You Are Here

If anyone is in Christ, He is already a part of that New Creation. The old has already passed away. What God is one day going to do for all Creation, He has already done for us.

Anson Kroeker on January 6, 2019
You Are Here
January 6, 2019

You Are Here

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Passage: John 5:24-29, 2 Corinthians 5:17
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When I was a child, I loved stories—like most children, I think. I was gripped by stories. Whether I was reading them in a book or watching them on the screen, stories would take me away. And one of the best parts of being a child was that the stories never really ended. When the book or the movie was finished, we’d get to go outside or down to the basement and play that thing that we’d just watched.

See, my mom was quite strict on how much screen time I was allowed, which meant that I actually got to develop an imagination. And I remember one of the best years of my life in this regard was the year I was seven and we moved out to a farm. And my little sister and I had this whole farmyard to ourselves, and so we could get dressed up in full costume and go outside without anyone watching. And the hedgerows and sheds and hay bales could become anything we’d imagine—a medieval castle, a Wild West town, Batman’s cave—whatever. And so the stories never ended.

But then you grow up. You get older. And you don’t do that kind of thing anymore. And one of the saddest things I lost as I moved from childhood into adulthood was this connection between the stories and the real world.

It’s not that adults don’t care about stories anymore. We can still stay up all night turning pages in a novel, or go escape for a couple of hours at a movie theatre.

But then it ends. The credits roll, the magic feeling fades, and it’s back to real life, as the theatre attendants come in and start sweeping up our popcorn.

But what if we found a story that was actually true? A story that didn’t end when we closed the book? A story that kept going and which we discovered that we, ourselves, were actually a part of? A story that totally changed the way we saw ourselves and saw the world and saw everything?

I got a little picture of what this might look like back in 2016 when Pokémon Go became a phenomenon. It’s this game on your phone and you use your camera and it shows you these characters in the game as if they were a part of your real world. And you actually have to go to these different places in the real world to collect these different characters.

I don’t know if it was big here in Nipawin, but down in Regina it was huge. A friend of mine was a security guard at the University, and he said that at all hours of the night there’d be groups of students roaming the campus searching for these characters.

The church I worked at became quite popular, because apparently on our lawn was one of the big spots where you could get these creatures. So we’d see people out there all the time with their phones pointed at our building moving around and playing this game.

All we could see was our building and a lawn and our sign. But equipped with their phones, these people could see a whole new layer to reality. A while different story. And they engaged with it. That game caused a lot of people to go outside and get exercise. Dads and their kids were going on walks together. The story changed things in the real world.

And this is just a little picture of what should happen to us when we open the Bible and read it and understand it. Because the story of the Bible causes us to see things around us in a completely new light. And it calls us to do something. To step out of our comfort zones and actually engage with this new reality.

But the difference between Pokémon Go and the Bible is that the Bible is actually true, and the world that the Bible describes is actually the real world. What’s real isn’t just what we can see with our own two eyes. What’s real is the garden and the snake and the flood and the pillar of fire and the throne and the temple and the covenants and the kingdom and the prophet and the priest and the king who came from a far-away place to rescue His bride and promises to come back and be with her forever. This biggest story ever told is the real story.

And this true story is still happening today. It doesn’t end when we close the book. We are in this story today. And the more we understand this story, the more we understand our place in it, and the more we understand how much this story truly changes everything.


Where We’ve Been

And so today, we’re making a transition, from the first two parts of our story to this third and biggest part, where we’re considering our place in this story. But before we get to far, it would be good for us to go back and sum up where we’ve been for the past four months, and remind ourselves of what we’ve seen so far.

We began back before the beginning, with a Father and His Son and the Holy Spirit. We saw how they planned the whole story out. And we saw how this whole plan was all grounded in love. The Father chose us and gave us grace so that we will bring glory to Jesus by loving Him forever with the very same love that the Father has for Him. That’s what this whole story is about, and it was all laid out before the beginning.

And then there was a beginning. God created the heavens and the earth for His glory. And He created Adam and Eve in His own image. We explored how Adam was the first person to bear the roles of prophet, priest, and king, and how God charged them to rule this world as His representatives.

And then the Fall happened. The snake snuck into the garden and seduced Eve who then led her husband into an act of treason against the Lord. And in response to their sin, God cursed the ground. He brought the whole creation crashing down around them.

And yet in the midst of that curse, He made a promise about a serpent-crushing saviour who would come from the woman and make things good again.

Time passed. Things got bad. A man named Noah was born, and his father hoped that he would be the one who would save us. Noah was saved from the flood, and he inherited the covenant that God had made with Adam, but almost right away he and his family fell into the same kinds of sins that the people had walked in before. The real saviour must still be coming.

So then God began a new work of creation with Abraham, promising in a covenant that through his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That promise began to take shape when God raised up Moses to rescue the Israelites from Egypt, and at the foot of Mount Sinai He entered into covenant with them, promising to dwell with them and make them a nation of royal priests.

Israel fell far short of their calling, and so God raised up a king for them, promising David that he would have a son who would rule the world forever.

