Posts Tagged ‘new creation’

The message today is very simple. God is a God of life and a God of blessing. And even though we so often fail and sin and mess things up so that there seems to be no hope, in grace, God offers us a new beginning.

Let’s start off with –

Some examples of new beginnings

– that God has given in the Scriptures.

1. Think of Adam and Eve. God made them and blessed them, and everything was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But they sinned and rebelled against God and were judged and exiled from the garden.

But God in his mercy offered them a new beginning. For through their son Seth came a new start. As Genesis 4:26 says, “at that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . (say it all together) “God made a new beginning.”

2. Think of the time of Noah. Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” (NRSV)

But God offered a new beginning through Noah and his family. They survived the judgment of the flood on callous evildoers. And God told Noah and his family, repeating the original commission to Adam and Eve, “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (Genesis 8:17). Humanity began again.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

3. And then there was Abraham. The nations of the earth had forgotten God and were going their own way, worshiping different idols and false gods.

But God revealed himself to Abraham and his family. And God began a plan and made promises to use Abraham and his family to make himself known to the nations.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

4. And then there was Moses. Abraham’s lineage was in slavery in Egypt, captive in their suffering and not fulfilling their role.

So God raised up Moses to deliver them and to put into action the plan and promises he gave to Abraham. Moses led them to the promised land as a new nation, Israel.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

5. Remember the judges. Israel was unfaithful to God, worshiping idols and false gods and to fulfilling God’s plan. And they were enslaved to the rulers of the people around them.

But God raised up judges like Gideon and Samuel to call them to faithfulness. And he used them to deliver Israel from their oppression.

At many points during these years, things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

6. Remember King David. Israel wanted a king like the nations around them, even though this was not of God. And when God gave them their first king Saul, he turned out to be a disaster.

But then God raised up his servant David. And he led the people toward faithfulness to God. And he delivered them from their enemies.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

7. Finally, remember when Israel returned from exile. After many years of rebellion and sin, and not listening to the prophets, they were judged and carried away to Babylon for 70 years of exile.

But God acted to bring them back to their land to begin anew. He did this in accord with the promise in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” And God did give them a new start.

Things seemed truly hopeless, but . . . “God made a new beginning.”

And then we come to –

The new beginning

And this requires us to look at the big picture. God doesn’t just want to give new beginnings within history. God is really leading all things toward a a cosmic new beginning. God created the world, but the world has fallen under the powers of Sin, Satan and Death. But now, God is bringing forth a new creation. As he said in Isaiah 65:17-18, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create”

And God is doing this through his Son, Jesus, whom he sent for this very purpose.

All of the new beginnings we have looked at so far prepared the way for Jesus , who is a descendant of Seth, Noah, Abraham, David and the people of Israel. And Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises given to Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets.

Jesus became a human but he knew no sin. And so the powers of Sin, Satan and Death had not right to him. Yet, even though he was innocent, he was put to death on the cross. And because of this:

  • The powers of Sin, Satan and Death have been put down.
  • And Jesus has been raised up from the dead, vindicated and seated at the right hand of God with all authority over heaven and earth.

And he now gives us the blessings of salvation – the forgiveness of our sins and new life through the Spirit of God living within us. What I am saying is that in Jesus, the new creation has begun. And when he returns in glory he will raise us from the dead and the new creation will be completed.

Things seemed truly hopeless for the first creation, but . . . “God made a new beginning”; a new creation in Jesus Christ.

And so in light of all this, I ask you this morning –

Do you need a new beginning?

This God of new beginnings, who works throughout history to give new starts and who has brought forth a new creation through the resurrection of Jesus – this same God can give you a new beginning!

Have you failed God and others? Is your life a mess? Do you think that things are so bad – your situation, your sin, your guilt and shame – that it’s beyond hope?

Well, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us – “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Right now this Easter day he can give you a new start., Your sin and guilt and shame can be wiped away and you can be a part of the new creation that God has begun in Jesus.

And when Jesus returns you will be raised to an unending life of righteousness, peace and joy in the presence of God. As Revelation 21:3-5 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

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Since I am teaching a class on the Gospel of John, I want to share with you as a whole congregation from this book here and there. And so today and next week, the plan is to cover John 1:1-18. And today we look at the first 13 verses. [These verses are called the “prologue,” which literally means a word that comes before the main body of the book. It’s a part of the introduction to this Gospel.]

