Sunday, September 22, 2013
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Difference
#1—A New Creation

Opening:

I became a Christian when I was 13.  During that first week, some of my 8th grade friends said to me, “You are different!  What happened to you?” 

Here’s the good news/bad news.  The bad news: I told them, “I am religious now.” It makes me want to throw up!  I wasn’t religious; I was following Jesus.  The problem was that I was so new to Jesus that I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain what had happened to me.  Now I would tell them that I’m following Jesus.  That was the bad news.

The good news is that they recognized that something happened to me, and as a result, I had changed.  “You’re different.” 

And that is true of anyone who follows Jesus.  You’re different.  You become a new person. 

What difference has Jesus made in your life?  That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Introduction and offering  (note that offering is a few minutes in):

Jeremiah 18:1–6 (NLT)

1 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

5 Then the Lord gave me this message: 6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.

Have you ever wished for a do-over?  If a pot doesn’t turn out as hoped, the potter crushes it and starts over—a do-over.  God told Jeremiah, “That’s what I want to do with all of you.  I want to give a do-over.”  We’re going to talk about that do-over.

Offering here.

Today we kick off a new series called “Difference”.  What difference does Jesus make in our lives?  And, then what difference does it make for our family, our friends, our neighborhood, our community, and our world?  For the next five weeks, I want to explore the difference Jesus makes in us and how that makes a difference in every part of our lives.  We’re going to go from IN to OUT.  We’ll start the difference in us—IN.  Then as we go along, we’ll get to the difference it makes in the world—OUT.

Here’s the first difference: in Christ, you are a new creation.  A brand new person.  Let’s read this aloud together:

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.

If anyone—that includes you!  If you are in Christ, you are a new creation.  The old has gone, the new has come.  Out with the old, in with the new!

The first question is, “What does it mean to be ‘in Christ’?”  Paul uses this phrase 82 times in his letters—it’s one of his trademarks.  It means to be in relationship with Christ, to be a follower of Jesus, to believe in Him and trust Him with your life.  It means you belong to Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

ILL: Think of it this way.  If I’m in a marriage, I belong to my wife and she belongs to me.  We are in a committed relationship with each other.  Because I am in with her, certain things are true of me, including that I’m living a new and different life—things have changed since my single days! 

When you are in Christ, Paul says these things are true of you:

  • You are a new creation.
  • You are dead to sin and alive to God.
  • You are fully forgiven and free from condemnation. 
  • You are a child of God.
  • You are blessed, you are adopted, you are chosen, you are loved.
  • Y’all are one—there are no gender, social or racial divides among us.

All these things, and more, are true of you in Christ.  And in relationship with Jesus, you are a new creation.

The Big Idea: You are a new person in Christ.  It’s time to become what God has made you to be!

Let’s unpack it.  Two points: You are and you do.

1. You are a new creation.

 

When anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation.  In the video, you saw the potter start over; out of the same clay, she made a new creation.  Same clay, new pot.  When we follow Jesus, we become a new creation—same clay, new pot.  I’m still me: same personality, same family, same body.  But I’m a new person.  Some things have changed and I’m different.  What are those things?  If I’m a new creation, what’s new?

I looked up the word “new” in the New Testament—it shows up over 50 times.  The Greek word is kainos and it means “new”.  From these “new verses,” here are a few things that are new about us.  As we go through the list put a check mark by the ones are true of you, a question mark if you’re not sure, and an X if it’s not true yet. 

So what is new about us?

 

  • A new Lord.

The first thing that is new is that you have a new Lord, a new leader.  You are following Jesus.  He leads, you follow.  You aren’t just living for yourself anymore; you live for something much bigger than yourself; you live for Him.

2 Corinthians 5:14–15 (NLT) Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

What do you do when someone loves you enough to die so you can live?

ILL: Saving Private Ryan is about a soldier, Private Ryan, whose 3 brothers are all killed in action just before he parachutes into occupied France as part of the D-Day invasion in World War 2.  A platoon of soldiers led by Captain John Miller, is ordered to find Private Ryan and bring him out so he can be returned home alive.  Most of the platoon dies completing their mission.  The dying captain clutches Private Ryan’s shirt, and says, “Earn this.”  They had given their lives so he could live.

In the final scene, years later, a much older Private Ryan visits Captain Miller’s grave in France, and weeping, wonders if he was worthy?  Did he live a life that was worthy of the sacrifice made for him?

I think that is the natural response anyone would have toward someone who died so they could live.  But there are two big differences here.  First, Jesus didn’t say, “Earn this.”  Jesus said, “This is a gift.  I’m doing this because I love you, because you can’t earn it.”  That’s someone I want to follow.  Second, Jesus didn’t stay dead; He rose from the dead.  That’s someone I can follow.

