Creator and Re-Creation (II Cor 5:17)
Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:17–5:17
Meet Your Maker
I. Creation & Curse
As we’ve looked at God’s word together these past two Sundays, we have been reminded that the reality of God as Creator is a much bigger and a much more important truth than we often acknowledge.
We’ve talked about the importance of seeing ourselves as creatures, as those made by God. We’ve talked about the importance of faithfully describing the Creator and his relationship with and relationship to His creation as we share the Good News, the gospel of Jesus. We’ve talked about the importance of recognizing God’s work as Creator and Sustainer, that work taking place right now all around us in creation, and the importance of joining with creation in giving praise to God.
But we’ve also talked about, we’ve acknowledged that as important as all of this is, and as glorious as these truths are, there remains a shadow hanging over everything the Maker had made.
What am I talking about? Some might mention poisoned rivers and extinct creatures and meadows full of trash, but our abuse of creation is only a symptom of something even more serious. We could talk about how genetic engineers are trying to radically manipulate creation, without serious moral consideration of their actions. But such things are only pointing back to the reality that both creation and creature have fallen under the rotting bondage of sin.
Paul describes it this way in Romans 8: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope…” Paul talks about all creation’s “bondage to decay”. He writes, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:20-22)
Even though God sustains the earth, sustains all life by his power and grace every second of every day, this earth is decaying from the cancer of sin. Even though we, every single one of us, are made in the image of God, we are tainted, we are corrupted because of sin.
Men and women who have denied their Maker, try to define life on their own terms, and all creation has been infected by their rebellion. And someday, we will meet our Maker, and we will have to give account for all these things.
II. The Passage: “A New Creation” (5:17)
But this morning, God wants to reveal yet another aspect of his role as Creator.
And I would dare to say, it is this other aspect of God as Creator that is the most precious and powerful of all the truths we’ve seen.
Turn with me to II Corinthians 5:17 and listen as Paul makes an astonishing statement about God’s work in light of His cursed creatures and cursed creation. Listen:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
What Paul is declaring here is that through Jesus Christ, God the Creator, show himself to be God the Re-Creator. Because of Jesus, through faith in Jesus, all of us are able to be remade by God; to be salvaged from the scrap heap of sin, and fashioned once again according to God’s perfect will.
The relationship between creation and re-creation is expressed by Paul a chapter earlier when he says, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 4:6)
Do you feel the weight of “the old” Paul mentions here? Do you recognize that as a creature, you have been marred by sin? Do you see the effects of “the old” surrounding you, on the evening news, in the lives of those you love, in your own heart?... ”sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk…” (Colossians 3:5, 8) Does your guilt, does your shame about the past, does it hang around your neck, choking you?
Only when you recognize the bondage of “the old”, can you hear how incredible this promise is. “…if ANYONE is in CHRIST, he [or she] is a new creation…the old has passed away [it’s gone!]...behold [look! See for yourself!]…the new has come!”
But this promise is more than just a second chance or a clean slate. When Paul talks about the “new creation”, he almost certainly has in mind, not only the creature, but all Creation as well. The language Paul uses here is probably drawn from the prophet Isaiah, through whom God declared:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17)
Listen as well to a full quotation of Paul’s statement in Romans 8:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23)
You see, when we believe in Jesus as our only hope, when we trust in Him and what He did at the cross, the re-creating power of God at work in us is simply a sample of the feast that will one day be enjoyed by all creation.
If you are in Christ, then you are a preview of what the Creator is ready to do in everything He has made. You are enjoying life, not only as one made by God; but more importantly, as one remade by God.
It is so important that we acknowledge ourselves to be creatures. But that is not enough. We must believe that we are creatures who are in desperate need of re-creation.
Last week we compared the Creation of the universe with the creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo. Painting 6000 square feet took Michelangelo four years. In contrast, God simply spoke the universe into existence.
But you may remember that a restoration began back in the 1980’s, a restoration of the Chapel ceiling that was completed in 1994. Hundreds of years of candle smoke had left a layer of grime on the ceiling that obscured the images the artist had originally intended. But when restorers began to clean, they were surprised by the colors which began to appear. One writer said: “in these pictures [which seemed almost monochrome]…The colours…now appear so fresh and spring-like with pale pink, apple green, vivid yellow and sky blue against a background of warm pearly grey”.
It was like a whole new work had been discovered. The God of all creation, the One who made you, wants to remake you in Jesus. He wants to restore in you, by faith in Jesus, the image he originally intended.
III. How New Creations Are New
But what does it mean to be a new creation? Does it mean that you never again do the dumb things you’ve done before, the things you’ve regretted? Does it mean that old wounds will never resurface? Maybe it means that God will take away your financial difficulties, that creditors will leave the ‘new you’ alone. Maybe you will look different. Maybe you will look the way you think you should look. Maybe the painful circumstances you find yourself in, even now, will just “pass away” as Paul declares. Maybe what “has come” is a new vigor, a new confidence to pursue your dreams; to live for a do those things you’ve always wanted to do, but never could or would.
Our society talks a lot about re-making yourself. In an article entitled “How to Remake Yourself in 2009”, the writer makes this statement about changing your life “…you must rid yourself of false, quasi-religious beliefs. Firmly implant in your mind the following mantra: Success in life goes most frequently, not to the most deserving, the best looking or even the most intelligent. Instead, success goes most frequently to the person with the greatest drive.”
That’s what the world believes. But this is not about us remaking ourselves is it? This is about God re-creating us. This is about being a new creation in Jesus Christ.
In order to understand how a new creation is “new”, we need to pull in the larger context here. We need to think about the larger point that Paul is trying to make in the latter part of II Corinthians 5.
