Date: May 5, 2011

Bible Text: II Corinthians 5:8-14 |


If you would, please turn in your Bibles to II Corinthians chapter 5.  Paul was a great man.  If you took all of the men of the Bible, especially the New Testament, and lined them up, in my mind, all would kind of fade together, and the Apostle Paul would just stand out more than anybody else.  Sometimes people will look at an athlete and say, “Wow, would I like to be like him!”  Well, I’d like to be like the Apostle Paul.  I would want to choose Jesus, but He was God.  I’d like to emulate the Apostle Paul, and I’d like to look at the greatness of the Paul the Apostle in II Corinthians chapter 5.  “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven…”  Now look at verse 8.  “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.  Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.  Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…”  Now down to verse 14.  “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge; that if one died for all, then were all dead.  And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.  Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh:  yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  Our text again is “the love of Christ constraineth us.”


In verse 14, the apostle Paul is sharing the secret of his greatness.  Now if you know the Bible, especially the New Testament, you know of his great preaching.  You know he was a great soulwinner.  You know he built churches.  He saw lives changed.  What possessed him?  What drove him?  What made him go?  What made him the giant that he was?  Again, the answer is “the love of Christ constraineth us.”  If you mark in your Bible, circle “constraineth.”  It means to press, to urge, to drive on.  He’s saying the one thing that energizes me, the one thing that drives me, just keeps me going, is the love of Christ, not the fear of Christ.


Now I believe we ought to fear One who could look in the eyes of the Pharisees, some of the most powerful men of His day, and call them a generation of vipers.  I think we ought to fear One who could walk on water in the fourth watch.  Can you imagine that?  We ought to fear One who could be crucified, put in the tomb, and break out laughing at death.


But there is a greater motive for service than fear.  Turn to II Timothy 4.  I want you to notice the Apostle Paul did not say the rewards of Christ constrained him either.  Have you ever tried to imagine what it’s going to be like at the judgment seat of Christ as we receive our rewards?  In II Timothy 4, Paul writes, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:  and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”  Let me read another verse.  James 1:12  “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”  Can you see Paul with all his crowns as he lays them at the feet of Jesus and says, “I am so glad that I gave my life at the chopping block of Nero.”  Can you see Stephen laying all five crowns at Jesus’ feet and saying, “I’d gladly suffer the stones of the angry mob for you again.”  He died in faith, but in reality, he stands glad before God because he was faithful.  See Peter.  He wavered there for a while, but he died for Christ.  Lester Roloff fought the good fight.  John Rice preached on prayer and power and revival and the family, and he didn’t quit.  He didn’t stop because of his detractors.  All are happy, I’m sure, that they stood.  I’m sure they were all sad for any failures that they might have had, but so happy that they didn’t slow down.  They didn’t compromise.


John, the Revelator, says, “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”  Oh, that we’ll serve God and not allow Satan to steal those crowns.  As we feel weak, or we feel tempted, we should look at Heaven—that place where we’re going to be forever, and picture standing before Christ and being able, hopefully, for these short 75-80 years here on this earth, to say we stood.  There’s a great motive here—rewards to lay at Jesus’ feet.  That’s a great reason, but not the greatest.


The one thing that drove and constrained the Apostle Paul was not fear or rewards but the love of Christ.  The love of Christ.  “…the love of Christ constraineth us.”  This is the greatest dynamic in Christian living that we can get a hold of.  Sin has such a pull on us.  We all have a sin or sins that so easily beset us.  But if we get a hold of this, it will change our lives.  Some of us produce by pure fear or determination.  That’s good, but if the love of Christ becomes real to you, you won’t have to grit your teeth so much.  Why would the Apostle Paul suffer the hate and the ridicule of men?  Why would he be thought of as a lunatic?  Don’t feel sorry for yourself; they thought of him as a “nut.”  There’s something wrong with us if the world accepts us.  Why would he be willing to lay his head on the chopping block of Nero?  Because of the love of Christ.  Why would the Apostle James seal his testimony with death?  Because of the love of Christ.  Why would John Hus be burned at the stake?  Martin Luther was a Catholic priest who was reading the Bible against the Catholic church.  He found out that the “just shall live by faith.”  Not by the rules of the church, but the “just shall live by faith.”  Why would he risk his life and nail the “95 Theses” on his own church door in the face of Catholicism?  We should be loving and we should be kind, but there’s a problem with Christianity today.  We think that our big job is to be liked by people.  No—our biggest thing in this earth is to please God, to do what God would have us to do.  Why would David Livingstone give his live in Africa?  Why would David Brainerd die an early death because he just burned his life out for the souls of Indians?  The answer, again, is the love of Christ constrained them.  You get a hold of that one thought, and it will transform you.


