The Aesthetics of New Birth (Easter Printable)

After watching the trees bloom this spring, I thought I’d pull a post from the archives about the new life available through Christ. I hope this Easter is as magical for you as the moment you were first resurrected to walk in newness of life through Him who was resurrected from the grave. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Easter printable at bottom of post.

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Each spring I marvel at the loveliness of the pear blossoms in my yard. I admire them. I take pictures of them. I point them out to family members as we sit on the back porch.

And each spring, their glorious garb paints a vivid portrait for me of the aesthetics of new birth – a picture mirrored in Paul’s beloved passage on a believer’s new life in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:15-20.

Day 2

Second Corinthians 5:17 declares to young and old alike: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!” This verse is often solely quoted with respect to newness of life, yet within the context of the whole of chapter five, there are even deeper and lovelier truths to be revealed.

For example, I am only able to admire my tree’s Easter dress, because it first underwent a type of death. Months prior to my spring-time admiration, the very same tree looked bleak and tired. Its branches were dry and crackled in wintery winds. Yet, while the tree appeared the very picture of barrenness and dormancy, there was a biological life cycle operating deep within its withered frame. In order for my tree to produce the blossoms of new life, it must first endure a wintery death. Paul argues from this very logical conclusion regarding our life in Christ in verse 14.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;” (2 Cor. 5:14)

Day 2

Paul means that believers are new creations, not simply because Christ transforms us into something new and brilliant, but primarily because we experienced a death first. Notice Paul says that we have “all died.” Clearly, this is the ‘how’ of new birth; a substitutionary death has taken place. Paul indicates that because “One died for all” consequently “all have died.” And who is this One who died for all? It is the person Jesus Christ.

TRUTH 1: New birth is preceded by death and comes as a result of the substitutionary death of One.

The blossoms of new life spring forth in us not by the work of our own hands, and neither by karma nor pure luck, but by the death that was first experienced by the One, Jesus Christ.

Day 2

These verses compel us to believe that the death experienced by One should have been ours, yours (Rom. 3:23). Scripture tells us that sin has corrupted our hearts (Matt. 15:19). And like a tree with rotting roots, our lives are incapable of producing the fresh and lovely fruit we were intended to create.

New life, then, is not simply a second chance. New life is not merely a clean slate, nor is it beating the odds. Rather new life is the purposeful work of our Creator in our everyday life as he renews our hearts (Ezek. 36:26). And it certainly begs the question: for what purpose are we brought into new life? What does it look like?

Day 3

In verse 15, Christ’s death and life communicate the pattern for new birth; Christ sacrificed himself (death) so that we might live (Phil. 2:8). Our new birth, then, is embedded with a similar truth. Paul says in verse 15 that believers who are born to new life are obligated to mirror this self-sacrifice – but in a different way. New birth must be purposed with self-sacrifice, but our sacrifice comes not through death, but rather, through how we live. We are no longer to live for ourselves. That means we are no longer to put ‘self’ first – setting aside self-interest and desires in deference to others. It is a simple truth made difficult by corrupted and rotting hearts: we are no longer to consider our own personal good first (1 Cor. 15:31).

Day 5

This reality is patterned in Paul’s life as well. When he writes in verse 14 that he is “compelled” or “restricted” by the love of Christ, Paul means that Christ’s love restricts him from thinking of himself first. In his new birth, Paul is a changed man – no longer living for self-accolades or position, but living for and by the power of Christ (Gal. 2:20). Paul is clear in verse 15. The sacrifice comes when we choose to live not for ‘self,’ but for the One who enabled our new life in the first place through his own death and resurrection to life.

This is the ‘why’ of new birth. The paradox of new life, then, means our new birth is purposed so that we might die to ‘self’ and live for Another. Who is this individual Paul is asking us to orient our new lives around? The One who died in our place and “rose again.” The One who in his death and resurrection conquered death once and for all (Rom. 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15: 53-55; 2 Timothy 1:10; Act 2:24; Revelation 1:18 ). The One who IS life (John 14:6).

TRUTH 2: New birth is purposed with self-sacrifice.

Day 5

Two “therefore’s” follow the paradox of new birth – dying to self so that we might live for Another.

“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” (2 Cor. 5:16)

First, the principle of new life spills over into how we view others. Paul is setting us up for something here.  He wants us to understand that the principle of new birth reaches not only into the depths of our own life, but it spills over into the lives of all individuals who are reborn in Christ. “Therefore,” Paul says, we are required to view others as individuals for whom Christ has died. Simply put: if they have a relationship with Christ, then Christ has died for them and given them new life. New birth touched not only the apostle’s own heart, but it changed how he viewed the hearts of those around him as well.

Day 5

For Paul, the neglect of this truth was found in his hasty judgment of believers and Christ pre-salvation. Viewing believers “from a worldly point of view” (NIV), Paul judged according to appearances and not according to the principles of new birth (2 Cor. 5:16).  To Paul’s unenlightened eyes, Christ and the early church were foolish, of ignoble birth and poor standing in society.

