December 7, 2008
Though we covered v. 20 last time, let me go back to it. V. 20 and 21 go together.
V. 21. Paul was confident that as he faced the future with the boldness he had in the past, Christ would be magnified, or glorified. In vv. 21-30, he expresses his indifference as to whether Christ would be magnified in his life or in his death.
Vv. 20, 21. As we mentioned last week, Christ is for both living and dying. Far too often Christ and the power of His Spirit is presented for dying, and not for living.
I am on several mailing lists and one in particular, rubes me the wrong way. The man is a good man who believes in the grace of God, but that is where it stops. I have received his mailings for a good number of years, and all that is in them is that our sins are forgiven and we are on our way to heaven. The message is true, but he seems to restrict the message to death. I find it distressing when a pastor can see no more in the Spirit of Christ than death.
Christianity can only start with the Spirit's clear conviction of sin; that is to say, a genuine brokenness that shows the sinner he is without hope, on his way to hell. Then the Spirit must bring about repentance for sin, and show that trust in the finished work of Christ is the only answer to his sin problem. The sinner must understand that Christ died in his place, and that he must trust completely Christ's payment for his sin. And then he places his total trust and confidence in Christ to pay his sin debt.
Certainly, the Spirit of Christ is the power over death and the grave. But Paul saw the Spirit of Christ first of all as power to live a life which magnified Christ, regardless of circumstances.
Elsewhere in Paul's writings, he makes it clear that if there is no desire to glorify Christ by learning and doing his word, then there is just cause to doubt one's salvation.
In all of Paul's epistles, he tells us that if Christ will be glorified, it will be in and through the bodies of His Saints. It will be through situations like Paul went through. Christ receives the glory as His people stand up to the trials of this life, as they stand against the lusts of the flesh, as they fulfill their commitment to Him no matter what.
Others cannot see Christ except in His followers. When we violate our commitment to Him with our bodies, we bring shame to the One we say we love and serve.
How many Christians desire and even pray for the chance to bring glory to Christ. Then when the chance comes, maybe years latter, they fail when they realize they must sacrifice a favorite lust of the flesh.
The point here is, we want the glorify Christ, but we want to do it in our way. "Lord, let me do some great work for you, but don't ask me to give up my favorite lust." Sorry! That favorite lust which we refuse to turn over to Him is our god.
Those who desire to magnify Him will have a holy indifference as to whether it is by life or by death. Life will be faced with a joy over the prospect of serving Him, death will be faced with a joy over the prospect of seeing Him.
V. 21. FOR TO ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST...
Paul's sole aim in life was to glorify Christ. Of course, this is 1 Cor. 10:31. He had a single purpose, and that purpose was not to gain wealth, fame, or, as a man who was on his fifth marriage told me, to have a good time. A "good time" was his goal even if he had to marry a dozen women.
Here we have some implications:
1. He desired to know as much about Christ as was possible His character, plans, relationship with the Father, His claims and influences.
2. He purposed to imitate Christ in every area His temper, His actions, His love, His zeal for the Father's will, His stand against evil.
3. He purposed to make Christ known everywhere, and at every opportunity. Paul had the consuming desire to make the Son known to every one. He never allowed anything to interfere in this purpose.
4. He purposed to enjoy Christ. He found his fulfillment, joy and happiness in Christ. He didn't have to look to the pleasures of this world to find any of these things.
Paul never regretted the course he set out on to follow Christ. If following Christ was Paul's call and duty, is it any less ours? Did the Lord have a different standard for Paul than He does for us?
Even now as we consider all of the sensual pleasure around us, are we sorry we are on the Christ-like path? I am sure that many Christian young people doubt very seriously that the Christian walk is the right one, especially among all of the temptation we face today. But, we are facing nothing that the Apostle did not face. The wickedness and sensuality was just as much then as it is now, maybe even more.
1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
The difference is the determination to stand against the temptations.
When we face death, as Paul was at this point, how will we look back on it? We will look back with sorrow that we did not do more for Christ. No one will be able to look back with sorrow for having done too much.
AND TO DIE IS GAIN.
Even the most pagan religions have a belief in a better life after death, but for them, it is speculation. Paul was totally convinced that death was freedom from suffering, pain, sorrow, toil and grief.
The word GAIN means profit or advantage. Paul is saying that it would be to his personal advantage to die, and the only reason he would want to live is for the peoples sake, Vv. 24, 25. What is the advantage of death to a Christian?
1. Death frees the Christian from the presence of sin, and the temptation to sin. How many times has our sinful nature gained the better of us? It has caused problems and embarrassments, as well as robbed us of God's greater blessings.
Furthermore, no mater how determined we might be to live consistently for the Saviour, there is always the allurement to go astray.
2. Death frees the Christian from doubts about our personal relationship with the Lord. No more question regarding our standing with Him.
3. Death delivers the Christian from his enemies, both physical and spiritual people who slander and persecute the Christians. In this life, there is always someone to call our motives into question; there is always someone to slander the Christian; there is always someone to persecute Christians, do an injustice to those who are sincerely trying to obey the Lord.
