Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:11-19, NLT
As I read and reread tonight’s text, the word motive kept popping into my mind and then I picked up Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary and there it was again, the word motive. We’ve talked about it for weeks now, Paul’s motives were being impugned; his sincerity was being questioned. Evidently, some of the traveling preacher’s whom Paul refers to as “Super-Apostles,” were critical of Paul’s methods, message and motives. Now Paul is afraid of being misunderstood and misjudged by the Corinthians whom he loved. I 2 Corinthians 5, he makes his motives clear.
I. FIRST: PAUL IS MOTIVATED BY A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY
[V. 11]… Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work [try] hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.
Paul was motivated in part by a Godly fear, he knew he would eventually stand before the ‘bēma‘ [judgment seat of Christ]. The bēma was a raised platform, mounted by steps where the Tribunes stood to judge the games, to disqualify or reward the runners. In this sense, Paul is stating that he is motivated by his desire to please Christ. Going back to verse 9, this purpose is stated clearly….So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. Max Lucado says, “If you want to conduct the orchestra, you have to turn your back to the crowd.”
In order to please Christ, Paul followed a plan or practiced certain disciplines.
- Paul maintained a narrow focus…[Philippians 3:13-14] No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. I ran track in college, believe it or not, and looking at me now, it is hard to believe. In track, you never look back. Three things can happen if you look back and none of them or good.  You waste vital energy  You risk stumbling and  You take a chance on being distracted. You always look forward to the finish, to the goal.
- You never yield to social pressure...The world will try to conform you and make you like others. Our goal is to be like Christ. We never yield to the man fearing spirit that makes us people pleasers. Paul’s critics worked to gain popularity but Paul stood his ground. He was driven by principles, not popularity. [v.12] Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. Would Paul have enjoyed some fame and popularity? Sure, he was human but it was not going to make that his motive.
- You never get your affirmation from your critics. You are sitting yourself up for failure once you make it your motive to please people. They will pull you in a dozen different directions. Paul had critics, they said he was crazy. Crazy Paul! [v.13]…If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Paul was not the first man of God to be labeled crazy, nor the last. Critics of Dwight L. Moody [a layman] called him “Crazy Moody.” Have you ever heard folks refer to me as ‘Crazy Jack?’ If you follow Jesus, you will be misunderstood and you will not be popular.
Paul was motivated in part by his fear of God but not fear of man. But this is not the only thing that motivated Paul and it cannot be the only thing that motivates us.
II. PAUL WAS MOTIVATED BY THE LOVE OF CHRIST
[v.14]…. Christ’s love controls us.
- KJV ….’constraineth’
- NKJV, NIV….’compels’
- RSV, NASB, NLT…’controls’
- GNT, CEV….’rules’
The Greek verb synechō means to take hold or hold together. I like either. Christ love takes hold of us and it compels us, drives us, motivates us, energizes us. If you study the various translations, none are incorrect: Christ love constrains, compels, controls and rules.
In the early days of my ministry, I was highly motivated by fear of the LORD and my desire to please HIM. I felt a strong sense of accountability. Over time, I saw my motivation shift to the love of Christ. There came a time in my life when honestly, I had no desire, other than guilt, to witness to the lost. Then one day in my study, it dawned on me, I am not to be motivated by my love for the lost, I am motivated by Christ love for the lost: it changed my life and ministry. It set me free. No longer did I enter a home feeling guilty about not loving these people the way Christ did: I understood clearly, that I was there as His ambassador to tell them HE LOVED THEM, not that I loved them. What good would it do for me to sheepishly tell them, “I love you,” when they knew the truth.
I grew up with a guy that got saved when he was about 20 years old. He was so on fire for the LORD that it caused marital problems. His wife was jealous of him spending so much time at church and she told him so. This initiated a series of problems that did not get resolved. By the time I graduated Seminary [7 years later], he was divorced and bitter. He dropped out of church completely. A few years later, he fell in love with a very gracious Christian lady and I performed the marriage ceremony but he never healed. He was not bitter toward his wife or children but he was bitter about the past and I don’t think he ever let it go. He got cancer in his late 50’s and he didn’t last long. In one of my conversations with him, he talked about a local church that tried to get him involved. On there first visit, they told him they loved him and that did not fly. They could have said a lot of things and gotten away with it but this man had experience things they knew nothing about and he called them on it. He said, “You don’t love me, you don’t even know me. There is the door, it is time for you to leave.” The church was right is trying to reach my friend but they were wrong in their approach. We cannot be hypocritical and it was true, they didn’t love him and proved it by leaving him alone. We don’t go because we love people, that will be questioned, we go because JESUS LOVES THEM and that is not questioned, not by most. If they had told him that Jesus loved him, he would have been fine. This is what it means to be constrain, compelled, or motivated by the LOVE OF JESUS, it’s HIS love not ours that motivates us. Understanding this truth will keep you out of a lot of trouble.
III. PAUL WAS ALSO MOTIVATED BY HIS LOVE FOR CHRIST
[v.19]…For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.
Paul never got over the fact that Christ died for him. Paul’s response was one of pure adoration: Paul was motivated by his love for Jesus. Paul gives us a brief list of benefits bestowed by a loving Christ:
- Christ died for all, everyone [v.14,15]
- Christ gave us new life [v.15]
- Christ made us a new creation [v.17]
- God did all this by grace [v.18]
- God gave Paul a message and ministry [v.19]
In light of the fact that Jesus had died for Paul [a vicious church hater], gave him a new life with sins forgiven, made something totally knew out of him and did it all by grace moved Paul to love and gratitude. In light of what Jesus had done for him, how could he not love Jesus.
This is the highest motive, doing things because we love Jesus. We will never pay Him the debt we owe but we are not trying to repay the debt, we are expressing our love in obedient devotion.
God’s grace has changed me over the years. I am not the person I use to be. I think it all goes back to verse 15, He died for everyone [ including me] so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
I don’t remember being ruthless or totally callous but I do know that in the early days, I was more motivated by fear than anything else. Then I discovered that I was to be motivated by HIS LOVE not mine and it revolutionized my world. In these last days of my life, I am learning to do things because I love HIM. I have to tell you the truth: I don’t know that I will have many if any rewards when I get to heaven but there are rewards here and now. I guarantee you by my own experience that it pays to serve Jesus and there is no greater fulfillment than to do things simply because you love HIM.
At one time, my goal was for my son to play professional sports which is what I always wanted to do and then it became for all my children, a good job, a good living and healthy children but I don’t ask for things like that anymore. I have narrowed my prayer to something that will cover all of the above. I pray that my children and grandchild will love Jesus with all their heart. If they do that, they will be happy and so will I. It’s a process and it takes time but it doesn’t have to take them as long as it took me.