“This Is Living!”
(2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – Pentecost 5 – June 24, 2018)
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – 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.
Dear Redeemed in Christ,
“This is living!” a man says as he kicks back in an easy chair with a drink in hand, ready to watch his favorite team on TV. “This is living!” proclaims an advertisement for a beautiful vacation resort. “You’ll have the time of your life!” “This is living,” says a newly retired man, as he lives on his own schedule with no one but himself as boss. Where would you picture yourself and what would you be doing, if you were to say: “This is living”?
Often we use these words to express contrast to the way things could be. “This is living,” we say when we feel freedom from stress, freedom from pain, freedom from want, freedom from controlling people, freedom finally to live for ourselves the way we want to.
A lot of people are still looking for such living. “When I can finally pay off my debts and become financially stable, then I’ll be living.” “When I can finally get back to good health, then I’ll be living.” “When I can finally get all that I want in life, then I’ll be living.” There is always some “finally” hanging like a carrot on a stick out there, promising us true living.
Our text gives us another perspective on life. It tells us that living life to the full does not depend on what we have or do not have. It does not depend on having everything just perfect in life. True living has everything to do with whom we live for. “This is living”: 1) Not living for ourselves, 2) But living for God in Christ.
1) Not living for ourselves
God created us to live for Him. Say that in some circles, and you will get strange looks. “Live for God? Come on, let loose and live a little! Don’t let religion stifle the life you can have. You’ve got to live for yourself.” But our text says there is something wrong with this popular attitude. For it took the death of God’s Son to save us from the curse of living for ourselves.
When God said, “Let there be…” and He saw you and me coming into being, our entire life and purpose hung on every Word that came from His mouth. Apart from God, we would be nothing. From conception, God formed us in our mother’s womb with purpose. He breathed the breath of life into our body and soul with purpose. All we have is a gift given for His purpose – the thoughts we can think in our minds, the words we can form on our lips, the works we can do with our hands. It is all a result of His creative Word: “Let there be…” you and me. So true meaning and fulfillment in our life can only be found by living in harmony with His plan for us.
How clear and how wonderful this was to Adam and Eve, in the state of perfection. “This is living!” I don’t know if they said those words exactly, but it is what they felt as they lived for God and His glory. What joy it gave them to use God’s gifts of body, soul, mind, and everything given for their use in creation, to express love to God and each other. As they cared for the Garden, it was all about celebrating their Creator’s wisdom and sense of beauty. As they served each other, it was all about sharing His love. Whether eating or drinking, or whatever they did, it was a holy act of worship, with hearts filled with praise to God for His goodness. Life was full of joy and purpose. Never could they want more than to live for God and walk each day with Him who gave them the gift of life.
Imagine how it would be for a man suddenly to appear in God’s creation, speaking a new language: “Me first!” “Any way I want it, that’s the way I need it.” “If it feels good, I do it.” “If I can’t get what I want I’m grumble.” “If you get in my way, I’ll get even.” “All I do is for my glory or not at all.” “It’s all about me.”
How shocking and offensive it must have been for Adam and Eve to meet this man. They had taken the Tempter’s advice to let loose and live a little, and now they couldn’t get rid of this man if they wanted to. They lived with him daily. They saw him in each other. They saw him in themselves. His name is Old Adam. We still haven’t gotten over him. Our sinful nature speaks his proud language: “It’s all about living for myself.”
God gives us the gift of His creation. He says: “Work in it, use it, enjoy it within My purpose.” We appreciate His gifts, but then our sinful self gets in the way. There we are grumbling about what God gives, jealous of others, greedy for more. There we are lazy to apply our body and mind in the work God gives us. There we are using our voice to sing our own praise rather than God’s. Old Adam says: “It’s okay; you’re getting what you need out of life.”
God gives the gift of people around us. We appreciate His gift, but our sinful self gets in the way. Then spouses begin to bicker and grow distant. Then parents have no time for growing children or children for aging parents. Then we find ways to ignore that neighbor who needs our help. Old Adam says: “It’s okay; you can’t let others limit you and make you miss out on life.”
The thing about our Old Adam is that he is addicted to himself. And like anyone addicted to something, he is good at hiding the truth. He looks in the mirror and says, “I’m just fine. This is living!” If you confront him with his problem, he has a ready answer.
“Where are you, Adam?” the voice of the Creator called. “I’m just behind these trees. I felt like being alone.” “Have you misused the gifts I have given you?” We can try hiding behind trees of excuses: “God, I can’t help how I’ve lived. It’s the kind of people and circumstances You put into my life. I was born this way.” We can try hiding behind trees of self-praise: “Look God, I’m not so bad. I’ve done better than others. Look, here I go again doing something good!” We can try hiding behind trees of distraction: busyness, wealth, pleasures… whatever. But God will not go away. He demands an account for the life He has given.