These verses are poetic, profound and powerful. So much is packed into so few words! So let’s work at unpacking this. I can assure you that the reward of these verses is more than worth the effort.

Our theme today

If you will take your handout, we can look together at how this passage works. There are two sections and each has three parts that parallel each other.

  • In the first part of each section (A, A1) there is a statement about the Word, what the Word does and how the Word comes into contact with humanity.
  • Then the middle part of each section (B, B1), like an interlude, focuses on John the Baptist’s witness and his subordinate role in relation to the Word.
  • And then the last part of each section (C, C1) focuses on what is received from the Word, picking up on the themes of the first part of each section (A, A1). 

So for us today, the focus of vs. 1-13 is the life and light that the Word gives. Let’s look at our verses –

John 1:1-13

The Word, God and creation. “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

Here we are taught that the Word, which we later learn becomes a human being named Jesus (vs. 14, 17) was in the beginning of all things “with God,” as God’s agent in the creation of the world. The connection to Genesis 1 is clear in the repetition of the phrase “in the beginning.”

Now we know from the Old Testament and other ancient Jewish writings that it was not uncommon to speak of God’s Word, or Law or Wisdom (and these are really one and the same thing) as involved in the creation with God. And it was also not uncommon for these to be personified as a person next to God.

  • Proverbs 3 & 8 tell us that Wisdom, personified as a woman, was at the beginning with God and helped God in creating the world.
  • In Genesis 1 we learn that God speaks out his Word and creates the heavens and the earth. And in Genesis 1:26 the Word is personified. It says, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness . . ..” Here God is speaking with another person, his Word; his agent of creation, regarding the creation of humanity, and uses “us” and “our” language. (If the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs can be read as more of a literary device, it is reasonable to say that Genesis 1 goes beyond this. And this is, no doubt, a part of why John uses “Word” language and not “Wisdom” language.) (Like John 1, Proverbs 8 is also an interpretation of Genesis 1.)

So, drawing especially on Genesis 1, John is teaching us that the Word is with God, as a person, and is involved in the creation.

But John says more than this. For the Word was not only “with God,” he tells us that “the Word was God.” So there is sameness between God and the Word in terms of God-ness. 

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong then (along with the Arians before them). The Word really is truly God, not just the highest of God’s creations. If there is a line between God and the creation, the Word in on the God side of the line. [Now, some contend that v. 1 simply says that the Word is “a god,” or divine; something less than God since there is no definite article in front of the word “God.” But if there was an article it would mean total equivalence with no distinction. Also, “definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article,” (J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John) so you can’t make a theological argument based on this. And also if John had wanted simply to say that the Word was divine there was a Greek word for that – Theios.]

So there is sameness, but there is also distinction, because as we saw, the Word can be said to be “with God.” The Word and God are not exactly the same. [This also likely come from Genesis 1. For here the Word is distinguished from God in that they are able to talk together and there is “our” language (“our image, our likeness”) – v. 26. But then when humanity was created it says “God created humanity in his own image, in the image of God he created them” v. 27. It moves from “our image” to “his own image”; from plural to singular. Here the Word and God are identified simply as God. This is very similar to John’s – the Word is “with God” and “was God.”]

How this all works goes beyond our understanding for sure, but the logic of what is taught here is understandable.

  • “was God” means the same in terms of being God. To use later language, the same in essence.
  • But “with God” means there is still a difference. To use later language, a difference in terms of person.

Let’s be clear, there is only one God. This is the most basic of all beliefs and Jesus strongly affirms this (5:44; 17:3; Mark 12:29). But this one God can be spoken of as God the Father and God the Son, and also, based on the rest of the New Testament, as God the Spirit. There is distinction within the oneness of God.

The Word, darkness and humanity. “4In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When John says “in him was life, and the life was the light of humanity” he means that the life that is the Word is the model for us of what true life is. In this way the Word is a light that shows us what true life is; what is right and what is good and calls us to this.

We have more echoes of Genesis 1 in these verses, the creation of life and the creation of light. It is through the Word that these came to be in Genesis. As v. 3 emphasizes, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”

But there is another reality involved here. For although “darkness” is mentioned in Genesis 1, it is subdued or passive. Here it has become an active force resisting God’s life and God’s light. So John is taking into account the presence of human sin in the world and the active presence of the evil one.

