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
I want to walk through these verses today and hear what God says to us in them and through them, so that we can enter into all the good that he offers.
“The love of Christ controls us” (5:14). That is an amazing and marvelous statement: The love of Christ controls us. What would it mean to be ‘controlled’ by the love of Christ?
I want to give you some words that describe how we might relate to the love of Christ. I’m going to give them in order, so that each one is deeper, richer, and fuller than the ones that went before. I am not going to ask for a show of hands, but I want you to mark your own card, as it were, as we go through this.
All of us can put a check mark against this. We have heard of the love of Jesus. Many of you have heard that Christ loves you since you were very young. Even if you know nothing about Christianity at all, you cannot read the Bible for long, or be in this church for very long before you hear about the love of Christ.
Most of us will put a check mark against this. You believe that Christ loves you. You look back to when you came to believe this.
Many of us will check this box. The love of Christ is more than something out there for me, more than something I’ve believed in. His love has been poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
Some of us would pause over this box. You hold your pen and you say, “Is this true of me?” Would you say that you are filled with the love of Christ? Paul prays for Christians that we would have strength to know the height, depth, breadth, and length of the love of Christ. And then Paul prays for them to be filled.
How marvelous would that be? To relate to the love of Christ in such a way that your empty tank is filled with the love of Christ. But friends, what Paul speaks about in our verses today goes even higher. The word he uses goes beyond even being filled.
The love of Christ controls us! To be controlled by the love of Christ means to be energized by this love and moved into action and directed by it.
To be filled with the love of Christ would mean that you enjoy this love. But to be controlled by the love of Christ means that others are touched by this love through you.
Here is something marvelous. This is at the height of what can happen in the life of a Christian believer in this world – to be controlled by the love of Christ.
Paul is going to tell us how! How can I be controlled by the love of Christ? How can the love of Christ be more to me than something I have heard and believed? How can my life be moved and energized by the love of Christ?
It’s worth pausing here to think about all the things that might be suggested at this point.
It would be an interesting exercise in the life groups this week to brainstorm all the answers that you have heard suggested as to how you can have a deeper experience of the love of Christ. Then look at what The Scripture says and it will blow you away.
“The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded…” (5:14). Paul then states two settled convictions about what happened through the death of Jesus Christ. We will see what they are in a moment, but I want to pause here because there is something very important to learn about how your head and your heart are connected.
Many Christians are confused about the relationship between the head and the heart. I would like to have a dollar for every time I’ve heard this statement over the past 35 years: “I believed it in my head, but it was not in my heart.”
But here’s what I have found. When the love of Christ is missing in the heart, the settled convictions that Paul lays out here are usually missing in the mind. And when the settled convictions that we will look at today are active in the mind, the knowledge of the love of Christ is usually present in the heart. These two go together.
Here’s the principle: Whatever grips your mind controls your heart. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:1). That’s where it starts. Always remember that your heart is a follower more than a leader. Heart follows mind.
That’s why on the road to Emmaus Jesus first opened up the Scriptures and taught the disciples, and then afterwards their hearts burned within them (Luke 24:32). Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.
When an impulse or affection grows in your heart it is always good to ask why. What conviction has settled in my mind that would give rise to this affection in my heart? A false belief lies behind every misdirected affection. If you trace the affections of your heart to their source, you will find some conviction in the mind that a particular way of life or course of action is what will make you happy.
Someone in our congregation send me these words this week (and I’m using them with permission). “When I was growing up, I thought each stage would bring more worth. When I get this husband, then I will feel loved. When I finally have kids, then I will be important. Then I got all of these things – the husband, this kids, the good job – and you know what? I was still a mess.”
Do you see what this lady is saying? My heart was set on husband, kids, and job, because I thought (there’s the settled conviction in the mind that is driving the heart) that this would bring me more worth. What grips the mind controls the heart. Your heart is a follower more than a leader.
The love of Christ controls us because we have concluded! Paul is going to give us two settled convictions and when they are active in the mind the love of Christ will control the heart. Are you ready to hear what they are? The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this:
One has died for all, therefore all have died. (2 Cor. 5:14)
To understand the changes that Jesus brings to death, it is important to remember that death can be one of two things: 1) A passing into condemnation or 2) An entrance into celebration. These two are incomparably different.
It is almost impossible to imagine what either of these things (entering into condemnation or entering into celebration) would mean for us, because both of them are so far from anything any of us have experienced. So we need the Bible to give us some insight into what it will be like to pass into condemnation and what it will be like to enter into celebration.
Be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. For whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.” (Ex. 19:11-12)
Exodus 19 tells us the story of how God came down to Mount Sinai, and it is significant because it took place before God had given all of the sacrifices that pointed forward to Jesus Christ. Then we are given a description of God’s appearing that is quite terrifying.
Get in your mind a million people gathered together near the foot of a mountain, and the people are behind barriers.
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. (Ex. 19:16)
All the people trembled. That means not a single person was saying, “I’m not very impressed so far.” No one was saying, “I don’t believe.”
Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. (Ex. 19:17-18)
Mount Sinai is about 7,500 feet tall, and God came down to the top of the mountain. That means when God came down he was about 7,500 feet away. To give you some perspective, that’s about five times the height of the Sears Tower or what is now called the Willis Tower in Chicago. And the people trembled.
That’s why the Bible says “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31). This is what the presence of a holy God will be like for sinners without Christ – the sheer terror of standing in the presence of a holy God without a sacrifice.
