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Sunday, January 8, 2017, 5:22 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Softly and Tenderly.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NASB).

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

Victors over Sin

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are led of the Spirit of God in victory over our enemy Satan, and over sin, because of what Jesus Christ did for us in dying on a cross for our sins, and in being resurrected from the dead, victorious over hell, Satan, sin and death. We are victors because he was victorious, and so we share in his victory when we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives. When Jesus died, he who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). When he died our sins died with him, and were buried with him. When we believe in Jesus, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are made alive in Christ to live to his righteousness. Thus, we are victors in Christ over sin and Satan that we might live in Christ in freedom from sin.

When we live (walk) in such victory over sin, and over Satan, it should be obvious to others that there has been a change in our lives, and that we are no longer like we were before we met Jesus at the cross. This doesn’t mean we will reach instant perfection or that we will never sin again. It should, however, mean that a transformation of heart and mind has taken place in our lives of the Spirit of God and that we have been turned from darkness (sin) to light (righteousness), and from the power Satan had over our lives to follow Jesus Christ with our lives in surrender to his will. And, this transformation should be so distinct and pervasive in our lives that others should be able to sense it like they can smell a sweet fragrance.

Yet, for those who reject Christ, and who continue in sinful lifestyles, we are a reminder of their sinful condition and of their ultimate destination, which is eternity in the fires of hell, and so they will most likely hate us. Yet, for those who would choose to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives, we should be an aroma of life to them, because they have become fellow victors with us in Christ. Now they now share in our joy in God’s life-changing power to transform a life out of the grip of sin into freedom, in Christ, from slavery to sin. The sad reality here, though, is that it seems there are many who claim to be in Christ who find offense to our walks in the Spirit because they are still being captivated by the flesh, and thus they are more comfortable being around the people of the world than they are being around those who are victors in Christ over sin.

Verbal Testimony

Yet, Paul is not speaking here merely of giving testimony of Christ through our lives and how we live them for Christ and no longer for the flesh. He is speaking of giving verbal testimony to the saving power of Christ over sin through the preaching (teaching, witness) of the gospel of our salvation. And, he realized that he, being but a clay vessel, was not equal to such a profound task as this. Only in Christ, and in his power and strength within him, could he continue to preach Christ crucified and us dead to sin in him. For, there was much opposition against him on a continual basis, even coming from those who professed to know Christ, and from those who professed to be ministers of the gospel, as well. We, too, may or do face such opposition, and we, too, must find our all-sufficiency in Christ alone.

Some of Paul’s opposition were those who did not preach Christ crucified for the glory of God but for the glory of man, i.e. for their own personal gain. They were peddlers (merchants) selling a product in order to gain followers for themselves, so truly they were enemies of the cross of Christ. And, thus it is today. We have many peddlers of the gospel within our church congregations who are in it for themselves to build kingdoms of men, not of God. And, so the gospel they peddle is diluted or is a half-truth gospel which appeals to the flesh of man in order to gain many converts for their “churches,” i.e. for their human-based businesses (corporations).

Because this is so, many who profess to know Jesus don’t know him at all, for what they have bought into is a gospel of human-making that leaves them still dead in their sins without hope of eternity with God in glory. There has been no death to sin, and no living to righteousness, because they are being taught that they don’t have to repent of their sins, and that they don’t have to obey Christ. They are being told that such teaching (preaching) is legalistic, and thus they must reject it. Yet, all this is a clever lie of Satan and is a cover-up for continued sin while claiming the hope of heaven.

If you don’t have to repent of sin, and you don’t have to obey Christ, then you can continue in sin while still claiming freedom in Christ, but the two are diametrically opposed to each other. John said that if we say we have fellowship with Christ, but we walk in darkness, we are liars, and we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6). Paul said if we walk according to our flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

Those who are preaching (teaching, giving witness to) the gospel, as of God before God in Christ, with sincerity (honesty) of heart, are not going to be ones who dilute the gospel to make it more acceptable to human flesh. But, they are going to preach Christ crucified for sin and us dead to sin in him and reborn of the Spirit to new lives in Christ to be lived to his righteousness. For, Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die with him to sin and so we might live with him in victory over sin, walking daily in his holiness. His grace is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: Tit. 2:11-14).

Jesus is Calling

So, God/Jesus is calling out to you today to turn from your lifestyle of sin and living for self, and to be crucified (dead) with Christ to sin and alive with Christ to his righteousness and holiness. This is not something you do in your own flesh, though. This is the working of the Spirit of God in your life as you submit to the cross of Christ and cooperate with the Spirit’s work of grace in your life in submission to the Lord’s will for your life. Will you today say “Yes” to Jesus, and make him truly Lord (owner-master) of your life?

Softly and Tenderly / Will Thompson

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

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