“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” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV).
Tuesday we discussed the difference between trying to change by our own efforts (like New Year’s resolutions) and being changed by the Holy Spirit as we grow to love God more (new creatures in Christ). We tend to work more in the direction of resolutions because the concept is easy to grasp.
When we try to make changes in our lives we are following the world’s wisdom: set a goal, work hard to achieve that goal, persevere and conquer. To our natural minds this makes perfect sense. And to be sure, before we became Christians there really was no other logical way to effect change.
But then the impossibly high standard of holiness was brought near through Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection. In a moment, when we believed in Jesus, we were made righteous. Our past sins were no longer even a bad memory. Jesus died for all. We went from serving Sin, where we were without choice or chance to do good (Romans 14:23), to submitting ourselves, willingly, to serve our Savior. Bob Dylan said it so succinctly:
…You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But your gonna have to serve somebody
In serving Christ, we become more like Him. He told His disciples in the upper room after washing their feet, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master…” (John 13:15-16 ESV).
Jesus’ death was _substitutionary_, meaning He died in your place and mine. It was our execution; He stepped in. We owe him everything!
“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” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV emphasis mine).
We love Him because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). His death meant our life.
So how does the love of Christ control us? How do we become more holy without relying on our own strength? One answer is that in living our lives for Him we acquire His love and His attributes. We stop doing sinful things because, in our love for Jesus, we have lost our taste for those things. We no longer desire them because we are being transformed into His image, and there is no sin in His image! “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory go the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV).
From time to time I write harshly about sin. I am usually preaching to myself as well as to all who desire to be like Jesus. And I honestly believe that sometimes that’s the kind of message that we need. But I want to be abundantly clear: I don’t believe that we have the power, in our own strength, to overcome sin. We need the cleansing blood of Christ, and the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, working in us and through us to transform our lives to the image of Christ.
Blessings on your day!