Creation Part II

Empty Vessels  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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We are continuing our series this morning called Empty Vessels, in 2 Corinthians. We’ve spent several months now getting to know this church, and to me, it is interesting to see how Paul has shifted his language over time. The church grows and matures and learns to discover humility (just a little bit, mind you, there are still some sharp edges, some notions of pride and resisting of Paul’s leadership); as it does, Paul is now able to shift from, here’s how you navigate this issue and deal with this problem to here’s how you empty yourself of every selfish pursuit and goal and live fully for Jesus.
Paul is presenting for the Corinthian church a new paradigm, a new way to see the world, to see others, to see yourself. And more than ever, this new identity and worldview is really, truly, all about Jesus. Today we are going to talk a little more about your new identity when you surrender your life to the resurrected Christ, how you now see, how you now live. And I want to challenge you in this new role: Jesus is not a side project for you, Jesus is not an exclusive social club. He is the catalyst through which all might come to find grace and peace. And he has charged you with the same task.
We’re going to be in 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2 today, but I’m going to back up just a couple verses here.
2 Corinthians 5:14–15 CSB
For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion, that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.
One died for all, and therefore all died. One died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them, the one who was also raised.
I’m going to come back to this in a bit, but I want you to hold tight to it as we read on.

The Paradigm Shift

2 Corinthians 5:16–17 CSB
From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Christ from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
If anyone is in Christ
Did you know that scholars have wrestled with the meaning of these two words, “in Christ” basically forever? What does it mean to be “in Christ?” These two words in various forms show more over 160 times in Paul’s writings. It’s foundational to who you are, and what you are, and what you do. The problem is, what does it mean? Is it some spatial/cosmic union? Is it intense relationship? Is it solidarity with the experience of Christ, a call to continue his mission?
I guess the answer just might be, yes. What you need to know is that “in Christ” is where you want to be. You want to be in a state where you are no longer left to your own devices, no longer alone, no longer a slave to the expectations and disappointments of the world. Instead, you want to be saved by God. You want to be freed from the weight of this world, to be loved and cherished. You want friendship, peace, grace. You want to be made clean, to be made whole. You want a calling on your life that actually leads to life, in you and in everyone and everything.
If you’re not sure you want all of that, trust me, you do. I can’t tell you what happens at a cosmic, chemical, spiritual, relational level when you are “in Christ,” but what I can tell you is that your life will never be the same.
In fact, you will have a wholly new type of life. A completely new category of existence.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
I don’t think we just sit and dwell in this reality enough. You are a new creation. Do not pass over this; do not dismiss this as Christianity 101. This is the thing. This is what it’s all about. To quote my old youth pastor, “You are constantly becoming what you already are.” So, what are you?
How do we truly come to understand this new creation life? The best way is understand the old creation life. Let’s call that Creation 1.0. Back at the beginning of the cosmic story, YHWH is bringing the universe into existence with a word. Light shines in darkness, time and space are filled and formed, the earth and sea and the sky are brimming with life. And then, YHWH determines to make a unique creation, one in his own image that will rule and reign with him and under him. In Genesis 2, he actually provides the reason: he says, there is no adam to work the adamah, nothing from the ground to tend to the ground. So here’s what he does:
Genesis 2:7 CSB
Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.
God formed the man from dust, gave him a body and physical shape, but this is just a form. Then, he fills the form with life—a little microcosm in itself!—and the man became a living being. The Hebrew word here is nephesh, meaning soul.
Creation 1.0, from the formation of the first man, Adam, was created for the purpose of multiplying and spreading the goodness creation of God, tending and taming the land and bringing about life and beauty. And yet, it is not long before this first man gives into the desires of his body, and chooses a path that isolates him from God and makes him hostile to the ground, to his family, and yes, even to YWHW and to life itself. And from this point forward, a pattern emerges—we’ll call this the Adam Paradigm.
A paradigm is a worldview, a way to see the world around you using defined patterns and models and archetypes. Everything is known in relation to that which has come before.
The Adam Paradigm is a way of thinking about the world around you based on how humans have seen it for the several thousands of years. Yes, it has evolved and been refined somewhat, but the basic thread remains intact, and it is this: your value and worth is defined by what you make and take for yourself. Everyone seeks a place of honor and importance, so what are you going to do to make your mark on the world? Will you eat the fruit, like Adam did? Will you do what feels right, like Adam did? Will you define importance and worth by what you wear, how you act, what you own, who you know, how you are perceived? Will you fill your life with a series of empty promises and regrets? Is this pattern that different from society works, all the time? Don’t you ever get tired of watching the same tragic movie play out over and over again?
God did. He promised that one day, at the right time, he would do something new. Here’s what he told his prophet, Isaiah:
Isaiah 43:18–19 CSB
“Do not remember the past events; pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 44:3 CSB
For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants and my blessing on your offspring.
Isaiah 65:17 CSB
“For I will create new heavens and a new earth; the past events will not be remembered or come to mind.
In the person of Jesus, the promised King, the incarnate Word of Creation, a new Creation is formed. He is unique. He is not flesh filled with Spirit; he is uncreated Spirit bound by flesh. Jesus comes and he speaks and he heals and provides and he upends destructive patterns and worldviews. He serves and he loves and he dies, and when he dies, the Adam Paradigm dies with him. And when he rises from death, and new pattern emerges, a new way of seeing the world is formed.
One died for all, and therefore all died. One died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them, the one who was also raised.
This is the Christ Paradigm, and you receive it when you are made new.
The moment you trust in Jesus, the moment you say, “I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” you are reborn, remade in the image of Christ, made to look like him, think like him, feel like him, live like him.
Have you ever noticed how new babies never blink? It’s because there is a whole stream of new information, an awe about their surroundings, new sights, sounds to process and make sense of. There is no desensitization. It is a flood color and light and beauty. Every moment there is something new, and that new thing gets put into place, as if with every flash of light and sound, the new creation is saying, aha, this is what life looks like!
You are a new creation. Creation 2.0. Life with Jesus is like seeing work, possessions, relationships, power, wealth, importance, everything with brand new eyes. And like a newborn, it takes time to see everything fall into place. But gradually, lovingly, the paradigm shift occurs, from Adam to Christ. Everything changes.
Take Jesus, for example. Paul says here that before the shift, Jesus is seen like any other good person from the history books. Great teacher, well-spoken, a bit controversial, respected the secular government, had an honorable position among the people.
Everybody likes Jesus. They don’t care for his followers that much, because we don’t always line up well with the pattern he set. But they like Jesus.
But Jesus the philosopher/teacher is different from Jesus the Savior. How do I know this? Because I am a new creation. I see him in different light. I do not see Jesus the man. I see Jesus the God-man. The one who healed the divide between God and man. The one who transforms hearts and minds. I see the one who turns hostiles into friends. And in Christ, I am a new creation. I do not only see Jesus differently, I see everything differently. Every relationship, every opportunity, every season of my life. And it all boils down this this one word, according to Paul.

