II Corinthians 5:15-17
January 15, 2017
We can’t talk about being “New Creations,” without considering the one who wrote about it. Of all the people who wrote the various parts of the Bible, Paul was the one who knew about that the most. Of all people, he knew about being a “New Creation!”
Not having much experience with Pharisees or with the Jewish faith, it’s hard for us to imagine what his life was like before. We’re not aware of all of the various traditions and practices of the Jewish faith, and it’s hard for us to understand what it was like to be “steeped” in those traditions the way those people were.
It’s also hard for us to imagine what it was like to be one of the religious leaders of his time. As a Pharisee, Saul was one who was in responsible for the Law and all it’s nuances. He was concerned with all of the ceremonies and rituals and doctrine of the faith. He was expected, among other things, to be a “keeper of the faith.” That is, he was one who would scrutinize those who would teach different things about the faith, and deal with those who were in error. All the Pharisees had that responsibility, but Saul was perhaps the most “zealous.”
As you know, the other thing I’ve been thinking about lately is that Saul must have been there all along during the ministry of Jesus. He may even have been one of the un-named Pharisees who questioned Jesus, trying to make him look bad in front of the crowds. I believe he was also there at the trial of Jesus, where they engineered his execution. And we’re also told that there were Pharisees at the cross. Was Saul there, too?
Whatever the case, no matter what his involvement had been up until then, when it became evident that the ministry of Jesus had not been stopped, and that it was continuing even after his death, Saul resolved to take matters into his own hands. He resolved to do it himself! And he became the most zealous persecutor of the early church.
You know the rest of that story. Saul was changed by the very Jesus he was persecuting. And it was such a dramatic change that “New Creation” described him very well! And when he wrote about it here in his letter to the Corinthians, he “knew that of which he wrote!”
Well then, with all that in mind, what about us? Now, I’m not saying we were ever persecutors of Jesus, like Saul was, or that we lived “wasted lives of sin.” Though I suppose that’s not impossible. (I don’t know everything about you people!) But even so, we still believe that, in Jesus Christ, we are “New Creations.” What does that look like?
Many times that “newness” is simply about having God in our lives. We weren’t all that bad before. We just didn’t give God “the time of day.” I know that was the case with me. And I went to Church all the time. Seriously! I never got involved in rebellious stuff around me. But being a “New Creation?” That never occurred to me. Maybe that’s you, too.
Last week, we had our “Rededication Sunday.” That day, we “reaffirmed” our Baptismal Vows. That day, we used those vows to re-dedicate our lives to Jesus Christ, and we were re-introduced to the “Waters of Baptism.” And I know the weather kept some of us home. But that’s what I want you to think about, whether you were here or not. I think that’s a great way to start the new year! This is a time to think about a lot of things in our lives. What is life going to be like for us in 2017. Well, it’s also a good time to think about our dedication to God’s kingdom, and to renew that dedication.
Well today I’m encouraging you to think about what that means in your life. And by all means, if you weren’t here, I encourage you to do your own “re-dedication.” But then, I want you to think about that, and to continue to think about it throughout the year! You are God’s people. You are “New Creations” in Jesus Christ. “The past is finished and done. Behold, the new has come!” May this be a year of newness of faith, of deeper devotion, and of greater joy in the kingdom of God.
As we close in prayer, I invite you to take this time and do that re-dedication, and to think about that re-dedication. Ask for God’s strength in the “New Year” to be his “New Creations”…
Eternal God, we thank you that, in Jesus Christ, we are “New Creations.” And we do ask for the strength to live our lives in new and more holy ways. Help us to have the vision to know your kingdom, the desire to seek you more, and to live our lives in your service. For this we pray in our Lord’s name, Amen.