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A New Beginning (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)

Starting with Me  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction: When I was in Elementary school, we moved around a lot so I went to a few different schools before I hit 3rd grade. And it was always exciting to go to a new school because it was an opportunity for a new start. I had a way of getting my foot stuck in my mouth early on (still do actually).
And with each new beginning, I would learn from the past but find new and exciting ways to make a fool out of myself within minutes.
I learned pretty early on that a new beginning doesn’t really matter if you are still the same person. We can pretend to be anyone we want, but eventually the real you will come out.
And I guess the question becomes, what kind of person are you? What are the things that you value? How do you want other people to see you? How do you want God to see you?
So many questions in our young lives? But they never go away do they? As we get older they are still there.
Who am I? And who am I becoming?
Transition to the text: Turn with me in your Bible to
2 Corinthians was written by the Apostle Paul to a church in Corinth Greece. The Corinthian church was one of the most messed up churches in all of church history. They are very much the kind of church that many of would warn a loved one to steer clear from. But Paul loved this church. The people had become very dear to him. I love what John Calvin writes:
Institutes of the Christian Religion 14. Paul and the Needs of His Congregations

Among the Corinthians no slight number had gone astray; in fact, almost the whole body was infected. There was not one kind of sin only, but very many; and they were no light errors but frightful misdeeds; there was corruption not only of morals but of doctrine. What does the holy apostle—the instrument of the Heavenly Spirit, by whose testimony the church stands or falls—do about this? Does he seek to separate himself from such? Does he cast them out of Christ’s Kingdom? Does he fell them with the ultimate thunderbolt of anathema? He not only does nothing of the sort; he even recognizes and proclaims them to be the church of Christ and the communion of saints [1 Cor. 1:2]!

Paul wanted this church to get it right. But how will he convince them that they are better than this? He points back to a new beginning.
Let’s Read:
2 Corinthians 5:16–21 ESV
16 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. 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; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore 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.
Transition to the Big Idea: So often I’m asked, what actually happens when I become a Christian? What changes in my life?
The short answer is everything changes. But specifically, it comes down to relationships.

Big Idea: A changed relationship with God leads to a changed relationship with the World

Transition to the points: Following Jesus is about looking at everything differently.
If we really want to change the world, we must first change our perspective.

Main Point #1: Change the Way you Look at your neighbors ()

Explanation: “From now on we regard no one according to the flesh. Some translations so “according to worldly point of view.” There are many ways that we look at people in a fleshly manner. We look at the way they dress. We look at their car. We might look at their bank account. Their influence. Their friends or their power. But in the long run, none of these things really matter. What matters is not what you can see.
He gives the example of Jesus.
Isaiah 53:2 ESV
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
But this was probably very personal for Paul since before he became a Christian he looked at Jesus from a worldly point of view. He saw him as a crucified criminal. Not someone worth following let alone dying for. But all of that quickly changed on the road to damascus.
The Corinthians lived in the center of a sinful culture. The city of Corinth was so sinful that it made the rest of the Roman empire blush. And the sinful culture was leaking its way into the church. What the church needed was people of character who would stand firm for Jesus in the face of great cultural pressure to compromise.
The Church is not called to model culture, but to push back against the culture.
So we change he way we look at our neighbors. It’s no longer rich or poor. It’s no longer jew or gentile. It’s not even male or female; 49er or Raiders.
It’s do you know Jesus or do you not?
Illustration: Amanda and I used to watch this show called undercover boss. Basically owners or CEOs of companies would pretend to be entry level workers to see how their companies work. It was usually an eye opening experience for the boss as they got to see just how hard the jobs were that people did. My favorite parts were the people who really should be fired. And they are invited to come to the office. And the boss reveals himself to the people and they are like, oh no, I’m doomed.
Don’t look at people from a worldly point of view. You never know who you are talking to.
David was a man after God’s own heart, but he didn’t have the look of a king. In fact his brothers looked far more the part when Samuel came to visit. But God reminded Samuel.
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
When I was growing up, they would always say, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. I think that’s because all of the good books had boring covers.
Application: For many the first step in our Christian walk is to change the way we look at people. We don’t envy the rich. Or the powerful. Or the famous. Our the beautiful person. What we should look for in people is character and most of all, we should be concerned with whether or not our neighbors know Jesus. And then we should look for character and integrity.

