2018-01-07 – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 – A New Beginning
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,[a] not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
A New Beginning
Happy New Year and good morning everyone. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today. I pray your New Years is starting out well. Some of you had a few days off, some of you had a tough week with the cold and snow.
Wednesday we went over with the youth about what Sin is. It was an excellent discussion and the youth had many questions and challenges. But I thought it would be good to share a paper on the topic I put together of Sin, so I printed out a paper if any of you are interested to read. Please pray for our youth as they have a lot of challenges ahead.
Last week we shared a tribute to the coming New Year and the message was entitled Finishing Well. Finishing our year well, but more specifically as Christ followers we should also be striving towards finishing our earthly lives well too.
Due to time constraints, the sermon last week was cut a little short as I was giving a prescription of a few things to consider doing daily so we might finish well. Because it is also relevant to our message today, I will summarize for you:
First; may I suggest a daily time of focused personal communion with God
Communion, being quiet time, prayer and reading God’s word. I know some of you are readers, but some don’t hardly ever pick up a book. I will explore you to consider that as part of your personal sacrifice to God. Give to the Lord in this and you will be blessed I promise. I have started a chronological summary reading plan and I am enjoying it so much. As I get older (and wiser), I find myself loving God’s word more and more, and I know you would to.
Second; a daily adoption of the gospel
Consider Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” As Christians we know our home in heaven is secure, so every breath we take now has a purpose. And every prayer we lift up should be seasoned with thankfulness, because we know our sins are forgiven by God because of Jesus Christ dying on the cross. Daily we should adopt the gospel to our person.
Third; a daily commitment to God as a living sacrifice
For this I direct your attention to Romans 12:1: Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God..”
As we reflect on the gospel and what God has done for us in Christ, this should lead us to present ourselves daily, as living sacrifices.
Christians should want to serve God. Like Paul, I appeal to you to choose to serve God for His and your good pleasure, and may your joy in this be complete.
That was a summary prescription and conclusion of the last sermon of the last year called Finishing Well. Now today we are going to continue the theme here, but since we crossed into the New Year, our sermon is entitled A New Beginning.
Please turn in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 5:16, pg 181 in the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God, and let us start with prayer.
A world record swimmer by the name of Kim Linehan once was being interviewed about how she prepared for her competitions. She said she commits herself to endless exercise and she swims 7 to 12 miles a day. When asked what was the hardest part of her regimen? She answered “Getting in the water”.
When we accept our calling to become Christians, effectively it is a new beginning for us and we become a new creation. Like the swimmer, at some point we need to get wet. We need to put on Christ Jesus and become the true ambassador disciple that God desires for each of us to be.
Paul wrote, 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
I want to decipher these verses as we go through them. A lot of our Christianeeze vocabulary these days is unknown to a lot of folks. The term New Creation goes along with what Jesus told the rich young ruler about being “born again” Jesus said that we must be born again. The terms “new creation” and “born again” literally mean “born from above.” John 1:12 states that “all who receive Jesus, he gave the right to become children of God”. So we are effectively adopted by the father. And our old self and our old lifestyle has no bearing on our future in heaven. Everything has passed away and become new.
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
To be reconciled is to be restored to friendship or in harmony with one another. When friends resolve their differences and restore their relationship reconciliation has occurred. When Jesus died on the cross, He satisfied God’s judgment, He paid our penalty and made it possible for us, to find peace with Him.
“Not counting their trespasses” means not judging their sins. Not counting their wrong-doing against them. Instead God now counts our trespasses, our sins against Jesus, ironically the only person in the world that was without sin.
20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Ambassadors are official representatives. Shirley Temple was a U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. She represented the United States and she spoke with Presidential authority. Christians are Ambassadors for Christ to the world. God chooses to appeal through us to the lost people of this world. To carry the Good News Gospel message to people so they too can choose to follow Him.
What a wonderful privilege it is to represent Jesus. And we shouldn’t ever take this charge lightly, as it has eternal implications.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Again Jesus Christ, the only sinless person who ever lived, took upon Himself all the past, present and future sin of man while He was on the cross at Calvary. He became sin and paid our penalty so that we could be reconciled with God and go to Heaven. That sin was so burdensome that Jesus even sweat blood as He was preparing to die. That sin was so burdensome that Jesus even lost fellowship with His Father God, because God turns away from sin until we turn away from sin.
The main point for this New Year’s message is that God’s promise to us is true:
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a New Creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”
So what does all this mean? What really happens to us when we choose Christ?
The Reverend Billy Graham suggests that there are seven gifts God gives us when we commit our lives to Jesus Christ.
The first thing that happens is that God gives us a new relationship.
Once we were separated from God because of our sins − and not just separated, but alienated from Him. The Bible Says we were “excluded, without hope and without God in the world”; Ephesians 2:13 says “Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.”