Death can be and will be one of two things for every person. It can be a passing into condemnation. But it does not have to be that. It can be…
The book of Hebrews is written to people who have believed and trusted Jesus Christ. It tells these people what is true of them. The writer recalls the scene from Exodus 19, and he says:
You have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”
Even Moses was shaking with fear. Well, if Moses was shaking with fear, what would it be like for us? But the terror of entering the presence of God without a sacrifice, without a mediator, is not what you have come to.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Heb. 12:22-24)
The scene here could hardly be different. Please understand that the writer is not describing heaven and hell. The contrast here is between standing before God without Jesus and without a sacrifice and without a mediator, and standing before God with Jesus and his shed blood applied to your life.
Without Christ, death would be a passing into condemnation. With Christ, death will be an entering into celebration. “One has died for all, therefore all have died” (2 Cor. 5:14). Jesus entered the death that you would have died, so that when death comes for you it will not be a passing into condemnation but an entrance into celebration.
Christ passed into our condemnation to bring us into his celebration. Passing into condemnation happened at the cross as far as you are concerned if you are in Christ. All that is left when death comes for you is entering into celebration.
The love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this… 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 Cor. 5:14-15)
The default death of every person, apart from Jesus Christ, is passing into condemnation. The default of every person, apart from Jesus Christ, is living for yourself. Now let’s pause on this phrase, “no longer live for themselves.”
One of the barriers that holds many people back from knowing, being filled with, and being controlled by the love of Christ, is the idea that true happiness can only be found if I am free to live for myself.
Living for yourself is the default life of every person. This means that unless something happens to bring a change we end up living for ourselves. The Bible says this quite clearly:
“All seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:21).
I want you to see the absolute misery of this position.
Those who live might no longer live for themselves. (2 Cor. 5:15)
It is a dangerous thing to serve an uncrowned king. Self is a pretender to the throne of God. This is a very dangerous thing to do because what happens to self and its servants when the true king returns?
If you live for yourself, you make yourself both the boss and the servant. You put yourself on both sides of the ledger. You are the one who is served and you are the one who does the serving. The demands you set are the demands you must meet. The experience of the person who lives for self is like ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul,’ and you are always in a conflict.
If you live for yourself you will often find yourself in the strange position of beating yourself up because you are unhappy. Here are some examples:
You look in the mirror and ‘self the boss’ is not happy because she wants to have a more pleasing image. So she beats up on ‘self the servant’ for not being pretty enough.
You look at your life, and ‘self the boss’ says you should have accomplished more. So, who’s to blame? ‘Self the servant’ gets beaten up for not measuring up.
Then suppose at some point, you say to yourself, “This is no good, I am living for myself and I am not happy. I’m being too hard on myself. I need to lighten up and give myself a break.” So that’s what you do, but here’s the problem: You are still not happy because while ‘self the servant’ is let off the hook, ‘self the boss’ is no longer being served!
Living for yourself is an absolute nightmare. When you lay self out as the master, you end up being crushed as the servant. Then when you lighten up as the servant, you end up being shortchanged as the master. You cannot possibly win! And all around us is a culture that says, “Live for yourself!”
If you live for yourself, who can reward you? Who is there to smile on you when your work is done? Who is there to embrace you and to rejoice with you when your work is done? If you live for yourself who can ever say to you, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into your master’s joy?”
One day you look up and you find that you are alone. There is no smile. There is no “Well done!” There is no love and there is no joy, because the one for whom all your work has been done is yourself.
Human beings have a default life and a default death. The default life is that we live for ourselves. The default death is that we pass into condemnation. Christ died our default death to change our default life.
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 Cor. 5:14-15
We have concluded this… 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 Cor. 5:15).
This whole verse is about Jesus. This is the significance of the story of the rich young ruler. Here was someone who was obviously moral, deeply religious and concerned that all would be well for him in eternity.
Have you discovered that being moral and religious will never free you from the misery of living for yourself? Moral and religious people can be as selfish as they come. Because being moral and being religious do not have the power to break the default life of living for self.
That was true of the rich young ruler. He was living for himself. He wanted everything he could get in this world and then he wanted heaven too. So when Jesus said, “Sell what you have and come follow me,” the man went away sad.
A Christian is a person who no longer lives for himself or herself, but for Christ who died for their sake and was raised.
Those who live might no longer live for themselves. (2 Cor. 5:15)
You have lived long enough for yourself. Why would you carry on any longer in the misery of trying to be your own Lord and Savior?
Why would you not say today, “Jesus, I’m so done with living for myself. No longer! In the light of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished on my behalf, and the purpose that he had in view, I can no longer live for myself. I must give myself to him and live for him, so that his love will control me.”
We have concluded this: that one has died for all. (2 Cor. 5:14)
“He died for all.” So, there is hope for you for this reason: Everything that God has done in Jesus Christ on the cross to change life and to change death can be yours today. There are no exclusions. Nobody is beyond the bounds of the grace that God has poured out in Jesus.
Christ died for all. There is love in the heart of Christ for all. Christ can fill you with this love. He can change you through this love. Notice Paul says, “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 Cor. 5:14-15).
You cannot serve a dead savior. Indeed, a dead savior would be a contradiction in terms. Only a living savior is able to deliver you from the misery of living for yourself and bring you into the joy of living for him.
This Christ who died for all, was raised! He is the living Savior. This Savior can change the face of death for you! This Savior can change the course of life for you!
Come to him. Tell him that you that you see your need of him and that you have come to see that your only hope is in him. Tell him you are tired of living for yourself. Place your life into his hands and give yourself to him. Ask him to make you his own. Ask him to forgive your many sins. Ask him to lead you into a new life.
Settle these convictions in your mind today: Jesus died in your place to change the face of death for you forever. Jesus died to deliver you from the misery of living for yourself. Through his love, he is able to take control of your life, to release you from the tyranny of self, and lead you into a new life for him. He is able and he is ready. So don’t lose heart.
© Colin S. Smith
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