Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 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.
2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2
As we begin 2021, we find ourselves in one of the most anticipated years in recent memory. After the challenges of 2020, people around the world are eager for something new and different. While the world often focuses on circumstantial change, the Lord has given us everything we need to seek the kind of new that brings real and lasting change. In 2 Corinthians 5 and 6, Paul teaches us that in Christ we have a different message (the gospel of Jesus Christ) that makes us different people (new creations) on a different mission (being ambassadors for Christ).
Here are three short prayers that invite the Lord to make us new this year.
“May the love of Christ control us.”
Last year revealed how little control we actually have. Governments and institutions tried to control people in the midst of a pandemic. We tried to control what we could as fear and frustration boiled over. In 2020, fear, hatred, and self-preservation were in the driver’s seat for many. Sin is selfishness, and it twists us to claim the control that only the Sovereign Lord has. But Paul shows us a better way. Those who are in Christ know the One who came, lived, died, and rose again. He died so that those who live in Him might no longer live for themselves, but for Him. In this new year, may the Gospel of Jesus Christ be the primary message of our lives. As we lean into the greatest good news, may Christ’s love for us control us.
“May we become who we are.”
Like a sponge, when we’re squeezed, whatever is inside comes out. Last year squeezed us, and the revelations were not always pretty. The world is always calling us to be something, do something, earn something, and prove ourselves. We need to become who we’re not. But in Christ, we’re called to become who we are. If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, and we are new creations in Him (2 Cor. 5:17). We already enjoy the assurance of His love, forgiveness, and presence. We already have a new heart, new eyes, and a new mission. The Christian life is not about becoming something we’re not; it’s about growing up in the fullness of what we already have in Him. We don’t live for Christ to earn His acceptance; we live for Christ because we already have it. As we unpack all that we have in Christ already, may we become who we are in Him.
“May we be ambassadors for Christ.”
The world feels like a constant war between millions of little kings and queens. With people pushing their own agendas, conflict is unavoidable. Yet someone has said, “There’s always room for servants,” and that’s what Christians are called to be. We are not the king or queen; we worship the King of Kings. We are ambassadors for Christ, and that calling reframes our life’s mission. We don’t have our own message; we are carrying the greatest message in history. We don’t live for ourselves; we are living for Him and His Kingdom. And we don’t have the power in ourselves; we are filled with His Spirit to fulfill His calling. The world’s empty messages produce empty people on empty missions. But in Christ, the gospel creates new people on a new mission for the reconciliation of the world. How is the Lord calling us to be His ambassadors today?
“New” in the world always has a time stamp, but “new” in Christ never expires. As the world grows old around us, may we cling to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the evergreen news of His saving love. That’s the kind of new we should want this year, the kind that would make us trees planted by streams of water, that yield their fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither (Psalm 1:3).