There is a struggle going on. Notice the present tense, “the light shines in the darkness.” It keeps on shining. And “the darkness has not overcome the light.” (Best translated as “overcome,” see 12:35)

And then we have an interlude, the witness of John. “6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.”

These verses communicate clearly that John only prepares the way for the Word’s coming into the world; for Jesus. He is not the light, but God’s purpose is that through him all would believe in the Word; in Jesus.

vs. 9-13 pick up the themes of vs. 1-5, Light and life from the Word. “9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”

The Word, who is “the true light,” is not yet incarnate here as a person, although he “was coming into the world.” Nevertheless, as the true light he “gives light to everyone.” As we saw in v. 5 he is the light of all humanity. And so just as the extent of creation is universal, and the extent of darkness is universal over the earth, so the extent of the Word’s light is universal, calling all people to the way that leads to life. (John 8:12) (Sirach 24:3-7; Wisdom 9:17-10:21)

“10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,  and his own people did not receive him.” With v. 10 the Word has come to the world as Jesus. This marks the fulfillment of prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.

  • As Isaiah 49:6 says, “I will also make you a light of the nations, so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
  • And as Isaiah 9:2 says of Israel and specifically Galilee, “the people who walk in darkness will see a great light . . .” (Also, Isaiah 42:6-7; Isaiah 60:1-5).

But if anyone was expecting an overwhelming reception of the light, John quickly puts this to rest. “Though the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.” The world is under the power of darkness and so most do not receive the light. And this is a terrible irony. Most do not even know who made them.

And even more painfully tragic is that he came to the Jewish people, the people of God, and most did not receive him. (This will be extensively chronicled in the Gospel of John.)

vs. 12-13 are more positive, however. “12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Some, a remnant from both the world and God’s people, did receive him. They “believed in his name,” that is, they accepted who he is. They received the light and life that the Word gives.

And the Word gives to these the right to become children of God; to be born of God. Now in the Old Testament it was the people of Israel who are the children of God. But it is no longer based on the flesh – John says, “not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man (a husband).” It is based on faith in Jesus and the provision of light and life that he gives.

The Word and the new creation

So John is telling a story here in vs. 1-13. He begins with the creation and the original presence of life and light, he talks about the falling of the veil of darkness that comes with sin and then he speaks of the continued shining of the light into the darkness. But most decisively he tells of the one “who was coming into the world,” our Lord Jesus who has come and saved us.

This is a story from creation to new creation. For what was lost in the original creation – life and light, he brings back to those who look to him in faith. And just as the Word was God’s agent of the original creation, so he is the agent of this new creation. And just as he was able to bring forth the original creation because he is God and is God’s Word, so he is able to bring forth the new creation that God is working through him.

The question I leave you with today is this – Where do you stand? There is still great darkness in the world. The world is dominated by sin and the evil one. But God’s light shines on and it shines purely and fully in Jesus. And you have to take sides in this struggle. You can’t be both in the darkness and the light at the same time.

Have you responded to the light that leads to true life? Have you come to Jesus in faith? Have you been born of God? Receive of the light and new life that Jesus brings. Be transformed from within to live a new life in him.

 William Higgins

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Follow the link – John 1:1-18

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The theme of hope is a core distinctive of Christianity, based, as our faith is, on a resurrected Jesus, who lives forevermore. Peter speaks of the “living hope” that Christians have in 1 Peter 1:3. And Paul prays that his readers will be enlightened so that, as he says, “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, (and) what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” – Ephesians 1:18.

And it is this “glorious inheritance” that I want to talk about this morning. What is our hope as Christians? What are “the riches of his glorious inheritance?” I am focusing on this because I fear some Christians aren’t getting the full scope of what God has for us. I say this because some believe that going to heaven when you die, is what it’s all about.

But I ask – Is going to heaven when you die the extent of our hope? This past year I visited a church and I heard just this belief expressed. Someone had died in the church and one person shared, in so many words, that the one who died now had all that God has for him.

Let me begin by saying, yes –

When we die, we go to be with Jesus

Anyone who dies in the Lord, goes to be with the Lord at death.

We’ve talked a lot about Sheol in the last few months – the place of the dead. Scripture doesn’t say a lot about what happens to the righteous dead with the death and resurrection of Jesus. But the best way to put together what is said, is to say that those in paradise (the good part of Sheol) have now moved to heaven to be in the presence of Jesus.

