1 I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because He turned his ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
6 The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, He saved me.
7 Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
24 “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.”
2 Corinthians 5:14–21
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 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.
16 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. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 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. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
One of the absolute certainties we have in this life is that life is uncertain. As much as we do like a bit of adventure at times, most people prefer to know what’s coming next. There’s an old saying that has more than a little truth to it: generally speaking, people are resistant to change. Sometimes change is a good thing, but it still challenges us. Anyone who has made huge life changes such as a new career or moving to a new town or country has experienced some of the stress and strain that goes with change.
The Bible talks about a major change in the lives of human beings too, but this particular change is infinitely more significant than choosing a new career. What we’ll be looking at today is a change that is both dramatic and permanent. It has eternal consequences – it is the radical change that takes place in the hearts and lives of those who choose to become disciples of Jesus Christ. The change takes place as we are saved by putting our trust and faith in Jesus. He asked His disciples a profound question in Matthew 16:15, a question every single human being needs to answer for themselves. It is the greatest and most important question ever asked: “What about you? Who do you say I am?”
Peter’s answer to Jesus that day was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” If that was your answer too, then God has changed you, and has begun something new in your heart.
The Bible tells us that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and when we reach the point in our lives where we realise we are sinners without hope, and turn to Him, trusting in His sacrifice on the cross as payment for our sins, we are saved. And it’s an instantaneous thing. Salvation means we are “in Christ.” This is one of the apostle Paul’s favourite descriptions of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It speaks about the radical change that takes place in the heart and life of a Christian. A Christian is not just someone who follows a particular belief system or a set of values. There are some secular encyclopaedias that call Jesus the ‘founder of the Christian religion’. But that’s not what we believe. We believe He is who He claimed to be – God Himself, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Being a Christian disciple means far more than going to a particular building for an hour a week, like belonging to a sports or social club.
It is about surrendering our lives to the One who is worthy of our worship. It is about a whole new state of being – we are new creations because we are now “in Christ.” We don’t just follow Him – we live for Him and in Him.
“In Christ” is the position we are now in and in which we stand if we follow Jesus. Before salvation, the Bible describes our position as being “in the world.” We were influenced by the world, and our standards were the world’s standards. Our lives revolved around what we were, what we achieved and what we had in the world, but now there is a fundamental shift. Now that we’ve trusted in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, our position has changed.
We are now influenced by Jesus. His standards are now our standards. Our lives now revolve around what we are and what we have in Jesus Christ. We have changed citizenship, because we have moved out of the world and into Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul calls followers of Christ new creations. What this means is that the effect of our salvation is not just a change in position – it is a total, inner transformation as well. We are no longer who we were before we became “in Christ.” We are a new creation. We are not who we once were. The Bible describes this dramatic change as moving from the darkness into the light. Before coming to Christ our bodies may have been functioning, and we may well have been physically alive, but we were spiritually dead. In fact, we are born spiritually dead. But now, through Christ and in Christ we have gone from spiritual death to spiritual life.
So if this change is so dramatic, what kind of effects should it have on our lives? This is a question we have to ask ourselves, because there are many people who claim to be Christians and disciples of Jesus, but in reality there is little or no difference between their old lives and the ones they are now living.
The first change is that we should see things differently. Verse 16 of 2 Corinthians 5 says, “from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” Before salvation, we looked at the world and its external qualities. Our vision and perspective of the world and of people was extremely limited. We regarded people by what we saw. To most non-believers this world is all there really is, and consequently it doesn’t actually make much difference as to who we were or what we did.
But in the words of the blind man Jesus healed in John 9, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see.” Now we have new eyes to see.
Not only do we now see Jesus for who He really is, but we even see the world through our new spiritual eyes. Everything is different now. We should no longer be chasing after the external things of the world that are quickly passing away. Material things, as important as some of them may well be, are now put into their proper perspective.
We also don’t see people as we used to and take them at face value anymore. Every now and then, when you are having just a normal, day-to-day interaction with someone, just stop and think about that person for a moment. You are looking at an eternal being, a unique person, created in the image of God – a person for whom Jesus died. Try it sometimes, and I can guarantee you will regard that person very differently, particularly if it is someone you don’t particularly like or get along with! (And that can be a very humbling experience.)
We should no longer see race, class, or social status when we look at others. Instead we should now see every person in the world as needing what we have - Jesus. And of course, we no longer see Jesus as we did through our non-believing eyes now that we are in Christ.
We may have known facts and figures about some person long ago named Jesus. We may have seen Him as the founder of the Christian religion and not much else. Or we may have seen Him as a good moral teacher, but we certainly didn’t see Him as God. But now we know He is the Saviour of the world and our own personal Lord and Saviour. He is the one who surrendered His life on the cross for your sins, and because He has conquered sin, death and the grave by rising from the dead, so will you.
These are just some of the fundamental changes we should be experiencing and seeing in our own lives.
If you’re not seeing these things, then this means you’re either going against your new nature or you have no new nature.
We are not perfect. We all know that, and Paul certainly understood it too as he so eloquently puts it at the end of Romans 7: “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realise that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7:16-25 The Message)
Paul’s words there describe the struggle each of us faces. There really is a battle going on within ourselves, but the point is that even in the times we don’t do the right thing, when we don’t reflect the new creations we really are, there is a desire to do so. If we’re not displaying or at least earnestly desiring to display the fundamental changes brought about by the fact we are new creations in Christ, then we need to take it to God in prayer.
