Sermon: "Redemption and Restoration"

Second in the 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' series,
Delivered April 10, 2005 by Rev. John Schmidt.
Other sermons in this series - 1 / 2

Theme: God has done the ultimate extreme makeover: We are a new creation. How can we live that way?

audio The audio file of this sermon is available for download and listening in MP3 format.
Sermon Text: Isaiah 65:17-19 and 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Note: a video clip from the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (IMDB) was shown at this point, ending as they say "Driver, move that bus!"

What if they looked at the house, but didn't move in? Let me read to you something from the Old Testament, one of today's Scriptures. It comes from the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah 65, Verse 17.

"Behold, I will create a new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more."

From the New Testament, the Book of 2nd Corinthians, the 5th chapter. I am going to begin on Verse 16.

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarding Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Let's pray. God we thank you for your Word and pray now that our hearts and eyes will be open to it. For we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

Last week we talked about creation and fall. God created a creation that reflected his goodness that reflected his plan, a creation that had deep potential within it. It wasn't complete. It wasn't fully mature. It had a direction to it and God created this, he said it was good, and he put humanity in to a role where they were supposed to shape it, to have authority within it, to develop it under God's authority. We also looked last week at the fact that humanity in that role didn't stay there. It didn't obey God. It didn't exercise that authority under his leadership, but actually broke that relationship through disobedience and so that cascades down in to our relationship with God now, the way we experience the world now, because the relationship with God and humanity is not what it should be. God is not at the center of things. We have put ourselves at the center of things and that affects our relationship with God, that reflects in our relationships with one another and that ultimately is destroying the environment around us. And that is because God truly gave authority to humanity. And so if we misuse it, it has very real and lasting repercussion.

But God doesn't let us get written out of his story, because the story goes on. It's not only creation and fall, but what follows that is redemption, and that's what we talk about most in the life of the church. The fact that God is not content to allow this relationship to remain as it is. But instead, has been working throughout history to draw humanity back to himself. And so, from Genesis 3 to somewhere in the Book of Revelation, we have one long coherent story. It's a story about how God loves us so much that he can't allow things to continue. Even though we are disobedient, even though we deserve punishment, God is at work. He's at work first of all to show us that there is a real problem and so this story across all of history involves God trying to communicate to us just how deep the breach is, just how far we are from what we should be.

In this story too, God works to contain the effects of our rebellion. Things could be worse and yet God is at work in the world to make sure that as bad as things get they won't get so bad that everything is destroyed. And we see that happening again and again in the Scriptures, as well as in the history that we have seen since. And then finally, God is actually at work in this story to provide the ultimate solution. This is what we call redemption: God's rescue of humanity. Where Jesus comes and lives a life that has to be lived and he dies a death that has to be died. He has to die in our place. God does that, and that's what we celebrated at Easter, is the incredible reality that not only does God die in our place, but he comes back in victory and he says, there is now, because of what I have done, a new future for everyone. And that brings up though one more part of the story. The part where God restores creation to all that it was originally created to be, the promise that was given to Adam and Eve comes back to humanity, all the potential for creation comes out again in a new heaven and a new earth. Everything is torn down and remade. It's Extreme Makeover: Creation Edition. God is at work totally reclaiming creation.

I want you to spend a few moments to silently read and think about some of these verses that talk about restoration.

  • Behold, I will create a new heavens and a new earth. (Isaiah 65:17)
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Corinthians 15:22-23)
  • I am going there to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)
  • Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (Matthew 25:34)
  • I am making everything new! (Revelation 21:5)

Restoration: the final part of the story. Restoration: the part where God says that this is the new thing that I am doing, a new heaven, a new earth, a new kingdom prepared for you and you have a role within it. It's a new creation that begins now and extends into eternity. But this is the part of the story we don't often think about and if we do have ideas about it, they are often fuzzy and confused. I think about a time that I was witnessing to a friend, and this was a number of years ago, and I was sharing with him and I said, "Don't you want to go to heaven?" He said, "No, I don't, because I don't want to be in the clouds somewhere playing harps for the rest of eternity." That's the kind of conception he was carrying around of what heaven meant. This is to somebody who had been to church for years. That's a misconception. That's a static picture that we see on the wings commercial, Red Bull whatever, you know that stuff. These pictures are not biblical. The picture we have is of a new heaven and a new earth. It's something that has all the beauty: the beauty that God created in to this creation carries over in to a new creation. The same potential for adventure carries over. The things that excite us and thrill our hearts, these things carry over and authority even carries over in to the new creation. God says, "I will make all things new." Restoration is the conclusion of God's epic story, a rescued people living in the absolute fullness of what God eternally intended for the creation that he loves. All that was lost has been restored. It's better than any fairy tale we have. It's better than any fantasy that's been written. The future is a new era, the new era of God and it begins now. It says, right now we are a new creation. The old has passed away and all things have become new, but why doesn't it feel like it? Why don't we just walk in constant, obvious victory?

