Here’s just one of the things that tell me I’m a nerd: I love new school supplies.
In my childhood, the annual back-to-school shopping trip had a Christmas morning energy to it. I liked new clothes, yes, but just as much I looked forward to our stop at the office supply store for a new year’s worth of paper and folders and writing utensils.
In elementary school, the crux of this trip was selecting the perfect Trapper Keeper – an oversized three-ring binder with cool graphics or a cartoon character on front. By high school I had moved on to an item that would keep me organized all the way through college and seminary: a large spiral notebook, ideally with a divided section for each class.
Now I’m on to something new; when I re-entered academia earlier this month after a twelve-year hiatus, my best buddy got me a gift to start me on the right foot. So here’s my new means of notetaking: a Moleskine notebook with a Star Wars quote on the front.
(Now that I think about it, that’s not so far removed from those Trapper Keepers from the 80s…)
Although my supplies of choice have evolved over the years, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re all new, perfect, unblemished. Take this spiral notebook for example, purchased just yesterday. Observe its mint condition. It’s not been crammed in a backpack. It’s never been yanked out from between two oversized textbooks. The pages haven’t been folded over or crumpled. The spine has never been twisted out of its alignment. No one has doodled “Mrs. Teen Hunk” a thousand times in the back cover.
By the end of a school year, a notebook like this will be much worse for wear – and not just in appearance, but in content as well. After ten months of use it’ll be filled with notes that have been hastily jotted down and sometimes erased or scribbled out and corrected. It’ll contain the plans for the papers to be written, some done well and some that could have been done better. It’ll have a record of desperate attempts to understand chemistry or calculus that ended up in sub-par grades. And those “Mrs. Teen Hunk” scribbles in the back might well be a reminder of “Mrs. Broken Heart” by the time school lets out for summer.
After a year’s worth of use this folder will be far less than perfect, which in turn will remind its owner that she is far less than perfect.
Until the next new school year starts, and we can all buy new, perfect, unblemished supplies again.
I do love these new supplies in part because I’m a nerd. But also, I think I love them because I’m human, and my soul longs for this kind of new start. Wouldn’t it be nice if, once a year, we got this in life, too – a chance to start new, do a new thing?
Of course, some of you reading this know the amazing truth: we do get that chance.
“…if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Christ has done something to make the old go away so that the new can come in. He’s done this for all of creation – you and me and all of us as individuals, and the whole world as well. It’s new, like a just-purchased notebook that hasn’t seen the abuse of a single day of school.
If this is true, then this is amazing, revolutionary. It means that every day we could wake up with that first-day-of-school feeling where last year’s failures are in the past and there’s a new chance to do things better. At any moment we could open our eyes and see this new reality, the new life that our souls are craving for.
This is so amazing that we might have some doubts it. How could this be possible?
“…one has died for all; therefore all have died” (5:14).
When Christ died on the cross, somehow, mysteriously, we all died as well. To continue our back-to-school theme, imagine that Christ took on all our past school materials. Included in that would be our bad grades and our attempts to cheat, our detentions and trips to the principal’s office, even our social records, the times we were unkind to our classmates. He took them all on as though they were his own academic record. And then…
He died, so they aren’t anyone’s record at all anymore. Then he rose again and our records became something different, something new – ours, but also Christ’s.
Here we are with this gift, this perfect new notebook of a life. As we consider it – and the gift of forgiveness Christ has given us – we might feel a temptation, a wondering, if perhaps we could just fill it with bad stuff again and let that die with Christ and then start again – a cyclical routine like getting new supplies at the end of each summer.
Because that’s not a new creation. That’s more like a re-creation, a redo of the old stuff. And if our old selves died with Christ then they aren’t designed to make a reappearance.
So what do we fill this new folder with?
“And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves” (5:15). Our new lives aren’t primarily about us because we died with Christ. When we’re born again we’re part of this new creation in Christ. So we can’t fill our new-life notebooks with self-centered stuff like own gain, our own wants, an accumulation of wealth or status or relationships that only benefit us. We died. So this new thing must be about something else – someone else.
“And he died for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (5:15). This new creation we’re a part of is about Jesus Christ. When we fill it up we are to fill it with what Christ would want.
We fill it with love for God – pages about how we go to church, read our Bibles, and pray. Records of how we’ve given our finances over to God through tithes and offerings.
We fill it with our love for God’s children – notes on other people that we care about, reminders about those who need our help, plans for bringing meals or helping someone move or visiting someone who is lonely.
That is what Christ’s new creation is all about: a life filled with love for God and love for our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39).
And it’s here and waiting for you to pick it up, claim it as your own, and fill it with a life lived for Jesus Christ.
Do you want it? Do you want to let your old self die with Christ on the cross? Do you want to be Christ’s new creation today?
If so, find a blank piece of paper. The cleaner the better. A lined sheet with three holes on the side would be ideal, but any clean piece of paper will do.
Take that paper in your hand, and pray something like this:
“God, I want to be brought home to you. I want to be your new creation. Take my old self and hang it on the cross with Jesus. Raise a new me up with him from the tomb. Make me new, and make me yours – today and every day. Amen.”
As you say that prayer, some things might come to mind that would be a part of this new creation you’re becoming. They might be things you want to decrease or stop, like gossiping or cheating. They might be things you need to increase or start, like reading the Bible or giving money to those who are hungry. When the Holy Spirit brings something like that to mind – a picture of what your new creation will be – write it down on that piece of paper. Let it be a reminder to you.
A reminder that, because you are in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away.
See, everything has become new!