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Saturday, November 15, 2014

To Live Christ, To Die Gain

Php 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The ancient city of Krenides, in Macedonia, became the capital of Alexander the Great and was renamed in honor of his father, Philip in Macedon. It sat in relative obscurity for 200 years until one of the most famous events in Roman history occurred in 42 BC

This event was the Battle of Philippi, where the forces of Anthony and Octavian defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius... thus ending the Roman Republic, and ushering in the Roman Empire.

What this means is that the representative Republic became an empire ruled by Emperors... They maintained the “facade” of Republic, but in fact it was little more than a dictatorship.

After this important battle, the defeated army of Brutus and Cassius were allowed to settle in the area, turning Philippi into a Roman colony, 800 miles from Rome.

The people of Philippi, being descendents of Roman military, took great pride in being Romans and a Roman colony which afforded them all the rights given to Roman cities in Italy.

They spoke Latin... used Roman law... granted Roman citizenship to its residents... and had adopted many Roman customs.

It was into this city that Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled, after being prevented by the Holy Spirit to go to Asia. Paul's “Macedonian Call”, sent them to Macedonia to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Upon arriving at Philippi, Paul, Silas and Timothy went to a river outside the city, looking for a Jewish prayer service. There apparently wasn't enough Jews in the city to establish a synagogue (10 Jewish males requirement), which is the reason they looked for a “prayer meeting”.

At the river they met several women, and the woman, Lydia... the seller of purple, who believed their message and provided them with lodging while in Phillipi.

Now, Paul's history at Philippi was both profitable and painful. It was profitable in the sense that he was able to establish a thriving Christian community there, consisting mostly of Gentiles (there weren't many Jews around, remember?)... and it was painful in the sense that he and Silas had been beaten and thrown in jail. (Remember the story of the earthquake and the Philippian Jailer?)

At the point in time when Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, most believe that he was in his first Roman incarceration after his second missionary journey.

He had no idea what God's plans for him involved. Whether it would be to continue on, preaching the gospel and establishing even more churches around the world... or if his death was imminent.

Either way, Christ would be exalted. Christ would be gloried. Christ would be proclaimed.

Whether he lived or died... the Lord's will would be done... and His plan would be fully accomplished.

The greek phrase that we render... to live is Christ and to die is gain... contains no verb. It literally reads “to live Christ, to die gain”.

Paul knew that living is Christ, and he would continue to serve Him while he lived. But he also knew that dying would be great gain because he would then be in God's presence... able to worship and serve Him in total perfection

Paul fully understood that wealth, power, influence, possessions, prestige, social standing, good health, business or professional success, and all other such things are transitory...

Many today will still acknowledge this truth... but not many actually live as if it is true.

Because of this, though many of us like to quote this passage and claim it as our own... few of us can say with the same utter sincerity that Paul had... to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain

As I was reading over this verse... mulling it over in my mind... reading its context and studying somewhat of the history involved...

I discovered some truths about this Christian life that Paul taught... which the Philippians lived... which we are to emulate... and now I'd like to share with you... the first of which is...

I. The Christian Life is Personal. “To me...”
To me”... not to anyone else... Paul said, “to me

No one can truly speak for anyone else, but themselves. The Christian life that Paul lived was his own. It began for him on the road to Damascus when Christ appeared to Him personally

It continued on during his Arabian desert training (Gal 1:12, 17), where he was instructed by Jesus Himself in the truth of the gospel

It was extremely personal to him as he was being whipped on 5 different occasions with 39 lashes... as he was being stoned... shipwrecked... as he clung to wreckage in the deep for a night and a day... (2Co 11:23-27)

When his life ended at the end of a Roman soldier's sword during his last imprisonment... it was personal.

All the things he went through for the furtherance of the gospel... for the establishing of churches and the building up of the members of those christian assemblies... it was very personal.

The same holds true for Stephen as he was being stoned to death... as James died at Herod's command... as Peter, according to tradition, gave up his life while being hung upside down on a cross...

The Christian Life is very personal.

The believer's who are currently making the choice to declare Jesus as Lord in the face of Muslim horrors in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia... are making the very personal decision that this life holds no comparison to that life which is to come...

No one can make someone else believe the truth of the gospel. That's an entirely personal situation where the Father draws people to His Son

I may preach the gospel to a group of people... as I am right now

As much as I'd like to be able to grab people by the arm and drag them to the safety of the cross... As much as I'd like to “snatch” people out of the fire...

