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All Things New

We were trying to figure out what to do for outreach. It was a beautiful day, a rare occasion for the stormy, cold and strangely snowy March we had this year. My friend Robin suggested that we take advantage of the good weather and go down to the park by the river. It would be a nice break from our normal door-to-door routine, and besides, there were bound to be others seizing the opportunity to spend some time in the sun. Maybe we could meet people in an organic way and have more natural conversations than the oftentimes awkward interactions we were having with people at their doors. Matt and I agreed to the plan, and we set out for the park. Little did we know that God had something else in mind for us that afternoon.

As we rounded the corner at the top of the hill leading down to the park, we passed by Fred, a man we had met the previous week. Fred was a resident at the homeless shelter down the street from the park. He had come to the shelter about three months earlier after serving a 37 year prison sentence. We had an amazing conversation with Fred when we initially met, which is a testimony of its own. But my story today is actually about Fred’s friend, Kevin, who was walking with him that day.

Kevin was an older man, not quite a senior citizen, but older than my parents. He walked with a limp and stooped over slightly when he stood. He seemed very grateful when we offered him and Fred a ride down to the shelter. As he slid gingerly into his seat, he explained that he was having a hard day physically. We asked him about his injuries and he rolled up his pant leg to reveal a nasty, Y-shaped scar going down the sides of his knee and front of his shin. He told us how he had been hit by a car a few years ago and how his knee was held together by a bunch of pins. The accident messed up his whole body; not only did his knee get crushed, but he had all kinds of back issues, and his herniated discs, torn ligaments, and improperly healed bones kept him in a state of constant pain. We offered to pray for him, and he responded with something like, “I’ll take all the prayer I can get.”

We parked the car and found a little plastic chair at the front of the shelter for Kevin to sit in. We crowded around him, squishing together so we could all lay our hands on his knee, while Fred looked on expectantly—he had been healed of his own back issues and sciatica when we prayed for him the previous week. I closed my eyes and waited, but after a long moment of silence I peeked around and saw Matt, Robin, and Kevin all staring at me. I took a deep breath and prepared to launch into our formula for success; thank God for His love, command the knee to be healed in Jesus’ name, and tell Kevin to do something he couldn’t do before, like bend his knee all the way. But before I started to pray, a verse sprung into my mind, loud and clear. The verse was 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

I began thanking God for His incredible, everlasting love for His son Kevin. I thanked Him for being with Kevin throughout His life, in the good times and bad, and for never leaving nor forsaking him. As I thanked and praised God, I felt His presence come down and envelop us. My heart filled with the love of God for Kevin, and I thanked God that no matter what Kevin had been through, that no matter what mistakes he’d made, that He was able to make all things new. I heard Kevin crying softly, which made me tear up too as I realized that God was touching his heart. It was a powerful moment that I’ll always remember.

After we prayed, we asked Kevin to do something with his knee that he couldn’t do before. He told us he couldn’t kneel without feeling pain and that if he knelt he wouldn’t be able to stand back up on his own. We encouraged him to try, and after a moment of hesitation, he knelt down on the ground. Immediately he exclaimed that he felt no pain. Then we asked him to stand up, and this time there was no hesitation. He stood up and started crying again, brought to tears by his radical encounter with the reality of the love of God.
For me, the best part of this testimony is what happened next. I was all pumped because of the miracle we just witnessed, so I was excited to pray for Kevin’s back. But when I asked Kevin about it, he said his back had no pain either! He twisted from side to side and bent over to touch his toes. He said there was no way he would’ve been able to do that before with his herniated discs. I was shocked - we had prayed for his knee, but I didn’t mention his back at all during my prayer. Kevin seemed to notice my surprise and tried to explain. “I just got healed all over man,” he said, pointing to his heart.

It wasn’t the most erudite theological statement ever made. There are probably Ellen White quotes that explain what happened more clearly. But what Kevin said has really stuck with me these past few months. He showed me that he wasn’t healed because I laid hands on him. He wasn’t healed because I’d been spending a lot of time studying the Bible and praying and fasting. He was healed because he believed something—that in Christ, all things really do become new. That simple but profound truth has the power to transform, to restore, and even to bring physical healing. When Kevin realized that God was willing and able to wipe out his whole past and give him a brand new life - when that truth really struck his heart—even the bones and tissues in his body came into line with that truth.

In fact, I would say that the physical healing, although an awesome manifestation of the power of God, was just a minor miracle pointing to the greater miracle that takes place in the heart when someone receives Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. True redemption involves so much more than just going to heaven one day. Forgiveness is more than being let off the hook. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” - Psalm 103:12. When God looks at us as if we’ve never sinned, it’s not because He’s too blinded by grace to see us clearly. He really does make all things new.

We’re so broken by the hurts we’ve experienced, the shame and guilt from the things we’ve done, and the overall state of the world we grow up in. The amazing thing is that when Christ makes us new, those things become old and pass away. He totally separates us from our brokenness and makes us completely whole. And it’s not just a theological idea that’s true on paper - there really is a brand new life in Christ! Like Kevin, I find myself at a loss for words to explain it. All I can say is that the reality of being made new is even better than the concept of it. The psalmist urges us to taste and see that the Lord is good. Paul encourages us to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, a love that is greater than anything that can be described or figured out and must be experienced to be understood. When we’re truly touched by the reality of that love, not just the idea of it, we’re transformed. We become new creations. Old things pass away; behold, all things have become new.

Christian Chung is a Bible Worker for Westchester Korean SDA Church. He likes to play the guitar, frisbee, and hiking. Most of all, he loves to share the love of Christ.

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