One of the things that we have to recognize is that although the new creation has already begun, the kingdom of God has begun, we only experience it now in part. It talks in Scripture about the fact that we experience the Holy Spirit as a down payment of something that will come in fullness later. We have authority now that comes out of our relationship with God, but it's not the kind of authority we will have later. We can pray and see God do things now, but we don't always see them happen as it will in the fullness of a new creation. So we experience these things, we can actually taste and touch these things, but not in its fullness. So it's kind of like in the TV show where they move the bus and the people walk in to the house, but not all of the rooms are finished yet. It is still a work in progress. But to be honest that really isn't the best picture either. Perhaps it is better to say its like the bus moves and people walk in, but not all the rooms are open to us yet. There is plenty there that has been restored, but we can't yet go in to every single room. So right now we do experience in part what God is doing. Some of it's for now and some of it's for later, but what if we didn't even move in to the rooms that were open to us? So again, we have this picture. The bus moves out of the way and the people say "Whoa, what a difference" and they stay on the curb. They don't walk in. They decided that they are going to live the old way and think to themselves, "Well that's the house that I am going to live in when I die. Ain't it great?" But refuse to enter in right now.

Sometimes I am afraid that's what we are tempted to do. We are tempted not to enter in to the part of the new creation that we can experience now. Every time we say to ourselves in our heads, this is just the way I am. I can't change. That's one of those moments. It can happen when we get satisfied that a relationship really can't be healed, it can't change. We are getting satisfied with living the old way and we don't enter in to the new. It can happen when we never really learn what prayer can accomplish in our lives now. Now believe me I know that there are times when we pray for things and earnestly for things that don't happen the way we expect them to. We will acknowledge that. We don't inherit it all right now. But how much doesn't happen because we don't even seriously pray? Jesus says that if we ask in his name he will do it. How many things could be done? How many rooms could be open? How many experiences could we have if we just got serious about the authority that Jesus Christ has given us now to change this world, not just through our energy and our intelligence and our program, but by praying that God would work in creation? There are so many times that we are satisfied with standing on the curb or just going in to the entry way of the house and not exploring all of what God has o offered in the new creation to us right now.

So we've got to ask ourselves where we are. Where are we personally? Are we on the curb looking in, afraid to enter, not really believing even though it looks good on the outside, it won't work for now? Is it that we are barely on the inside, but we are afraid to explore what God has to offer? Or are we knocking on every single door we can find to see if this might be one that opens? Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be open. There are things in this new creation we can experience right now if we would only knock and try the door. A practical step of what we can do to begin to explore what God is doing in creation right now and doing in us, a new creation, is in next weeks Unveiling Glory. This is a chance for us to think about moving from a me-centered theology to a God-centered theology, to explore what life is meant to be inside of God's story, beyond just what it means to make a living and to try to keep our families together. It's a chance to see the whole sweep of God's story and how our own story fits in. That's why we are hosting an event like this. And as we look forward to that a week away, we can pray right now that God would use it in us. We can pray the kind of words that the apostle Paul prayed. If you want to learn how to pray in a way that gives you some kind of confidence that God is actually willing to hear that prayer, pray along with Jesus; with the Old Testament prophets. Pray along with Paul and Peter.

In Ephesians 1:18 Paul says "I pray that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened so that we might know the hope to which we have been called, the riches of God's glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power at work in us who believe." He prayed that our eyes would be open to it because we have this struggle of entering in to the reality and the inheritance and the life that God calls us to. So let's pray this next week that our eyes would be open: to hope, to our inheritance, to the power at work in us right now, those of us who believe.

In Extreme Makeover: Home Edition the climax of every episode is when the family sees the incredible home built just for them. The bus moves aside. There is an incredible celebration and people walk in and see something that's been designed just for them. They see something that fulfills those needs that they have been carrying around all their lives and they recognize that in some way all things have become new. Well God has done an extreme makeover. We are a new creation and so we have to reflect on, "Are we sitting on the curb looking at the house or are we moving in?"

Lets pray. God, we thank you for the incredible things that you have done in creation that include us, that we are a new creation and so believing that and experiencing that in part we pray now that we would have our eyes opened to the hope to which we have been called, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints and your incomparably great power at work in us who believe. Open our eyes Lord and prepare us for next week and prepare us for the future. For we ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

© 2005, Rev. John Schmidt
Central Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD 21204 410/823-6145