A. A New Kind of Seeing (5:16)
For example, look right above 5:17 to verse 16. Paul writes…
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…Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…
What Paul is describing here is that being a new creation involves a new kind of seeing. Paul says that at one time, all of us, including himself, once viewed everything according to the flesh. We even regarded Jesus according to the flesh. What does that mean?
It means that apart from Christ, we see everything through lenses that are colored by a love for the world and a rejection of God. Before Paul was remade, Paul knew of Jesus. But he believed Jesus to be a false Messiah, a liar who was leading people from the true worship of God. He believed this because sin kept his eyes fixed on his own self-righteousness.
If you are not a new creation by faith, then you will regard Jesus according to the flesh. You will imagine him to be a great teacher, or a loving prophet, or a noble human being, or maybe a myth. You might even believe that he was the Lamb of God who died for you so you can go to heaven, but you cannot see that Jesus is the Lord of all things, who because of his authority claims you for himself, and because of his beauty, is the One you never want to leave.
And these new eyes see all things differently, all through the lenses of God’s word. Being a new creation involves a new kind of seeing.
B. A New Kind of Heart (5:11, 12)
But let’s move back to verses 11 and 12. Verse 11 is the beginning of the second half of chapter 5. Let’s think about being a new creation in light of the argument Paul is laying out here.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.
The Corinthian church was being influenced, as we see in verse 12, by false teachers who were “boast[ing] about outward appearance”; those who valued, above everything else, confidence and charisma and self-absorption. Compared to these arrogant, flamboyant teachers, Paul seemed like the 90-pound weakling who gets sand kicked in his face at the beach. Thus, some were questioning Paul’s authority and authenticity.
But Paul does not want to argue for his own merits. He wants them to remind them of God’s perspective on things. He wants them to look, not at outward appearances, but at the heart.
In 2007, 11.7 million cosmetic procedures were performed in our country to the tune of 13.2 billion dollars. Our culture seem to prefer the ‘makeover’ to being remade. We seem content with a reconfiguration of what’s on the surface. A nip here, a tuck there, a new hairstyle, a facial.
But God wants to change our hearts. He wants us to see with new eyes because our inner person, our thoughts and affections, are being renewed according to the truth.
Are you a new creation here, on the inside? Has Jesus changed, is He changing your heart?
C. A New Kind of Living (5:13-15)
If He is, then there will be evidence of that on the outside. Listen to how Paul continues in 5:13-15…
For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
What does it mean to have a new kind of heart? It means, verse 14, that the love of Christ controls us. It means that you have believed, that you have been inwardly transformed by the truth about Jesus’ cross. Because He died for us, we are new called to live for Him.
And living for Him, look at verse 13, living for him means, yes, living for God no matter what the world thinks (they might think we are out of our minds), but it also means living for others according to God’s desires.
Being a new creation is about a radically new kind of living. The old things involved living for ourselves, putting ourselves first. The new creation is about living for God and for others before ourselves. That’s what happens when you see with new eyes and live with a new heart.
D. A New Kind of Peace (5:18-21)
But if we drop down to verse 18, we discover the foundation for this new creation; we see in verses 18-21, the fire that forges the new creation Paul talks about in verse 17. Look at 18…
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave 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 to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore 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.
Do you see the foundation for being a new creation? Verse 18: “All this is from God”. Of course it is! Of course re-creation comes from the Creator. But the only way you and I can know the power of re-creation is because “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself”. The corrupting curse that infects creation was dealt with at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Because Jesus, who knew no sin, was made sin for us (v. 21), he was able to destroy that cancer of sin as he himself was destroyed. Because Christ accepted God’s verdict for our guilt, he does not count our trespasses against us (v. 19).
The cross reconnects us to our Creator. Being a new creation is about having a new kind of peace in your life: peace with God.
E. A New Kind of Mission (5:20)
And when we are reconciled to God, when we are hearts have been changed, when we see for new eyes and are no longer living for ourselves, we have a new kind of mission that guides our life. Listen again to verse 20:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Being a new creation involves being sent on a new kind of mission. When you are remade by God, the trajectory of your life is no longer defined by doing what you think will make you happy or satisfied or comfortable or successful. It is defined by God’s purposes.
God has entrusted to the church, verse 19, the ministry of reconciliation. Do you know what that means? That means that if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation. And if anyone is a new creation, he or she is now an agent of re-creation. The power of God that made the stars and fashioned the earth and formed all life, is the same power that we are declaring to a world that is dying because of “the old” things. This is the power I am declaring this morning, the power available to you because of what Jesus did.
If you are a new creation, are you living to tell others, not simply about the who the Creator is, and what he did in making this world, but also, that He wants to remake them in grace, through faith, because of Jesus?
IV. Front Row Seats
Listen to the following description of what is to come, and try to imagine what this will be like:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
How much would you pay to purchase front row seats for the re-creation of the world? How much would you give to witness first hand the power of the Creator at work?
Well, the power of the Creator is on display already isn’t it? We don’t have to wait. And God wants you to witness it firsthand, at work in your life, and in the lives of those around you. And…he has already paid the price. He gave His Son for you, to make you new.
What does it mean to be a new creation? The great 19th century Princeton professor Charles Hodge put it this way: “Old opinions, views, plans, desires, principles, and affections are passed away; new views of truth, new principles, new apprehensions of the destiny of man, and new feelings and purposes fill and govern the soul.”
Do you want to be new this morning? Are you new this morning?
All of us need to hear Paul’s words this morning, we need to hear God making his appeal directly to us, through Paul: We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
More in Meet Your Maker
August 16, 2009Creator & Creation (Psalm 104)
August 9, 2009Creator and Creature (partial audio)(Acts 17:22-34)