For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.
We are called by God to live as His holy children in this world. That is the challenge of the life of a Christian. We are called to live holy lives, in the light of the reality of the Gospel and all that it teaches us about ourselves and about God, and we are called on to do that in the world we see on the news every evening - depressing at times, filled with evil and troubles and sorrows.
We are called to live in this world, not in another world - not in a better one, but this one. Later we will be given the other world to live in. Right now, this is our world. Part of the plan of God to show forth His glory, and to call men to repentance, and to rescue the elect, is that His children live in this world surrounded by sin and death and sorrow, and live out what it means to be the elect and chosen of God. In doing so we also bear witness to Him and His existence and His nature.
This world is not always - not even usually - safe or easy, particularly for us. It is wild and dangerous, and ruled by the devil, the prince of the power of the air. We are enemy forces in this world. We are the outsiders, invaders from within. The weapons of our invasion are God's Word, the Sacraments, and our lives lived consistent with our confession.
God has called us to live out perfectly normal lives that are anything but normal. We are called to do all to the glory of God. We do that, not by being weird, and behaving in really socially inept ways, but by being holy, decent, and good people for no other reason than it is right and good and the will of our Father in heaven.
Nothing about our lives is changed by being Christians. Just we are. We drive ordinary cars. We do ordinary jobs. We eat ordinary food. We must endure the ordinary assaults of weather and economics and politics and whatever else happens to everyone who lives in this world. What is different is that we live our lives as though everything we believe by the Word of God is absolutely certain and true, because it is! Forgiveness of our sins is true. Our salvation is utterly certain. God does love us and He is on our side, even when we cannot point to the events of life and say, "See!?", and prove it to our neighbors. We are to live out how those truths effect our thinking and acting.
Let me illustrate: we are already alive from the dead. That happened in Baptism. We shall never die, so the difficulties and tragedies of life around us are not able to touch us - just able to touch our things, and our bodies at times. But we are safe. Truth #2: Nothing in this world is entirely real because nothing in this world is eternal like we are. It is all passing away. Everything is meant to be used as a temporary tool, just as we might fashion temporary shelter in the woods during a rainstorm, or if we were stranded overnight, but have no intention of making our permanent home in a temporary, makeshift shelter under the branches of an old pine tree we discovered on a hike. Our home is elsewhere and permanent. This world is just a makeshift, temporary place, however wonderful we may consider it to be. God is just so abundantly good that even this temporary makeshift is delightful.
We also act out of the love of Christ for us. Saint Paul says that it controls us. Actually, he said that it controlled him, but it should also control us. Christ loved us so much that He was willing to die for us and in our place. He died not just for us but for those people around us, even those who want to hurt us or, perhaps, even kill us. That suggests that they are important too, at least to Christ, and so we must consider our lives in the light of those people too. Jesus died for us so that we would live our lives in this world with Him in mind, and His values and His purposes in the forefront of our minds, and not merely our own comfort, well-being, or safety as our objectives.
That is at least part of the reason that the life of a Christian is different from what it might otherwise be. We are called with a purpose, and fitted by God into His plan for this world. Farmers, for example, are charged with growing food and other essential plant stuff (like cotton, flax, and other non-food plants that we use for fabrics and what-not), and raising animals for a number of different purposes. Each of us has a place of service to the rest of society, whether it is a big, important, service that everyone acknowledges as critical, or it is something simple and insignificant seeming, that almost no one can see as essential to anyone. What we do, however, is part of the plan of God, for He has given it to us, and given us to the tasks He sets before us.
Our doing of the tasks God gives us does not require that we, or anyone else, understand its place in the world and in God's design. It calls for us only to do it as though it were a gift to God - which means that we do it with all our might and do it as well as we can, as though the whole world depends not only on us doing it, but on us doing it right. No one needs to watch the child of God to make certain that he or she does what they are supposed to do. God is watching, and we serve in order to please Him and bring Him glory by our doing and our faithfulness.
The love of Christ controls us - we also serve in our several callings (Lutherans refer to them as "vocations") for the sake of those whom Christ also loved and died for. Our human reason may tell us that no will notice if we cut a corner or slack off in the pursuit of our tasks. We are, they say, but one insignificant person on a planet of some six billion. This is just one moment in a history of thousands of years. This act and this moment cannot have ultimate significance. The world would suggest, in fact, that it cannot have any real significance what-so-ever. But the world is wrong. Our reason is wrong, held captive by the Father of Lies who rules over the flesh of even those that believe. We live our lives to serve Christ, whose love did not allow Him to omit one point of the Law or sin in any way, so that He might be able to take our place and redeem us all from sin and death and hell.
