Couldn’t love this woman more — Liz Curtis Higgs, a humble, wise (and funny!) author of 35 books, is one of my soul sisters. Together we’ve memorized Scripture, celebrated Christmas at the Farm, and wandered Shaker Village in Kentucky. Author of the bestsellers Bad Girls of the Bible, The Girl’s Still Got It, and The Women of Christmas, Liz has presented more than 1,700 inspirational programs in all 50 United States and 14 foreign countries — but she’s about as down to earth and warm and happiest grace as it gets. I just love her, and love her for coming by today. Have a seat on the farm’s front porch with us?
In my early attempts at writing I used exclamation points like condiments, sprinkling them all over the page.
My poor readers! Exhausted by the end of the first paragraph! Whew!
I’ve since learned to dial things down, but I do get excited when I find an exclamation point in the Bible:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
It’s all I can do not to stand up and shout, “Ta-da!”
So, mind if we unpack this one? It’s the first verse I memorized as a new believer, when I discovered God can make all things new.
Therefore,… 2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore is a summary word, taking into account all that came before it. This portion of the letter to the church at Corinth is about reconciliation. About being Christ’s ambassadors. About looking at our sisters and brothers of the faith through a new lens.
Therefore says, “Because of all Christ did for us, consider this.”
…if… 2 Corinthians 5:17
If is an open door, revealing endless possibilities and overflowing with hope. Jesus often used this word in His teaching: “if you have faith” and “if you knew the gift of God” and “if you remain in me.”
If makes us stop and ask, Who is this verse meant for? Am I invited?
…anyone… 2 Corinthians 5:17
Ah. Anyone definitely includes you. Whether we’re talking “any man” (ASV) or “any person” (AMPC), the pathway to eternal life is clearly lit, and the Lord Himself beckons us forward.
…is… 2 Corinthians 5:17
I know, I know. “Is, Liz? You’re focusing on the word is?” Absolutely. It’s the pivotal word in this verse. Either a person is or is not a follower of Christ. Though we are always growing in our faith, each of us has a defining moment.
That moment is defined by God, not by us.
When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” and Peter responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” the Lord didn’t congratulate Peter for being wise or clever. Instead, Jesus told him, “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) Peter made his confession of faith by God’s power alone.
I AM declares that I am. Not the other way around.
…in Christ,… 2 Corinthians 5:17
Some translations give the little word in a bit more muscle—“belongs to” (CEV), “united with” (CJB), “joined to” (GNT). The One in whom we live and move and have our being is what matters, which is why the word in cannot stand alone.
When we are in Christ, and He is in us, we are transformed.
…the new creation has come:… 2 Corinthians 5:17
God doesn’t just clean us up, fix us up, straighten us up. He recreates us in the image of His Son. He starts from scratch. He makes us new. In Christ we become “a new being” (GNT), “a new person” (NLT), “a new creature altogether” (AMPC). In Christ we get “a fresh start” (MSG).
What does that look like in real life? There are as many answers as there are people.
For me, a changed life decades ago looked like this:
I stopped drinking alcohol and started going to church.
I stopped using drugs and started reading the Bible.
I stopped sleeping with strangers and started making real friends.
I stopped running away and started putting down roots.
I stopped pretending I had all the answers and started asking God questions.
Through it all God loved me. That was the realization that undid me, in the best sense of the word. It shattered my misconceptions. It trampled my pride.
God didn’t just rock my world. God blew my world apart and then rebuilt it from the ground up.
…The old has gone,… 2 Corinthians 5:17
First, the icky stuff from our old lives must be pried from our stubborn hands and cast aside. Old habits, old ideas, old lies. My inclination is to tuck such things into the deep recesses of a drawer. Just in case I need them later. Just in case I miss them.
God has a better plan. He makes certain those old things have truly “gone away” (CEB) and “the past is forgotten” (CEV). Gone means gone. History. Out of sight, out of mind, out of reach.
Gone means good riddance. Really good.
…the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
See how the zippy exclamation point grabs our attention? The Greek word here is also rendered “behold” (ASV), “see” (NRSV), and my favorite, “Lo!” (WYC). Getting rid of the old would be exciting enough, yet God also brings in the new. A new gift, a new talent, a new calling.
Is it time to put aside something old, beloved?
To let go, to walk away, to start over?
Even now He is bringing new life to your doorstep.
Make Him welcome.
Let Him in.
Liz Curtis Higgs has one goal: to help people embrace the grace of God with joy and abandon. She’s the author of 35 books with 4.6 million copies in print, and her latest is 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart. In her new book, Liz offers a deeper, richer understanding of thirty-one treasured verses, a fresh look at how these timeless truths can impact our lives, and thirty-one creative ways to keep them in our hearts forever.
In 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart you’ll find words of hope you’re looking for when your faith needs a boost or a friend needs encouragement. Chosen by more than a thousand women as their favorite verses in the Bible, each one is worth learning, worth sharing, worth remembering. Liz is all kinds of brilliant and this gem of a book is a one every hearts needs — for all of us to come back to again and again.