Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

God’s already done the heavy lifting to bring newness into to our lives, the thing left for us to do is be willing to change our habits and patterns of living.

But change without direction isn’t a good thing. You may remember from yesterday’s blog that my friend had to learn how to drive without his hand on the emergency brake when he bought a new car. Learning to drive without your hand on the emergency brake is a good thing, but without direction, that freedom could take you places you don’t want to go. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 in its context:

14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And 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.

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:14-17

The passage gives us a hint at the direction our change ought to take – or at least a look at the guiding force behind our change. It says that it is Christ’s love that “compels us.” The King James Version say His love “constrains us.” Another translation of the word is “preoccupies” – Christ love preoccupies us.

The Greek word used is sunecho and it means all three things. Perhaps if we’re not experiencing the new life, it is because we have not allowed Christ’s love to do those three things – to compel, constrain and preoccupy us!

Let’s examine how Christ’s love preoccupies us, constrains us and compels us so that each of us live a changed life that is controlled by the One who initiated and completed the change.

Are you preoccupied with the love of Christ? Does it occupy your thoughts when you are going about your day?

Paul gives more advice in Romans 12:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

The way we are transformed is by the renewing of our mind – by that constant preoccupation with Christ’s love. That’s what transforms! It’s interesting that the tense of this passage is quite active – Don’t be conformed – be transformed! 2 Corinthians is past tense – we have been made new – Romans is active voice – be transformed!

My friend lost his old habits as he learned about and appreciated and enjoyed his new car. Now obviously, we don’t want to worship a car, but you get the idea. The more we preoccupy ourselves with the Lord, the more we will be transformed.

Do you allow the love of Christ to constrain your actions and words? Do you allow it to place limits on your behavior and thoughts? When we think of limits, we typically think of God limiting the “bad stuff.” That’s true. But it also includes constraining us from doing good stuff that He has created for others to do. It’s that kind of constraint that helps keep us from being crazy people.

If we try to participate in every good opportunity that presents itself, we very easily miss out on two of God’s greatest gifts – time with God and rest.

There are so many good things we could do, but there are specific good works that God has prepared in advance for each of us to do. If I don’t allow God to constrain me, I might try to do the good works He’s prepared for you. Then where would your joy be? And you might try to do my good works and I’d have to compete with you for them. That’s not what God has in mind. What He has in mind is that our love for Him constrains us – sets limits for us so that we do only what He would have us do – and that places limits on both the bad things we shouldn’t do and the good things we should do.

Do you move forward compelled by the love of God? Do you move forward compelled by the Holy Spirit? Do you plan your day, week, month and life according to His desires for your life?

Look at verse 15:

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.

His desire is that we not live for ourselves, but for Christ. When Christ’s love compels me, I live a life (not just think the thoughts, but live a life) that is more like Christ’s.

Does Christ’s love compel you to live a life for Him, not yourself?

It’s Not One or the Other – It’s All Three
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that it is Christ’s love that preoccupies, constrains and compels us. Is that true of you? Is it Christ’s love that preoccupies, constrains and compels you?

One final point – we are all wired differently and that wiring will cause us to gravitate toward one of the three of those things more easily than the others. For some of us being preoccupied with the love of Christ comes easy while others are more activity oriented. Some of us are great at being constrained, while others of us are great at being compelled. Sorry folks, but it’s not a one or the other deal. The word Paul used means all three things – preoccupied, constrained and compelled – and if we only allow it to mean one or even two things, we’re not there.

If we only allow Christ’s love to only preoccupy us or only constrain us, we can’t say with Paul that Christ’s love sunecho’s us. For sunecho to be a reality in our lives, all three elements of the word must come into it’s place.

God wants to bring that balance and that means changing from “life as usual” – because we don’t become more like Christ without experiencing change. So let me push you just a little beyond your comfort zone and ask you to ask God to bring your life into sunecho balance. Don’t be satisfied with the old way of operating.

Allow God to make you new as we continue in 2011. Pursue the adventure of allowing the Spirit of God to guide you into a life of power – a life that starts with a preoccupation with the love of Christ, and then is both constrained and compelled by it.

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