Paul admits he once saw everyone, even Jesus, from a worldly point of view.

When he says this, he means, he thought he had all the answers. He didn’t consider what God was doing or what God’s purpose in the world was.  He thought he was doing all the right things – defending his faith, persecuting heretics, keeping Judaism pure and strong, stamping out the threats to their way of life.

What changed in Paul’s life?  One day he met Jesus, face to face, on the Damascus road. Jesus, the one whom Paul had opposed.   And what did Jesus say to Paul?

Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?

Who are you, Lord? Saul asked.

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Suddenly, Paul no longer thinks of Jesus as that trouble-making Jew with his subversive band of followers.  Immediately he recognized that he has been wrong about Jesus. He has totally missed who Jesus is.  Now he gets it. He no longer see Jesus from a worldly viewpoint.

He is a new creation!  How is it possible for us to become and help bring about a new creation?

First of all, we know and can celebrate that a new creation comes FROM GOD.   Whatever second chances we’re given in life are a result of God’s mercy and grace.

Whatever new beginning we have are a gift from our divine creator, who made us the first time and is willing to reshape us after we have distorted and misshapen ourselves.  Whatever do-over we’re allowed come to us from God, who re-forms us in love.

Whatever opportunities exist for us to back up and start again are given by God, who takes our upside-down, inside-out lives, and turns them back the way they were meant to be. God gives us a new chance.

It’s a good thing for us God IS the source of the new creation. Think if it were up to us. Sure, some of us have will power some of the time.  But we certainly don’t have it all the time.  We’d be hard pressed to bring about a new creation all on our own.

But when we know we have someone really big rooting for us, that makes a lot of difference.

When we know we have someone who really cares, that’s a tremendous encouragement.

When we know we have someone in our corner who is providing us bountiful resources, then what excuse do we have not to try.

All that divine connection makes a huge impact on what happens in our lives. We are able to become a new creation because the creative power comes from God.

The second thing we notice about this new creation is that it comes to all those who are IN CHRIST. Verse 17 Paul writes, “If anyone is IN CHRIST, he or she is a new creation.” And Verse 19 Paul indicates “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.  And again in verse 21, Paul explains that God made Christ “to be sin for us, so that in Christ we might become the righteousness of God.”

We are able to get a fresh and pure start because we are IN CHRIST.

I know there are those who would argue we don’t need Jesus Christ to experience salvation. There are those who believe they can connect with God through other religious faiths and practices. And  I won’t argue that point.  I believe God is resourceful enough to tap into people’s hearts through a variety of methods.  I believe God cares enough for all people of the world to use many different spiritual techniques to get people’s attention and offer them salvation.

But for those of us who have been introduced to Jesus through baptism or the church or the Bible, I want to say Jesus IS the way and the truth and life.  I don’t hesitate to say I place my trust in Jesus Christ for my salvation – because I believe that, IN CHRIST, we let go of our sins and guilt that drag us down and put us to death.  We let go of complaining, grumbling, sexual immorality, idolatry, power grabbing, all the things we were warned about last week.

In Christ, we are raised up to a new life.  Our sorrow is turned to joy; our transgressions are turned into acts of faith; and we are made a new creation.

The transformation that comes to us in Christ is convey in these words from songwriter Bill Gaither:

Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame,

Then the hand of JESUS touched me, and now I am no longer the same.

He touched me, Jesus touched me, and O the joy that floods my soul!

Something happened, and now I know, he touched me and made me whole.

We are new creations because we place our trust IN CHRIST.

A new creation comes FROM GOD for those of us who put our trust IN CHRIST. But a new creation also becomes available to others THROUGH US. In verse 19 Paul says that God “has committed to US the message of reconciliation.” And again in verse 20 Paul writes, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal THROUGH US” .

Paul and his closest friends were missionaries and evangelists who felt called by God to travel throughout the Roman world and tell the good news about Jesus.  But we’re not left out; all of Jesus’ disciples in every century have been given the great commission. We are all called by God to spread the good news.  We are all charged with the responsibility of sharing the wonderful story of loving forgiveness and life transformation that comes to us from God in Jesus Christ.

How do we start?  With our own personal stories, that’s how. As we tell someone of our interests and occupations; our fears and sorrows; our hopes and dreams.  If we have a new life from God, then that’s part of our story, and it will come through in what we say.  If we live our new life by trusting Christ, then that will come through, as well. You don’t have to say “God” or Jesus” in every word or sentence, but  you shouldn’t hide God and Jesus from your conversations either.

We also share the possibility of a new creation by our actions. Whenever we engage in our communities and the world to make it a better place, we communicate our faith that God wants to bring about the KOG on earth as it is in heaven.

Whenever we work to decrease hunger, poverty, and violence, we are showing THROUGH US – through our actions – that we believe God has the power to bring about such a new creation.

Whenever we stand strong for more resources for early childhood education, more access to physical and mental health care, more opportunities for the disenfranchise, and more equality in the workplace, God’s possibilities for transforming our society are seen through us.

Whenever we step into the public arena with goodness that comes FROM GOD and IN the name of Jesus CHRIST, the re-creation of the world happens through us.

Paul wants us to become so thoroughly transformed that we become members AND ambassadors of this “new  creation”  So today, as we put on Christ, we put on a new creation…we SEE life from the perspective of God.   I’m going to suggest we put on a pair of glasses through which we view the world the way God sees it…filled with beauty, hope and such rich potential.  AMEN

A few months ago I was watching CNN’s Anderson Cooper who ran a story about a company in Los Angeles called Homeboy Industries.  It was started by Fther Greg Boyle to help LA gang members find their way out of the poverty and despair of LA.  Father Boyle says there is a “lethal absence of hope” among the young men and women in that urban metropolis…something duplicated in most of the large cities in our country.  Father Boy’s calling, his mission, is to reconcile these gang members and former gang members with God, their community and themselves.

Anderson cooper was struck with the selflessness of what Greg Boyle is doing.  He asked him, “Do you ever get taken advantage of?”

Father Boyle replied, “I give our advantage away.” Nobody takes it.

Clips showed heavily tattooed former gang members, young women and young men, washing cars, doing dishes, preparing food, mopping floors, and doing it with enthusiasm for little money.

One young man, whose 4 children he cannot see because of hislong criminal history, said, “I  hope I live long enough to see my kids.” He works everyday washing cars and collecting scrap metal to make a living and create a new life.

Let us pray”  Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your creation, and uphold me in your free spirit.”  Amen

Lenten Season Message 4