But what exactly is Paul talking about?  What’s he teaching about?  You might think he’s talking about his love for Christ.  But no, he’s talking about Christ’s love for him.  Again, in our text, verse 14, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.”  We’re to be dead to this world and alive only to Him.  One died for all.  Verse 15 says, “…And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”  Paul is saying, “When I look at those sad, tormented eyes and I see those scars on his brow and in His hands and His feet; when I look at the spit on His pummeled face, when I see Him hanging naked, shamefully, on the cross, I would have called those ten thousand angels.  I know myself.  He could have spoken and all the jeering crowd and soldiers would’ve been dead.  When I see Him die for me, I’m overwhelmed; and I’m pressed and constrained to serve Him.”


There are many reasons to serve Jesus.  One is that I’m going to be judged, and I don’t want to face Jesus broken hearted and in grief, red-faced.  I want to do everything I can to face Him having given my life to Him.  I serve Him because of hell.  I don’t want to be responsible.  People say, “Man, you preach hard.”  I don’t want to be responsible for people who will burn and scream in hell for all eternity.  I serve Him because of obedience.  He told me to serve Him, and that’s enough.  I serve Him because we reap what we sow, and I believe what I preach when the Bible says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you,” and, “Prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts.”  I want my household to be blessed.  I don’t want my wife and children and grandchildren to suffer shame and heartache because of my sin.


But the most inspiring reason I have to serve Jesus is because He first loved me.  Because of Bethlehem, because He slept on a rock instead of having a pillow, because they were always trying to kill Him, because they did at Calvary, because He rose from the grave triumphantly, because as a five-year-old boy I ran down a church aisle and accepted Christ as my Savior.  I can remember going home and telling my unsaved mother who wasn’t in church, “I’m saved.”  Now, I didn’t really know much of what I was talking about, but I can remember swinging on A swing, and then swinging on the trapeze down in our basement telling my mother, “I’m saved.  I’m saved!”  Now I’ve not always been right, that’s for sure, but I praise God that through life, even though I have felt guilt, I’ve always come back.  It’s always been a short journey.  Always back, I’ve always wanted to grow; and even at my age now, I want to do more for Him.  I want to be more effective for Christ.  Because the love of Christ constrains me.


I heard a story of Gypsy Smith, that greatly-used evangelist, after he had had another set of revival meetings with many souls coming down the aisle.  A person came up to him and put his hand on his head.  “I want to feel the head of a man on fire for God.  Maybe I can get some of what makes you so useful for God.”  Gypsy Smith took his hand and put it down on his heart, and he said, “You want to know where my fire comes from, it’s not from the head.  If you want to know what keeps me going, it’s the heart.  It’s the heart.”  The Apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 5:14 and 15, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:  and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”


Does the love of Christ constrain you, or do you just kind of walk through life?  Maybe that’s why you’re complacent.  Maybe that’s why you’re so absorbed in yourself and the things of the world.  Maybe that’s why you’re lazy.  Maybe that’s why your home knows nothing of the power of God.  Maybe that’s why you’re foreign to prayer, you don’t really get into the Book.  You say you don’t have time.  You never witness for the Lord.  The love of Christ hasn’t possessed you.  Looking at these seven verses, there are three things the love of Christ constrains us to do.  Now there are thousands, but for time’s sake, we’ll look at only three this morning.


The first is that the love of Christ should mandate that we look forward to going to Heaven.  Verse 8 says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”  Now you better watch yourself.  Remember what happened to Ananias and Sapphira when they lied?  I think we lie to ourselves a lot.  I think we put on an act.  Let me tell you something, you’d be better off not to put on an act.  You’d be better to just be the Christian you are.  Maybe you’d be more likely to get right with God.  Again, do you really look forward to the day when you will set your feet on that other shore?  Do you honestly look forward to greeting the Apostle Paul, and Moses, and Don, and Ellen, and many of our friends who have gone before us?  Do you look forward to seeing the gates of pearl open, and the streets, and that awe-inspiring throne?


We talk about heaven and we preachers preach about heaven, but I wonder how many people really look forward to going.  We do so much to stay on this earth.  Now, I’m for modern medicine; in fact, the only thing I like about the modern world is modern medicine, because I’m a chicken.  I don’t like pain.  I’m glad for modern medicine; but when I’m no longer useful here on this earth, I want to go home.  Turn to I Thessalonians 4.  A preacher asked all of those looking forward to going to Heaven to raise their hand.  Of course, everyone raised their hand but one honest little boy.  The preacher came to him afterward and asked, “Why didn’t you raise your hand?”  He says, “Well, I thought you were getting a load up out front right now.”  The truth is, if we were getting a load up out front right now, would you want to go to Heaven?


