Lombard CRC

Union With Christ, Part #5- New Creation Not Just New Me

Vs 17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,

the new creation has come:

The old has gone, the new is here!


That phrase, new creation,

and this summerlike weather,

made me think of the time when our family

was just getting into mountain hiking.

We learned a lot from another couple

that had not only a love

but also a great knowledge about mountains

and all the mountain plants and animals.


Hiking to Crypt Lake at Waterton National Park

we would stop along the way

not only to take in the majestic waterfalls,

and the rising mountain tops,

but we also stopped to identify trees and bushes,

and then mountain flowers,

and then even mushrooms.

We listened to bird songs,

and these friends of our could identify each bird – that’s a stellar’s jay,

that’s a spotted sandpiper,

that’s not just a duck,

that’s a merganser,

and not just a merganser, it’s a female.

How do you know that? I asked.

Well, mergansers are like humans, my friends said,

males rarely speak.

Hey, don’t blame me, it’s science!


We began to gain something of an eye and ear

and along with it a love for mountain nature

on the day long hike.

But soon we confessed we still had so much to learn when we heard another bird song and quickly asked, I wonder what beautiful bird makes that sound. Quickly, our friends corrected us,

umm, that’s just a squirrel.

Well, we’ve got a lot yet to learn about

the wonders of creation, but we’re on our way.


And that’s the same when it comes to life

with the Lord God,

especially as it applies

to what we’ve been talking about

for the last two months,

union with Christ.


We began by noticing that ‘union with Christ’ is

the central truth revealed in the New Testament regarding Christian faith

and one’s faith-relationship to God.

If you think you’ve got God figured out

or faith mastered

or what Christianity is,

yet you can’t speak well and out of experience

about union with Christ,

then you’ve got to confess you have much more to learn and experience when it comes to God

and who you are and what true living is all about.


So that’s what I’ve tried to do for us

in the past four messages

and how I’ll try to tie it all together this morning.

Part of my job serving Christ to and with you

is to be something of a field guide along the way

as we read, study, and take to heart

what the Bible reveals about the Triune God.

Like my friends along the mountain path

getting me to stop, look and listen,

in order to bring out our wonder and praise,

that’s what sermons do for us spiritually,

helping us to keep from being distracted by

the spiritual squirrels in our lives.


So we stopped to notice where this phrase shows up:

the phrase ‘in Christ,’ or ‘in him.’

Christ in us or You and me in Christ.

Like in our text from 2 Corinthians 5 –

if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come . . . and verse 19, that God was reconciling the world

to himself in Christ . . .

and verse 21, . . . so that in him

we might become the righteousness of God.

Being ‘in Christ’ or having ‘Christ in us.’


In some very real sense Jesus Christ lives in us,

and we live in him, we said.

It’s not that the Christian faith

is just some list of ideas or thoughts

or intellectual reasoning that we can hold in our head and think about, like, dismiss,

or shape to fit our own limited minds.

It is an every day communion with God

in which the divine is present with the mundane. That Jesus dwells within our lives.

We are made for transcendence after all.


How can that be, we asked.

We used some analogies to help us initially.

We talked about how sometimes as kids

we answer the phone,

and the adult on the other end of the line

starts talking to us as if we were our mom or dad. And you have to stop that person and say

oh sorry, I think you want my dad.

And that adult apologizes and says,

o sorry, you know, you sound just like your dad!

And maybe you don’t like that,

but it’s beginning to dawn on you

that something of your dad is in you.

Or you’re looking at old family photos,

and there’s a picture of grandma

when she was a kid like you,

and someone says hey,

you look just like your grandma.

And you can’t begin to understand what that means but there is the resemblance and it dawns on you, you have something of grandma in you.


And that began to help us understand this.

How can we describe Christ in us?

We have something of Jesus within us

though we still battle faults, failure,

sin, guilt and shame.

We learned that ‘union with Christ’

is understood and experienced as

relationship not religion.

Union with Christ means

that the Lord is present with us.

The good news is not only that

Jesus knows you personally, by name,

but also that you may relate to him as a friend,

he once said, as a loving Savior, as a holy Lord.


When the troubles of life

make us wonder where God is,

using the means of gracious relating to God

we may find comfort, strength, even deliverance: relational faith activities like praying, thanking, obeying, studying the Bible and taking it to heart

as one would take to heart

the words of a dear friend or family member.