Yet, the apostle discovered that when he truly sacrificed ‘self’ and choose to live for Christ, viewing others as partakers of new life became much easier. The same is true today. When we live for Christ, we tend to afford others more room to make mistakes without fear of reprisal. We tend to extend help to others with a willing and gracious spirit. We tend to dwell in a mindset of forgiveness and peace. In short, we live not in the flesh, but in the “Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom. 8:1-11).

Paul sketches out a second conclusion on top of his portrait of new birth. Secondly, not only does the principle of new life spill over into how we view others, but perhaps most importantly, the principle of new life changes how we view reality in total.

Day 6

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

New life in Christ means a new creation has been birthed. A new creation in which “old things have passed away” and “all things have become new.” The NIV says it simply: “The old has gone, the new is here!”

With respect to individuals, we see the old flesh has passed away. Baptism provides us a vivid picture of this reality. Water immersion symbolizes a death has taken place; we have died to our old way of life, our old habits, our own desires, our own self-interest. It is solemn act graphically tying us to the substitutionary death of Christ, who physically died in our stead. Likewise, being raised from the depths of the water to “walk in newness of life” symbolizes our participation in Christ’s own and unique resurrection to life. In this ordinance we are given a complete picture of the regeneration that has occurred through and because of Christ. Christ’s death brings us new life (all things become new), and his death conquers our own death (old things pass away).

Day 8

Yet, I believe Paul intended much more in this iconic verse than the mere transformation of individuals. Elsewhere in Scripture, we see similar terminology used with respect to the Messianic Kingdom at the end of the age. In Is. 42, the great Prophet speaks of the coming Servant who will save the people from sin: Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” But the new things of which Isaiah speaks centers on the coming new creation: For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Is. 65:17).

If Paul is borrowing from Isaianic imagery, then the scope of the new creation in 2 Cor. 5 touches not only individuals who are transformed into new life, but all nature and all reality. One day all things – the entire cosmos – will be made new. Through Christ, God will restore the entire cosmos to his original, perfect, pre-sin plan, and the old, corrupted paradigm for life will cease to exist. Furthermore, Paul indicates the newness of the creation will be fashioned with such unprecedented grandeur that we will no longer be capable of calling to mind the old way of life.

Day 8

I like to think in my blooming Bradford Pear tree, God has given me an annual reminder of his plan for the cosmos. When warm spring winds awaken its branches to new life, evidence of change begins. And very soon those bare and crackly limbs are transformed into a dress of brilliant green. The effects of winter are remembered no more. As Paul says, “old things have passed away” and “all things have been made new.”

Yet, following Paul’s lead, I would be remiss to isolate the pattern of new birth to my Bradford pear tree alone. The new creation of 2 Cor. 5 entails much more than simply the transformation of people. There is a greater reality at work in Christ’s death, and it includes the regeneration of all creation. It is in light of this reality that Paul calls us to live our lives. That means we must view our hurts, our circumstances, and our purpose through the lens of this reality – this coming cosmic restoration.

This is one of the reasons why I believe in new birth over re-birth, or as some Eastern religions believe, re-incarnation. Central to the tenet of re-birth via reincarnation is the belief that matter (the mind and body) is essentially a hindrance to salvation. It is only after a soul has transcended worldly matters and become unified with the supreme absolute that a person will be liberated from the physical realm and the endless and enslaving cycle of reincarnation.

Yet interestingly in 2 Cor. 5: 17, Paul says “the old things have passed away” meaning they cease to exist in any form. The verb “pass away” is in the aorist tense and indicates it is completed action. The old self has passed away completely, perfectly, entirely. Conversely, Paul indicates the newness brought about by the death of Christ is a continuing newness. The verb “have become new” is written in the perfect tense. Whatever is made new will continue to be new into the indefinite future. What does all this mean?

It means that through the substitutionary death of cross, we become the eternal recipient of new life. The new birth of Christ never ends. How is this possible? At the time of conversion, believers are indwelt with the Spirit of Christ. He continually convicts us, continually cleanses us, continually advocates on our behalf, and continually testifies to the throne of God that we are in fact sons and daughters of God (Rom. 8:14-17; 1 John 3:1-3). Ultimately, our new birth is both permanent and continual – a very different perspective than the “repeated births” of reincarnation.[1]

In short, Christ’s death brings us new life (“all things become new”) and Christ’s death conquers our own death (“old things pass away”). On the other hand, the re-birth associated with re-incarnation is brought about not as a consequence of the death and life of Another, but as a consequence of human failure. With respect to Paul’s writings, we see a very different perspective of reality. The apostle, clearly echoing the totality of Christian Scriptures, testifies that man dies but one death. Consider Heb 9: 27-28:  “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.”

So, while we await a final resurrection and restoration into the complete image of God, the destiny of every soul in the world is dependent on the life and death of Jesus Christ – whether it is acknowledged or not. According to Paul, then, the principle of new birth compels us to view reality in light of God’s redemptive plan for human history.