Another key change in these new lives in Christ is that we should be free from the past. “The old has gone, the new is come.” The tense of this verse means that there is a definite break. It means that the old things are dead and gone. What old things? All old things! I believe this is probably the one area of our faith that satan attacks the most. We find ourselves haunted by our past and by our past mistakes, so I remind you again of something I emphasised last Sunday. Whatever it is in your past that you regret, are deeply ashamed of and find yourself constantly haunted by: Jesus has paid the price for it. He has suffered the punishment that you should have suffered, so you are no longer condemned for those things. All the sin that marked your life before Jesus is gone, because you are now in Christ, and a new creation in Him. The bondage of your previous life is gone and has been dealt with once and for all on the cross. The people you knew before salvation may not acknowledge it, the world and satan will most certainly deny it, but God, through Scripture tells you differently. “The old has gone, the new has come.” Our reading from Psalm 116 today says “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. (That’s where you were before coming to Christ) Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, save me!’ The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” That is what God has done for you through Jesus. If you are a Christian then you are now a member of the family of God. You are a son or a daughter of the King. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” There is no place in the Kingdom of God for guilt about our past. It’s gone – all of it. The chains have been broken and you are free.
You are free from your past. Let people say and think what they want, but the Bible says you are a new creation and you are free from your past. Once we begin to learn and digest that truth, we are able to really start living the way that God intends us to live.
You now have the potential, maybe for the very first time, to live as God wanted you to live when He created you. You can now make a difference with your life, because you finally have a reason to live. The day that simple but profound truth finally dawned on me changed my life completely. Ask any Sunday School child why Jesus died and they will almost always say, “To take away our sins,” and they’d be absolutely correct. But the death and resurrection of Jesus means so much more.
He now enables us to throw off the shackles of our past lives and to begin truly living for Him. Make no mistake – I am far from the finished article. I’m sure that Paul didn’t know it at the time, but when he penned the closing verses of Romans chapter 7, he was writing about me! And as I said last Sunday, please be patient because God is not finished with me yet. But what He has done is opened my eyes to the reality of who I really am in Christ and what the purpose of my existence is. Without Christ in your life there will always be something missing.
When we begin to understand this concept of being new creations in Christ we begin to realise that the power of God is ready and waiting to be unleashed in our lives. We now have the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us through our lives, and that means we can start over, regardless of how chequered our past may be.
You’ve made terrible mistakes in the past, and so have I, but by the grace of God we’re able to make a new start. This is what the Lord was talking about when He spoke through the prophet Ezekiel: “You will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” And He can do that because you now have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The world lives life like there is no tomorrow, because they live in constant fear of what tomorrow may bring. As Christians we also don’t know what tomorrow holds for us, but one thing we do know is this: We know the One who holds all of our tomorrows with all of its joys and all of its heartaches in the palm of His hand.
That’s the certainty and the hope we have.
We know that whatever tomorrow may bring, we are walking every day with a Lord and Saviour who loves us. We walk every day knowing that He is in control, trusting in the One who does know tomorrow.
Not only that - we know that one day we’ll be united with Him for all of eternity. We can’t see into the future, but we know the One who can and we know His promises to us.
Do you need new life today? Do you need freedom from the past and a new present? Maybe you’re constantly haunted by the sins of your past. Maybe you are being tortured by the life you are living today, and feel that there really is no hope because everything just seems to be so out of control. You may have resigned yourself to thinking this is just the way it is - these are the cards you’ve been dealt, and you’re just going to have to make the most of it. You may even have considered turning to Jesus, but satan has fooled you into believing that that you are beyond hope and you will never be able to live a life that pleases God.
Is that where you are today? Then you need to know this: Jesus Christ will forgive your past and will give you the power to live your life as a whole new creation. He can and will make the most dramatic change on your life if you are willing to let Him.
Do you need an assured future? Without Christ, your only choice is to try and make it in this world on your own. Without Him, there is no comfort or assurance in the future. But with Jesus, no matter what tomorrow holds, you can start living for Him. He will change you in this life, and most importantly, He will change your eternal destiny. That’s the assurance and hope He gives.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-17
The Bible consistently teaches that Christianity is much more than just a religion, and Christians are more than mere followers of a set of rules.
Discuss what it means to be a new creation.
What do you understand by Paul’s description of Christians as being “in Christ?”
Read verse 16 again.
What does it mean to ‘regard no-one from a worldly point of view?”
What are some of the fundamental changes you feel that God has brought about in your life since becoming a Christian?
Read Romans 7:14-25
Paul describes the inner battle we all face, and it is easy to dwell on the negatives in these verses, but he also speaks of the hope we have in Jesus that enables us to live our lives to His glory.
If possible, share with your group some of the struggles you face.
How has God helped you through them?
In which ways have you experienced God’s grace freeing you from the regrets and mistakes you may have made in the past?
Close by praying for each other.
Ask the Lord to teach you that the Christian faith is not just about a new value system to live by – it is about living life as it is meant to be: In all its fullness, as a brand new creation in Christ.