“This is dying.” I don’t know if our first parents said those words, but it is what they felt as they cowered in fear and shame before the Giver of life. “This is dying.” It is what they felt as their relationship with each other was haunted by selfishness and blame. “This is dying.” It is what they felt in painful toil, sickness, and sorrow at the grave of one loved. Their descendants still have not gotten over the curse of living for ourselves.
We cannot imagine how it would be if God removed all the gifts of life we have misused – no more human company, no more pleasures of His creation, no more warmth of His love, no more Word of His grace. How meaningless it would be if He left us to exist for ourselves in self-centered misery for all eternity!
2) But living for God in Christ
But He did not leave us that way. He loved us too much. God did not create us to die but to live forever with Him. He still wanted to fulfill His purpose in creating us. He immediately told Adam and Eve, and all who have fallen with them: “I am going to send One to save you. I am going to restore all things in Him. I am going to give you life to the full again in His victory.”
God deserved to be served, but He sent His Son in our human nature to serve us. The second Adam entered fallen creation. As Jesus walked among sinners, bent on living for ourselves, He spoke a new language: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). His whole life said: “It is all about saving you.”
There was not a bit of sin in Jesus. Yet He stood in our place and took the burden of our sin. He felt the shame and dread of one who has no answer before God for having lived for himself. He felt the meaninglessness of separation from God, as He cried out from the cross: “Why have You forsaken Me?” In Christ, our text says: “One died for all.” We could have died a thousand times and never gotten rid of our guilt. But in Jesus, God died once and all our sins were gone. His death counted in place of everyone: Adam and Eve, you and me, and all who will ever live.
And having conquered sin and death, He rose to life to proclaim His victory for every sinner. He sends His Gospel of forgiveness, peace, and everlasting life to the ends of the earth. It is the Good News that God no longer counts against us the ways we have lived for ourselves. He counts to us the life of His Son – a life of perfect service to His glory, a life of perfect love.
Now God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts and made us His new creation. He has joined us with Christ in death to sin, death to Old Adam. He has raised us with Christ to live by His Spirit in us, the New Man. “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
Have you ever noticed how much better you can do something when you are not focused on yourself, but inspired by something great and wonderful? Sometimes, if I am stuck in thought and have trouble doing my work, I turn on music and it inspires me to see things in a new way. “Oh, sing to the LORD a new song!” the psalmist writes (Psalm 96:1). “The love of Christ compels us.” He has put an inspiring new song in our hearts, His great and wonderful song of salvation for sinners.
What a relief it must have been for Adam and Eve, to hear God’s Good News that He was restoring all things in Christ. I am sure they wanted to show their thankfulness by the way they lived for God’s glory. They wanted to share His new song of salvation with fellow sinners.
We too are compelled by God’s love in Christ to live for Him. When Old Adam says, “Live for yourself, do what feels good” – our New Man, led by the Spirit, hears the sweet song of the Gospel and says, “I have something better. Lord, crucify my sinful nature with its passions and desires; let me live for Him who loved me and gave His life for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Christ’s love compels us to see people He puts around us in new way. We think of family, friends, church members, even that person who is difficult to get along with. We hear the sweet song of the Gospel, and we are inspired to see these people in a new light. Our New Man says: “These are precious souls who are also bought by the blood of Christ. God has put me here with an eternally important purpose. This is living: to be able to share My Savior’s love with them.”
Christ’s love compels us to go about the daily work He gives us in new way. We still feel the frustrations of work in a fallen world. But we hear the sweet song of the Gospel and we are inspired to see things in a new light. Our New Man says, “He who loved me and gave His life for me has blessed me with my gifts and abilities. This is living: to use my body, mind, voice, and all that He gives to bring Him glory and share His love with others.”
Even when life becomes difficult, Christ’s love compels us. We think of dealing with sickness, pain, and death. Even then, we can hear the sweet song of the Gospel. Our new man says: “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). We pray: “Lord, I don’t understand the why of everything, but I trust Your purpose. I want to be with You, which is better by far; but as long as You want me here, let it be to Your glory and the good of others.”
The gifted composer, J.S. Bach, once said: “The aim and final reason of all music is none else but the glory of God.” “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.” Isn’t this true of our lives? Christ’s love compels us. His new song of salvation triumph inspires thankful lives that say: “It’s all about living for His glory.” All the things we do in this world by faith in Jesus are like playing the notes; but God turns them into music.
“This is living!” God puts new meaning into that saying. No more is our hope wrapped up in any carrot on a stick hanging out there, promising a better life in this world. “This is living”: to be where God has placed us, living in His Gospel and sharing it with others. “This is living”: to know our life is hidden in Christ, who one day will restore to us the fullness of joy in Paradise. And there the new song will go on forever, as we live to His glory and share His love together.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.