That we no longer live for ourselves but for Him!
The Christian who tries to live a life of faithful service to Jesus Christ will probably be no stranger to misunderstanding, criticism and opposition. Such obstacles may well however prove to be very fruitful – take the apostle Paul for example. Some of what he wrote flowed directly out of conflicts and difficulties and now forms part of the Scripture that feeds and nourishes us spiritually some 2,000 years later.
Although Paul was the missionary who founded the church in Corinth many of those in the church came to be highly suspicious of him. As they were exposed to the errors of the false teachers who infiltrated their ranks they began to call Paul’s very standing as an apostle into question – was he really an apostle? After all, look at his past. They weren’t too keen on the way he lived his present life either. The Corinthians were impressed by other leaders whom they thought were the spiritual ones and the way Paul conducted himself was so different to theirs. Paul, if he was to be able to exercise any positive influence upon the Corinthians, had to defend himself against some of the charges laid against him.
As part of that defence Paul explained what his goals in ministry were and what it was that motivated him to attain those goals. And what he had to say is hugely relevant for us today when so many distortions of the gospel still prevail – good certainly came out of Paul’s troubles at Corinth!
The reason why this is so is that when Paul defended himself and his actions he did so by explaining more of what the gospel of Jesus Christ involved. This explanation contained more information about just why it was that Jesus died.
We find what he said in our text for this evening:
There are a number of important truths that are contained in these verses:
The condition of a person before becoming a Christian – it is a selfish life
Jesus died a substitutionary death, ie. he died for us and in our place. This death was followed by his resurrection from the dead meaning of course that he is now alive. He died in order to bring about a change in the way we live – that we might no longer live selfishly but for him.
Christ was motivated to do this for us out of love and when we understand this we respond to his love with a love of our own
Let’s look more closely at these in turn.
That situation did not continue for the devil came along with his temptations. Satan deceptively appealed to Adam and Eve’s self-
That was Satan’s lie and Adam and Eve listened to it. They thought that their own self-
Our modern developed world encourages us constantly to think about ourselves and our fallen human nature is only too happy to oblige – after all we really do think "we’re worth it". One of the ways our interest in ourselves reveals itself is in the rise of the "selfie". It’s no longer enough to visit a particular place but I must have a photo that proves I was there! It is estimated that a million selfies are taken every day around the world and it is further estimated that the average millenial (those born between 1982+2002) will take some 25,000 selfies during his or her lifetime. It is a sorry state of affairs particularly when you realise that in 2017 more than 30 people lost their lives while taking a selfie and at least one person has already died doing the same this month!
I wonder how many compound words you can think of that contain the word "self" – I’ve already used self-
Selfishness and other forms of self-
For example listen to one of Jesus’ descriptions of the Scribes and Pharisees:
Mt.23:25 ""Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-
Paul declared that God’s righteous judgment of wrath and fury would be revealed:
Rom.2:8 "for those who are self-
James wrote about the catastrophic consequences of having bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in the heart and in particular he castigated the rich for their sharp practice as they dealt with others living in less well off circumstances:
Jas.5:5 "You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-
But such self-
Mt.16:26 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?"
A Change of Direction
Now some might want to argue that they do not live just for themselves but seek to serve others and of course we’re glad that many people do indeed lead lives of service towards others. And yet the analysis of the Scripture still holds true! It’s just that some people serve others because that is what they want to do! They do so because it pleases them and they do so without any thought of God and certainly without having desire to honour him. Some may even think that by such behaviour they may make themselves acceptable to God!
Every person who does not live for the glory of his creator is in need of salvation. Rebellion against God can take the form of overt atheism and morally reprehensible behaviour but it can also take the form of a benevolent, but godless, do-
Were we simply to try harder to be nice and thoughtful of others we might become more popular and better appreciated by others but we would still find ourselves falling short because we would still be dominated by the fact that we live for ourselves. A more dramatic change of direction is called for. And in the gospel of Jesus Christ just such a change of direction is to be found!
By means of his death Jesus made it possible for those who were spiritually dead to be brought to live a new life. By his death Jesus delivers us free from the debilitating bonds of self-
The Christian then no longer lives a life of selfishness but instead he lives for Christ whose honour is now the goal of all of his actions.
Matthew Henry put it like this:
"A Christian’s life should be consecrated to Christ; and then do we live as we ought to live when we live to Christ, who died for us."
Paul put it this way in his letter to the Philippians:
Phil.1:21 "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
The Motivation of Love
Paul began the verse of our text by using the phrase "the love of Christ" and that phrase can be understood in two ways. It could mean:
Christ’s love for us or Our love for Christ -
Normally the context should make it clear for us but here the context provides support for both these interpretations and applications.
In the words of the text itself Paul does go on to refer specifically to the death of Christ. Jesus in laying down his life freed us from the bonds of selfish living that tangle about us all too readily. His death has given us the opportunity of now belonging to him and of being part of something that is so much bigger than just our own limited individual concerns. This work that Jesus accomplished for us by his death Paul also refers to as Christ reconciling us to the Father and the extent of that reconciliation is truly astounding – the Christian is made, by virtue of his union with Christ, the righteousness of God!
Now when we consider this dying for us we want to ask the question "Why?" and the only answer that really fits is that Jesus did this out of love.
So the first understanding of the phrase "the love of Christ" we take to mean Christ’s love for us, Christ’s love for me.
This is of course a precious truth that is also clearly expressed elsewhere in the NT, for example in John’s Gospel we read the following concerning Jesus. It took place in the days leading up to his crucifixion:
Jn.13:1 "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."
The truth is so well known and so precious to Christians that we celebrate Jesus’ love for us in many of our songs. How many of these do you know I wonder?
Jesus loves me, this I know
Jesus’ love is very wonderful
Jesus my Lord will love me forever
Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
What about these?
One day when heaven was filled with His praises – it contains the refrain "Living he loved me, dying he saved me"
I will sing of my Redeemer, and His wondrous love to me;
I’m sure our list could go on and on!
The second way we could understand the phrase the "love of Christ controls" would be to see this not so much as a reference to Christ’s love for us but as the response of our love for him. And this too fits the context because Paul is explaining his own part in Christian ministry – he says not only what his goals are in exercising his ministry (he wants to serve God and do good to others see v.13) but he also then tells us about his motivation. He wants to respond to the love the Saviour has shown him by a life filled with loving service!
This response of love is also described elsewhere in the NT. The apostle John in his first letter wrote about the productive effect of God’s love for us:
1Jn.4:10 "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
And again in the simplest of terms:
1Jn.5:19 "We love because he first loved us."
(John, in his first letter, regards love for God and God’s people as a indication of genuine Christian faith.)
As we come to a close let us focus on the liberating aspect of all this. We have been set free from the bondage of always having to pursue our own selfish interests and of worrying about how we might secure the best possible outcome for ourselves.
Because we are now free to live for another and he looks out for us!
This is the way Jesus lived his life and he has left us many examples which we can follow.
There was no self-
Mk.10:45 "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
There was no self-
Jn.6:38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me."
And I’m sure you will remember how he prayed:
Lk.22:42 "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."
What a wonderful freedom Christ has won for us when he died for us – we have been set free to live for him! So let us do just that!