And then, after centuries of the darkness of exile, the baby was born. And that’s where we’ve been for these joyful past eight weeks as we’ve seen all the ways that Jesus reveals Himself to be the main character of the story of the Bible.

We’ve seen how Jesus is the last Adam, the Father of a new humanity.  He is the Offspring of Eve who defeated Satan. He is the Offspring of Abraham who brings blessing to all the nations. He is the High Priest of the New Covenant who sacrificed Himself to pay for all of our sins once and for all. He is the Son of David who brings the kingdom of God and will reign forever. He is our true Temple—God dwelling with us in flesh, and now the One through whom we approach the Father.

And then last week we heard how Jesus is the Judge and life-giver of the age to come. He is the Son of Man in Daniel’s vision, appointed by God to judge the world and give eternal life to the righteous and bring this age of human history to a close and usher in the Age to Come.

And so that’s the story, and it easy to see how Jesus is the main character from first to last.


Our Place in the Story

But already last week we saw there in John chapter five a sneak peak at our place in this story. We heard how Jesus was shattering expectations by not waiting until the Age to Come to do these things. In fact, he said that He had already begun His work of granting eternal life to those who believed in Him.

That was there in verses 24-25: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:24-25).

This would have been so shocking to His listeners, because they believed that eternal life was something you might get in the future, at the final judgement, if you had lived a righteous life.

But Jesus said that those who believe in Him were already experiencing these Age-to-Come realities, here and now.

And last week we asked, “How is this possible? How is it possible for us to just get picked up and dropped on the other side of Judgement Day?” And the answer is the cross. Because on the cross, Jesus stepped into our place and endured Judgement Day for us. And so because our Judgement Day already happened, we can be declared righteous and given eternal life.

I’m sure you’ve heard that when someone believes in Jesus they are forgiven for all their sin and declared to be righteous in God’s eyes.

What we can forget is that this is something the Old Testament saints were hoping to get in the future at the final judgement. But because our judgement happened in Christ at the cross, we can be counted righteous in Jesus today.

And I’m sure you’ve heard that when someone believes in Jesus, they are changed on the inside and experience new life. They are born again. But what we might not realize is that being born again is simply the first stages of eternal life. Jesus has brought the final resurrection to our souls, here and now. We’ve already passed from death to life.

And so this means that, once again, we get to experience something the Old Testament saints thought they’d have to wait until way off in the future to experience. It wasn’t going to be until the end of this age that the righteous would receive eternal life and then get to live forever in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

But in Jesus, these Age-to-Come realities have come backward through time and have broken in to this age and are already at work in us, here and now.

That almost sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it, or like a fairy tale? If you know Christ, you are alive with the life of a future age. You are already experiencing the realities of the Age to Come.


New Creation

The rest of Scripture confirms this for us. For example, the verse we read earlier, 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.”

When we hear “new creation” we shouldn’t just think that “people who believe in Jesus experience inner change. Isn’t that nice.” No, “new creation” is talking about the New Creation. It’s talking about the New Heavens and the New Earth, like John describes in Revelation, at the very back of the book: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” (Revelation 21:1,5,  cf. Isaiah 65:17).

This is what’s waiting for us when this age of human history comes to a close. After the resurrection, after the final judgement, this Old Creation is going to pass away and we’re going to live forever in a whole New Creation.

And the Apostle Paul says that if anyone is in Christ, He is already a part of that New Creation. The old has already passed away. What God is one day going to do for all Creation, He has already done for us.

That’s why your life changed when you first believed in Jesus. That’s why you’re different than you used to be. That’s why you don’t fit in with so many of the people around you. Because you are literally a part of a different world, a future age, a New Creation.

And all of this is what we already get to experience, today.


Still One Foot Here

But isn’t it also true that there’s a lot that we still do not yet get to experience? On the inside, we’ve been born again and made a part of the New Creation. But on the outside, with our bodies, we’re still very much a part of this world.

Just a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians, Paul made the statement that “though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). There’s that distinction. We belong to two different realities. Our outer self belongs to the Old Creation, and it’s going downhill, wasting away. He’s talking there about suffering and aging.

But our inner self, part of the New Creation, is being renewed day by day.

This series is called “You Are Here.” And this is where we are in the biggest story ever told: a part of two different worlds, a part of us in each. Already, but not yet.


What Does This Matter?

Now let me ask a question that maybe some of you are wondering about right now. “What difference does any of this make?” What difference does it make if my inner man is a part of the New Creation, but my body still hurts? If I still get the flu this time of year? If I’m still fighting against my sinful desires all the time? If I have to get up early to scrape my windows in the winter?

What difference does all of this New Creation stuff make? Because sometimes it just doesn’t feel very real.

Answering that question—“What difference does it make?”—is what this next stretch of our series is about. For the next 15 weeks we get to talk about all of the ways that the arrival of Jesus and the invasion of the New Creation really changes things for you and I hear and now today.

This morning, we’re going to get a sneak peak of that. We’re going to briefly look at three topics, three experiences, and see the difference that the invasion of the New Creation makes for us.


Sin

The first thing we’re going to talk about is sin. And so let me ask: in the Old Creation, before Christ invaded our lives, what was our relationship with sin?

