Lots of things make sense and don’t really require much explanation. If I asked you what your plans were today, and you said that later on you would be going home and stretching out on your bed and having a long afternoon nap, no explanation needed. I’m with you. That’s what Sunday afternoons are for. That’s perfectly understandable human behavior.
But if you go back with me in some kind of time machine to 1980, and if I could wipe your memory and prevent you from watching any news, and if you and I stood by a Toronto road and saw this skinny guy with a mechanical leg jogging by, you’d have questions. You’d especially have questions if you knew that his plan was to run across Canada, and that he’d already hop-stepped from St. John’s Newfoundland to here. That is not normal human behavior. You might ask him what compelled him to want to jog across Canada on one leg, and you might learn that his name was Terry Fox, and that he was trying to raise millions for cancer research. You would know that something was driving him. There has to be some motivation for such radical behavior. Once you understood his reasons, you’d begin to see his quest as one that makes perfect sense. You’d even see it as heroic. But first you’d need to understand his motives.
You see, some things make sense without explanation. But other things are so unusual that an explanation is required. And one of these things is what we’re going to talk about over the next three weeks: about Christians telling people who aren’t Christians about Jesus Christ. Yes, it’s the e-word: evangelism. We need to be honest: this isn’t normal human behavior. You and I live with and work with lots of people who don’t know the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Not only that, but many of them don’t want to know. Many of them have pretty firmly established belief systems themselves. We live in a society that says that we should respect each other’s beliefs and not impose our beliefs on each other.
So why would we even think about trying to convince other people to put their hope in Jesus Christ and to trust in the gospel? That’s a very good question.
And to answer that question, I’d like to look at someone who thought through this very question and came up with two very good answers. First let me tell you about him. His name was Paul. He was someone who used to hate people who were like what he had become. He used to hunt down Christians who tried to persuade others to put their hope in Jesus Christ.
But everything had changed. Paul himself came to follow Christ. And he had devoted his life to persuading others to put their hope in Christ. This came at a cost. Listen to what Paul endured to do this:
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own people, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28)
On top of that, Paul was opposed by fellow-Christians within the various churches he had served.
Would you agree that this is not normal human behavior? What would compel Paul to spend his life persuading people to put their hope in Christ?
Paul tells us in this passage. In the passage that we just read, Paul gives two reasons why he devoted his life to telling others about Jesus. And if we understand these reasons – if we really understand them – then it will be enough to motivate us to overcome all of our fears and all the obstacles, and to do the same ourselves.
What are these reasons? We’ll tell others about Jesus when we’re compelled by a picture of Jesus’ evaluation and Jesus’ love.
So let’s look at the first of these:
We’ll tell others about Jesus when we’re compelled by a picture of Jesus’ evaluation.
Look with me at verse 9 and read down to the first part of verse 11.
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade people. (2 Corinthians 5:9-11)
Paul is saying that he has a picture, and the picture is of Jesus evaluating him. Actually, the picture is of standing before the judgment seat of Christ. This picture is so powerful that it compels him to tell other people about Jesus.
Last October I was late getting into the office. I also had to stop at the post office on my way. So I was going a little too fast up Islington Avenue and sped right into a speed trap. The officer wrote up a ticket, and when he handed it to me he told me that if I fought the ticket in court that he wouldn’t be opposed to reducing the charge. Part of me wanted to ask him to skip the court part and to reduce the charge right on the spot, but I’m learning not to argue with police officers when they pull you over.
So I ended up in court a couple of weeks ago. I began thinking of the two or three other times I’ve fought speeding and parking tickets. Not that many, but enough. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea! One time I was waiting for my turn, and the judge lost it with the person before me. This was traffic court, but they hauled him off in handcuffs and took him to jail. Then they said, “Let’s see who’s next. Okay, Darryl Dash.” I was petrified.
So a couple of weeks ago, I sat in the courtroom. I knew the outcome of the verdict. The prosecutor and I had agreed that I would plead guilty to a lesser speed. I really didn’t need to be afraid. And yet my one goal is that I would get through the experience without crashing into the seats and dividers out of sheer fear.