Day 12

But that doesn’t mean we should allow the big picture of God’s activity in the world to eclipse the reality of day-to-day living. Paul tells us in verse 18 that God has given us a significant role to play in His story for the universe.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,” (2 Cor. 5:18)

God allows us to participate in His plan to “reconcile” the universe back to Himself. Reconciliation simply means the “bringing together of two parties that are estranged or in dispute.”[2] The act of reconciling contains within it the notion of a “change” or “exchange.”

Paul says the role you and I have been given, then, is a “ministry of reconciliation.” We bear a ministry of change. We testify to the change, or put more aptly – the exchange – that occurs in our life through Christ. What is this ministry of reconciliation? It is the news that our trespasses are not imputed to us, Paul says in verse 19.

“That is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19)

To impute is to set “someone’s account or reckoning something to another person.”[3] It is a forensic term.

God imputes to us what we do not deserve (grace and righteousness) rather than what we truly deserve (punishment for sin). Yet because his holiness requires justice to be carried out against trespasses against him, he cannot simply overlook or ignore our sin. To do so, would be to leave my once-lovely Bradford Pear Tree to rot from disease, not lifting a finger to remedy or stave off the progression of its impending death. It would be as an unloving or lazy gardener that I would ignore the disease choking the life out of my tree.

However, Paul assures us that our Loving Gardener has found a way to satisfy both his holy justice and great love toward his creation. God’s garden is reconciled (made new and lovely once again) through the substitionary death of Another. Our trespasses are no longer imputed to us, but rather, imputed to Christ, who lived a sinless and perfect life, dying in our place.

Day 12

Paul began his passage on new birth by speaking of death, specifically, the death of One. Verse 14 says: “…if One died for all, then all died… .” Paul indicated that this individual died the death of all humanity. He died the death that should have been ours. He died the death of a sinner convicted of grievous and eternal trespasses, although in him was found no sin (Is. 53:9; Heb. 4:15). The Divine Gardener lovingly, sacrificially, and willingly absorbed the disease of his plant into himself so that we might experience newness of life and be reconciled to him. As a gardener tends his disease plaguing his garden, new birth is solely the work of God in Christ on our behalf.

As a tree which has been spared from rot and disease, then, we testify to the goodness of the Gardener who tended to our wounds and made us new again. And this task of testifying to the news of new birth (reconciliation) has been given to you and to me. In verse 18, Paul calls us “ambassadors.” Being an ambassador means we bear news of reconciliation, but we also demonstrate reconciliation as well in word and action.

And according to this iconic passage, the results of new birth are two-fold.

  • First, through Christ God reconciles us to Himself (vs. 18-19).
  • And second, through Christ God gives us a ministry of reconciliation (vs. 20).

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20)

Consider my lovely Bradford Pear Tree once again.

During the spring, the tree is a diligent and effective ambassador, its delicate white blossoms heralding to me that a greater change is coming. Yet it is only after its floral adornments have changed into broad flat leaves that I have noticed springtime breezes have stretched into warmer winds of summer. And when the tree exchanges its lush green dress for a brilliant garb of orange, red, and yellow, I know that indeed another change is imminent. The cycle of the seasons both herald and demonstrate to me new life imparted by the Gardener, and the cycle of its changing foliage testifies to a coming change in both season and life.

This weekend, many of us will gather in churches or communities to celebrate our new life in Christ. We will buy new clothes for Easter Sunday. We will decorate our homes with symbols of new life and spring. We will play games with our children that encourage them to consider the meaning of the Resurrection in everyday objects like brightly colored plastic eggs.

Day 12

But this Easter season, let us not relegate our new birth to a past event – the specific date and time we entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Let us remember that because of the Spirit’s constant working in our heart, new life is celebrated each moment of every day as we continually dwell in newness of life.

Let us remember that our new birth means our daily lives are purposed for a ministry of reconciliation.

Let us remember we are ambassadors of an impending change of cosmic proportions, and the fruits of our lives should testify not only to what God has done in our lives, but what he will do and has promised to do in the future. Promises God has patterned into the beauty of brilliant blossoms and the aesthetics of spring.

Happy Resurrection Day! It is a day we celebrate our new birth wrought through the death of Another.


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[1] Ravi Zacharias, New Birth or Rebirth: Jesus Talks with Krishna(Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2008) 64.

[2] Charles Brand, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003), 1368.

[3] Charles Brand, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003), 812.

About melissa deming

Melissa Deming is a freelance writer transplanted from Texas to Pennsylvania with her husband of ten years, Jonathan, and two-year-old identical twins, Zacharias and Jonah. The family serves at a Southern Baptist church plant in Pittsburgh - Living Faith Community Church. Melissa is a regular correspondent for The Southern Baptist TEXAN newspaper and Crossroads magazine of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. She is also the creator and author of HiveResources.com - a site designed to sweeten a woman's walk with Christ through devotional articles, book reviews, and giveaways. Melissa holds a Masters of Divinity in Women’s Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, and a B.A. in Journalism from Texas A&M University.