Today is my dad’s birthday, and his sixth one in heaven... although I’m pretty sure time looks completely different to him now. I don’t think he’s marching along on our chronological clock, celebrating what would have been his 64th year. I think he’s busy being a new creation, in the most complete sense.
Yes, in one sense, God’s work of making us new creations has already begun.
We are promised that,
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)
And this does mean that in Christ we have been made right with God. Christ has come and defeated the penalty of sin against us. But there is a day when those who have been made righteous will be made perfect, and I am hopeful for that day. I often need to be reminded that God is making all things new, even me. And I need to be reminded that God has complete restoration in mind.
God gave me the briefest of glimpses a few months ago of a momentary restoration. I was hurrying home one afternoon from work, trying to catch my kids at the bus stop. I saw a video message on my phone as I got home and clicked on the feed. There, in my sister’s kitchen were the faces and voices I was expecting to hear, her daughters and hers, but over the noise, in a background video, was my dad, giving advice, telling us what mattered in life, just as he always did. My sister was showing her girls a video that Dad had made for her when she graduated high school. My feet froze in my tracks and my hand started shaking. Since I was experiencing both of them through video, it seemed as if he was really there... and, for just a second, it was a picture of what it could have looked like if he had been there all along.
For just a moment, God took away what has been my greatest loss. For an instant, there was nothing to mourn. Instead, in a heart bursting rush, there was GREAT JOY.
All too soon my mind reasoned it’s way out of the euphoria and the pain came searing back in.
In the days and weeks afterwards, I have come back often to that moment, and it has given me great hope and anticipation for the complete work of restoration that God is going to do.
I look forward to the day when we are fully new creations, and death has been swallowed up in victory. I am also looking forward to when the sting of death, which is sin, is completely defeated in my life.
As it stands now, I can’t make it through breakfast before I feel the weight of my sin. I can snap at my children as I read the bible, be jealous of someone I hardly know if I happen to check Facebook, start to feel the weight of my to do list before my first cup of coffee is finished, and take too long in front of the mirror trying to make my outward appearance give me enough confidence to get out the door. And even if I start the day out well, I surely cannot get through mid-afternoon without snapping at traffic, becoming impatient at lines, silently criticizing a co-worker in my mind, or otherwise letting discontentment reign. This doesn’t even begin to address all the things I’ve left undone. The people I did not reach out to, the emails and texts I’ve ignored, the places I haven’t served. Then, in the still moments, there are the unanswered prayers that weigh me down, the dreams unfulfilled, the unmet expectations, the doubt and confusion and worry that plague me.
But that is not my complete story, that is just my old self, forgetting that I have been made new.
There is a word that I left out the first time I mentioned the verse that says that we are new creations, and that is: “therefore.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 actually begins with “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ…” The ‘therefore’ is important. Every verse building towards this declaration of new reminds us that it is the trials and difficulties of this life that lead towards this new beginning. In order for the new, there must be a death. It is into darkness, that the light of the gospel shines. And it is through cracked jars of clay, that the light shines through.
Though outwardly we are wasting away, internally we are being renewed. While in this physical body, we are groaning for a heavenly dwelling. Don’t be discouraged, though we all groan through the trials of this life, they are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
And, what is mortal has yet to be fully swallowed up in life. Like in the small picture of the moment when my dad was restored to us, there can be no end to the imagining of what it will be like when God fully restores both his creation and us. I want to leave you with a picture of complete and lasting restoration. Dwell on it and let it give you great hope. Let it buoy you into the new year with GREAT JOY.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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.” Revelation 21:1-5a