For me, to live is Christ. It's not even my church, it's not even my family, it's not even my business, it's not even my work.
Those are all important, but there's only one that's most important, and there's only one of which we can say, He's everything, and that's Christ. That's Dr. Stephen Lawson from his latest teaching series. It's a survey of the book of Philippians, and it's titled, Rejoice in the Lord. We're pleased to bring you portions of it this week here on Renewing Your Mind.
Welcome. I'm Lee Webb. The apostle Paul's fundamental goal in life was to serve Jesus, and his ultimate ambition in the next life was to be with Jesus. Paul admitted that he was hard-pressed between those two realities, and today Dr. Lawson will show us how you and I can live in that tension between the here and now and our glorious future. I want you to take your Bible and turn with me to the book of Philippians chapter 1, beginning in verse 21. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me, and I do not know which way to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.
Yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. Here's where the Apostle Paul is.
He's imprisoned in Rome, and he's awaiting his trial before Caesar, who has the power and authority of life or death. And Paul does not really know which way it will go. And as he is awaiting his trial and as Paul writes this letter, he's very transparent, and he's very open with the Philippians, and says to them as they are worried about him, if his life is taken, Paul is saying to them, that's okay. That's going to be a whole lot better, because I will be in the immediate presence of Christ, and I will be glorified and be as much like Christ as a redeemed sinner can be, or I'll be found not guilty, and I will be allowed to stay, and I'll be able to preach Christ, and I'll be able to minister to Christ, and I will be able to come to your aid.
So, either way, it's a win-win. It's just that Paul understands that the greater outcome would be for him to be able to go to heaven right now. I wonder how many of us could really have that as our perspective, that faced with a life and death situation that we all will face one day, that we would desire to be with Christ, which is very much better, but that we're willing to stay so that I can serve Christ more here on the earth. Well, let's look at these verses and see how Paul works through this. I want you to note first Paul's priority. That's at the beginning of verse 21. Paul begins this section by making one of the most dramatic statements to ever come from his pen, to ever come from anyone's pen. He says this in just these few words, for to me, to live is Christ. When he says to me, what he is saying is, whether anybody else lives for Christ or everyone lives for Christ, it really doesn't matter, I'm going to live for Christ.
Paul's not looking to his left or to his right to see what everyone else is going to do before he decides what he's going to do. For to me, whether lots follow Christ, whether nobody follows Christ, I'm all in with Christ. For to me, to live is Christ. For me, life is to know Christ, is to worship Christ, is to adore Christ, is to surrender to Christ, is to submit to Christ, is to walk with Christ, is to fellowship with Christ, is to obey Christ, is to serve Christ. My whole life is Christ.
That's why we're called Christians. That's what we are. We are people who live for Christ. He is our only priority. There can only be one priority, and that is Christ for us.
Everything else in our life is peripheral, is secondary. What is at the pinnacle of our life is Christ. It's interesting, the word is, for to me to live is Christ, is not found in the original. When Paul wrote this, this is literally how it reads, for to me to live, Christ. He doesn't even want a verb in between me and Christ.
He doesn't want anything to come between him and Christ, even grammatically. Everything in Paul's life revolves around Christ. Christ is the center, not the circumference. Christ is first and last and everything in between.
Christ is the Alpha and the Omega and every letter in between. Christ is the sum and the substance of my life. Paul's entire life is consumed with Christ. Christ is his cornerstone. Christ is his linchpin. Christ is his anchor. Christ is his center of gravity. Christ is his foundation.
Christ is his pillars. Christ is his pinnacle. Christ is everything in Paul's life. That's what it is to be a Christian. And this isn't some hyper-spiritual statement to come from Paul that's only true for him. This is Christianity 101.
This is kindergarten level, entry level Christianity. It is for Christ to be everything to us in our lives. Christ is our priority. Christ is our passion. Christ is our power. Christ is our pursuit. Our entire life is summed up in this one statement for to me to live Christ.
What a challenge this is. We live in a very complex world. We don't live in a little house on the prairie.
We live in a fast-paced society with so many things coming at us right and left through all the media and computers and cable TV and everything going on. What a challenge it is for us to say in the midst of all of this chaos that for me to live is Christ. It's not even my church. It's not even my family. It's not even my business.
It's not even my work. Those are all important, but there's only one that's most important, and there's only one of which we can say He's everything, and that's Christ. And the fact is, the more I love Christ, the more I love my family. The more I love Christ, the more I will love others. The more I love Christ, the better businessman I'll be or better housewife or whatever. The key is Christ, and the commitment to Christ is the key that unlocks every door in life. Is that your testimony today? Can you say for me to live is Christ? Can you say you could take away everything, and if I could only hang on to one thing, it would be Christ that I would hang on to? The word Christian simply means it's a diminutive form of the name Christ. It just means a little Christ, and it was originally a term of slander that was thrown at the early believers, and what the world meant for slander, the early believers embraced it.
They took it as a badge of honor that I could have any name association with Christ because my whole life is Christ. So that's Paul's priority. It must be your priority and my priority. In fact, if it's not our priority, I would wonder if we're even a Christian at all. Jesus will not be in anyone's back seat. He'll only be behind the steering wheel.
