(Photo courtesy of user Miwok and Flickr)
A new year is upon us and with the celebrations come the triumphant shouts of another opportunity to start anew. It will be an opportunity to start over, a new beginning many say. We are a people in constant search of new beginnings. Birth brings new life while graduation sets the past immaturity behind in order to pursue a new beginning elsewhere in the form of job pursuits. Even death is considered a new beginning apart from pain. With so many new beginnings then, are Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come” really special?
The obvious answer should be yes because they are words that find their formation from God and declare an elevated and extraordinary status for all Christians. Yet, these words are directed towards Christians. Therefore they convey a beginning that is much deeper than any worldly individual or institution could offer. While the world continues its regular search of new starting points, there is only one new beginning that takes away the necessity to continue to search for future beginnings.
This new beginning is the initiation of eternal life that results from the new birth that Christ speaks of to Nicodemus in John 3:1-14. For those who call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13) and born of the Spirit (John 3:5) find themselves enveloped into this new birth. However, there are some distinctions between the world’s quest for new beginnings and the new beginning offered to people through Jesus Christ.
First we find it important to understand what a genuine new beginning is. For this we turn to the passage in 2 Corinthians where we find Paul’s declares those in Christ to be a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). From this passage we learn three important points about what a true beginning is:
- Reconciliation: Paul talks in this passage of a ministry of reconciliation. Paul writes that our true heart is known to God, and hopefully to us as well (verse 11) and it reveals the separation of sin that exists between us and God (Romans 3:23). Yet, through the Lord Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, he has made a way for reconciliation between God and man (verse 18). True beginnings include reconciliation.
- Righteousness: At the basis of being made a new creation is the righteousness of God (verse 21). Without the righteousness bestowed upon man by God, there can be no reconciliation. Indeed, there can be no true beginning, because without it life cannot exists and only death will reign.
- Revelation: Thirdly, a new life in Christ not only receives reconciliation and righteousness, but it also reveals it. In fact, through the reconciliation and righteousness of Christ one sees his love, a love that controls us (verse 14). The indication here is that the love is being shared with others, as ambassadors for Christ (verse 20).
These three pieces, reconciliation, righteousness, and revelation come together to reveal the transformation into a new creation.
Looking at these three pieces we see two distinguishing marks between a new beginning in Christ and a new beginning in the world. The first is a denial of the past. When people convey that they are looking for a new start, usually it means they are seeking to get away from their past. Whether they have wronged others or been wronged by others, it is a seek of escape without truly seeking to reconcile. While godly beginnings seek reconciliation, a worldly one seeks to run.
In addition to a denial of the past is its direction by man. Those seeking new beginnings do so out of their own desire of escape and at their own administration. This is opposite to the beginning that God seeks to give His people, for in them they are God-initiated, God-oriented, and God-fulfilled.
While human considerations and searches for the commencement of a new life is not new, they are ineffectual because they lack the input of God. Without the transformation that comes from a God-oriented beginning, the past is left incomplete and thus the same issues are repeated. Yet, when God is the center of the life, it stops the need for future new beginnings because it deals with the past. Thus, this new creation that Paul speaks of commences eternal life upon reconciling with the one who gives life. And that makes all the difference.