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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:A New Creation!
Text:2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:02/11/2018
Added:2019-01-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


A New Creation!”
2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2
 
Have you ever run across someone who you knew years ago, and when you see them and begin talking with them you find out that they are totally different than they were years ago? Sometimes the changes are for the worse. The high school student with so much potential turns out to be addicted to drugs, ensnared in immorality, or ruled by alcohol.
 
But at other times you may have met people who over the course of time were changed for the better. Some of you have heard, or possibly still hear on Sunday night, the Unshackled program on Moody radio. It chronicles the lives of those who were overcome by sin, ensnared in immorality at times, addicted to drugs or ruled by alcohol, who were yet totally transformed by God's grace and Spirit. They are people who meet the definition of a new creation given in 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; The old has gone, the new has come!
 
Although the unshackled program is fascinating to listen to, it pales in comparison to those described in Scripture who were unshackled from their former way of life and transformed into new creations in Christ. Consider the woman at the well in Samaria. She had five husbands, but was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. But after meeting Jesus and, by God’s grace, believing in Him as the Living Water, her life was totally transformed. Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” And through her witness, many from that town sought out Jesus (John 4:28-30).
 
Or, consider that wee little man up in a tree that you children sing about – Zacchaeus. He was a tax collector, and in those days tax collectors were known to be greedy swindlers of the people. They were hated because of their greed and relentless collection of taxes, but they were also hated because they worked for the Roman government. They collected tax for Rome, but as “middle-men” kept a big portion for themselves.
 
But when Zacchaeus came face to face with Jesus, when Jesus went to his home and ate with him and other “sinners”, as the Pharisees self righteously called them, Zacchaeus was totally transformed! By faith in Christ he became a new creation. He said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
 
Or, consider the total transformation of the man whom God used to write this second letter to the Corinthian church, as well as 12 other New Testament letters. He was known as Saul of Tarsus, and every Christian was terrified of him. He was a powerful Pharisee, well-educated and influential; he was a man of means who used his influence and power to persecute the church. Who was there when Stephen was stoned to death? It was Saul of Tarsus. Acts 8:1 begins with these terse words: And Saul was there, giving approval to (Steven’s) death.
 
But Saul of Tarsus was totally transformed when the Lord appeared to him while he was on the road to Damascus. On that road Saul was blinded by the light of the glory of the resurrected Christ. For three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything. But then the Lord sent Ananias to him. By God’s grace his sight was restored. He was a changed man. He was a new creation in Christ. He became known as Paul the Apostle instead of Saul of Tarsus. Through that experience the apostle Paul was totally transformed. As verse 17 says, the old has gone, the new has come!
 
That verse teaches us that those who are reconciled to God through faith in Christ undergo a total transformation. I trust and pray that you have seen that in your life. I trust and pray that even if you have been a Christian all your life, knowing the Lord from infancy, as Timothy knew the Lord growing up in a godly family, that nevertheless you are not the person today that you were last year, or even last week. I trust and pray that you see God's transforming work in your life as He totally transforms His people.
 
Most of us do not have the road to Damascus experience – the dramatic conversion – that Saul of Tarsus underwent as he was transformed into the apostle Paul. Most of us are more like Timothy who grew up in a Christian family. But regardless, if we truly belong to Christ we become new creations in Him and are totally transformed. In this passage we see a number of ways in which we who are new creations in Christ are transformed.
 
Dying to Self; Living for Christ
   
For instance, verse 15 describes how we should no longer live for ourselves but for Him who has died for us and was raised again. In other words, our goal becomes to die to self and to live for Christ.
 
What does it mean to die to self? In the words of one commentator, John Gill, it means we “should not … live unto (our) selves: to (our) own lusts, and after (our) own wills, …but unto Him who died for (us) and rose again.”
 
