New Year, New You
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Last week we enjoyed as a family our annual pilgrimage to my parents’ home in Clinton, South Carolina. While there, we caught up on what everyone was doing, celebrated Christmas by sharing some gifts and good food and launched fireworks to bring in the New Year. For the first time, I also had the opportunity to be a guest preacher at my parents’ church, First Presbyterian, an historic church founded about the time of the Civil War.
I preached a sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:17 and as this is the first Seedling article of the new year, it seemed that a summary of some of the reflections on that verse which I shared with that congregation might be encouraging for you all as well. In this short verse, Paul reminds the Christians of who they are, calls them to a way of life and paints a picture of hope.
First, he reminds them of who they are. He reminds them that they are a “new creation”. A creation is not something that makes itself, it is something that is made. Each of us is crafted by God’s grace into a Christian person, made by Him, for His purposes in the world, that we might glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. He has done this “in Christ” … in other words, the material that God uses to create a new man, woman or child, is Christ and His cross. There is no other material suitable for making a new person. Only Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for this purpose. Only in Christ can a person be saved and so “reborn.”
Second, Paul calls the Christians to a new way of life. He says “the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” When a person becomes a Christian, something old must go, must “pass away.” The call of the Christian is to a life of holiness, of putting off old ways, i.e., “old man” sins described in places like Ephesians 5:22-32, sins like lust, envy, theft, crude speech and so on. What we find as Christians is that this is hard, that we are in a battle. But we also have help, as God sends His Spirit to dwell in us, to convict and teach and point us to Christ, and to bear fruit in our lives.
Third, Paul paints a picture of hope. He does this by his use of the word “new”. This word is a hopeful word, used to express something better, grander than what went before. Paul properly uses the word in his description of the Christian. The new creation life, the new that has come to the Christian, is a better, greater life … it is an eternal life, with a purpose greater than one’s self, with forgiveness of sin and God dwelling with us … a new life, a life filled with hope.
And so may we be thankful for the new creation the LORD has made us into as Christians, may we battle hard to live in a way that is consistent with the new person he has called us to be, and may we look forward to the day when all things are made new and the work he began in us comes to completion. Happy New Year!