A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 29, 2013 AM
Have you ever been around folks who know what they are doing is wrong yet they try to justify themselves with lame spiritual answers? You know what I mean, with answers like, “I think it is God’s will.” “I think this is best.” “I think God is leading.” Notice the common denominator? Like I said, lame. King Saul was confronted by Samuel after he did what he, thought was best and yet he knew better. (1 Samuel 15:12-16) God had given him a tremendous victory, but Saul thought he knew better than God did, even after God had specifically told him what he was to do; and what he was not to do. God in giving His people His will for their lives is never ever blurry in the details. He does not make His people guess. Nor does He allow spiritually fuzzy logic. Saul’s pathetic answer is basically the same lame answer folks give today when they know what they are doing is ungodly but they want to justify themselves.
Paul would write, “For 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… What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11 NIV) In this New Year, why not realize that God desires sacrifice more in your life than your personal comfort. He desires you follow Him even when it is personally difficult for you to do so and that may mean staying right where you are. Change has never occurred by catering to your personal desires, it is brought about by lives lived sacrificially for the Lord. A new year begins with a new life! Let’s discover how…
What compels you in life? What truly gets your buttons pushed to do what you are supposed to do in life? As we come to a New Year let’s discover what should compel us. As a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…
I. Christ’s love compels us to make changes! (Vv. 14-16)
1. Few of us would deliberately want to be seen as foolish in the eyes of others, yet Paul, in order to show his sincerity was willing to do just that! He would write, “I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool.” (2 Corinthians 11:16-17 NIV) Here is what compelled Paul, “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” He was willing to appear crazy or foolish for those he loved in the Lord! But not the worldly ungodly foolishness, instead he would be crazy for Christ’s sake and theirs! Why would Paul be so willing to do such a thing? He writes, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died!” And here is the core of the truth of what Paul was trying to teach his fellow believers, namely, he was willing to do whatever it took in order that they would know Jesus more! If Jesus was willing to die on the cross for our sins, shouldn’t Paul be willing to appear just as foolish? How about you? Are you willing? Paul knew and fully understood what it meant to live for Christ! He knew that Jesus “died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again!” Christians do not live for themselves! If they do, they are selfish, self-centered, and worthless to the kingdom of God! Paul would write, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me!” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) This is what compelled Paul! “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.” Paul had once breathed death threats to those who lived for Jesus, but now he no longer viewed life in that way, instead he was compelled to live for Jesus! As a new year begins with a new life, Christ’s love compels us to make changes! In this coming new year are you willing to live foolishly for Him?
EXAMPLE: David Crowder sings a song written by Matt Redman called “Undignified.” It goes something like this: ” I will dance I will sing to be mad for my king; nothing lord is hindering the passion in my soul! I will dance I will sing to be mad for my king; nothing lord is hindering the passion in my soul! And I’ll become even more undignified than this; some would say its foolishness but I’ll become even more undignified than this; some would say its foolishness!” It is a reference to David who danced and sang before the Lord in what some viewed as an undignified way. Paul wrote, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-30 NIV) In this new year will you live foolishly for Him?
With every New Year, people make resolutions. Studies have shown that most of these resolutions last usually only for a few weeks at best. However, just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…
II. If we are in Christ, we are a new creation! (Vv. 17-19)
1. “No one was more able to reflect on that transformation than Paul who switched from a persecutor of Christ to a proclaimer of Christ!” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) It is useless for someone to say they believe in Jesus, yet be unchanged in life. A genuine Christian is a new creature; his old state has changed! He was once a child of Satan, he is now a child of God; he was once was dead in his sin, he now abides in Christ! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Yet many of us live our lives as if we never have been changed! Paul declared, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Sounds like much of the world and sadly like many believers. “I warn you,” Paul wrote, “as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Paul knew that Christians should have nothing to do with anything that even hints at these kinds of ungodly actions. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Paul knew that “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:19-24 NIV) Yet too many believers flirt with ungodliness. They jump ship rather than stay the course, they fade instead of shine, and they enjoy making excuses for their ungodly actions! He would state, ” All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.” And God did it for a reason, not just to make us feel better about ourselves; in fact, God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation!” Paul understood that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” But even more importantly, Paul reminds us that it is God Himself who “has committed to us the message of reconciliation!” That is what believers are to be about! We are to live like Christ and do the ministry God has given us as new creations in Him! Just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation!
EXAMPLE: A fresh start, a new beginning, or a do over is what many long for in life. Isn’t it therefore wonderful to know that God has done just that for us in Christ? Les Lamborn of RBC writes about Chris Simpson, “Chris Simpson’s life used to be consumed by hate. After he and his wife lost their first child, he was confused and angry. He directed that anger toward various ethnic groups and covered his body with hate-filled tattoos. After listening to his son mimic his hatred, though, Simpson knew he needed to change. He watched a Christian movie about courage and began attending church. One month later he was baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ. Simpson is now a new person and is leaving the hate behind him, which includes the painful and expensive process of having his tattoos removed.” He continues by stating, ” The apostle Paul knew something about this kind of deep transformation. He hated Jesus and persecuted His followers… Christ made Paul a new person. The old order of sin, death, and selfishness was gone and a new beginning, a new covenant, a new perspective and way of living had come. Following Jesus is not turning over a new leaf; it is beginning a new life under a new Master.” Are you going to live your new life in the same old way or will you use it for the ministry the God has already given you? Just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation!
Far too often we as believers forget we are representatives of Jesus. As His representative it is important for us to live lives that are like Him. Therefore, as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…
III. We are now Christ’s ambassadors! (Vv. 20-21)
1. We execute the function of ambassadors in Christ’s stead. He came from the Father to mankind on this important embassy. Paul realized that Jesus has left the world, and appointed us in His place! “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” Do you understand the importance of Paul’s words? An ambassador is a person sent from one sovereign power to another to represent that power. In other words, an ambassador is Christ in His stead when He cannot be there Himself! (Not that we are gods, or little messiahs, but that we are His ambassadors; His representatives here on earth until He comes again!) Christ while on earth represented the person of God the Father; His apostles and their successors represent the person of Christ. Christ declared the will of the Father to mankind; the apostles, His disciples, and future believers to proclaim the good news to the world! We are ambassadors for Christ. Therefore, someone who does not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord cannot ever represent God or His gospel! They are false ambassadors, false representatives trying to pass themselves off as the real deal. This is why Paul admonishes, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” How can a representative of the Living God, in Christ, live a life that is ungodly? They cannot because they are not! How can someone say they love Jesus but dump on His body, His church? They are the dead limbs who have lopped themselves off the living branches. This was not a suggestion by Paul, nor was it simply something Jesus’ followers could decide for themselves to do or not do. When you come to Christ, you are one of His ambassadors! The reason was obvious for Paul, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God!” Therefore, as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that we are now Christ’s ambassadors!
EXAMPLE: In the movie the Wizard of Oz, the Wizard tells the Tin Woodsman, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The Wizard of Oz may be a good movie, but it’s not a reliable source of how to live one’s life for the Lord. God said something quite different. According to Him, the greatest commandment is to love—to love Him first and then others (Mark 12:29-31). Scripture says nothing about expecting to be loved in return. In fact, Jesus stated the opposite in His most famous sermon: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV) When it comes to love, the important thing we need to know is this: Christians are to be His love ambassadors. God’s intent is that the people who receive His love will become the conduit of His love to others. The apostle John wrote, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NIV) Therefore, remember that as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that we are now Christ’s ambassadors!
A new year begins with a new life! Paul writes that Christ’s love compels us to make changes, that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation, and that we are now Christ’s ambassadors!
This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.