In that sense, dying to self involves seeking to do the Lord’s will instead of our will. Our will invariably centers upon our self. Our will so often looks at how we can please ourselves. But as we become new creations in Christ we gain, in the words of 1 Corinthians 2:16, the mind of Christ. What that means is that we have the mind of Christ in the sense of desiring to do the will of our heavenly Father. Jesus always sought to do the will of His heavenly Father. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane that was His heartfelt desire, as He prayed, “Not My will but Your will be done.”
 
Day by day and week by week we are to die to our old sinful desires; we are to submit our will to the will of our heavenly Father as we are increasingly transformed by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Our desire becomes to be less like Adam, with his willful rebellion against God's commands, and more like Christ. As we undergo that transformation, which is not instantaneous but a lifelong progression, the things we once sought fade away and in their place is the desire to be more like Christ.
 
The early church father, Augustine, serves as another example of one who was, by God's grace and Holy Spirit’s power, unshackled and transformed. Although he had grown up in a Christian family and had a godly mother, he lived an immoral lifestyle for many years. But in answer to the prayers of his godly mother, as he was reading in the book of Romans, God in grace brought transformation. He became a new creation in Christ. The old was gone and the new had come.
 
But just because the new had come, doesn't mean that the old way of life didn’t still beckon him and tempt him. On one occasion when he was walking down the street, a woman he had known before, called out to him, “Augustine! Augustine! It is I.” But Augustine kept walking. The woman kept calling out, “Augustine! Augustine! It is I” until he replied, “I know, but it is not I.”
 
By God's grace he was a transformed person. The old way of living, which was centered on self, was being put to death. Instead of living for self he was living for Christ with deep gratitude that Christ had died for him and rose again for his justification.
 
But again, that transformation is a lifelong transformation. Every Christian who is a new creation in Christ still struggles with the old sinful nature within. That was certainly true for the author of this letter. In Romans 7 he describes the great battle within every believer. Romans 7 describes the grief that grips us as we realize that the good that we should do we often do not do. Romans 7 also describes the grief that grips us as we realize that often we do the evil that we know we should not do.
 
In this life we continue to struggle with sin even as we are unshackled and transformed as new creations in Christ. But in our struggle with sin, and in the ongoing process of sanctification – (which refers to our spiritual growth as we grow closer to Christ) – we increasingly die to our old sinful nature and live a life of gratitude to Christ who has redeemed us. Through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
 
Looking Beyond the Surface
 
Verse 16 describes another way in which we, as new creations in Christ, are transformed. Verse 16 says: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
 
Those of you who read the ESV may notice that it translates verse 16 as, From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
 
The translation of the ESV is easier to follow. When we regard someone according to the flesh, whether it is Jesus or anyone else, we are looking at only the external view. Saul of Tarsus looked at other Christians with derision and hatred. He could not see what was underneath the surface. He only looked at them outwardly and considered them fools for following Christ.
 
Although he had not met Jesus in the flesh while Jesus was on earth, he had formed a worldview of who Jesus was. And that worldview, which only looked at the surface, caused him to look at Jesus with derision and hatred as well.
 
By nature, we all tend to only look at the externals. We have a natural tendency, as children of Adam, to judge others “according to the flesh”, that is, according to how they look. That is why the half-brother of Jesus, James, tells us in his letter not to show favoritism. He warned his readers of the first century, and warns us today, not to judge by external measures but to look beyond the surface. When we do so, we gain a transformed view of the world.
 
Everybody has a worldview whether they realize it or not. A Focus On the Family article, written by Del Tackett, points out: “Whether conscious or subconscious, every person has some type of worldview….For example, a two year old believes he's the center of his world, a secular humanist believes that the material world is all that exists, and a Buddhist believes he can be liberated from suffering by self-purification... A personal worldview is a combination of all you believe to be true, and what you believe becomes the driving force behind every emotion, decision and action. Therefore, it affects your response to every area of life: from philosophy to science, theology and anthropology to economics, law, politics, art and social order — everything.”
 
