New Creation in 2010

As we approach the New Year, let us consider the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

In preparation to preach the above text on Sunday, I have been captivated by Martin Luther’s analogy of the “Dung Hill.” You say “Chris, you are captivated by dung? Let’s find you a therapist….” Well, maybe I need one, but before we go there, let me explain.

One day Luther was sitting with some of his students beside a window when snow started to fall. Luther pointed to a pile of manure near his house and explained that on account of sin the moral condition of humans resembles the stinking pile of dung. Among the implications of this condition are guilt and condemnation before God.

Within the hour, snow had fallen so steadily that the dung hill was completely covered. Luther paused from his lesson and once again pointed to the mound. He asked the students to tell him what they saw. Instead of manure they described a powdery white hill. As the sunlight gleamed off the fresh snow, Luther stated, “That is how God sees us in his Son, Jesus Christ. While we remain full of sin, in Christ we are clothed with his perfect righteousness and therefore we are acceptable in God’s sight.”

Whenever I mention this story, I quickly point out that the correlation is partially flawed. Because God provides his Holy Spirit and accomplishes in us his work of sanctification, he makes us more than dung (praise God!). This is where the analogy breaks down the most. But there’s another part of the parallel that is not only accurate, it’s glorious. It’s what some have called the “great exchange;” namely, we give Christ our sin, he gives us his righteousness. As the 16th Century English theologian Richard Hooker summarized it:

Such we are in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God himself. Let it be counted folly or frenzy or fury or whatsoever. It is our wisdom and our comfort; we care for no knowledge in the world but this, that man has sinned and God has suffered; that God has made himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God.1

Because our identity is founded in the resurrected Christ who is seated at God’s right hand, the Father looks upon us as being clothed with the perfection of his Son. On this basis, we are accepted.

What does this mean for the New Year? Simply that our identity is no longer defined by the world’s standards, but by the Lord Jesus.

To the girl struggling with anorexia, Paul says

You are a new creation!

To the high-school boy whose hormones are raging and who is sorely tempted by promiscuity

You are a new creation!

To the man addicted to corporate advancement

You are a new creation!

To the pastor enamored with what people think about his ministry

You are a new creation!

To the one held captive by fear and depression

You are a new creation!

Praise God, even though our sinful hearts sometimes appear more like dung than pure snow, we are nonetheless a new creation in Christ!

Footnotes

1. Richard Hooker. ‘Sermon on Habakkuk 1:4’ (1585), in The Works of Richard Hooker, ed. John Keble, vol. III (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 5th ed. 1865), p 490-91.

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