In death, we will be delivered from the accuser of the brethren. We will be like Him, free from all of these things from the enemies of the cross. What a glorious day that will be.
4. Death delivers the Christian from suffering. Here our health fails, friends and loved ones die, the mind grows weak. In death, there are no tears, no illness, no death.
5. Death delivers the Christian from the "fear of death." In life, death is ever at the door. In death, there is no more death no separation, no funeral processions.
6. Death delivers the Christian into not only the presence of the Lord, but also into the presence of our friends, loved ones. We will be admitted into the presence of the saints of old, the genuine heroes of the faith. What will it be like to be at the same table with the great heros of the faith who are listed in Heb. 11?
What will it be like to rejoice around the throne of the Great King, Jesus, the One who loved us and gave Himself for us? the one we have tried to serve without ever having seen him? I can not even conjure up in my mind's eye what it will be like to see the Lord.
As the song says, "It will be worth it all when we see Jesus." And I guarantee that we will all be sorry that we did not love Him more and do more for His great Name's sake.
Why then should a Christian be afraid to die?
Why should he not look forward to the hour when he will be delivered from this body of sin, and delivered into the presence of more glory that we can imagine?
Does a sick man dread the hour in which he will be restored to health?
Does the afflicted man dread the hour in which he will be comforted?
Does the one lost in the dark dread the hour of the bright day and home?
Does the weak dread the restoration of his strength?
Paul felt that to die is gain. Death was a welcome end. He also felt that to continue to live would be much added work, add fruit to his labor, and add to his reward.
On one hand, life is a lot of work with added fruit and reward; on the other, death is rest and eternal joy. If the choice were his, which should he chose? To him they were equal.
If we were faced with such a choice, which would we chose? I must say that I am glad that this choice is not mine to make. It is the Lord's, and we must be able to rejoice in it no matter what.
Paul is between the two. He earnestly longed to be with Christ, yet he desired to remain for the benefit of those to whom he ministered.
STRAIT means to be perplexed, pressed on, in doubt, not knowing which way to chose.
The picture here is of a ship at anchor, and a violent wind attempting to blow it out to sea. The anchor which is holding the apostle is his strong affection for his people, and his desire to aid them in their walk for the Lord.
The wind that is blowing is the desire to depart and be with the Lord. Which way should he desire to go?
He said that to die and leave this world was far better for him, but to remain was far better for the ones he loves.
His desire for death was not a morbid desire to escape the trials and pain of this life. The desire was not a result of disappointment in people. Nor was it because of sorrow, pain, illness, dissatisfaction, old age, feeling of uselessness or of being a burden, helplessness, or failure in any way. His desire certainly was not a desire for suicide.
It was a desire to see the Saviour whom he had served these many years, AND TO BE WITH CHRIST. In Paul's desire, we see some things for us:
1. He believed that the soul went to be with Christ immediately at death. He did not believe in `soul sleep.' Death ushers us immediately into our eternal dwelling place.
2. The soul of the believer is made happy at death. To be with Christ is heaven for the believer. The song, OH THAT WILL BE GLORY FOR ME.
Paul defines what is to be the Christian's motives to depart from this world: It is to be with Christ, or as he said in 2 Corinthians, present with the Lord.. Any desire for death must not be to escape from the toils and problems here.
Also, a mere willingness to die, or even a desire to die, is no certain evidence that one is prepared for death. They may be fed up with suffering, pain, toil, disappointments. They may be disgusted at the world and ready to call it quits. They may be so totally miserable and disillusioned that they now look forward to death. It is not uncommon to hear of people pleading for "mercy killing."
Though the inside of people may be in turmoil, everything may appear to be fine on the outside. We do not know who is fed up with life, so we need to be kind to everyone we meet.
None of these things can enter in to the death wish for a Christian. The Christian finds it FAR BETTER, beyond words or expressions, TO BE WITH CHRIST. To be with Christ is far better than anything we can hope or think, and is to be preferred over anything this world has to offer.
Paul was not so heavenly minded that he was no earthly good. I know of people who are looking forward to heaven so much that they have forgotten what life is all about. While their thoughts are in the heavens, the world is going to the hell. It is going with their approval for they are not doing what they can to stop the downward slide. They have lost all touch with reality and reality is destroying them, and us.
The indifference of Christians has destroyed "Christian America." The "escapism, rapture" mentality has had its devastating effects.
To start with, the "escape" oriented Christians are not really looking forward to seeing Christ, or they would be busy about the Master's work.
1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
Those who are not faithful to their profession of Christ do not really believe they will answer to him.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Many who are looking forward to being with Him, if they really believed they would answer to Christ would be doing a lot differently with their lives now.
Paul's personal desire was to depart and be with Christ, but he also knew that God works through people. He knew the importance of his presence with these people to help them in their growth in Christ.
more needful for you. As much as he wanted to be with the Lord, he loved these people and the prospect of God working in them. He knew there was still a great amount of work to be done for the Lord.
