I have been thinking a lot recently about 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. This past Sunday I shared it with the youth and college students at Temple Baptist. It says:
“For the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (ESV)
The reason I have been thinking about this passage recently is I have noticed a trend moving in the church today, especially in younger people, where everyone can just live their lives the way they want to while professing to be a Christian. One can live however they want to and everything is fine because God loves everyone. We can do whatever we want all because God loves us and wants us to have a good time in this life. He is a God of grace and mercy so you can lie, steal, cheat, lust, etc. as long as your choices are not as poor as the next person.
However, this passage does not in any way give that impression. In fact, it says the exact opposite. First, as a follower of Christ, we should be controlled by the love of Christ. There are many times I have to remind myself about this. If the love of Christ is not controlling me as a follower of Christ, then what is controlling me? Nothing else should control me and have a tighter grip on my life than Jesus Christ. How can the love of Christ control me? It takes work and effort on our part. One does not become a follower of Christ and never have to work at living for God. Daily living for the Lord takes discipline and Bible reading and prayer and allowing God’s Spirit to guide you. This does not come easily to everyone. But that is what it truly takes to live a life controlled by the love of God.
Along the same lines, why should the love of Christ control us? Because of the Gospel. Verse 14 states the Gospel in a simple way, “One (Jesus) has died for all, therefore, all (followers of Christ) have died.” That is the Gospel clearly stated. We deserved to die the death Jesus died in our place, or on our behalf, or for our sake. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves. This is the essence of sin, living for ourselves. It is the very thing that caused Adam and Eve to sin. They wanted to live for themselves and fell for the lie of Satan that God was holding out on them and that their best life was right on the other side of eating the fruit of the tree God told them not to eat of. We are still trying to eat of that fruit even though God has given us His Word to show us the better way to live, His way. His is the way which leads to everlasting joy and peace, not temporary happiness and pleasure.
Moses chose to be with God in the wilderness than have the pleasures of Egypt without Him. By choosing to live for ourselves, we choose to live in the pleasures of Egypt apart from God while still trying to experience God in the wilderness. However, as you read through the Old Testament, we see that did not play out in the Israelites favor. Moses chose to let God lead Him and control his life.
This brings us to the end of the passage above: “might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” The part translated as “for their sake” in ESV, in the NASB is translated as “on their behalf.” When someone does something on your behalf, it is done in your place and no longer needs to be done. This means since Jesus died on the cross, we no longer need to pay for our sins because it is already done. Nothing we do can help pay more or less for our sins. Nothing we do can bring more grace to our lives and nothing can take grace away from our lives. God loves us all the same no matter what we choose to do with our lives. This means God loves the most faithful pastor of a mega church or small town church the same as He loves Osama Bin Laden. Thus, because all God did for us, we are to live our lives to Him. As followers of Christ we can no longer say “it is my life, I can do what I want.” Everything we do, from eating to how we dress to how we talk to what we watch on TV or listen to on the radio should all be done out of love for Christ.
But how is this possible? This seems pretty legalistic and rigid don’t you think? To say that God wants us to consider Him in everything we do is crazy. Two more passages:
Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
It is not legalistic, it is what Christ desires from us as His followers. Read what Galatians 2:19-20 says:
“For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
These verses contain the same idea as 2 Corinthians 5. Lastly, look at Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” What are the desires of the flesh? You can simply say it is the desire to live for ourselves. Can you imagine a world where followers of Christ truly had this mindset instead of the mindset that I can do what I want? If we are a follower of Christ, we cannot live the way we want because our lives are no longer our own, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) Can it be any clearer?
To close, I don’t want this post to only sound negative and restrictive because that is not how God presents Himself. God tells us many times that life in Him is the abundant life. Life lived according to His Word brings life. The more we live for ourselves, the more we become slaves to it and to our own passions which is in direct contrast to what God desires for us. God wants our very best. Living for ourselves does not bring us the very best. It eventually leads to a less satisfying life for many reasons, more than I will take time to go into here. But I would urge you as a follower of Christ to look at your life. What is controlling you and guiding you? Only God’s love can lead to the most fulfilling life regardless of your current circumstances and situations.
When asked why we live how we live, may our response be “for the Love of Christ controls us.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. It is always my prayer that this encourages you and challenges you in your walk with the Lord. Feel free to pose any comments or thoughts.