Monday, November 02, 2009

The Love of Christ Controls Us

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died… Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come… Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:14-20). As Christians, we have the greatest message anyone will ever hear. Unfortunately, most of those who hear it will reject it. "We are ambassadors for Christ," meaning we represent the King of heaven with the His glorious Gospel. In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul referred to this glorious Gospel as "the word of the cross," a foolish message to those who remain lost, yet the power of God to those of us who are being saved (see 1 Cor. 1:18). It is this foolish message we proclaim, "as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Every time I share the Gospel with another, every time I stand in the pulpit to preach, every time I open the Bible to teach, I have this message in mind and my goal is always the same—to clearly and concisely preach Jesus, "namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself."

Why do I do this? "For the love of Christ controls [me]." The word translated "controls" is the Greek word, συνέχω (synechō), which basically means "to hold together, confine, secure, to hold fast." Its use throughout the New Testament is interesting. For example, it is used to describe the effect of the Word of God upon Paul in Acts 18:5: "Paul began devoting [synechō] himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ." In Acts 7:57, it is used to describe the response of those who refused to listen to the truth of the Gospel message preached by Stephen: "But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered [synechō] their ears and rushed at him with one impulse." In 2 Cor. 5:14, it refers to the effect the love of God has on those of us who believe, meaning the love of Christ keeps us within bounds and compels us to preach the Gospel. This is the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 7:18) and it sums up the Gospel message in that "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). This statement is the heart of the Gospel—Jesus Christ, the sinless Savior has taken our sins that through Him we might be forgiven and have His righteousness. God accomplished this "in Christ" and offers this righteousness to all those who will ever be saved. This is the "ministry of reconciliation" whereby believers proclaim the Gospel, God speaks through them ("as though God were making an appeal through us, we beg of you…be reconciled to God") thus urging unbelievers to come to Christ in faith and believe the Gospel. This means repent of your sins and believe on Jesus! This is the essence of reconciliation—a changed relationship where our sins are no longer counted against us. No religion in the world offers this. It comes only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and is offered freely to everyone who believes. This "belief" isn’t mere head knowledge but a heart knowledge that results in a changed life!

So my question to you is this: Which use of the word "controls" will you choose for yourself? Will it be the positive use whereby you allow the Word of God and the love of Christ to control you, thus resulting in salvation by grace through faith and a compelling desire to preach Jesus to others? Or, will it be the negative use, whereby you hear the Gospel message yet refuse to listen to it, turning a deaf ear to the one message that can change your life for all eternity? Paul wrote, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." To be "in Christ" means that I was at one time without Christ. In other words, I was lost and by nature a sinner. But thanks to God’s grace I am now "in Christ," forgiven of my sin, and the recipient of a new nature, one of being a saint—a radical change wrought by the Gospel . It also means I have the promise of being with Christ in glory when He returns for His saints or calls me home to be with Him. All of this the Bible says is made a reality by faith. I must believe God—"And without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6). Therefore, "[I] beg you, be reconciled to God."

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