Posts Tagged "Galatians 6:14-16"

A New Creation

July 07, 2019
By Rev. David French

Why do Pastor Heckert and I keep insisting you’ve been given a new life in Christ when you’re still feeling so many of the same old things that were a part of the old life you’re supposed to have left behind? Shouldn’t we, as new creatures in Christ, feel on top of the world? Shouldn’t we be living life without a care in the world? We are, after all, children of the creator of all things.

We know and believe that God truly loves us. We know that God has stored up for us more than we can ever imagine. We know that Christ has prepared a place for each of us. I suppose some might expect us to brag or boast about all the things we possess as God’s children and pretend that hurts are no longer a part of our lives, but is that really what the content of our witnessing should be?

St. Paul also possessed these things along with all believers, and yet, as we listen to our lesson, we hear Paul saying the thing he was willing to boast about is not the streets of gold or the sapphire and emerald foundations of our heavenly city. It’s not the eternal punishment reserved for those who persecute the church or even the crown of glory that is given to all who believe in Jesus as their Savior. What Paul says he will boast about is the cross of Jesus Christ.

As I thought about the cross of Christ and the unique claim of Christianity that we have victory over death through Christ’s death, I began to wonder if it wouldn’t be better to talk to unbelievers, and even remind ourselves, about all the wonderful things God has for us instead of the death of His Son. Certainly, we don’t want to ignore the cross, but perhaps the emphasis should be on the things we have waiting for us in heaven instead of the death His Son endured on earth because of our sin.

I decided to look for other things that Paul was willing to boast about in order to make this Christian life we’ve been given more appealing, and what I found was this: to the Romans, Paul would boast about His suffering, to the Corinthians he would boast about his weakness, to the Galatians (as we see in our lesson) he boasted in the cross, to the Thessalonians he would boast about perseverance in the face of hardship, and so it goes.

The truth is, there is no way to make Christianity more attractive when God’s plan is that through our weakness, His power is made perfect; that through our suffering, His comfort is felt; and through His Son’s death, that our life is revealed.

We in the Lutheran church, and more specifically here at St. James, could try to dress up our Christian beliefs to make them more attractive. Many other churches do. But just as a wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf, a person seeking God only to find glory and prosperity is still a person who sees God as someone to be manipulated. One who, if we just do the right things, will give us what we want.

But that’s not the God we learn about in the Scriptures. As Lutherans we don’t focus on the cross just because Christ was nailed to it. We focus or boast in the cross of Christ because that’s where your sins were paid for and salvation is found.

The cross is also symbolic of all the trials and sufferings of God’s people throughout history. People who have not only endured hardships and persecution in cruel and ruthless ways for the name of Christ, but who have also found joy in suffering for His name. But can we as 21st century American Christians even understand the idea of joy and suffering in the same sentence? Is that even possible, or is it only something pastors talk about on Sunday morning? My friends, if it only sounds good on Sunday morning, but has no place in your day to day life, I’ve wasted your time. If, however, God’s promises aren’t just talk, but are a real part of the new creation that you became when you were united with Christ in the waters of your baptism, then we need to again consider the difference between how the world understands joy and how a Christian understands joy.

Consider the joy a child feels when he or she gets that new bike they’ve wanted for Christmas. How does that compare to the joy you would feel if you saved that child from a burning building? You see, the world’s view of joy is selfish, looking out for number one. The Christian view of joy is selfless, looking out for the needs of your neighbor.

When Paul says he’s been crucified to the world and the world to him, what he’s saying is that we, as Christians, see things very differently than the world sees things. We, as a body of believers, have rejected and condemn the wisdom of the world, and the world has rejected and condemned Christ, who is our wisdom from God. We boast of suffering and persecution for His name’s sake; the world boasts in power and honor for its own sake. We rejoice in the righteousness of Christ; the world rejoices in self-righteousness, never seeing a need to be forgiven because it has rejected God’s definition of right and wrong.

But, simply knowing how we should look at something doesn’t mean we can. The reality is that even something as simple as being happy for someone when something good happens to them is often not within our reach. Instead of sharing in their joy, we wonder why they get all the breaks. We know how we should act as Christians. We also know what we feel inside, and there is often disconnect between the two. We simply can’t do it on our own, and that has always been the message of the Christian church.

Paul puts it this way in our lesson, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything ....” By circumcision Paul means the Jews who have Moses, the law, their temple and worship, their priesthood. None of it adds anything to our salvation. By uncircumcision Paul is referring to the Gentiles with all their philosophies, power, and kingdoms. These also add nothing to our salvation. Everything we’re used to depending on: our hard work, our well-thought-out plans, our good intentions, mean nothing in the eyes of God.

What Paul says in the end of that verse is this “... what counts is a new creation.” That new creation or new life where God’s image is recreated in each of us is not added to by any law or works we do. It is the result of  Jesus Christ dying for our sins. Baptized into Him, you are forgiven, a new creation. Through faith what Christ has earned becomes yours. Bringing that faith to each hurting heart is the work of the Holy Spirit who, through Word and sacrament, strengthens and reassures us so that we might live as lights in a world of darkness, remembering even a smoldering wick God will not snuff out.

Why? Well, because that new creation is not always as evident as we might like or even think it should be, not even to us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Remember the words found in Col. 3:3-4, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” It’s then that you will see you are, what God’s Word has always said you are, that is, holy and precious in His sight.

In Jesus’s Name

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