The first thing that happened when you committed your life to Christ is that God gave you a new relationship. He is now your loving heavenly Father, and you are now His child, spiritually reborn into His family.
The second thing God gives you when you commit your life to Christ is a new citizenship. Of course you are still a citizen of our great United States of America, but now you are also a citizen of the kingdom of God.
My son Stephen was born while I was stationed in Germany. Because we were American citizens, Stephen was an American citizen. However, because He was born in a German hospital, he was also considered a German citizen. He had dual citizenship until he turned 18 and then he chose to drop his German citizenship.
Now that we are Born again Christians, as long as we are on this earth, we possess dual citizenship. On one hand we owe allegiance to our nation and are instructed by God to be good citizens. But we are also citizens of the kingdom of God, that invisible kingdom of which Christ is the head. Our supreme loyalty is first to Him, and if anyone ever demands we do wrong, Acts 5:29 says “we must obey God rather than men!” And someday, the Bible tells us, this world’s kingdoms will pass away and become “the kingdom of our Lord and of Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). I look forward to that day.
Not only does God give a new relationship with Himself and make us citizens of His kingdom, but He also gives us a new family − the family of God. You aren’t just related to God; you are now related to all the other believers too. Everyone who truly believes in Jesus Christ is now your spiritual brother or sister.
This is one reason why you are never alone if you know Christ. You are part of God’s family, with brothers and sisters in Christ who love you and want to help you, if you will let them. It boggles my brain knowing that some profess to be Christians but refuse to go to church to be with their family. Recall Jesus was once approached saying that His family was near, He then said you are my family. Later we know His family became believers and was restored to Him, but that is an example showing how important and integral this church family is. It is a gift from God to us and we should never take it for granted.
And as Christians we now have a New Purpose. Having a purpose is a good thing. We all know that some people are very focused, using all their energies to reach their goals. While others seem to drift through life with little purpose or direction, living for the moment and never thinking about where they are headed. However, I would argue that most people probably live somewhere in between. Living only for themselves and their own happiness. But when we come to Christ, God gives us a new purpose. Now we should want to live for Christ and not just for ourselves. Pastor Rick Warren wrote a book called Purpose Driven Life that was a best seller for 10 years, and it sold more than 30 million copies. People are searching for a purpose. God has a purpose for you, and that purpose is to serve.
And with that new purpose, every Christian now has a New Power
One of the Bible’s most comforting truths is that when we come to Christ, God Himself comes to live within us by His Holy Spirit. When you come to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live within you and gives you His power.
As written in Acts 1:8, Jesus promised, “you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes on you”. We weren’t meant to live this Christian life in our own strength. God has provided His Spirit to help us. And with just a little bit of faith, we can do anything that God calls us to do.
And the most radical change of all when we come to Christ is that God gives is
a new destiny. Once we were headed for hell; now we are headed for heaven. Once we were bound for eternal separation from God; now we know we will live with Him forever. Once we had no hope of an eternal life worth living; but now we do. The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death. but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. AMEN
In the midst of life’s problems and heartaches, never forget: This life is temporary. One day all our burdens will be cast aside, and we will be with Christ forever. Before us is a new destiny for those who belong to Him.
When we come to Christ and God gives us a whole new life with a new relationship, a new citizenship, a new family, a new purpose, a new power, and a new destiny. So we should never take lightly what Christ did for us on the cross − and never take lightly what God has given those who have turned to Christ in repentance and faith.
But this isn’t the end of His bounty, for God also gives us one final gift:
a new journey, a whole new path to follow until the day He takes us to heaven. In other words, your decision for Christ isn’t an end but a New Beginning − the beginning of a whole new life. We are called to become Christian disciples; and this Christian life is a new journey – one that will take us the rest of our lives to navigate through. Are you willing? Are you ready?
But to start it all off, we first must get our hearts and minds aligned with God.
There is an old saying, Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. Whatever you think about the most is what you will become. So may I suggest In this New Year how to make this principle work for you instead of against you.
When your mind is focused on carnal, or “fleshy,” things, otherwise known as sin, there is a higher chance that you’re going to do those things. The opposite is true as well, when you focus on good things, you are more than likely going to do good things. And our Bible is packed full of righteousness. When you focus your attention on it, you’re going to do what it says. That is a blessing for you and for those around you. And it pleases God in heaven as well.
Philippians 4 Paul wrote “beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
God is telling us today that if you want to see a positive change in your life,
A New Beginning, then you have to change your mind. You have to abandon your old carnal thoughts, and replace them with God’s thoughts. Accept His calling on your life, and then He will give you a new heart, and it is wonderful!!!
Are you ready?
And reflecting back upon that world record swimmer I mentioned at the start of this message today, lets jump into the water and get wet, but with God’s Holy Spirit, and start living like a true Christ follower with a New Beginning.