And this is a great blessing and something to look forward to. And this is a great comfort as we think of our loved ones who have died in the Lord, and even as we contemplate our own future. We go to a better place.

Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . .. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”- Philippians 1:21-22. He also says, “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord . . . and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:6-7. Dying and going to be with Jesus is far better than this earthly life so full of sin and suffering.

And then in the story of Stephen, when he is being stoned to death. He says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” – Acts 7:59. He knew that when he died, he would be with Jesus. His spirit would go to be in the presence of Jesus.

But our hope is more than this. That’s the message today. Our hope is actually so much more than this! And we don’t want to sell short the amazing hope and inheritance that God has given us in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our hope is more in three specific ways: First of all, our hope is not just something that happens right when we die.

Our hope looks to the end when Jesus returns to completely save us

In other words there is an issue of  timing here. The fullness of our salvation awaits the coming of Jesus at the end of all things. This is when we will receive all that God has for us.

To think that our hope only has to do with when we die, is to mistake the end of one short sentence as the conclusion of a grand, complex and long story – made up of many, many volumes. We are talking about all of history here, billions of stories being woven together into the story of Jesus and coming to the end that God has chosen when Jesus returns.

In the bigger picture our time with Jesus in heaven is a place of waiting for this final goal, the return of Jesus and all that God has for us. It is like a grand waiting room. A good one, for sure, but a waiting room nevertheless. And just like any waiting room, it is easy to get impatient.

This is exactly what we see in Revelation 6:9-11. The souls in heaven who died for their faith, “cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long . . .? Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer . . ..” They are told to be patient.

Our hope is much more than something that happens right when we die. Those in heaven with Jesus, along with us, await the full blessings when Jesus returns.

Second, our hope is not just something that has to do with our spirit.

Our hope includes the redemption of our bodies

Here the issue is the scope of our salvation. Salvation involves every part of us – spirit, soul and body. Our destiny is not to be disembodied spirits in heaven, which is what we are after we die and go to be with Jesus.

Being in the presence of Jesus is far better than life on earth with suffering and sin. But still better is the resurrection. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:3-4, in the resurrection we will no longer be “naked” or “unclothed” – that is, a spirit without a body in heaven with Jesus. In the resurrection we will be clothed with our new resurrected bodies.

Christianity is not like some traditions, where the goal is to escape creation or our bodies. Creation is good, though fallen. And the solution is not abandoning it to be in a purely spiritual realm. The solution is the renewal of creation.

So it is in the resurrection, not simply being in the presence of Jesus in heaven, that we will find our completion; our full salvation.

We see that this is true in Jesus’ resurrection. He was not a spirit or a ghost. He was an embodied person. In Luke 24:39 the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” He had a real body, even though it was supernatural, disappearing and appearing at times, waking through walls and so forth. It was supernatural, but it was a body nonetheless.

And this is also our hope. Philippians 3:20-21 says, “from (heaven) we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Our hope is much more than something that happens to our spirit. Every part of us will be saved when Jesus returns. 

Third, our hope is not something that has to do with just me going to heaven.

Our hope includes the fulfillment of all of God’s purposes

The issue here is the excessive individualism. Salvation includes all of creation, not just me making it to heaven. 2 Peter 3:13 says, “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This is when, as Paul says in Romans 8:21, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Then there will be a new creation.

Salvation also includes God gathering together a new community, not just me being in heaven. Jesus sais in Luke 13:29, “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” There will be a new community.

Salvation includes the establishment of God’s kingdom over all the earth, not just me in heaven. Just as Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” so it will be when Jesus returns. The innocent will be lifted up and the wicked will be put down. Justice will be done. All wrongs will be righted, and all suffering will be rewarded. And righteousness will prevail.

Our hope is much more than me being in heaven with Jesus, it is the fulfillment of God’s grand plan, formulated from before the beginning of time, brought to completion through Jesus, when he returns. God’s people living in a perfect creation, in righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17).


Because Jesus defeated death, rose from the grave, ascended to God’s right hand and reigns over all we have a great and amazing hope!

But do you have this hope? It is one thing to learn it in your head, but do you have it in your heart? Receive the new resurrection life that Jesus gives. As Jesus said, “ask and you will receive.” Ask for and receive God’s free gift of new life in Jesus. 

William Higgins

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