For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
From the day Paul was converted, he had two enthusiastic ardent convictions: First, he had undergone death of self so that he would no longer live. Second, he desired intensely to live for Christ alone. Immediately, I ask myself, what motivated Paul to live for Christ and not for himself? Jerry Bridges said, It was not a continual challenge to be more disciplined, or more committed, or more holy. Rather it was his constant heartfelt awareness of Christ’s love for him.
Paul said, Christ’s love compels us, and the word compels can also mean to surround, to control, and to constrain. The word reveals to us that the love of Christ wraps around us from all sides and tenderly presses upon our hearts to constrain us from considering all other means of love. The daily awareness of Christ’s love for me flooded by the Holy Spirit motivates me to live for Him.
In 1975, Ralph Neighbour Jr. visited the war-torn Vietnam and came across a man who was known by others as The Brother. He sought out this man and found him living in the slums feeding half-starved people. To Ralph Neighbours amazement, the brother spoke perfect English and French, and had a Ph.D. from France. He was once a Catholic priest but left to live among the poor, because he believed, These people have nothing, so no one cares about them. Christ has put me here to be His heart of love in the middle of this slum. Ralph Neighbour said, Never before, or since, have I known a person so totally penetrated a community with the knowledge of God’s love.
After leaving Vietnam, Ralph Neighbour learned that the Viet Cong had The Brother on their execution list. Ralph Neighbour wondered how the brother came to his end, death by torture or beheading, or a single shot through the brain. However, Ralph Neighbour came to a conclusion that He (The Brother) had died long before his murder. He had died to self, to ambition, to personal reputation. He had been living in the fellowship and presence of the indwelling Christ for years.
The story of The Brother really challenged me. Do other people see me as a person who has already died to self? Paul lived as a life-giving aroma of Christ unto others. In the Old Testament, burnt offering was offered to God as a sweet aroma to be pleasing to God. Do you notice that when an offering is burnt it becomes ashes? I believe when the self dies, the more of Christ is revealed to give life to others. The reason why we get so easily hurt, angered, and judgmental is because the self is too alive. Being criticized or being disrespected will not hurt so much if self has died.
Although becoming an aroma of Christ unto others may seem simple, we complicate the matter for ourselves. We often seek approval from God by our external performances in order to earn our blessings from God. We live as if God has to examine our performances to see if we are worthy. On the other hand, we fail to seek God because internally we accept that God cannot bless us for we are unworthy and we will never be good enough for God’s blessing. In both cases, the self is the center because self is so alive. Somehow in our walk with God, instead of the gospel we depend upon duty and guilt. Jerry Bridges said, Duty or guilt may motivate us for awhile, but only a sense of Christ’s love for us will motivate us for a lifetime.
Do you believe that God’s love for you is greater than your sin? Do you know that your best external performance will never be so good that you are beyond the need of God’s love? Do you know that your sense of unworthiness will never place you beyond the reach of God’s love? The love of Christ that surrounds you daily can never fail you as you intentionally live for others.
A missionary representative from the Voice of the Martyrs told me that while traveling in a country that persecuted Christians, he saw a steeple on the top of a Church, not a wooden cross but a wooden rooster. The missionary asked, Why do you have a rooster on top of your Church? The native Pastor replied, We want to be reminded of Peters betrayal of the Lord so that we will never betray Him.
Let us embody the gospel daily and deepen our trust in the love Christ has for us. Let us live no longer for ourselves but for Christ alone.
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