Have you ever watched a movie and realized, midway through, you were not sure what kind of movie you were watching? Perhaps the protagonist was suffering from scene to scene and you wanted to hope for a good ending. It is difficult to have hope in the middle of a movie when you aren't sure what kind of story you are watching. This past year has caused many to wonder what kind of story we are living through. Was 2020 the harbinger of a tragic end? Or was it a difficult scene in what is otherwise a hopeful tale?
As we live in this in-between time, this already-but-not-yet reality, we must choose to live like people who know we are living in a redemptive story.
MADE NEW NOW
As Christians, we have an advantage when facing a difficult present: We already know the end of the story. God has shown us the narrative arc and the final scene of history: "Behold, I am making all things new" (Rev. 21:5, ESV). The story ends in a new creation, so we have reason to hope. But God's Word does not give us hope only for the future. We also enjoy a foretaste of the coming Kingdom. Jesus declared that even now His Kingdom is at hand, for He is in our midst—reigning in the hearts of His people (see Matt. 4:17, Lk. 17:20-21, Eph. 3:17, Col. 1:27, 2 Cor. 13:5, et al.).
God foretold the dawning of His Kingdom in our hearts through the prophet Ezekiel: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws" (Ezek. 36:26-27).
Through Christ's sacrifice on the cross we are utterly changed— transformed completely. Christ's blood is so powerful that Paul could declare, "[I]f anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Cor. 5:17).
This means that even now, today, on this side of Christ's first coming, we already experience eternal life. If you have placed your faith in Christ, God's Spirit lives and moves within you. Your once stony heart is now alive. The stain of your past sin has been washed away. You have been freed to live for God, empowered to grow in godliness—to be holy as Almighty God is holy.
ALREADY AND NOT YET
We are already new creations, and yet we still struggle. The battle is won; our victory is sure. And yet, we still fight; we still must don the full armor of God to combat sin, temptation, and our spiritual enemy. Paul gets at this dichotomy in Romans 8. He writes of our life in the Spirit and our freedom from the law of sin and death (see v. 2). He reminds us that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead lives in us (see v. 11). He celebrates our adoption as sons of God and inclusion as heirs with Christ (see vv. 15-17). He makes clear that the new creation is not aspirational; it's actual. It is not dependent on our actions, but God's intention.
But Paul also acknowledges "our present sufferings" (v. 18). He sees the creation "groaning" as it awaits the fullness of rebirth (v. 22). Likewise, we, though new creations, still await the final fulfillment of our new birth— that day when our bodies will no longer be subject to death because of sin (see v. 10). We are adopted, but wait eagerly for our adoption (v. 23). We are set free, but long for our final liberation. Although we have tasted of the firstfruits of the Spirit, there is still more to come. At Christ's return, the new Jerusalem will come down out of heaven and God will dwell in our midst. God Himself will wipe our tears away as He makes all things new (see Rev. 21:1-5)!
WHILE WE WAIT
As we live in this in-between time, this already-but-not-yet reality, we must choose to live like people who know we are living in a redemptive story. We must live basking in the glory of our story's fulfillment and the beautiful adventure that awaits us for eternity. This means we participate in God's work in our lives. We do not return to our chains nor harden our hearts so that they again become stone. We live like the heirs of God that we are through Christ. We seek to daily put on the new self, "which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator" (Col. 3:10), clothing ourselves with Christ whose blood makes our robes white as snow (see Rom. 13:14, Rev. 7:14). And we live with joy. For, He has promised, "Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, . . . Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city" (Rev. 22:12, 14). Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!