In memory of Colin Brine: “He is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17-6:2)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says,

      “In a favorable time I listened to you,

and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

Just listen to what Paul the apostle says. Actually, this is not Paul speaking on his own, he is guided by the Holy Spirit. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

How would we answer to such an ambitious statement? What can we say? O, yes, sure, Paul, that is an interesting idea. That’s sounds really poetic and beautiful. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Some may object saying – but those are just words, aren’t they? In reality such things don’t happen…

However, this saying is true more than we know, and more than we can understand, but sometimes our faithful Lord Jesus Christ allows us to experience something, some glimpses that enable us to see just how true this saying is.

The last several weeks in Colin’s life were just that. The wonderful testimony to God’s ability to change us. To change us completely. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” But how can someone be a new creation?

How could it be that the old has passed away and the new has come? We only have one body for this life, we don’t get another, a new one. Sure. But we can get, if we are indeed in Christ, a new changed and transformed self.

It is like another person, a new person, restored in the image and likeness of Jesus. And this new person, this new creation sees everything differently. Like finally their eyes are opened. Everything, everything looks different.

They feel different. They want to act differently. Suddenly they are able and willing to do things that they didn’t want, that they couldn’t do before. Most of people who were not raised in Christian households, and who encountered the Triune God later in their life, have experienced what Paul says.

The true God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is never far from any of us. He is the One who created us, the One who gives us life, who watches over us, who accompanies us, the One who knows us better than we do ourselves.

He is always inviting us into this wonderful divine fellowship with Himself and with His Son Jesus Christ. It is us who shut out ears, who turn away our eyes, who harden our hearts – not to hear Him, not to see Him, not to respond to Him.

And sometimes we can live in our little worlds, self-isolated from our gracious God, locking Him out and believing that that is how we are better off, more in control, freer to do whatever we want to do. That is simply not true.

And sometimes is takes many years before God’s grace finally breaks through our thick skins and our armour of self-righteousness. But when it does happen, the transformation that we experience can fittingly be called “a new creation”.

This is not something we choose and do. Paul is not talking about some self-improvement efforts, when we try to be better selves. No! That leads nowhere. Paul states clearly that “all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” This is how God does it, this is how He makes us a new creation – when He reconciles us to Himself. And it is not that hard to understand.

We all have this strange mechanism in us, our conscience, which accuses us when we do wrong. It points to the ultimate reality, to the day when we all will need to give an account for how we have led this life. And that day will inevitably come, as days like these remind us about it.

This is the reason why most people feel uncomfortable when they hear about God, about Jesus Christ. The picture that pops up in our minds, the feeling that surfaces is that of judgment. Us being judged, our lives being judged, without ability to hide. Every secret being revealed.

It is not a pleasant picture. That is not an enjoyable feeling. But it disappears when the true God reveals Himself and reconciles us with Himself. When Jesus speaks to us and says: “I know what you have done, and I want to forgive you all of that. Every wrong. Every evil. Every failure.

I will take all of that upon myself, and I will not count your trespasses against you. Just let them go, accept the forgiveness and peace and good conscience that I offer to you, and they are yours. They are truly yours. And I will make you a new creation.”

Our brother in Christ Colin accepted this offer. With his whole heart. It was like purifying water running through his soul, washing away the old and bringing in the new. Colin’s family and friends are witnesses of this undeserved grace. I count it as a privilege being able to witness it too. Seeing how God’s unconditional grace changes our hearts. How renewed hearts change our attitudes towards others. How God’s unmerited and transforming forgiveness makes us to desire to forgive others and be reconciled with them. Sometimes we may run out time. Sometimes it is a bit too late to tie the loose ends.

Sometimes we can only wish that we accepted God’s invitation sooner. Then we could have experienced more joy, more gratitude, more peace, more grace and we could have given more of these wonderful gifts to others.

“[As Paul says] we are ambassadors for Christ, God [is] making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. … For he says [to you right now] “In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Our brother Colin is now with His gracious Lord and Saviour. But there are so many who still live as if the old was all that there is. May the Holy Spirit use the testimony of Colin to help us to open our hearts to the One who waits for us.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Open your hearts, for as Paul says: “Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Amen.

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