As new creations in Christ, the old way of viewing the world is transformed; we no longer view the world just by its external appearance, instead we view the world through the lens of holy Scripture. For example, when the stock market plunges, as it inevitably does at times, those with a secular worldview are filled with anxiety. After all, many people have money in the stock market, either directly or indirectly through employment pension plans, and are banking on those funds for retirement years.
 
But the Christian worldview looks beyond the external and says, “My security is in Christ. He is the one who has assured me that my Father in heaven, who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field, will provide all that I need.” It doesn't mean that we throw out planning, or wise financial strategies, but it does mean that we look beyond the surface to see that our true security is in Christ.
 
And as people who are new creations in Christ we see all the world through Scripture. We understand that the Scriptures are the standard of truth. The Scriptures become our standard for evaluating all things. Our view of the world, and how we are to conduct ourselves in the world, is formed by the truths of Scripture that are applied to our hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit as we become new creations in Christ. The old way of living according to Adam leaves us and the new way of living, being transformed after Christ, comes upon us. The old has gone; the new has come!
 
Ambassadors With the Message of Reconciliation
 
A third way that we are transformed, as new creations in Christ, is that we become committed to the message of reconciliation. In verse 18-19 Paul writes, All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
 
Did you notice the use of the words “we” and “us”? Sometimes we think of the ministry of reconciliation as being just for those who are ordained for ministry. But that's not what Scripture says, in this passage, or any other. Rather the ministry of reconciliation is given to everyone who is a new creation in Christ. If your faith is in Christ alone, if He is your Lord and your Savior, then you are called to be His ambassador. Verse 20 says, We are therefore Christ's messengers as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
 
What is an ambassador? And what is the calling of someone who is an ambassador for Christ? One commentator, Charles Hodge, writes: “An ambassador is at once a messenger and a representative. He does not speak in his own name. He does not act on his own authority. What he communicates is not his own opinions or demands, but simply what he is been told or commanded to say. But at the same time he speaks with authority, in this case the authority of Christ himself.” (As quoted by RVG Tasker, TNTC, 2 Corinthians, page 89).
 
The role that is put before us by our Lord to serve as His ambassadors is a daily challenge. It can be intimidating when we realize that we are to bring that message of reconciliation, which we have experienced, to those whom God brings into our lives. So many opportunities are before us, through employment, school and certainly with our neighbors. There are so many people around us who are perishing and need to hear the message of reconciliation.
 
But even though the Lord puts before us that challenge to be His ambassadors and to bring the message of reconciliation to others He also gives us incentives and encouragement to serve as His ambassadors. Our commitment to the message of reconciliation is motivated by:
 
First, a Biblical fear. This passage begins, in verse 11, by saying: Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord we try to persuade men…
 
The verse is making the transition from the concluding verse of the previous paragraph describing how we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
 
(As we saw last week), there is a proper element of fear of our heavenly Father. Just as you children love and respect your earthly father, knowing that he will discipline you for your own good, so we love and respect our heavenly Father, but with the proper acknowledgment that He disciplines those whom He loves. 
 
But when the Bible uses that word “fear” it is usually not in the sense that we think of the word. Rather, the word “fear”, as it is used in the Bible, includes reverence for God; it includes having awe and wonder, praise and adoration for the Lord.
 
In other words, if you know that you are a new creation in Christ, if your goal is to die to self and to live for Christ, if the Holy Spirit has given you spiritual sight to see Christ and to have a transformed view of the world as you look at it through the lens of Scripture, then you cannot help but be filled with awe and wonder, praise and adoration!
 
As you look at yourself and see God's grace at work in your life, even though God is not finished with you yet, and even though your sanctification and mine is far from complete, you inevitably come to the place that the lepers were in, back in the days of Elisha. You may recall how the Syrians had surrounded Samaria. No food could be brought into the city. The people were starving. What little food was available was sold at exorbitant prices. But the Lord caused the Syrians to be filled with fear. 2 Kings 7 describes how the Lord caused the Syrians to hear chariots and horses and a great army. The Syrians were convinced that the Hittites and Egyptians had come to attack them, so they got up and fled. They abandoned their tents, and their horses and donkeys, and ran for their lives.
 