Main Point #2: Change the Way You Look at your self. ()

Explanation: Now these first 2 points really go hand in hand. The truth is that we so often look at ourselves through the lens of what the world values. So if we think of others as something because of money, power, influence, popularity, etc…then we will so often establish our own value by the same standards. But when you change the way you look at your neighbors, what basis is left on which to measure yourself? I’m glad you asked. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” I love this verse, because it is both an encouragement and a rebuke. An encouragement that a new beginning is possible, but a rebuke that in light of that new beginning, you ought to be growing up.
However still it is one of the cornerstone foundational doctrines of Christianity.
However still it is one of the cornerstone foundational doctrines of Christianity.
We are all born into sin and we are sinful from the very beginning.
So at some point in our lives, a change must take place whereas we go from being outside of Christ to being in Christ.
The theological term here is regeneration. We go from being dead to alive. Don’t confuse this with the Walking Dead. But when something dead comes back alive (which doesn’t happen), it is regenerated.
And how did this happen?
2 Corinthians 5:18 ESV
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
It was through Jesus death, burial and resurrection that God reconciled us to Himself.
This is an important point in our Christian lives:
Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, He didn’t even come to make sure the good people were taken care of. Jesus came to make dead people alive.
When we change the way we look at ourselves, we see that we are either dead or alive. We’re either dead or in Christ. There is no other way to see it.
But that doesn’t mean we are immediately perfect either.
But the problem is that many of us come alive but we still stink like death.
Think of the story of Lazarus in John 11. He was dead for 4 days. And when Jesus said roll away the stone, Martha was like,
John 11:40 ESV
40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
john 11:
john 11:
John 11:39 KJV 1900
39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.
There are some verses that should always remain in the King James english and this is undoubtedly one of them. ESV says “He will have an odor!” That’s boring. He stinketh.
So as a new Creation, when you come alive, you will still stinketh. But at least you are alive…and then you take a bath every day for the rest of your life.
This is called sanctification, the process by which our stink goes away and we become more and more like Jesus.
But we can’t expect ourselves or anyone else to have it all together on day 1.
But only someone who is alive do anything.
Illustration: One of my favorite quotes growing up was, any dead fish can go with the flow, it takes a live fish to swim upstream.
Application: Change the way you look at yourself. 1. Make sure you are in fact a new creation. Don’t want you to doubt, but just be sure. 2. recognize that Jesus paid it all and lean into Him in order to grow. 3. spread the word.
The second part of that verse says that with a new perspective comes a new purpose.

Main Point #3: Change the way you look at your purpose. (9-21)

Explanation: So many people these days are concerned with making an impact. They want their lives to mean something. They want purpose. And this goes hand in hand with the way we look at ourselves and others.
Is wealth the measure of success, then my purpose will be to make a lot of money. (Even if I might use that money to make an impact.)
Is it a good family? A meaningful career? A cause to fight for? Good grades? Those things will become our purpose.
But Paul suggests that for this new creation in Christ having been reconciled by God through Jesus’ death on the cross, there is an even greater purpose.
We have been given:
The ministry of reconciliation: That in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. That others can be reconciled to God.
The message of reconciliation: That in Christ there is forgiveness of sin. That the one thing that the Bible says has separated us from God is no longer a factor and has been dealt with.
Reconciliation is about building bridges between imperfect people and a Holy and perfect God.
And if we look back at Lazarus, we see that at first, it is ok to still stinketh. God is not counting your stink against you. Additionally, we need not be afraid of the stink of others.
And then we have this amazing statement in vs. 20. We are ambassadors for Christ. God chose you and me to share this message.
Illustration: Have you ever stole someone’s thunder? Imagine you have a really good news, that’s not really your good news, but you are really excited about it. And you run around and tell the world about this. And then the person whose news it was gets really angry at you for stealing their thunder.
God has said, this is my good news and not only can you tell it, I want you to tell the world.
Application: I know this is hard, but we have to share this with the world. If I had the cure for a disease that was killing people, you would think me cruel to keep it to myself. Why would we not share this amazing good news with the world?

Reflection Question: How have you been changed by Jesus?

Conclusion: The final verse of this chapter is a picture of the source of the change that happens in our lives. Jesus was perfect. We are not. But God took our sin and put it on Jesus. He then put Jesus’ “righteousness” and put it on us. But only on those who embrace Jesus as their savior. We are changed because God changed us.
I am a sucker for a good transformation story. Extreme home makeover. The biggest loser. Even in movies when you see an actor or actress go all out to change themselves to win an oscar…I mean immerse themselves in a role.
But there is nothing more amazing than seeing a person lost in sin without true mean or true purpose who turns to Jesus and in an instant becomes a new creation. it truly is amazing.
That could be you. Or it could be someone you need to share this with.
What will you do with this amazing story of God’s love and redemption.
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