Utterly New Creation

If you love Me, keep My commandments. … He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”   John 14:15, 21

What a journey we have experienced through the lessons of the Easter season celebration so far!  As the earth rocked when the angel came to roll away the stone, we also have been rocked back upon our heels by the impact of the defeat of death, Satan, and sin.  The enemy death – the destroyer of life, of a person, of precious relationships – has faced the power: of the Resurrection, of the restoration of Life, of the renewal of God’s relationship to mankind; and death has lost, it has failed, it has become an useless threat.

Imagine: the fearful have seen destroyed Satan’s ability to leave humanity in the pit of despair; the guilty can raise their heads in a full and complete forgiveness, the hopeless and the grieving can drink from the fountain of Life; and repentant sinners can enter into the depths of the most wonderful communion of God with mankind.  Only now can the effect of the Resurrection truly be the delightful celebration of the conquering of death and the release of bondage to sin, the freedom to experience the fullness of life in the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

With a growing disgust we have seen our own contribution to Jesus’ death, how our rebellion, our self-importance, our arrogance, our self-centeredness, along with our own greeds, betrayals, denials, cowardices, failures, lies, disbelief, callousnesses, and so much more were revealed when we tried to point the finger at the Jews and the Romans, even at the disciples’ failures.

I wish I could find the account of when Elie Wiesel, the writer and Auschwitz survivor, was called as a witness in a post-war trial of a former guard at the camp.  As he passed by the defendant, he collapsed in great sobs.  When asked later, I think on the program “60 Minutes,” whether the memories had become so overwhelming for him, he said that as he passed by, he realized that the defendant was not an inhuman monster – he was just a man.  Just a common man.  A man just like Elie.  What overcame Elie was the realization that a man, any man, even himself, had the potential of such cruelty buried in his nature, waiting for the right combination of circumstances to call it forth.  It did not absolve the man’s guilt, but rather emphasized how thin was humanity’s ability to protect itself from itself.

That is what we also discovered as we witnessed Jesus being pushed on along the path to the death on the Cross.  It was human hands – our hands – which were capable of such cruelty, not just to another man, but to the God-man Who came to save us.  Yet Jesus was not a victim!  Instead He was gathering the evil, the hate, the rebellion, absorbing all of it into His own Body.  But not just humanity’s, He also was taking upon Himself all of God’s wrath against how we humans treat both each other and even God Himself.

For Jesus to die was to be forsaken, utterly forsaken by God and humans.  Entering the realm of God’s great enemy, His suffering unto death brought unimaginable pain and terror, yet Jesus was voluntarily bearing mankind’s sin and entering death in order to destroy it..  Death was no gateway to a blissful realm of immortality, rather it was the inevitable destructive consequence of man’s willful rebellion against God.  Broken from the Source of life, humans had become the agents of hatred, violence, and bloodshed; their quest for nobleness evaporated, existence revolved around anxiety and pointlessness.  Spiritual and physical death crushed the deepest desires of those created in the image of God who forsook enjoying a life with unbroken relationships with people and God.

[Oscar] Cullman wrote, “Whoever wants to conquer death must die; he must really cease to live – not simply live on as an immortal soul, but dies in body and soul, lose life itself, the most precious good which God has given us.”  Jesus’ death was actual and complete – not merely a separation of the soul from the body.  For him to come back to life, a divine creative act was necessary.  On the third day, Jesus arose bodily from the dead.  His resurrection was the supreme miracle of God in history.  Death was swallowed up in victory.  Through the man Christ Jesus, new life – resurrection life – became a reality.

(Robert Cleath, Hope in the Midst of Horror (Christianity Today, 03-27-1970, p 4)


The starkness of this powerful division between Death and Resurrection Life then adds profound depth to St Paul’s announcement:

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him Who died for them and rose again.  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.     [II Corinthians 5:14-17 ]

This new life our Resurrected Lord has given us then is not merely a continuation of what we have known.  Instead it is literally a new Creation!  It is a Life of a totally different sort.  Our attitude and consideration about who – and that includes you and me – one is requires a markedly different starting point.  When we became believers, in some ways we really didn’t seem to be much different – easily we could have assumed that being a believer merely continues who we have been but with a few adjustments here and there.  Not so!  Paul declares.  We are a new Creation!
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It requires a revolution down to the way we think:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.     [Romans 12:1-2]

The difficulty we face is that as long as we are in these bodies of the old nature, we have a split personality and the battle ground is the mind.  What’s worse is that it is far easier to fall back into the comfortable patterns of our old nature.  We are constantly faced with disciplining our minds.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

Certainly not!  How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through Baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.                                                                        Romans 6:1-4

Christianity is not a “tag-along” existence, but one which requires a choice, a choice which we must constantly set in front of our minds.  It is a choice which compels us to conform every other decision to either build up or to tear down the new Creation which exists in us.  The stakes are high.  If we allow the old nature to dominate, then ultimately it will smother the new Creation.  Like the drowning man’s hand reaching above the water, eventually it will surface no more.

But is that really what we want?  Is that really what makes us happy and content with ourselves?  Think with your mind, Paul urges.  We know the guilt and the terrors of being on the death side of life.  We are acquainted with the despair and hopelessness which the way of sin results in.  We know the destruction of everything we value, especially of the meaningful relationships we crave.  We know the prisons of addictions and the failures of self-control which result in our own broken hearts.  We know the blinding fog of our greeds which prevents us from seeing all the good things which surround us, from those things which do give us delight when we allow them to touch our hearts.  We know the lies which destroy the closeness with valued other people, people we yearn to be close to.

You know all this! Paul says.  This is what we lay aside when we are baptized into Jesus’ death.  Why would you want to go back to that?  Instead we have a new Creation, which because of the disciplined mind brings true pleasure and hope into our lives.  We are free from the shame and the futility of the old nature, why not then live in the delight and triumph of walking with the Lord, where we now are the recipients of His blessings, His help, and the fullness of His steadfast love?  Why not experience the greatness of His forgiveness and faithfulness?

Oh, that the new Creation was the victor and the old nature was no more!  But it is not so, in the wisdom of God.  Possibly because our Lord wants us to be in service to one another, even to those who have not yet welcomed the idea of a new Creation.  We are given the chance to bring them along with us.  But we can’t do it without help.  We can’t survive on just our own power, and we lack the endurance.  We can’t do it by enthusiasm alone  This is why Jesus speaks of a Helper, a Counselor, a Guide, an Intercessor, a Teacher which will be ours in our new Creation.  The Holy Spirit will be actively involved in every step of our new and eternal Life.

Still Jesus also promises He will come to us.  How good it is to be able to run to the arms of the One Who has conquered death on our behalf.  How good it is to be able to actually meet our Savior, not as merely some celebrity we may see at a concert, but rather as One Who will spend intimate time with us, especially as He shares His own, Self, His Body and Blood, with us again and again.  We again are assured of His Love, have tasted of His forgiveness, and have participated in His new Life.

The disciples had once been utterly discouraged, distraught, frightened people who were amazingly transformed. No reasonable explanation has ever been given to account for such changed lives – except their own: they had seen Jesus alive from the dead, and in His Resurrection they themselves had become new Creations.  We too have in our hands the joy and celebration of the presence of our risen Lord [I John 1:1-4].

Let us then with the women as they returned from the empty tomb that first Easter, when they met Jesus along the way, respond as He bid them, “Rejoice!” – for Christ has risen, He has risen indeed!

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