I can compel no one to believe... That is your decision to make. I can only do what God has shown me to do... the rest is up to Him... and You.

II. The Christian Life is Practical. “to live...”

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that it's extremely practical. It makes sense... It's easy to understand.

There are many religions in the world that are so esoteric (designed for and understood only by those specially initiated)... so “spiritual” that very few understand what's going on.

1Ti 6:20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge

2Ti 3:7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

You know, I question whether even those who claim to “know and practice” these things really know or understand them themselves.

We ran into religions like this in the early 70's when the Beatles went to India and brought back their “maharishi” who spouted off so much drivel and super spiritual sounding nonsense.

It seemed like the more difficult it was to understand... the more contradictory it appeared... the more insanely crazy it sounded... the more “true” people thought it to be.

But the Christian Life is Practical. Though it has aspects that are difficult for some to understand... it is so simple that even a little child can understand it.

2Pe 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

How difficult is it to understand that “Jesus loves me... this I know...”?

It's not difficult to understand and believe that... “God so loved the world...”

Once I realized that I was a sinner who has broken the law... I began to understand that I now owed a debt to that law... a debt that could only be paid for by my death.

But this debt that I owed was paid by some else...

The only One Who could perfectly keep the law, and my faith in that fact... my faith in what Jesus did for me... saves me

It's practical... It's logical... It makes sense...

III. The Christian Life is Possible. “is Christ...”

It's only possible through Christ. He is the only One who could live the perfect, sinless life...

Therefore, living the Christian life, though possible... is only possible in Christ.

2Pe 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

Everything we need to live godly lives in Christ... has been given to us through God's power and the knowledge we have of Him... the level of spiritual growth we've attained in Him...

We don't need to ask Him for more, because all that He has, He's given to us...

Every spiritual resource we need to manifest... and to maintain godly lives... we already have in Him.

IV. The Christian Life is Pressing. “to die...”

It's pressing... it's demanding... It tells us that we must “endure to the end”...

It tells us that we are to “die to self”... to be “crucified with Christ”... It tells us that if we want to live “godly lives in Christ Jesus”... we “will suffer persecution”.

The Christian life can be “a difficult row to hoe”.

Now I have first hand knowledge and understanding of exactly what a “difficult row to hoe” is...

Been there... done that... TDC hoe squad...

And as difficult as the hoe squad was... the Christian life can be infinitely more difficult... Infinitely more demanding... Infinitely more pressing...

I have no idea what living a Christian life is like in Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.

I don't know what it's like living a Christian life in communistic/atheistic countries such as China and Russia

Living for Christ in many countries of the world today may require you to forfeit your job... your family... your life...

It may require that you pack up as much of your possessions as you can... and run for your life like Jesus said in Matthew 24...

Mat 24:17-20 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. (18) And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. (19) But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! (20) And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

Now I know that this quote from Jesus is in reference to the end times and period of the Great Tribulation... but it gives such an accurate picture of life in many countries today.

My sister-in-law and her husband, are right now working in one of these refugee camps that these people are fleeing to.

There are Christians fleeing for their lives... coming into theses camps for assistance... but not everyone who comes there for safety are Christians because the terrorists that are chasing and killing them, do so regardless of their beliefs.

If it doesn't line up with what they believe, then you are targeted for execution. So, they are killing other Muslims right along with Christians and Jews.

Paul faced death for Christ on several occasions... and eventually did die for Christ.

We will be facing this same thing right here in America in the near future. I can only hope and pray that I can say along with Paul in that day... “to die is gain”

Which brings me to my final point...

V. The Christian Life is Profitable. “is gain.”

Though the Christian Life is infinitely profitable in this life... For it alone, of all other religions on earth, and this includes the religion of atheism... Christianity alone leads to freedom and liberty. All others lead to dominion and servitude

Though profitable in this life... As believer's, we are merely “strangers and sojourners” in a foreign land.

Heb 11:13-14 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (14) For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.

This planet is not our home. This life is not the life we seek after.

Our goal is to return home one day and live forever with Christ. That, is GREAT GAIN!

We continue to press toward the goal that Paul speaks of in Philippians, chapter 3...

Php 3:7-14 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. (8) Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (11) if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (12) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (13) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

This is the ultimate goal of every believer. It was Paul's goal. It is the goal of those in Afghanistan and Iraq who are dying daily. It is my goal.

The ultimate payoff. The knowledge that my present and my future, are securely in the hands of Christ.

That one day, I will resurrect from the dead. That I will spend eternity with the One Who died in my place.