A new year begins with a new life! – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 31, 2017
Someone once joked that “Every time I find the meaning of life, they change it!” What motivates you in life? This is a good question to ask oneself when facing a new year because it helps us to perhaps rethink what our lives are about, where we are headed, or what we think of as important. For some it is financial gain, for others it is greater education, and still there are those who think that finding themselves is the most important thing in life. But what if none of these were as important as knowing the truth; the truth concerning yourself, the world, history, and what the meaning of life is truly about. Perhaps in this New Year your life needs to begin again.
There’s the old joke about a man who wanted to know the meaning of life so he journeys to India, climbs a high mountain, and meets with a guru sitting outside of his hut. He asks him, “What is the meaning of life?” The guru responds, “Mushrooms.” The man spends the next 20 years eating mushrooms, growing mushrooms, and even talking to mushrooms but he finds nothing. He goes back to India, climbs the same mountain and tells the same guru, “The meaning of life is NOT mushrooms!” The guru intently looks at the man and responds, “Well, then it must be turnips!” Paul knew that if you want meaning in life you had to have a new life and he teaches about what that means here in these verses. Let’s discover how a New Year begins with a new life…
This has been called the “me generation” but one writer states that it more accurately should be called the “Me, me, me generation”. The gospel message that Paul proclaimed is the antithesis of this selfishness and we learn that…
I. A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves! (Vv. 14-16)
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 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.
1. Paul was a motivated man. He had lived his life motivated but he had not always lived his life for his Messiah. Something had happened to Paul that changed his life forever and made it brand new and now the life he led obligated him to tell others about the change that had occurred. There were those who thought that Paul was out of his mind, but if he was it was for a reason: He had lost everything for the sake of God (Philippians 5:14-15) and if he was in his right mind it was for them (v. 13) and so he tells his readers that “Christ’s love compels us”! Why does this truth compel Paul to share Jesus? It was God’s desire “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”! (1 Timothy 2:4 NIV) Paul now knew that it was Jesus “who gave himself as a ransom for all men”. (1 Timothy 2:6 NIV) He therefore continues by telling them that it is “because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” We either die in our sin or we die to ourselves “And he (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.” We are not our own, we were bought at a price and so we are to honor God with all that we are! (1 Corinthians 6:18b-19) So Paul bluntly writes that “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 been one of them who did not know what life was about and thought of Jesus as just another man but he no longer did and this truth compelled him to tell them the truth! A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves!
EXAMPLE: Christopher Hitchens, an avowed atheist, thinks “that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid”. However, on the contrary, when we look at the world at large we discover that it is things like socialism, communism, and liberalism that has made more people dependent, angry, and self-centered. And history proves Hitchens wrong. Care for the masses, the elderly, the disenfranchised, and the handicapped all began with Christianity. Why? Simply because of what Christianity is all about: We are called to love God completely and others as ourselves. 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) A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves!
This is the season of returns. We take back those things that do not fit, we do not need, or that we do not want. Often we do not get back what was originally paid for the present we are returning. For whatever reason it no longer has any redeeming value; therefore isn’t it great to know that…
II. A new life begins when we are reconciled! (Vv. 17-19)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 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.
1. For Paul the truth of his life was self-evident: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” that which mankind has hoped for, longed for, and sometimes even wished for has come true in Jesus Christ! No one was more able to testify to this wondrous transformation than the one who had once persecuted Christians. Paul would dramatically write the Galatians churches, “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 why Paul could write that “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”. It wasn’t Paul’s idea; it wasn’t the world’s intent or a governmental decree; and it did not come from a seminar. Christ, his Messiah, gave Paul this ministry. And the reason he did is because “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” This word “reconcile” is a wonderful word. It means that God exchanged himself for us! He willingly paid the penalty for our sins. This is why “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! (Romans 8:1 NIV) We know that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20 NIV) In fact “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”. (Colossians 1:21-22 NIV) Paul was “committed to… the message of reconciliation”! A new life begins when we are reconciled!
EXAMPLE: Recently I have been trying to get new life insurance. Believe me when I tell you it is like going through Dante’s levels of hell. People who say they will return your call do not and then there are the people who blandly remind you that it may take several weeks (months) to get a refund when it only took the company nanoseconds to charge your credit card — like I said “Dante’s levels of hell.” Then if you are over the age of 60 you’re toast as far as the insurance industry is concerned. I have therefore decided that I am going to focus on what God has done and will do instead. I have the best life insurer already. Isn’t it great to know that a new life begins when we are reconciled!
Has there ever been a time in your life that you wished you could have a “do over”? Replay a game, re-say some words, or redo a job you messed up. Perhaps there is a relationship you would want to reestablish? Making things right is what Jesus is all about. And Paul reminds us that…
III. A new life begins when we are made right with God! (Vv. 20-21)
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
1. Paul’s life had changed. He had a new title and a new job description: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” Paul had experienced a redo in his life! God had given him a new life and a new task. He was now God’s own representative to the message of Jesus! In his life Paul would literally become “an ambassador in chains” for God. He would suffer persecution for his faith and for his tenacity to proclaim the truth of the gospel message. His new life compelled him to do so. And so with a heartfelt plea Paul writes to the Corinthians “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” Just as he had been reconciled and given a new life the Corinthians could experience it for their own selves as well. Nothing they had ever done in life could stand in the way of the cleansing power of Jesus to change them forever! Nothing could because Paul understood and was certain that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Stop for a moment and let these words sink into your very soul. When we place our faith and trust in Jesus we become the righteousness of God! How is this possible? Hebrews reminds us that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” and it is only Jesus “who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:25-26 NIV) WOW! Paul understood well that a new life begins when we are made right with God!
EXAMPLE: The youngster felt horrible. He had allowed a simple popup fly ball to go over his head and land behind him. It cost his team the game. He sat in the outfield with his head in his hands. Unbeknown to him his entire team quietly came out and sat around him. They placed their hands on him, lightly swatted his head with their hats, and begin to remind him of what a great friend and player he truly was. After all it was only a game and there would be others. In that moment those players showed the rest of us the very nature of God. They made their fellow teammate realize his worth to them. It did not matter that he had blown the play or the game because he was worth so much more than that. Just when we think we have blown it in life Jesus shows us just how much we are worth to him. Isn’t it good to know that a new life begins when we are made right with God!
A new life begins when we no longer live for ourselves! A new life begins when we are reconciled! A new life begins when we are made right with God!
This article is copyrighted © 2017 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.