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Sermon illustrations

The New Creation

“Christians:” Worshipping God in Equality

Christ followers were first called Christians at Antioch—about fifteen years after the birth of the church at Pentecost. There must have been something remarkable about this particular group of believers—something that caught people’s attention and caused them to come up with a new name for those who previously had been known simply as “Followers of the Way.”

What was happening at Antioch that was deserving of such special recognition? Acts 13:1 lists some of the leaders of this church at Antioch, and if we pay attention, we see that these deacons and other leaders represented various ethnic groups. They came from very different backgrounds, but there they were, worshiping and serving God together in equality.

They were living out what Paul describes when he writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!” (2 Cor. 5:17 NKJV), and “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28 NKJV).

John M. Perkins, Dream with Me, Baker Publishing Group.

Finding the Right “Fit”: Clothing Ourselves with Christ-Like Behavior

I am among the minority of people who are hardwired (genetic science now demonstrates this) to loathe cilantro. I can’t stand it. I call it the adolescent of herbs: notice me, notice me, NOTICE ME! To my taste buds, a little bit of cilantro can wreck an entire meal. I don’t believe God makes any mistakes, but I do believe this world would be a better place if cilantro had never been used as seasoning, because so many chefs, especially those who make salsa (which I love), seem to think cilantro makes almost everything taste better.

Yet many people, in fact most people, are genetically wired to enjoy cilantro. I don’t get it. I’ll never get it. But if you’re one of those people, please don’t offer to cook for me. In the same way, as Christians, we are spiritually wired for compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love (Colossians 3:12, 14). Those qualities should be delicious to us. They should feel like they “fit” us when we put them on. We should respect them, desire them, and feel most alive when we exhibit them. It’s a good day if we demonstrated compassion, displayed kindness, walked in humility, treated others with gentleness and patience, and took the opportunity to love others as much as was possible.

Gary Thomas, When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People, Zondervan 2019.

The Greatest Knight

In a documentary film on the medieval statesmen William the Marshal, professor Thomas Asbridge shares his experience of the power behind Marshal’s knighting ceremony. It provides an interesting corollary to the Christian sacraments and the transformation that (potentially) takes place in them.:

For me one of the most evocative moments from William’s life is that instance when he is created as a knight. But the most important part of that occasion for him, as it is for all other knights, is the moment when the sword is girded to his side…It’s a moment of transformation when they go from being one type of human being to another.

Here is an act that has no intrinsic magic. It is, in one sense, merely a symbol. But symbolic acts can be hugely significant if and when they are performed in certain contexts. Indeed, they can be transforming.

William would have girded a sword to his side day after day. But on this occasion it was literally life-changing, because it was part of a symbolic ceremony in a particular social and cultural context. It took on a significance that went beyond the bare act itself. As Asbridge says, “It’s a moment of transformation when they go from being one type of human being to another.”

Taken from “The Greatest Knight: William the Marshal”, BBC Two, broadcast on November 1, 2014.

A Life Re-Defined by The Spirit of God

In his excellent book on worship, The Dangerous Act of Worship, pastor and president of Fuller Seminary Mark Labberton shares a story of the transformation of one of his former congregants:

Ben was a very successful man. His professional life flourished. His family life was challenging, as a parent of several teenagers. For him, Christian faith was a distant and disconnected reality. But he began to have conversations about it with his wife and later with me.

One Sunday I was surprised but pleased to see him in the worship service. As he approached me at the door afterward, his eyes began to fill with tears. He explained that while visiting Washington, D.C, for a professional conference, he had gone to visit the National Cathedral. He slipped into an empty side chapel and sat down for some quiet time and reflection.

There, unexpected and unsought, God’s Spirit simply came upon him. Ben became a new person. The awe and wonder of grace and truth beyond his own mind, his own questions, his own needs, simply met him and changed him. It was as though his life was utterly redefined, and it has been ever since.

Taken from The Dangerous Act of Worship by Mark Labberton. Copyright (c) 2007 by Mark Labberton. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Living in the New Creation

To partake of the new creation is to see Christ for the first time. And his glory changes us. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). Practically speaking, the inauguration of the new creation in Christ splits humanity into two blocs, and these two alliances are not static but kinetic and dynamic.

In the Spectacle of Christ, we are being pulled toward the heavenly theater, from one degree of glory to the next. But in the spectacle of the worldly theater, sinners are unwittingly caught inside the undertow of a media riptide churning and trapping blind souls inside the expiring theater of this world.

Taken from Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, © 2019, p,96. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

The New Life with Christ

Union with Christ fundamentally and irrevocably changes our relationship to sin. Our old self has been crucified (Rom. 6:6), and sin has no dominion over us (v. 14). This doesn’t mean a part of us called the “old nature” has been replaced with a different substance called a “new nature.” Paul is not talking about parts. He is talking about position. The old man is what we were “in Adam” (cf. 5:12–21). Death, sin, punishment, transgression—that’s the “in Adam” team.

But we died to that team. The contract was revoked. We now wear the “in Christ” jersey. Union with Christ is like being placed on an NFL football team through no talent of your own. Though you didn’t earn your way on to the team, now that you wear the jersey you want to play like a real football player.

Taken from The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung, © 2012, pp.103-104. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.