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Monday, June 15, 2015

"Seeing New Creations" 2 Corinthians 5:6-17

June 14, 2015

          Two weeks ago, I labeled Christians – we are the “born-agains.”  I made the case that all Christians are born again Christians.  Anyone interested in why I say this can listen to the sermon on our website or read out my blog.  Better yet, read the Gospel of John, chapter 3.
          Last week, I declared that we “born agains” are “clay jars,” hard and easily broken.  We are all cracked pots.  Actually, the Apostle Paul is the one who said that.  did.  Again, you can listen or read my “Honest Talk with God” blog.  Better still, read 2nd Corinthians 4. 
          I offer no labels this morning.  Instead, we are invited to see as Christ sees.  How do born-again clay pots see and regard people?
          Before we dig into the answer, a word from 2nd Corinthians 5:15 is needed.  That verse says, “[Jesus Christ] died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”  That Jesus died for us is good news, the best news, because sin leads to death and eternal separation from God, and we all sin, every one of us.
          If I lie and get caught, others see me as a liar.  The consequence is no one will trust me.  He steals something, gets caught, and he’s convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.  There may be jail time or a fine or community service.  You kill someone and get convicted, and you may face life in prison or the death penalty.  All these things are sins in God’s eyes and when we die in sin then we die eternally.  Eternal death means eternal separation from God, a condition we describe as Hell. 
          When Paul tells us “Jesus died for all,” we realize Jesus took sin, death, and Hell off of us and carried it on his own shoulders.  Because of the cross, we are saved from eternal separation from God. 
          Verse 15 goes on to give one of the results. We have our faith in Christ and thus we have life.  This means we live for him.  Jesus shares our death and shares with us His resurrection.  We have eternal life and that means our lives are no longer ours.  Our lives – our individual lives and us united as the body of Christ – are for Him.  We belong to the Lord, we live for the Lord. 
          OK – so what?  What, exactly, does this mean?  We live for Jesus.  What does this mean in the daily living of our lives?  Verse 16 gives us focus.  The verse begins “From now on.”  If you are reading The Message you see that it says, “Because of this.”  The New King James Version says, “Therefore.”  The NIV renders it “So from now on.” 
          All these English versions show the same thing – there is a change.  That Jesus died and rose and that we came to entrust our lives to him by putting our faith in him means a radical change in the direction and orientation of our lives.  We were self-focused.  Now, in Christ, we are God-focused.  We were, in life, headed away from an eternity with Him.  Now, in Christ, our lives are God-oriented.  A change has occurred.
          This shift from a life apart from God to a life that is lived under Jesus as Lord is radical enough that Paul found himself challenged.  He was opposed by his fellow monotheists, Jews who did not believe Jesus was the son of God or the Messiah.  He was confronted by Romans who felt an offense that he would claim Jesus, and not Caesar, is Lord.  And he was mocked by Greeks who lived by a loose polytheism and the wisdom of sages like Plato.  And, Paul was challenged by other Christians, people within the church. 
To all these he says in verse 13, “If we are beside ourselves, it is for God.” Paul knew some thought he was just crazy.  He accepted that.  Living for God meant taking whatever abuses might come.  In our era, we are in some quarters expected to live for our country.  Marketers want us to live for ourselves.  If we do then they will sell us products they have convinced us we need, if we want to be happy.  You need this new phone.  You need this new … whatever.  Why?  It will make you happy.  Other voices today may reject that life has any meaning at all.  There is no God and we are all results of a biological process, the collection of atoms.  To the nationalists, capitalists, self-worshipers, and atheists, we say what Paul said to the temple, the government, and the academy:  “Go ahead, call us crazy.  We are living for God and that looks insane to you, so be it.”
We do not try to live for God in a way that allows us to also idolize country or idolize self.  We do not dare say becoming a Christian is no big thing.  It is the biggest change we’ll go through.  “From now on;” “Because of this;” “Therefore;” we are in Christ.  He is Lord of our lives. 
Following his lead then, we see from his perspective.  We born-again cracked pots regard people as Jesus regards people.  Verse 16 makes this clear.  Because we are in Christ, how we approach others will be the biggest change we make.  “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view.”
Jesus’ own teaching illuminates this.  If you ever watched Star Trek you know Vulcans live by a code.  “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”  In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, Jesus says God is like a shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to go out and find one lost sheep.  When we see people, not from a human point of view but as God sees them, we then see them as ones for whom God goes out of his way to save.
You’re at the grocery store and you see a mom with her teenage son.  She is riding him hard.  You failed two classes last semester.  You father was a straight ‘A’ student.  You brother made the dean’s list in college.  You failed two classes.  And, three times I was called by the principle about your behavior.  If you don’t care school, at least care about your family.  You are embarrassment to us all.”  You are appalled at the way she demeans her son and you should be.  It is terrible to break a kid like that.  It is even in worse to do it for everyone in the Food Lion to hear.  And they do hear it.  You see heads turn to witness this major parenting fail.  You want to go over and tell that mom to shut it. 
From God’s point of view, she is a lost sheep who needs to be saved.  “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 no longer know him in that way.”  We know he was a human and he was God; we know he died on the cross.  And so the cross the lens we look through when we see the world and more importantly people in the world.
We see the overbearing verbally abusive mom and her actions may merit criticism.  If the child were young and she were beating the kid, authorities should be called in.  But we do not hold her in contempt.  The cross of Christ colors our visions.  We see her and we see her sins on him, nailed to a cross.  With love we see that she needs him. 
In our daily relationships, we no longer regard others as we did before we were in Christ.  We now see spiritually.  Love determines how we regard others – those in the church and those outside it.  Paul writes in 2nd Corinthians 2:15, “We are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
What then does it look like to regard people when we see as Christ sees?  Paul names it in 2nd Corinthians 5:17-21.
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,[d] 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.

          We pray for the angry mom in the super market and the son she verbally flogs.  We look with the love the Spirit pours into our hearts and we pray for reconciliation.  Think about real people you know, those who anger you.  Think about those who hurt others, those you know who are difficult.  We look and see people who, if they turned to Christ, would become new creations in him.  We don’t see from human point of view but from his.
          We do this when we look in the mirror too.  Sometimes the one we hold in contempt most, the one we love least is ourself.  When you see yourself do you see the new creation Christ is creating – the new you Christ is forming in His image?  That’s how Paul saw himself.  He writes in 2 Corinthians 1:12-14,
12 Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness[c] and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more toward you. 13 For we write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— 14 as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.

When we see ourselves and others from Jesus’ perspective, through cross-colored lenses, through eyes of love, we see the new creation that we become in Him.  And in those who don’t know Him, we see what they can be if the join themselves to Christ.  We always see people as to who they are in Christ or who they might be in Christ. 
I close with an assignment.  Determine that this week, you will see from Jesus’ perspective.  You will see people as God sees people.  Now this is an assignment, so write it down.  When you leave this place, imagine the very next person you will see.  When you see him or her, imagine how Christ sees that individual.  And you see him that way and relate to him in kind.  Act toward him as if he is a new creation in Christ or is someone in need of Christ. 
This requires discipline.  You will see people you don’t like, at least not in the flesh.  Jesus did not say, love them unless they annoy you and then you can treat them like dirt.  No, he said, love as you love yourself.  Paul unfolds this teaching by telling us we are in Christ so we see people as new creations. 
So go out and see in this way beginning with the first person you encounter after leaving here.  We see with eyes of love and act on what we see.


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