Creation | As we saw yesterday, the incarnation and death of Christ was a rescue operation . And the mark of our having been rescued is our new creation . Yet what does this “new creation” look like? Or, as N.T. Wright asks, “What are the character-forming habits that put together the genuine humans, the God-bearing, Spirit-filled humans, who will one day rule God’s new creation and sum up its praises?” 
Crucible | Wright’s answer – based largely on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians – is challenging: “In order to develop Christian character, the first step is suffering” . Paul wrote, “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” .
Crucifixion | Not only did Paul see the suffering of the Messiah as an essential foundation of the Christian life, he also saw the suffering that he himself inflicted on the church before his own conversion and also the persecution that he himself received after his conversion. As N.T. Wright reflected, “The tradition of ancient Israel within which Paul stood had come, slowly but surely, to understand suffering as somehow falling within the saving purposes of God. This finds expression particularly in books such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel, and of course in the Psalms. We know, in addition, that Paul made Jesus’ crucifixion thematic for his whole life and teaching, as we see in many places, perhaps particularly in 2 Corinthians” .
Prayer | Lord, Our fundamental value is not the pursuit of happiness, but rather the pursuit of fulfillment and significance. In taking up our crosses daily, we know that suffering is our first step toward holiness because it’s how you make us like Christ. Therefore, let us live in joyful anticipation of a life that we treasure even more than fleeting happiness – that is, a life that conforms to your will and enjoys eternal pleasures in your hand. Amen.
 2 Cor. 5:21 ESV (“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”) |  2 Cor. 5:17 ESV (“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”) |  N.T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. p. 177 |  Id. |  2 Cor. 6:5-10 ESV |  Id. at FN 3