie mother, an evangelist, and who now runs an amazing Christian organization called A21 Campaign, an anti-human trafficking organization. Christine speaks about her unhappy past of being abused by four men. It messed her up significantly. She became so angry, bitter and broken. She couldn’t look at people in the eye. Yet she was determined not to let her memories destroy her dreams. Through counseling, prayer and assurance of who she is in Jesus. In a talk Christine gave at Eastside Christian Church, she said, “I was abused for 13 years but now I am 47 years old which means I haven’t been abused for 35 years so why am I going to let those acts define who I am for the rest of my life?” Christine is a new creation in Christ.
Dave Jenson grew up in a functional, loving Christian Aussie family. And yet, during his mid-teens starting drinking and having sex. He joined the army and by the time he was 28 and living in Darwin, Captain Jensen of the Australian infantry was infamous for drinking, fighting and womanising. Rather than feeling guilty, he embraced the culture and “had forgotten who he was”. But when Dave returned from East Timor, it hurt that there was no hero’s return for him but only an empty house. His drinking became heavier. Finally, one morning in 2009, Dave woke up in the Robertson Barracks in Darwin with a hangover. He had nothing planned for the day, so he opened up the laptop his twin sister had given him for his birthday. Instead of looking at pornography as usual, he clicked on links to some sermons his sister had previously looked up on YouTube. One of them was called “Don’t Waste Your Life”. As he was watching, he was really overwhelmed that he was wasting his life. He went to the mirror and said to himself, what are you doing? He then rang up the chaplain who told him to get on his knees, repent and ask for God’s forgiveness. After praying for a very long time, he fell asleep in tears on the side of his bed. There was no lightning nor thunder. But when he woke the next morning Dave had the greatest sense of being loved and forgiven. This was a genuine feeling of release that God had set him free. Today, Dave is pastor like his dad, and he knows who He is in Christ.
Leonie’s story is particularly harrowing. Her three uncles raped her many times when she was only seven or eight. When she became pregnant as a young single, the father wanted her to abort the baby, but she refused. Fortunately for Leonie, she became involved in a program run by Bible Society of Cameroon. It helps single mothers and victims of sexual exploitation heal from their trauma and live healthy, independent lives based on biblical principles. When Leonie arrived at the project, she feared God couldn’t accept her because of her past. She quickly learnt that God accepts us the way we are. And in Leonie’s words: “And I was assured. I felt relieved and free from bondage, captivity and trauma. The Bible transformed me. The Bible is my life. It’s everything I need for better living – I can’t do any more without it.” Leonie is a new creation in Christ.
There is something about newness. New brings hope, excitement and challenge. When we turn to the pages of the Bible, we see how much God is interested in new things. And as the month of January brings in a New Year so we may need some new resolutions.
Some need to make a new resolution with God.
* You may need to ask God to open your eyes to new perspective on Jesus – that He is the Son of God.
* In faith, some need to come to a new position in Christ – saved, redeemed, justified, sanctified.
* Perhaps your past keeps haunting you. Your past is just that. It’s your past. Perhaps you need to ask God to help you accept your new understanding of who you are in Christ – that you are His Child, created in His image, loved unconditionally, adopted into His family.
As this New Year gets underway, may we be reminded of our new perspective, position, and understanding in Christ.
The Gospel is good news. That is why Paul wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (1 Corinthians 5:17 NIV).