I think that anyone who has had a task laid on their hearts by the Lord knows a little of what he is talking about here. And rather than looking forward to death, we look forward to life, and the chance to do something for Him. I must confess that I look forward to seeing Christ, but I have so much that I would love to accomplish for Him and He has given me the chance to do, that I hope He leaves me here for quite a while yet.
I personally am excited enough to work day and night to do the things that I fell that He would have me do.
I feel sorry for any Christian that doesn't have some God given goals to accomplish for the Lord that they want to do before they die.
I will have to say that it sure makes the days go fast.
Vv. 25, 26. A few points here.
1. Even in his very difficult situation, and even with very little prospect of his being released, Paul still was planning for the future with these people.
In our day, the thought seems to be, Things are hopeless, let's throw up our hands and quit. Or, Why make planes for the future? We won't be here anyway.
Paul fell into no such trap. He did not know what the future held, but it sure was not going to lay down and quit, or take it easy. He made plans as though he was going to be around for a long time yet. He had no revelation from God, but he was planing as though he would be released, and that he still had much work to do.
Rather than looking to get out of the bad situations by escaping from them, we need to be planning for our children and grandchildren. We need to be planning for many generations to come after us. What are we leaving for them in the line of a godly foundation for their lives in the future?
Paul, even here in jail with the very real prospect of death, was looking and planning for the future here on earth.
2. His only reason for even desiring to be released was FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE HE WAS CONCERNED ABOUT. I am afraid that most of our desire to be delivered from unfavorable circumstances is for our own personal convince.
Paul's personal convenience or choice did not at all enter into his confidence that he would be with them again.
3. Any deliverance would be credited to THE MERCY AND GRACE OF CHRIST. Any rejoicing over his release or in his coming to them again, would be in Jesus Christ.
Most of us plan and scheme how to extract ourselves from whatever situation we don't like. Then when we are freed from it, we end up rejoicing in our own abilities. Any cause for rejoicing that we might have over anything can only be in Christ and what He has done.
4. Paul was content to stay where he was if that would serve the cause of Christ better for the people at Philippi. He was totally indifferent about the matter. The only goal he had was to serve the Lord, whether by death or by life.
Until we reach that indifferent point in our life, we will not have the peace that only the Lord can provide.
I don't know how many people I have met that have told me, "If only things were different, I could really do something for the Lord." Or who feel that if only they could be somewhere else, be something or someone else, have a different gift in the Body of Christ, have a different job or any one of a great number of `something elses,' they could really amount to something for the Lord.
If we place our hope for joy in the Lord and service for Him upon anything except being content and doing our best where we are for His glory;
1> we will never do anything for God to amount to anything.
2> we will be extremely unhappy.
3> we will be off and running trying to find happiness that is, "chasing a rainbow."
4> Paul sums up his letter to the Philippian Saints with:
PHI 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
He tell tham and us that if we cannot be content with where the Lord has us, then we will have an impossible goal of "contentment" before us. Contentment cannot be placed anywhere except in the Lord.
The unavoidable and unmistakable principle here and throughout Scripture is to be content with where the Lord has us, do our very best for His glory, and He will take care of the details.
The Apostle's instruction on this point to young Timothy is especially pointed:
1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content .
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Note here that lack of fear of what men can do unto us is based upon contentment with where the Lord has us.
Only as we are indifferent as to what the Lord does for us, with us or where He has us, can we expect Him to move us and work through us.
Not a contentment based on "What's the use, or who cares" indifference, but a contentment based on "I am indifferent as to where He has me, as long as I can serve Him." Such a contentment takes discipline. It is a work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of very impatient individuals. We could paraphrase a passage to say, "Hang in there no matter what, and the Lord will work it all out in His good time."
Most of us are far too impatient to even give the Lord a chance to work in our situation.
I don't know how many pastors that I have heard of that fall into this category. They are always looking for bigger and better, and if they can't find that where they are, off they go for greener pastures.
5> Many times, it is in the jail where we learn the lessons that we must have in order to serve and glorify Christ latter. The jail may be the only place where we can learn that lesson. Joseph is a good example.
If we complain long and loud enough, the Lord just may see fit to deliver us from what we find so objectionable. The problem is that there was a lesson there in that place that we needed for what was ahead for us. Now we miss the schooling that we needed to be victorious over what is coming.
Paul was indifferent about whether he was released or not. He left that detail in the Lord's hands. His goal was to glorify Christ, whether in prison or out. He was totally content with his circumstances because he knew that the Lord was in control and would place him where He wanted him to be.
6> If we can't serve the Lord in jail, if we can't seek first His kingdom from where the circumstances are not conducive to serving Him, what makes us think we can elsewhere?
If we can't be content with where God has us now and do our best for His cause and serve Him where we are now, we won't no matter where we are.
I can say that one of my "pet peeves" has been people who are always looking for their big chance to do something great for the Lord. They are always going to do something great, and could, if they were only somewhere else, or if things were only deferent.
God is looking for people who will do their very best with what He has provided them with, where they are for His glory.
I must also say that if there is no desire to do something for the Lord, then there is serious doubts about that one's salvation.
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