Love that Motivates
How are you at forming and maintaining relationships?
For several years now, I have been acutely aware that I missed a great deal as I grew up. So many of the men that I enjoy learning from are men whose fathers played a critical role in their lives. I so often hear (and I am sure you do as well) of the impact good fathers have had on their children. I didn’t have a father. I didn’t have a heritage passed on to me. I didn’t have anyone teach me the basics of getting along in life—such as how to shave, how to raise kids, or how to love. I grew up hearing about love but I didn’t know what it was. My mother did her best but she didn’t know about love either. As a result, I had no heritage to pass to my kids; I had no blueprint for how to bring up my kids, or how to love people, especially my wife. I simply did not have a framework from which to draw. However, this issue did not excuse me to live a reckless life or to abandon the morals my heart told me were true. Thus, my search for truth went beyond my upbringing to push me into a foreign world of discovery. My quest was to discover what this idea of “love” was all about and to figure out how love related to the truth for which I was searching. Early in my Christian life, I had a desire to go to seminary. In discussing this with my wife, we decided that seminary was no place for a man who didn’t know how to love. Rather, my pilgrimage led me to become a scientist…that fit well into my sterile world of poor relationships. But I still sought to discover the relationship between “love” and “truth” and to become a man possessing God’s love and living out His truth in that love.
In the Bible, we learn that Paul lived his life through the application of Godly love and we see how that made the difference in his life, in my life, and hopefully in yours as well. We see from 2 Cor 5:12-21 that Christ’s love should compel us into a new life:
For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 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. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 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. 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. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The verses leading up to this passage explain why Christian behavior must be different from what we see in the world. Paul teaches that his salvation and eternal destiny were obtained by faith in Christ (Eph 2:8-9 For by grace…). In addition, the thought of one day standing before Christ (2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear…) impressed upon Paul the urgency of persuading men to “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). His personal defense indicates the trouble he was having in caring out that commission. Paul is declaring the purity of his motives and calling on the Corinthians to confirm this by their own experiences with him. Paul was not concerned about external credentials or associations. He was however genuinely concerned about the reception of his message. He needed to be regarded as a servant of Christ so that his message would be regarded as the message of God. If they took pride in him then they could answer their opponents, who looked on the outward appearance (what is seen) rather than what one is like inwardly (in the heart). There is a difference between the appearance of a man and the condition of his heart. Many people put on the image of following Christ, but they do not do what He demands.
To affirm his sincerity, Paul was willing to be thought a fool. Who but the insane would show such disregard for himself? Would a sane person go through what Paul did for the sake of the Gospel? (Faced riotous crowds, stoned, flogged, shipwrecked, etc.—All for Christ) Only his complete devotion to God could sustain him. He withstood all of this for the sake of people such as the Corinthians and you and me. What is Paul’s motive for living this way and why should you and I follow his lead?
I would suggest there are three components to answer this question:
- Christ’s love compels us toward a new way of life
- Christ’s sacrifice transforms us into a new citizenry
- Christ’s victory prepares us for ministry
Christ’s love compels us toward a new way of life (2 Cor 5:14-15)
The first compelling reason to live as Paul instructed us to live is “because Christ did.” Though possessing divine prerogatives, He willingly became incarnate and followed the path of obedience to the cross (Phil. 2:6-8—Who being in very nature God…). He died for all (not just the elect, as some suggest; 1 Tim. 2:6; Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2). By faith, Paul was identified with Jesus in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 2:20). And Paul lived with the same selfless abandon the Lord had. Christ’s love, which had converted Paul, now compelled him (we read a similar declaration in John’s first epistle 1 John 3:16—By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren).
Christ made himself sin on our behalf (2 Cor 5:21). This demonstrates the true love of God. We know that “God so love the world that He sent His only Son… (John 3:16) but it is also true that God demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8).
Love is at the heart of true ministry. Ravi Zacharias has said, “Conviction that is not undergirded by love makes the possessor of that conviction obnoxious and the dogma possessed becomes repulsive.” Thus, true ministry = love + truth (message).