You have a new Lord.  You’re living for Jesus now.

P, ?, X.

  • A new relationship with God.  Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6

In each of these Scriptures, Jesus says that He is making a new covenant with us.  A covenant is an agreement between two parties based on mutual promises.  God had a covenant with Israel; it didn’t work so well.  So Jesus brought a new covenant—a new relationship with God. 

This new relationship with God is based on what Jesus did for us.  At the last supper, Jesus gave His followers a cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  The new covenant, the new relationship is based on what Jesus did for us, not what we do for Him.

I used to think that I had to earn God’s love and be good enough to go to heaven.  But now I know that it’s not about what I do for God, but what He has done for me in Christ. 

You have a new relationship with God—a relationship of love and grace based on what He did for you.

P, ?, X.

  • A new power. 

You are not living on your strength alone; you have a new power inside you.  It is the Holy Spirit—the very presence and power of God within you. 

Romans 7:6 (NLT) Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

We’re not trying to do it all on our own any more; we’re living in the new way, in the Spirit.  Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”  He empowers us to do what God wants.

ILL: Do you recognize this guy?  Popeye the sailorman.  Most Popeye cartoons followed the same plot.  Popeye would have to rescue his sweetheart, Olive Oyl, from the evil clutches of Brutus.  But he needed power to do it—and where did the power come from?  Spinach.  Popeye would pop open a can of spinach, suck it down his pipe, and suddenly his already enormous forearms would swell and he would blast Brutus and save Olive Oyl.  The whole cartoon was a mom-inspired conspiracy to get kids to eat spinach!

I loved Popeye and believed that spinach would give me power.  So one day when I was five, I asked my mom for spinach, and then went out and beat all the neighborhood boys in tug of war!   True story.

I got the power!  And so do you.  Only it’s not spinach, it’s the Spirit.  In a tough spot, I have a new power available to me.  I can ask the Holy Spirit to help me.  In fact, Jesus called Him, “The Helper.”

ILL: I had a situation this week.  Someone did something that really ticked me off.  I spent half an hour thinking about what I wanted to say to him—bad words that a good pastor shouldn’t say.  Finally, I prayed.  I asked the Lord to help me—and He did.  He brought to my mind a story I heard that showed me what to do.  And I asked the Spirit to help me do it…and He did!  Instead of reacting like a jerk, I acted like a Christian, because I have a new power.

You have a new power—you are not on your own any more.

P, ?, X.

  • A new life.  Romans 6:4, Acts 5:20

You have a new life. 

Romans 6:4 (NLT) For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He began a new life.  His old life had ended—He had died and was buried.  Then God raised Him from the dead, and He had a new life.  It is an eternal life—He can never die again.  And Paul says here that you and I have that same kind of new life. 

This is the symbolism of baptism.  Your old life died—it was nailed to the cross with Jesus.  What do you with a dead person?  Bury them.  The old you is buried with Christ—we put you under the water—and for some of you, we hold you there a little extra!  Then we raise you out of the water: a brand new you is raised with Christ to live a new life.

Right now, you have a new life.  Like Jesus it’s an eternal life.  Even though you’ll die, you’ll live forever.  Eternal life is not just a quantity of life that goes on forever, but a new quality of life.  Jesus described it as abundant life, life to the full; a life so full, so abundant that you have enough for yourself and plenty to share! 

You have a new life, radically different from your old life.

P, ?, X.

  • A new start.  1 Peter 1:3, John 3:3, 7

My life with Jesus is so radically new and different from my life before that Jesus Himself described it as being born again.

1 Peter 1:3 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

We have been born again.  In other words, our life in Christ is so radically new and different that it can only be described as a whole new start.  A do-over. 

ILL: In golf, when you hit a really bad shot, your true friends say, “Take a mulligan.”  A mulligan is a do-over.  Just forget about that bad shot—pretend it didn’t happen—and hit a new shot.  (Of course, a mulligan is cheating.  You can’t do that if you’re playing in a tournament, or trying to keep a real score.  But I like to play “grace golf”—and give my friends mulligans.)

Have you ever wished for a mulligan in life?  A do-over on your life?  Or some stupid decision you made? 

This is the good news: Jesus gives us a mulligan.  He gives us a do-over, a new start, a chance to begin again and live a new life! 

You have a new start—it’s like you’re born again.

P, ?, X. 

  • A new family.   Ephesians 1:4-6, 2:15

I say this all the time: Christianity is a team sport.  No one does it alone.  We do it together.  When Jesus called “Follow me,” and someone obeyed, that follower wasn’t alone, but joined the rest of Jesus’ followers.  No one follows alone.  We do it together. 