We said Americans like to say,

‘I’m spiritual, but not religious,’

meaning I don’t need Jesus or his church.

But really, most Americans are religious

and not spiritual.

Each of us crafting our own set of practices

that we substitute for a real relationship with God, and having convinced ourselves

this is all God really is,

we don’t have a clue how much we miss the Lord.


Since Christ in us means

a living relationship with Jesus,

we then explored how union with Christ

means we live by faith not by flesh.

The word ‘flesh,’ as used in the Bible,

is like that attitude that first surfaced in us

when we were toddlers:

when we cross our arms and frown and say,

mommy, I can do it myself.  

When we live this way we become

moral and spiritual bookkeepers.

We sharpen our pencils

so that our own moral balance sheet

shows just how good a person we are.

Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking

that our score is better than God’s.

When we live that way we miss out on the belonging. What if I put down the scorecard

and put energy into

the assurance of belonging to God?


So that led us to see that union with Christ

is experienced as a spiritual adoption,

not achievement.

What does it feel like when you get chosen?

When you got asked out that first time?

When you received the invitation to attend?

To think that God knows you by name

and chooses you for eternal life,

that love changes a person.

It’s meant to give us assurance

instead of thinking God is an assignment

we have to complete.


Then last week we confessed

that there is mystery to this.

Mystery in the sense of wonder and amazement like, how did that happen?

Or how could he accomplish that?

Our union with Christ happens by mystery not merit. Our assurance is that in difficult times

when we wonder what God is up to,

because life with God isn’t an assignment

but an assurance that he is with us always

even to the very end,

we can seek him in the mystery

and know that even if

this present experience is not good,

that God is working good for us thru it.


This is key to receiving those times in life

when things don’t go as planned,

when loss, sorrow and suffering come

and demand to be endured.

Instead of responding the ‘karma’ route:

that you get what you deserve,

responding the God-in-the-Dock route:

where we put God on trial and judge,

go the mystery route:

that tho not all things are good,

and not all things are God’s,

God works good in all things

for those who trust in the Lord.


Are you starting to notice the difference

the reality of ‘union with Christ’ makes

when it comes to faith in Jesus?

Our last word picture to help us understand

the reality of union with Christ is:

new creation, not just new me.

TEXT: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,

the new creation has come:

The old has gone, the new is here!


The point is ‘Christ in us’ means

Jesus is living thru us

to bring continued redemption and restoration

to our broken and fallen world.

The Lord reigns to renew all creation.

That means faith isn’t just a private piety.

Belief in Jesus isn’t just a Sunday kind of thing

where I go to church,

sit by myself, listen and think,

then go home and go about my life

with my own private Bible study

and personal prayers

fitting into my own private agenda

of being happy and self-secure,

separated from my neighbors and their needs.

Faith isn’t just this notion of being good,

or at least better than the next guy,

don’t swear, don’t think lustful thoughts,

a faith we keep to ourselves.

We are participants in the restoring of creation,

God making an appeal through us

to be reconciled to him.

Not just a new me, a new creation.


That’s what God is up to.

God is out to get back what belongs to him.

The purpose of your salvation

is to bring that same grace and power of Christ’s love into your world.

If union with Christ means:

relationship, belonging, acceptance, and grace;

if this is what Union in Christ gives us

to make me new,

the way to thank the Lord for this saving grace

is to share these same blessings

to bless with the new

all that is tired and old around us.


You’re not just a brother or sister,

Christ lives in you,

so bring that into being a brother or sister:

and in blessing your family

you bring something of Christ’s new creation

into family life.

You don’t just go to school or work,

you go with Christ in you,

so bring all the fairness and kindness

and attention to others

into your school hallway or workplace.

And when illness comes,

or some other loss, tragedy,

or injustice overshadows you,

know that Christ is in you,

with you in this,

and that our Heavenly Father desires for you

to suffer with Christ

in order to bring the hope and patience

of new creation into what’s broken,

that by prayer and presence healing may come,

if not in this life then in the life to come.


I suppose the best way to start

is to use your faith and apply these first words

from our passage today:

16 So from now on we regard no one

from a worldly point of view.

Though we once regarded Christ in this way,

we do so no longer.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,

the new creation has come:

The old has gone, the new is here!


When I am fighting with my spouse,

or my sibling, or my parents, or my child,

or my church,

instead of responding

out of my own selfish judgment

I remember that I am at odds with one

that Jesus loves.