Certainly, the love of God should be compelling us, controlling us, driving us as we conduct any activity. Paul’s concern is always the subjective application of the Savior’s objective work. All those who by faith entered into the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are to live spiritually. Through that same faith, the believer should live selflessly and participate in the ministry of reconciliation. Believers should no longer live for themselves but for Him (Gal 2:20—I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.). Paul was certainly doing this; therefore, we should also glory (boast) in Him (v. 12). He died for us so we no longer should live for ourselves (v. 14b – 15)
Christ’s sacrifice transforms us into a new citizenry (2 Cor 5:16-17)
The point Paul makes when he says he regarded no one according to the flesh literally means that God does not receive the face of man. He shows no partiality because of a man’s natural ability, his position, or his possessions in the various departments of human society. The only basis man has to face the justice of God comes through His Son. The death and resurrection of Christ paved the way for us to be reconciled to God and that by trusting in Christ we have an eternal citizenship with God. Our citizenship has changed. We are no longer of this world, but our citizenship is in heaven. Phil 3:20-21 says, “ For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” Our citizenship is in heaven. We need to understand that we do not belong to this world. What we are and what we do should be a reflection of Christ. Our calling is to bring our heavenly home here to this place and this time, so the world gets a glimpse of heaven. Our lives should reflect that we are “a new creation” on our way to a better place. We must ask ourselves this question, “How can we keep on living as the world lives when our bodies are the temple of God?” In all honesty, we cannot. We must live in a manner consistent with our new creation. That means being active participants in the issues of God (Church, outreach, prayer, devotion, fellowship, and in all these giving praise and adoration to God).
Christ’s victory prepares us for ministry (2 Cor 5:18-21)
Man’s natural relationship with God makes a ministry for God a futile effort. Before a rewarding ministry can be undertaken, the believer must be reconciled to God. Reconciliation is all about the restoration of relationship. It involves changing a person from enmity to friendship. God is not reconciled nor does He reconcile Himself, rather He reconciles us (or the world) to Himself.
- We are reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Rom 5:10)
- We are saved by His life, i.e. His resurrection
- Thus, the death and resurrection of Christ were necessary for us to become the new creation.
Reconciliation was made possible only by the death of Christ (Rom 5:10) when He was made sin for us (see Rom 3:23; 6:23). We were subsequently made God’s righteousness in Him (2 Cor 5:21).
At the time of salvation, man is transformed and the following become true
- The guilt and penalty of sin is removed
- The love of Christ controls us
- We no longer live for ourselves
- We have the power to walk in the Spirit
- Our job is to continue to reconcile the world to God, i.e. evangelism and discipleship become paramount
The believer is presented to God as holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. Thus, the believer stands complete in Him forever (Col 2:9—“and you are complete in Him”).
As a result, we become ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). An ambassador is an emperor’s emissary—one who speaks for the emperor. Paul was a representative on behalf of Christ. Paul also commissioned us to this same calling. We are now the righteousness of God. Righteousness is the right behavior that God requires of believers. Receiving God’s righteousness is the divine action whereby God puts a person right with Himself and it results in God’s righteousness becoming a dynamic power in the believer’s life.
Where are you in your pilgrimage with Jesus?
Are you ready to stand before Christ at His judgment seat? Have you believed in Him for eternal life? Or do you trust that your good works, heritage, or position is adequate to get you into heaven? What is your basis for claiming acceptance into God’s Kingdom? Have you come to grips with the fact that it is not about you, but it all about God? Does your life demonstrate that you are the righteousness of God? Are you fulfilling your job as an ambassador for Christ and carrying His message of reconciliation to the world? Where will you be spending eternity?
There is a difference between heaven and hell—have you done what is necessary to receive God’s gift?
Only you can answer these questions. We have an incredible Savor. He is the image of the invisible God. Only in Him and Him alone are we complete. When you get the Son, you get the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); there is no “except.” And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13). All others will be condemned (Rom 8:1).
He has given you so much. Won’t you serve Him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind by giving back to Him your very best?