From Hostiles to Friends

2 Corinthians 5:18–19 CSB
Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.
Everything is from God. We have this idea that creation is somehow antithetical to God, or that people who think differently or live differently than the Bible says—or more heinously, than we do—are antithetical to God. But everything is from God. The great mission of Jesus was not to destroy the created world and leave it behind, but to restore it, to heal, to transform.
The mission of Jesus is the mission of reconciliation. In Greek, this is the word katallasso, meaning to change or to give away. We use this word in finance and in relationships. It means that there is a debt that needs to be paid, it has been paid, and we are now square, things are made right. When you take out a loan from a bank, you take money that is not yours, and you have a debt against you. And if you’ve ever taken out a loan—student, house, car, credit card—it stays with you. They will not let it go. You will not be at peace until your debt has been squared. You and the bank are not friends. You are hostile enemies.
When mankind took for itself the right to rule and define right and wrong for himself, when it took good life and perverted from God’s world, a debt was incurred that could not be repaid, and mankind made an enemy for itself. The worst kind, an enemy it could not find fault against, an enemy it could not justify.
This is why we cannot see Jesus as just a good teacher. He made right all the wrongs we had done. He gave up his own life to settle the debt. He is the Son of God, and yet he became hostile to God. And when he died, he put to death the hostility between us. Because of Jesus, we can now call God our friend.
There are so many implications of this.
But here’s the kicker: Jesus didn’t just do it for you. He did it for everything. All of creation, the entire cosmos. Every man, woman, and child. Every country, every society, every land. He has turned hostiles into friends.
And now, oh new Creation you, you have been called up into a new, lifelong vocation. You have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

The New Reconcilers

2 Corinthians 5:20–6:2 CSB
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, we also appeal to you, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain.” For he says: At an acceptable time I listened to you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. See, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!
By the way, the word ministry up above is the word diakonos, where we get the churchy word deacon. It means an intermediary, a go between, someone who takes the good provisions and hands it off to another.
That’s you. God grants you reconciliation, you go from hostile to friend, and then you give that others.
The ministry of reconciliation involves more than simply explaining to others what God has done in Christ. It requires that one become an active reconciler. Like Christ, a minister of reconciliation is plunged into the midst of human tumult to bring harmony out of chaos, reconciliation out of estrangement, and love in the place of hate.
Abassador, envoy: Envoys were usually sent to others as a sign for friendship and goodwill, to establish a relationship, to renew friendly relations, or to make an alliance. God’s purpose in sending Christ and his envoys has the same end—to put an end to hostilities and to bring about a reconciliation.
I had a meeting in town this week, and I dressed very professionally. Jacket, tie, shoes, the works. Why? Because outward appearance communicates something to the world; it speaks to professionalism, organization, education, and it presents me as a valuable asset. I spoke carefully and practiced what I wanted to say.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t consider the way in which you dress. But Jesus doesn’t concern himself with this much. He speaks of being well dressed once, when talking about these religious, hyper-critical leaders called the Pharisees. He says they adorn themselves with these huge tassels and robes. Extraordinary, obscene, hyperbolic expressions of power and importance and holiness.
Why did I dress so importantly for that meeting? Because I was “dressed to impress.” In other words, I dressed to separate myself from others and present myself as special, a cut above the rest. I dressed to exclude.
But note here, the ministry of Creation 2.0 is not to exclude. It is to reconcile, to turn hostile into friends and welcome the stranger into the fold of God.
When our church leaders sat down to pray over the name of our church, we came to the name of “Creekside” because we sensed God saying this would no longer be a church that excluded and divided with lesser theological hills. Instead, we wanted to be a church known for invitation. Jesus would often go and speak near lakes and seas. Baptism usually took place at the river. It is a place where everyone can come and sit, everyone can hear, everyone can be made clean and be refreshed and be planted and take root and find life.
Our mission is not to just shout the gospel, fold our arms and see who is worthy of accepting it. Our mission is to go and actively make friends.
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