This worldly point of view will keep me stuck,

so I choose faith over my fleshly ways,

and do the harder but more beautiful thing

of loving even when I do not like,

keeping my promises as far as it depends on me,

and showing grace first.


When I see someone poor and struggling

I won’t judge from a worldly point of view,

nor look to excuse myself from

the God-given command to love my neighbor.


I don’t dismiss social wounds like racism

as someone else’s problem,

but remember each person is made

in the image of God,

and tho that image may be marred

or badly misshapen by unjust actions

I must respond not out of the flesh,

nor out of selfishness,

but with Christ in me,

as one who suffered injustice and commanded,

whatever you do or do not do

for the least of these brothers or sisters of MINE,

you do or do not do to me.

Acting no longer from a worldly point of view,

says the Bible verse.


Paul, the writer of this epistle to Corinth

and the other disciples,

when they first met Jesus,

saw him as just a man,

Mary’s son,

a Galilean carpenter form Nazareth

from which very little good ever came.

A worldly point of view.

It was revealed to them

that Jesus was not just human,

but God incarnate,

God one of us and with us,

whose word is life

and whose life was the light, the revealed truth

of each human life;

so that is how we are to see, size up,

and relate to each person

the Spirit brings into our lives.

Not from a worldly point of view,

but as one whom God loves,

one to whom we can say,

Jesus died for you to redeem your life,

in that grace you can be reconciled to God.

You were made for transcendence after all!


Because of Christ in us this

is what your life is for now.

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,

as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf:

Be reconciled to God.


Reconciliation is relationship language, isn’t it?

Because the Christian faith

is about a relationship with Jesus

not just theories and propositions about God.

Reconciliation also implies

that the relationship is not what it should be:

there is separation there, offense, alienation.

Most people at one time or another experience something of this when it comes to God.

Where are you, Lord?

Who are you?

Are you up there?

CS Lewis, watching his wife Joy suffer her illness, wrote:

“When you are happy,

so happy you have no sense of needing Him,

so happy that you are tempted

to feel His claims upon you as an interruption,

if you remember yourself and turn to Him

with gratitude and praise,

you will be — or so it feels—

welcomed with open arms.

But go to Him when your need is desperate,

when all other help is vain,

and what do you find?

A door slammed in your face,

and a sound of bolting and double bolting

on the inside.

After that, silence.”

He said the next day

this wasn’t a thought he had so much as a shout.


Jan Karon in one of the Mitford books

writes the scene when Father Tim

heard someone speaking in the church sanctuary

on some weekday afternoon.

He went in to investigate.

And a man was looking up at the ceiling crying out, Are you up there, God?

He went to the man and said

the real question isn’t whether God is up there,

but whether he’s down here.

And he went on to ask the man

about his struggle and pain,

then share again how for Father Tim,

the reality that Jesus suffered in his body

sacrificing his life on the cross,

as 2 Corinthians 5 says here,

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us . . .

was proof enough that yes,

God was not only up there,

but down here as well,

down in the worst,

to bring the best of his love.

Christ in us means Christ Jesus moved in,

we could say,

into the worst neighborhood: the human heart.

In order to take its guilt, shame and pain

into his own heart.


Jonathan Edwards sums it up - It is not enough

that Christ suffers and dies;

he must suffer and die out of a dual love:

love to his Father and love to the offender.

Christ must embody for humanity

the love of God and love of neighbor.

And what this union means

is that we have at our disposal

God’s spiritual beauty and happiness [his holiness], according to the measure and capacity of a creature,

says Edwards.


All around us is the old creation –

broken and battered, bruised by sin, guilt and shame.

Within us is the newness of Christ:

risen and righteous.

This we are called to bring

into the pain and injustice that surround us.

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,

so that in him we might become

the righteousness of God.

Right living – not just a personal, private piety,

but a public, passionate participation

suffering with Christ as he makes everything new.

At the U2 concert this week in Chicago,

Bono said while introducing the song “Desire,”

“When we were young men, we thought, ‘Who needs innocence when experience looks like so much fun?’” Against Larry Mullen Jr.’s swaggering tom-tom beat, “Might we have lost a little innocence along the way?” he asked,

suggesting it could be possible and worthwhile

to recover it.


Not yours or mine, but Christ’s.

When we choose to live out his presence in us

present in the broken ways around us,

look, says the text, there is new creation.

There is a new-ness, not of our own making,

but of God’s gracious work,

blessing and reconciling all things.

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