106. Another New Year Resolution? Or A New Beginning? 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

What makes us tick? What do our lives revolve around?  Perhaps some of us have never found the answers to those questions. That’s why we keep going around in circles getting nowhere except getting more unhappy and more unsettled and perhaps more unwell. That’s why we keep making New Year resolutions every year in a determination to be different “from now on”. Finally after many years of frustration we finally make a New Year resolution that remains the same every year. A resolution not to make any more New Year resolutions! We lose hope that life can be different. Paul in this passage in 2 Corinthians 5 gives us hope. Hope that life can indeed be far different from what it is for us at the moment. Here he gives us some powerful motives for living in today’s world. We need all of these motivations to live lives of joy, peace and deep personal meaning.

  1. 1.        The Right Fear Of The Lord. 5:11. 

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.   The wrong sort of fear can be debilitating and dangerous to our physical and emotional health. Especially the fear of death which the Bible says can keep us in life-long bondage to the devil, Heb 2:15,(Jesus) likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15  and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. But Jesus came to set us free from that wrong sort of fear.   The right sort of fear can be very healthy. It makes us wise. Prov 9:10  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.  We all need wisdom and insight in a world that is not always as it appears to be. Having a healthy respect for the Lord enables us to get things, situations and people in true perspective. The right fear of the Lord gives us security,  Acts 9:31  Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. The right fear of the Lord is not a cringing fear that makes us afraid of God. It can be the sense of awesomeness we have of a righteous, holy God whom we know also to be loving and gracious to those who love and obey Him. To have such a healthy fear of the Lord means that we lose our fear of other humans. If He is on our side, who can be against us, writes Paul in Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  He commits Himself to those who commit themselves to Him.

 

2. The Compelling Love Of Jesus. 5:13-14. 

13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died. “Controls” can also be translated, “surrounds, hems in, rules, constrains.”  It can refer to Christ’s love for us.

i. The love of Christ = Christ’s love FOR us.   This was seen in His coming to earth to become human. It was seen in His willingness to suffer misunderstanding, rejection, mocking, and ultimately death on a cross for our sakes.  It is indeed a wonderful thing to see the transformation in people when they come to realise how much God loves them.

ii. Or the love of Christ IN us.  The love Christ has placed in our own hearts by His Spirit. When we open our lives to the Risen Christ, we are able to love others with God’s love.  Paul wrote in Romans 5:5 that the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. His Spirit motivates and empowers us to love with His love. It is agapē  love, God’s love, a love for the undeserving, the unworthy and the unattractive.

To know Christ loves you can be transforming. To experience His love flowing through you is even more transforming. I saw the incredible difference it made to an unattractive man many years ago. Unattractive because he was a real “sour-puss”.  I was asked by a Christian woman leader if I would talk to him. He was a boarder in her home and was a grumpy depressed alcoholic, never able to hold onto a job. As we talked he angrily told me he had grown up in the 1930’s in Germany and was appalled that many of the leaders of the church youth groups had become leaders of the Hitler Youth Movement. He had been so appalled that he had given up on God and on Jesus for the 30 plus years since. He felt it was all so hypocritical. I said to him, “Hey! you’re on God’s side. He thinks it’s hypocritical too.”  It’s as though I hit him across the head with a bit of 4 by 2 (inches) timber as we say in Australia. It woke him up. It just blew his mind that he was on God’s side! On His side against evil and hypocrisy. He was so shocked by the thought, that he let me pray for him that he might draw nearer to the God whom he had been rejecting for over 30 years. Later he booked himself into a clinic to get “dried out”. He made a deeper commitment to Christ. He was tremendously changed by coming to know that Christ loved Him. He was filled with love for Christ and with the love of Christ. He became a completely different person. If you are a romantic person you might like to know what happened next! He and his very godly ex-missionary Christian landlady fell in love with each other! They married! The last time I saw them they were joint managers of a Christian bookshop. He had no hesitation in telling people about his love for Jesus and about Jesus’ love for him and for others like him.

3. A Deep Sense Of Gratitude To God. 5:15. 

 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. That’s what my German alcoholic friend discovered. He was extremely grateful for the fact that Jesus had died for his sins and for the sins of the whole human race. The result was that nothing would be too much for him to do for Christ.