The world around us will not notice our faithfulness or diligence or honesty, at least not out loud. But it notices, and marvels at times, and despises the reflection of Christ in us, and wonders. The world's response, or lack of one, is of no moment to the child of God. We live for Him who died for us and rose again. We live in an ever-so permanent seeming world with the knowledge that it is, in truth, fading away and temporary. We live in a world of death and decay, a world where stone monuments are worn away by the processes of corruption unleashed by God due to human sin, conscious of the truth that we are absolutely permanent, eternal, undying even though our outward nature is collapsing with age and infirmity. We live in a world that tells us that we are nothing, completely without any value or significance as an individual, but we are aware that the Almighty God counted us personally of such value that He sent His only-begotten Son to die for us and save us from our own rebellion and ignorance and sin.
Because we are sinners, even as we are also the holy children of God, none of us live out this life perfectly. I may state that 'this is what the child of God does', but the child of God does this haltingly and imperfectly, due to the corruption of the flesh due to sin. Our failures and weaknesses do not change the nature of our calling in Christ, however. Our stumbling attempts to live out the life of Christ in this world merely magnify the glory of the Gospel for us. When Christ spoke that one word, which comes out in English translation in three words, "It is finished!", He declared our salvation complete, our forgiveness accomplished, earned and the certainty of our redemption firmly established. We always stand redeemed and holy by Christ's grace, even though we are conscious of our own failure and weakness. And we are judged in the presence of God according to Christ's perfect righteousness, not our own incomplete and sinful record, just as Christ was judged and held to account for our sin and wickedness, and not accorded any measure of mercy for His perfect holiness.
What a marvelous thing this life is! God reckons us to be His Son, holy and righteous without a flaw for the sake of Christ and the cross, and the resurrection. He sees our feeble and stumbling attempts to be what He has called us to be as His children, and counts us holy and perfect and bestows upon our efforts His blessing that even though we fail, His plan does not, our confession is heard and seen, our work moves forward His will for this world and for those on it who will be called by His Word and the working of His Spirit through that Word. He gives us the privilege of participating in His work, and rewards us in grace as though we actually accomplished something of ourselves.
This world is not our friend, and yet God gives us good times and blessings so that we find joy in this world. He places people around us to love us. He fills our lives with good things so that we may rejoice and give thanks with our whole hearts, and so that we have an abundance to use to serve Him by serving one another. After all, nothing God gives us is simply for us, but also that His purposes might be accomplished. He makes us those "new creatures" of which Paul wrote in Second Corinthians that we might rejoice in Him.
He also gives us His Word to teach and guide us so that we can see that the new creatures around us are not just new by their renewing, but new in our eyes because He has taught us to look at them in the light of Christ, and not merely in the light of our own personal agendas and our narrow, self-centered perspectives. We cannot value them the old way, by how they appeal to us, or in which ways we can imagine them benefiting us. We have to count them as Christ might. Their worth is not seen in their value to us, or in their attitudes toward us, but it is seen by looking at the cross. Jesus declared their value there, just as surely as He declared our value there.
In that way, the whole of our lives has been re-valued. That is what the "new creature" thing is about. Our lives are valued by Christ, not by our assessment of their value in earthly terms. He chose us, and so who we are is transformed. What we do is changed by His choice of us, not by changing the things we do. If God gave us this thing to do, it must be worth doing well. How do we know that God gave it to us to do? Well, unless it is sin (in which case God did not give it to us) the fact that it is ours to do means that God would have us do it and do it to His glory. Eating, drinking, doing the household chores, dealing with compassion and forgiveness with our neighbors and our spouses, taking our exercise, or taking our nap, takes on a new glory because it is the work of the chosen, elect, and precious child of God, one counted worthy by God's valuation of the life and death of His only-begotten Son. Even though it is something you freely chose, it is a good work before God when you do it with the awareness of God's choice of you, and those things that you did not choose, but were simply dropped in your lap and you were given them to do are the more glorious because God caused them to be dropped in your lap to give you the opportunity to show forth His glory in the doing of them.
Paul wraps up these ideas with, Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ. Angels watch what we do, marveling at the rich blessing of God, that He has given us so much to do in His name and to His glory. God's choice of each one of us is a mystery, perhaps He will explain it in eternity, and perhaps not, but it elevates each one of us, and the humblest things that we do to the level of "the chosen of the Almighty did this!" We stumble along blindly, unaware of the majesty of our lives in Christ because our flesh is simply not able to see it through the pall of sin and corruption that adheres to the human nature since the fall. Nevertheless, we who are new creatures in Christ bear the glory of the grace of God with us wherever we go and in whatever we do. Our small, seemingly insignificant lives, hold their place in the plans of God from before the foundation of the world, and He assigned to each of us the things we have to do for Him and with Him, and He assigned us the glory of being counted among those new creatures in Christ. Let us pause, daily, and give thanks to God for His wondrous grace!
Yours in the Lord,
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