Now, you get that. Some of you have also appeared in court and you understand the fear of standing before a judge or a justice of the peace. Paul uses the image of an accused person standing before a Roman judge. If the person in those days was found guilty, punishment would be immediate. Paul knew what he was talking about, because he himself had stood condemned before the Roman governor in Corinth some years earlier, as described in Acts 18.
If we’re fearful, Paul says, appearing before human authority in order to be judged, how much more fearful should we be knowing that we have to stand before Jesus Christ one day to give account for our lives?
Let me apply this to two groups of people who may be here today. I want to apply this first to some of you who may be here today who don’t trust in Jesus Christ. We love having you here, and we understand that you have not yet come to the place of putting your trust in Jesus Christ.
But please understand that the Bible teaches that we all will have to stand before God one day and be judged. There is a healthy sense of fear that should compel you to take these issues seriously. Years ago Jonathan Edwards preached a famous sermon that said words that we need to take seriously even today:
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it…
And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God.
The fact that you will stand before God’s judgment one day should compel you to consider what Christ has done to make a way for you to be made right with God. He took the place of sinners and took the punishment that should be ours. Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and he may be calling to you today.
But I want to also speak to those of us who have put our faith in Christ. Paul says that we too will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. He also says that we’ll receive what is due for what has been done in the body – during our lives – whether good or evil. All those who have trusted in Christ will pass Christ’s judgment, because we have forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ alone. As Paul wrote elsewhere, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). But we will be judged, and it appears from a number of Scriptures that there will be degrees of reward.
This gave Paul a healthy fear of God. He said in verse 11, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade people.” We need a picture of Jesus’ evaluation of our lives so that we will be compelled to not waste our lives. It will create within us a desire to tell others about his love.
This is a great reason, but it’s not the only one. So Paul gives us a second reason.
We’ll tell others about Jesus when we’re compelled not only by a picture of Jesus’ evaluation, but also with a picture of Jesus’ love.
Let’s look at verses 14-15:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Here’s what’s interesting about Paul. He’s just talked about a picture of Jesus’ evaluation of his life that leads to healthy fear. You would think that fear and love go together. But here, Paul says that they belong together very well. We need a picture of Jesus’ evaluation and a picture of Jesus’ love. When we’re gripped with Jesus’ love, we’ll care about his judgment. It’s because he loves us that we want to hear the “‘Well done, good and faithful servant!” from him. It’s because we’ve experienced his love that his evaluation of our lives matters.
Paul says he’s compelled by the love of Jesus Christ. And then he points to evidence of that love: that “one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” That’s a mouthful. Let’s see if we can untangle this together.
“One died for all.” What does that mean? At the cross, Paul is saying, Jesus Christ did not die for his own sins, but for the sins of other people. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.'” Paul came to understand that when Jesus died, he died not for himself. He died for Paul. He died for all those who have placed their faith in him.
“Therefore all died.” What does that mean? The Bible teaches that when Adam sinned in Genesis 3, death came to all the world. But when Jesus died on the cross for us, he undid death. Those who trust in him die to death and sin and all that is wrong with this world. All the effects of the sin of Adam are undone for those who trust in Christ. Those who trust in him experience the end of death and the beginning of new life that will extend into eternity past death. Jesus’ death undid death.
“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” When we understand what Jesus has done for us, when we grasp how much he loves us, then our entire lives will be turned upside-down. We’re back again to being so transformed by his love that his evaluation, his judgment, will matter more than anything else.
We’re about to come to the visible evidence of how much Christ loved us. As someone asked, after thinking about Jesus dying for us at the cross, and being raised to give us new life: “Judge then whether this be not a reason for loving him, and for devoting ourselves unreservedly to his service? Can too much be done for him, who has done, and is doing, so much for us?” (Charles Simeon)
If you see a man with cancer and a mechanical leg jogging across Canada, you know he’s compelled with a vision of defeating cancer. If you see someone telling others about Jesus, you know you’ve just seen someone compelled by a picture of Jesus’ love and Jesus’ evaluation.
Father, as we come to the table, give us a picture of the standing before the judgment seat of Christ. May that appropriately move us to change how we live here and now. But also give us a real sense of the love of Jesus Christ for us. He died in our place so that we could die to death and live again. Can too much be done for him who has done and is doing so much for us?
May this picture of Jesus compel us to tell others about his love. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.