Now there were four lepers who had to live outside of the city gates because of their leprosy; they came upon the empty camp of the Syrians. They ate and drank, they carried away silver, gold and clothing, and went off and hid them. Out of the blue, through no merit of their own, while those within the city gates were starving, the lepers had an abundance of food and drink, and even had silver and gold!
 
But as they rejoiced in the sudden turn of events, they realized that it was not right to keep the blessing they received to themselves. They said to each other, “We are not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves…” (2 Kings 7:9). So, they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them that the Syrians had fled.
 
They brought such good news to the people within the walls the city! They no longer needed to starve. Instead of death there was life! There was food and drink, silver and gold, fine clothes from Syria – and it was all there, free for the taking!
 
Spiritually speaking, are you and am I not in the same place as those lepers? God has worked His grace in your life and mine, if we truly believe upon Him, if we are truly new creations in Christ. Do we have a sense of Biblical fear? Do we have a deep sense of reverence for the grace of God? Do we have awe and wonder, praise and adoration in our heart of hearts for what God has done for us? God has given us food and drink. Jesus is the bread of life. We feed upon Him. He is in us and we are in Him. Jesus is the living water. We drink from Him spiritually and find that our thirst is quenched. In the parched desert of this life we have the spring of living water, Christ by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
 
Do we recognize, as the lepers did so long ago, that we are not doing right if we keep this great gift of reconciliation – the message of the gospel – to ourselves? That is part of the Biblical fear that motivated the apostle Paul. He looked at his life and saw that by God's grace he was transformed. He was no longer Saul of Tarsus living in rebellion against God as Adam had done. But by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit he was a new creation in Christ. No wonder he was eager to bring the message of salvation to others!
 
And as he did so, he was compelled by the love of Christ. In verse 14 he writes, for Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. He is speaking about all those for whom Christ died, as Jesus laid down His life for His sheep, a number so great that no person can ever count the number of those redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We don't know who they are. We don't know who God’s elect are, and who are hardened and have set their heart against Him and will never believe. But because of the love of Christ that we have experienced, we are compelled to bring the message of reconciliation to others.
 
Do you recall the parable that Jesus told about a certain man who threw a great banquet? He invited many guests to the banquet. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.
 
 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
 
 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
 
 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
 
  ...“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:17-24)
 
So many of those people who were invited refused to come. But what about you and what about me? Have you taken the invitation of the gospel to be reconciled to God to heart? Do you have that blessed assurance of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone? Do you rejoice that “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”? (2 Corinthians 5:21). If not, this passage tells us that today is the day of salvation. The passage ends, in 2 Corinthians 6:2 by saying, “I tell you, now is the time of God's favor now is the day of salvation.”
 
That message of reconciliation is the most important message to bring to others and also to accept, by God's grace and enabling Spirit, for yourself. May you and I know both those blessings, the blessing of accepting the reconciliation that is found in Christ alone, and the blessing of telling others of the reconciling work of Jesus Christ! Amen.
 
- bulletin outline -
 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; The old has gone, the new has come! - 2 Corinthians 5:17
 
A New Creation!”
2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2
     
I. Those who are reconciled to God through faith in Christ undergo a total transformation (17): As new creations in Christ:
    1) Our goal becomes to die to self and to live for Christ (15)
 
 
 
 
    2) We gain a transformed view of the world (16)
 
 
 
 
    3) We become committed to the message of reconciliation (19), motivated by:
           a) Biblical fear (11), which includes awe and wonder, praise and adoration
 
 
 
 
           b) The love of Christ which compels us to witness to others (14; Luke 14:23)
 
 
 
 
II. Application: If you do not have saving faith in Christ, now is the time to believe in Him alone for salvation from sin (6:2)

 

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 02/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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