We have a peace that the world doesn’t have, yes, but I Thessalonians 4:13 says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.”  Why do we hang onto the body so much?  I was the one who found my mother when she died.  If you’ve ever found a dead person, it’s a little scary.  We called the proper people, and then they said, “You can go in there and spend a half hour with her if you’d like.”  I said, “No, no, I’ve already spent my time.”  My brother was there, and he went in and spent forty-five minutes.  I don’t know what you do with a dead body.  Get mad at me if you want, but we powder their face, we curl their hair, and we want to see the body for the last time.  And we say, “Oh, he looks so good.”  Now, I hope I don’t look like that.  No, he doesn’t look so good.  He’s gone.  He’s in heaven.  My mother used to go and stay with a body 24 hours a day.  Thatis the shell he lived in; that’s not him.  He’s gone.  He or she is in Heaven, and we ought to rejoice.


Paul said in our text, verses 1 and 2.  “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  Amen.  We ought to live like we believe the Bible.  It would help us so much.  I’ve had the opportunity of traveling the world, and I would just say that our funerals are heathen to a great degree.  “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.”  Look at verse 4.  “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.”


We let things hold onto us here on this earth.  Of course, I have reasons.  I have a wife that I love, I have children that I love, I have grandchildren that I love, I have friends here that I love.  But we’re all saved, we’re all going to heaven.  I used to love football.  I’d do anything to play football or to watch football or to listen to football.  Some people love vacations, whatever it might be.  And that’s fine.  I’m not saying football is a sin or a vacation is wrong, but listen.  If we talk about believing in Heaven, let’s look forward to going there.  When I die, don’t grieve for me.  I’m in heaven.  I’m going to have my dad show me around.  We who have saved relatives, it’s so wonderful to look forward to Heaven.  He’s going to introduce me to Paul, Elijah, and Elisha, and show me all over Heaven.  I’ve got loved ones and fellow-soldiers that I want to see.


I’ll say something else, this old body is dying.  John doesn’t want to admit it, but his old body’s dying.  At 63, I became old.  You say, “How did you know?”  I felt it, just tired.  At 65, my knees started going out.  The point is, you that are old, you know it.  You start crippling up and getting old; and when I’m not useful, I want to leave this old body and go to Heaven.  I’m tired of this old house.


I’m tired of people hating us because we love their soul.  I’m tired of us being called weird.  I’m tired of them laughing at our best kids and trying to hurt them.  In fact, one of the few things that makes me want to stay here on earth is to fight for our kids.  I want to stay to fight for our kids.  But I’m tired of gossiping Christians.  You say, “You sound all down.”  No, I’m not.  But I’ll like Heaven because I’ll see and bow at the feet of Jesus.  You see, I believe the Book!  I’ve got a lot of Italian relatives who live in the “little Italy” area of Chicago.  When I would visit them, they’d carry a great big Mary, a giant Mary, down the street.  It might have been Peter, but I think it was Mary.  She’d have a big stick and you’d put money on the stick and be able to kiss her feet.  It was a big giant, wooden statue with no feet left because they kissed her feet so much.  Yuck!  I want to see Jesus.  I want to bow at Jesus’ feet.


Second, something else that the love of Christ should constrain us to do is to take others to Heaven with us.  Now this is not a scriptural term, but we’ve all heard “hell on earth.”  In countries like Haiti, India, and North Korea, people are starving to death.  Literally starving to death.  Zimbabwe used to be the showpiece of Africa until a leftist dictator grabbed a hold of it, and now people are starving to death.  In many of our big cities, there are areas where young people just survive on the street like animals—with drugs, as sex slaves, and filth, and rats.  It’s like hell on earth.  But wait until they get to the real place.


A man might be surviving on soup from the mission, and even though he’s fifty he looks like he’s eighty.  He drinks antifreeze and smells so bad nobody wants to be around him.  His family doesn’t want to admit that they know him.  He sleeps in his own vomit, and in the winter time he pulls garbage over him to keep warm.  He dies, he freezes to death, his hair is all matted, his stomach is empty, and he has no friends.  But wait until he ends up in hell.  Wait until he sees what hell is like!  He’ll see that term is not right.  I think that many bankers are in worse shape in their mind than that bum on skid row, and they’re going to wake up in the same hell.


Now, instead of hell on earth and in the future, why not tell everybody of Jesus Christ, and tell them how they can have a little Heaven on this earth and Heaven in the future.  The world laughs at us.  We’re “weird.”  If they could just get to know us, they would know we were just as sinful as them.  We have our drug addicts who got saved.  We have drunkards who got saved.  We have our own bank robber who got saved.  If they could just understand what Jesus Christ can do for us.  Our kids aren’t perfect, but why do they laugh at our kids?  They think we’re crazy to go out and beat our brains out on the bus route all day on Saturday and Sunday, but it’s a blessing.  We can’t have Heaven on this earth literally any more than hell, but shouldn’t we work to have Heaven here and Heaven there rather than hell here and hell there?  We will walk on transparent gold.  I want to see that.  We’ll never thirst or be hungry.  There will never be any illness or night, and no crooked politicians or communists trying to destroy our families—a place where there’s no death, no coffins, no funerals.  Why don’t we get busy taking some people with us?


