“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
We live in a world where we are encouraged to live for ourselves. We are supposed to find whatever it is that makes us feel fulfilled or happy, and go for it. We are to be proud of how we live and what we have done. “To one’s own self be true!”
Anyone who actually follows this philosophy of life will find that it doesn’t work out very well in the end. He may gain some temporal satisfaction, satisfaction for the flesh, and perhaps at times for the mind, but not for the soul. People who live for themselves will not know the righteousness which Christ has secured for us all.
We need to begin with the basic truth that we all are born under a death sentence. The world may try to deny it, but even its own wisdom declares that only two things are certain: death and taxes. The world has no answer for death. Physical death is simply accepted as inevitable. Far worse, however, are the spiritual and eternal deaths that are the dreadful consequences of sin.
But God sent His Son into the world that we might live by Him. For that to happen, it was necessary that the innocent, holy, meek, unspotted Lamb of God die for us. He died for ALL! He didn’t die so that we could be free to sin all we wanted. He died that we might be free from sin, with all its consequences. He suffered and He died for you, to redeem you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. He made this sacrifice in the greatness of His love for you and me, and all sinners. By the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we have been brought to comprehend this wondrous truth. This truth has now become the power that directs our lives. We are not compelled or forced to live in a manner we do not desire. We are compelled to live our lives in a manner worthy of His love, loving Him even as He loved us. In that way we might think of this wondrous Gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection as the propulsion that we need to send us down the paths of righteousness, as the Holy Spirit leads us to live to the glory of Jesus.
Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus didn’t tell them to live for self-glorification, for self-fulfillment, or to please themselves. Jesus told them to deny themselves. He said this to His disciples—not just the twelve, but to all who would follow Him on the path to life everlasting. The Spirit has given us this judgment regarding life: that since Christ died for all, all have died. God sees Jesus’ death as discharging our death penalty. Our response is to be dead to sin and alive to righteousness. Being dead to sin means that we turn away from sin in our lives as if it were dead and gone forever. Yes, we daily sin much, but each and every day the mercies of God give us the opportunity to live to the glory of Jesus’ name, to show forth His praise and His glory in all we do. May God the Holy Spirit grant us the will and power to so live for Jesus.
Theodore Barthels is pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Austin, Minnesota.