Jesus tells us the answer in John 8:34: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

That’s what we were: slaves to sin. It had dominion over us, which means, it was our lord (Romans 6:6, 14, 17).

Some of you here remember what that was like. You remember when you couldn’t do anything except sin, when sin controlled and dominated you, when sin was just the air you breathed and you weren’t even aware of it.

That’s the way things were. Now if we look ahead to the fullness of the Age to Come, when Jesus reigns on the earth, what will be our relationship with sin then?

The answer is that we won’t have one, because sin won’t exist. When the kingdom comes in it’s fullness, we will be permanently changed and sin will no longer be a part of the picture (Romans 8:29-30, 1 Corinthians 15:51-51, Revelation 21:4, 27).

So before Jesus—slaves to sin. In the kingdom come—no more sin. What about us today, in the time in between? What difference does Jesus make today?

What Scripture tells us is that here and now, when the New Creation invades our lives, sin is not instantly removed. But our relationship with sin gets drastically changed.

Romans 6:6 tells us that because the old has passed away, we no longer are enslaved to sin. Sin is no longer our master. And so Romans 6:12 says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” In other words, sin is not the boss of you anymore! Don’t listen to it! Don’t obey it like you used to.

And then Colossians 3:5 tells us to put our sin “to death.” We are to kill our former master.

So what difference does the New Creation make today? A huge difference. Before, we were locked up in the dungeon of sin. But now the door of the dungeon has been broken down, our chains have been unlocked, someone has put a sword in our hands, and they’ve whispered in our ear, “Go join the rebellion. Make war against your old master. Kill your sin.”

Being a New Creation today means that instead of being locked up in the dungeon of sin, we’re out on the field, fighting against it. That’s a huge change.


Suffering

There’s a second change that the invasion of Christ has brought into our lives. And it’s in relation to suffering.

So let’s look back. When we looked at the Fall in Genesis 3, we saw that God cursed the earth in response to our sin. That’s where suffering comes from. The Old Creation, before Christ, is full of suffering. Sickness. Hurt. Pain and war and poverty and disease and natural disaster and relationship breakdown.

And we know as we look ahead to the future, when Jesus reigns here on the earth, that suffering, just like sin, will be completely taken away. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

So what about us today? Once again we see that when the New Creation breaks in to our lives, it does not immediately take suffering away. We still suffer. We’ve already heard Paul tell us that his body was wasting away. We know that Timothy had stomach problems and got sick frequently (1 Tim 5:23). The New Testament is full of examples of Christians suffering.

But being a part of the New Creation means that our experience with suffering is completely changed. Instead of being a hopeless experience that simply reminds us about our coming death, suffering is now a hopeful experience that reminds us of our coming salvation.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved…” (Romans 8:22–24).

We’re going to spend a whole morning in a few weeks talking about this. The pain of suffering in our lives is not the pain of a man who is dying. It’s the pain of a woman who’s in labour. It’s the pain of coming life. And that’s why Romans 5:3 says that we “rejoice in our sufferings.” We rejoice in our suffering instead of complaining about our suffering. That’s the massive difference that the New Creation makes in our life.


Death

Third and final example: death itself. In the Old Creation, before Christ, death was the final wages for our sin, and it was the end. Death was the moment when all hope was lost (Psalm 88:10).

And I think we all know that in the New Creation, there will be no death. We read that already from Revelation 21:4: “Death shall be no more.”

For us today, the death of our bodies is still a reality. But once again, our relationship with it has been transformed. We’ve already begun to experience eternal life in our souls. And when our bodies die, that eternal life will just continue in the presence of Christ (Philippians 1:23). Which is why Paul could say that death is gain (Philippians 1:21)

That’s a big difference isn’t it? From a total loss to total gain.

And so we see that being a part of the New Creation means that we still have to interact with these aspects of the Old Creation—sin, suffering, and death. But our relationship with them has been completely changed, and our experience with each of them is shot through with the hope and the resurrection power of Jesus.


What’s Ahead

All this is just a taste of what we get to do in these next fifteen weeks of our series. We’re going to be considering what it means for us to be here, in this spot in the story, between the already and the not-yet. And we’ll be exploring all of the ways that the arrival of Christ changes things.

How it changes our relationship with sin and suffering, like we’ve already touched on this morning. How it changes the way we read the Bible and interpret the Old Testament. How it changes our approach even to good things like family and marriage. And how the big story of the Bible helps us understand our priorities and what God expects us to do with our life.

So that’s what’s ahead for us in these next weeks. Understanding our place in the story, and how we should then live.

But I hope we’ve seen enough today to be amazed—maybe even overwhelmed. If you are in Christ, you are already a part of the New Creation.

The old has gone, the new has come, and nothing should be the same.

As you think about the next few days of your life, maybe even the next few hours, it’s very likely that you’re going to be touched by the realities of sin. Probably suffering. And maybe even death.

I hope that this morning has encouraged you to face those realities in the light of the New Creation. We can fight sin and rejoice in suffering and count death as gain because of Christ.

And so let’s stand and sing together about the power of Christ in us. And march out of here ready to walk in that power, whatever’s ahead.

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