Paul talked about Heaven in verses one through ten, but then said, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”  We should look at the terrible judgment in hell and want to keep people from going there.  Now some of you are plagued with timidity and shyness.  Most don’t know what that is, but I do.  I was as shy as anybody could be in this room.  And I would just testify, God can overcome that.  But I’m afraid most aren’t shy, they’re lazy.  And you need to overcome that.  We need to spread the Word that Jesus saves.  And no matter how rough this world is, and how wicked sin is, we can have Christ.  And no matter what happens around us, we can have some Heaven right here on this earth and then, of course, in the future.


But one last thing that I’d like for you to see is that the love of Christ should constrain us to show the world that we can be a new man.  That God can take a wicked man and make a new man out of him.  I am convinced that we would see so many more souls saved on the job if we just lived like Christians.  Well you say, “I don’t drink and I don’t swear.”  I hope so, but I’m talking about the Sermon on the Mount.  I’m talking about being a Christian on the job.  If winning souls was more important to us than making money, I think we’d see a lot of people saved.


The media spotlights those who are “born again” in politics and in show business.  I remember they really uplifted Johnny Cash.  Johnny Cash was a “Christian.”  I hope so.  Pat Boone, President Carter, President Clinton, Eldridge Cleaver, all these people.  You say, “What’s wrong with that?”  They uplift people who said they were saved but continued to sing in Las Vegas, continued drinking and swearing, continuing doing the same old things, and that’s not Bible Christianity.  Again, in II Corinthians 5, verse 17, it says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”


There are people who come to this church every Sunday morning and don’t even know us.  They don’t even know what this church is.  They don’t even know what we believe.  They know nothing because they live for the world, and they just step into church for a couple hours on Sunday morning.  Why don’t you become a Bible Christian?  Why don’t you find out what real Bible Christianity is all about?  Why don’t you become a new creature?


What I’m saying is that New Testament Bible Christianity has power to change lives.  It will make an old man “new” and enable you to do anything you ought to do.  It will enable you to get rid of pornography or booze, or something like that.  You say, “I’ve got to have it to be happy.”  People don’t get saved because of that.  Listen to me, it does not make you happy, it makes you miserable.  It makes a fool out of you.  People say, “Well, I’ve just got to go to the boat and gamble.”  No, you’re making a fool out of yourself.  New Testament Christianity can make a filthy man clean, and we should be consumed with the idea of showing the world that the power of God hasn’t changed.  When Zacchaeus got saved, he was a new man.  The woman at the well went running to tell everybody how she got saved.  But today, people supposedly “get saved,” and they drag Jesus’ name through the dirt of adultery and homosexuality and abortion and drunkenness.  That’s a huge problem.


As I said earlier, I loved football, and I used to love the Chicago Bears.  When Mike Ditka played, he was “all pro” a tremendous tight end, my kind of football player—rough and tough.  Then he went to Dallas, and I heard he got saved.  Coach Landry led him to the Lord.  I think that’s probably true, I hope so.  Then he went to Chicago as a coach and he came out here to Valparaiso and spoke at a Bible study.  But the problem was that coach Landry didn’t think that when you’re saved you ought to have a changed life.  You could still drink, you could still swear, you could still live the life you did before, but you can’t.  You can’t.  Pretty soon Coach Ditka was making a fool of himself, and the news media was making a fool out of the “Christian “picked up for drunken driving and things like that.  That’s the only type of Christianity the world knows about, and we ought to make it our business to show them different.  That isn’t Bible Christianity.


The world is being confused by cigarette-smoking whoremongering, drinking sports figures and actors and singers and politicians, and we ought to be constrained by the love of Christ to show there’s a difference.  There’s a difference.  We don’t have to lose our temper, and I say that because that’s probably my besetting sin.  We don’t have to lose our temper if we’re saved.  Those drowning in sin know it’s suffocating them.  It’s killing them, and they need more than fire insurance.  Let’s show them what a Christian marriage is.  I don’t mean bragging, but let’s show them that you can rear children for God.  Let’s show them what peace is.  We’re living in this downturn, and I don’t know if it’s going to turn around.  Everybody is hurting financially, let’s show them what peace is, what love is, what fellowship is, what joy is.  Let’s be constrained by the love of Christ to live our Christian life not in a phony way, but in front of them.  Let them see it’s real. More than anything on earth, they need to see it’s real.  And I believe once they do, we’ll see a lot more saved.

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