Ephesians 1:4–5 (NLT) Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

God loved us, chose us and adopted us into his own family.  I have a new family in Christ.  This is so cool.  I’m not alone; I belong.  I belong to this huge family—I literally can’t go anywhere without bumping into family!

ILL: Many of you know that my 28 year-old daughter, Sally had surgery last week for thyroid cancer.  The good news is that the surgery went well and the prognosis is very good.  The bad news is that the after care has been very difficult—she’s had some complications. 

Stuff like this makes you appreciate family.  Not only has our immediate family rallied around Sally, but we’ve received so much wonderful support from many of you.  Thanks—it’s good to belong to a family.

I know so many people trying to go it alone.  Don’t.  You have a new family in Christ.

P, ?, X.

  • A new mind.  Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23

When you begin following Jesus, you get a new mind.  Your thinking starts changing.  You have different values and a different perspective on things.  You think differently.

Romans 12:2 (NLT) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Some translations say, “let God transform you by renewing your mind.”  A new mind.  You think differently.

Our thinking used to be shaped primarily by our culture—by the behaviors and customs of this world.  But as followers of Jesus, God begins to reshape our thinking to match His. 

I used to think that it was ok to dislike people different than me.  Now I think that different is good and I love all kinds of people, even my enemies. 

I used to think that if someone hurt me, I should hurt them back.  Now I think that I should turn the other cheek, do good for them and pray for them.

I used to think that I had to be perfect for God to love me and so I expected others to be perfect too.  Now I think that God loves me and gives me grace in spite of my imperfections, and so I can do the same for others.

I used to think that it was ok to be sexually loose.  Now I think that it’s better to be true and faithful. 

I used to think that I should spend all I have on myself.  Now I think that it’s better to share with others.

I’ve got a new mind!  I think differently!  How about you?

P, ?, X.

  • A new hope.  1 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:5

We have a new hope.  This life is not all there is.  Death is a comma, not a period.  The best is yet to come.

1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Peter goes on to say that this living hope is looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth all things are right again.  God will renew all of creation.  “I am making everything new,” He promises.  All that is wrong will be put right.  There will be no more sickness or death, no more tears or sorrow. 

The best is yet to come!  We have a new hope.

P, ?, X.

There is more, but that is a pretty good list of what is new about us.  As you look down the list, I hope you see a lot of check marks.  But if you don’t, don’t freak out.  Here’s the deal.  We’re new creations in Christ—and we are works in progress.  We are being made new day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV) Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

So it’s a process and not just a one-time experience.  And we’re all at different places in the process.  God declares something to be true of us, and we become what He says.  He says “You are a new creation,” and we become what He declares us to be. 

You are a new creation…that’s being made new day by day. 

And there’s something you can do to participate in the process.

2. You do put on the new self.

You are, you do.  You are a new creation, you do put on the new self. 

Ephesians 4:22–24 (NIV) You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Paul likens the change in us to a change of clothes. 

ILL: When my boys were growing up, they would wear the same thing all day!  Sometimes, they’d wear the same thing for several days!  My girls on the other hand, often changed clothes several times a day. 

I see the same thing in my granddaughters.  They change clothes based on how they’re feeling.  “I feel like a princess.”  “I feel like a ballerina.”  “I feel like Cinderella.” 

Off with the old, on with the new.  That’s the image Paul uses.  He indicates that we have a choice. 

I can choose to put off my old life, my old behaviors, my old thoughts.  And I can choose to put on my new self, with new thoughts and behaviors.  I remind myself, “I’m a new person now.  The old me would have done that.  But not the new me.” 

ILL: The Civic Theater is doing Les Miserables all through October.  It is an iconic stage production, and a great story of redemption.

Jean Valjean is an escaped convict who finds shelter and comfort in a bishop’s home.  But Valjean repays his kindness by stealing his silver in the middle of the night.  Captured by police and returned to the bishop, Valjean expects to be returned to prison.  But the bishop insisted that he gave Valjean the silver and chided him for forgetting the candlesticks.  After the police leave, the bishop looks Valjean in the eyes and says, “Don’t forget…don’t ever forget you’ve promised to become a new man.”

Valjean, trembling, makes the promise and with utter humility asks, “Why are you doing this?”

The bishop places his hands on Valjean’s shoulders, as an act of blessing, and declares, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I’ve bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. Now I give you back to God.”

Valjean is a new man.  He lives a new life as an outstanding citizen.  As he faces choices, he consistently chooses the new self, the new Jean.  He takes off the old self and puts on the new.

Jesus has bought you, ransomed you from evil, and given you back to God. You are a new creation.  Put off the old and put on the new.