But it is also God’s purpose that we should live for Him. If for our sake He died and was raised, then God’s purpose is that we live for Him rather than for ourselves from now on.  Who or what is the centre of your universe? Is it you? Or is it your health or even your healing? Is it your prosperity? Is it your own plans for your future, or is it Jesus?  Paul says the same thing in Romans 12:1, I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (or your reasonable service.) It is perfectly logical that if Christ as the Son of God and the Messiah died for you and me that we should now live for Him in presenting all we are to Him.

Has God’s purpose in the death of Jesus for you been fulfilled in your life or are you still in control and not Him? You cannot go against the purpose of God and not suffer. If Christ is not the Lord of your life you are out of His will for you.  There is no real abiding blessing being outside the will of God. The big challenge for you and me is not the question of whether we will give ourselves completely to God or not. We have to do that because that is His purpose for us. The challenge is, just when we are going to do it. Each day we keep Him outside our lives is a day in which we are going against His express purpose for us. And missing out on the experience of His love.

Why not, at the beginning of a New Year, give Him YOU. That’s what He wants. Not just your time or your praise or your money. He wants YOU! If you are a sensitive person you might think, What if I make that commitment to Jesus and give Him ME, can I keep on in obedience to Him? I don’t ever want to be a hypocrite.” The answer is “Yes!” as Paul goes on to indicate. You can live as a committed believer with expectancy that life can be vastly different by the grace of God.

4.  An Expectancy That Life Can Be Different. 5:16-18.  

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Paul as a brilliant man had got it all terribly wrong before he committed himself to Jesus. He had once regarded Christ as just an ordinary human, an impostor, a blasphemer. He had put Jesus into an ordinary human category, until he met the Risen Jesus on the Damascus road, and he knew Jesus was what he claimed to be. He was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. He had to change his viewpoint, and indeed his whole way of life. He himself had become a new creature and he knew that old things were passing away and all things were becoming new. He also knew it could be so in the lives of other people. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. How new can you and I be? Paul had a choice of 2 words to use for “new” when he wrote this letter.  One word neos mean recent or a brushed up version of the old. But he used another word kainos which means radically new, new in form or character. Christ can make us brand radically new and can keep on changing us to be more and more like Him.

Paul had also written of the transformation that can take place in humans as people’s minds are renewed through an ongoing commitment to God, Rom 12:2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Our attitudes can be transformed as our minds are renewed. We can believe that nothing is too hard for God.

Our expectancy can be deepened as our minds are renewed. We can believe that God can fulfil His promises even in our own lives.  We begin to expect and to see more answers to prayer as we act on those promises.

We can become more open to what God wants to do in our lives as we trust Him more.

We can even be set free from the categories we put on ourselves, or allow other people to put on ourselves. We refuse to be negative. We no longer say these things about ourselves, “I couldn’t do that.  It would be too hard.” Or “I’m really quite ill. I can’t expect to get better. “ Or “I suppose when you get to my age you can expect all these things to go wrong with your body”. We unconsciously begin to fulfil our own prophecies. We bring things on through fear and anxiety or because we expect to be afflicted in certain ways. Commitment stops that wrong thinking.

God wants us to open our minds so that they are not shackled by old ways of thinking.

We need a renewed understanding of Him, His word, His promises.

In Christ we become brand new creatures.

We have a new nature. 2 Peter 1:4, we become sharers of the divine nature.

We have a new love, the agape love of God Rom 5:5 shed abroad in our hearts.

We have a new focus in life. We see ourselves as having been “died for” by Christ. So now we live for Him for every moment of our lives.

We can see our lives revolving around Him rather than around ourselves or one another. We are centred on Christ because God the Father is centred on Him in His purposes.

We can see ourselves being healed by Him as part of His purpose to enable us to live for Him.

You need to give Him You, so that He can give you what you need to live for Him, whether it is healing, guidance, or some other blessing.

The challenge is when? Paul concludes this chapter with a challenge to his readers to get right with God. (2 Cor 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2  For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!  

Our commitment to Him is not to be a well-intentioned New Year resolution, “Next Year”! Nor is it to be “Tomorrow!” Rather our commitment is meant to begin “Today!”

Blog No 106.  Jim Holbeck.  Posted on New Year’s Day 2013

 

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
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