He's not along for the ride. He is our master, and He is our Lord, and we are His slaves, and we are His subjects, and we follow Him wherever He leads. Second, I want you to note Paul's prophet. As we look at the second half of verse 21, Paul's prophet, meaning Paul's gain, he says to die is gain, and to die here referring to the outcome of his trial before Caesar.
As Paul is right now staring death square in the face, potentially his time to die could come very soon. He says to die is gain. That seems somewhat radical, does it not? But it's true. Again, the word is is not in the original, and it literally just reads to die, gain.
It makes it very emphatic to just even leave the verb out. To die, gain. The gain here means to receive a far greater prophet, that the grave will graduate him to glory, that the grave will usher him into the immediate presence of Jesus Christ, that death will bring Paul to a far greater benefit. The grave will not be a tragedy.
It will be a triumph as he will graduate to glory as I said. So Paul is caught in the middle. I mean, do I live for Christ and stay?
Do I die and go be with Christ? Well, what is the greater gain in heaven? It's not streets of gold.
It's not gates of pearl. It's not reunion with loved ones, as wonderful as that will be. It's not absence of sorrow and tears. The greatest gain in heaven is being with Jesus Christ. The greatest gain in heaven is seeing Christ. The greatest gain in heaven is standing before Christ and casting our crowns at His feet. And Paul understands that there could be no greater gain for his life than to die and go to be with Christ. That's a perspective that you and I must have because it's been well said, we're not ready to live until we're ready to die.
And we need to settle the end before we can settle today. And we need to be ready to die. And the only way to be ready to die is to know that you know that you know that you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, who is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.
We have to have that nailed down. We have to know with certainty that death will be my passageway into the immediate presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. If I know that and that's settled, then I can face whatever in this life, and I will serve Christ in this life no matter what it will cost me. So I want you to note next Paul's perplexity. That's in verses 22 and 23.
Paul's perplexity because like I said earlier, he's torn between the two. He says in verse 22, but if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me. He realizes the possibility that he may be released from this Roman imprisonment, and in fact he was. And he said it will mean fruitful labor for me because it will give him extended opportunity to preach Christ in more places to more people and to see more souls won to Christ. There will be more voices in the hallelujah chorus and choir, and so it will be fruitful labor. Yes, labor, hard work, toil to the point of exhaustion for Christ.
But it will be fruitful because our labor in the Lord is not in vain, 1 Corinthians 15, 58. He says in the middle of verse 22, and I do not know which to choose. Now, that's really surprising to hear from Paul because Paul's a very decisive man. And Paul's never like, should I, should I not, which way do I go. No, Paul is a man of action. Paul is a leader. Paul has others following him.
This is a rare time to hear something like this flow from the pen of Paul. I do not know which way to choose because he's like a rope in a tug-of-war. He's being pulled in both directions, and we know what those two directions are. Stay here and live for Christ. Die and go to be with Christ. I don't know which way to choose. Verse 23, but I am hard-pressed from both directions. And the word hard-pressed here, he pictures himself as walking down a tight corridor between two walls, and these walls just continue to close in on both sides of the road. And we would put it this way in the vernacular, you're stuck between a rock and a hard place.
There's no escape. You're just stuck in the middle between two compressing ends. It's like you're in a vice grip, and that vice grip is being tightened and tightened, and you feel it squeezing in on both sides. And I'm hard-pressed from both directions, and on one side the vice grip is I stay and I live for Christ. On the other side, the vice grip is I die and I go be with Christ. And Paul is trapped in the middle in this dilemma. And he goes on to say in verse 23, having the desire to depart and be with Christ.
Epithumia, it's a very strong Greek word that speaks of strong desire, deep affection, intense longing, burning zeal, growing passion. With every passing day, Paul is desiring more and more and more to be with Christ. He says this desire to depart to be with Christ. This word depart is used in classical Greek to picture a ship that's been tied to a dock with a rope, but then the rope is untied and loosened, and the tide or the current just takes the ship out into the open sea. And Paul says, I desire someone just to loosen the rope that's binding me here to this world so that I can be carried away into the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This word was also used in classical Greek of soldiers ready to break camp and move out to the next destination. And Paul is saying, I'm just ready to pack up and move out to the world to come, to be with the Lord Jesus Christ. I mean, Paul is really pulling back the veil and allowing us to peer down into his heart.
He's being so transparent here with us. And he says, and be with Christ. Christ is his supreme joy. He's like a bride who is separated from her husband, he being the bride of Christ.
He longs to be with the one he loves, who is Christ. He knows from 2 Corinthians 5.8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, today you'll be with me in paradise. And so, Paul understands death will take him immediately in a split second, the twinkling of an eye into the presence of Christ.
What could be better than that? And then he will be made like Christ, 1 John 3.2, and his body will be made like Christ, Philippians 3.20 and 21, and he will actually see Christ and reign with Christ. This is just absolutely glorious in Paul's estimation because he's just so Christ-obsessed in a right way. And at the end of verse 23, he says it again.
He says to be with Christ is very much better. Now, I can hear Dr. Sproul saying to me, do not use the word very. That means you have a weak vocabulary. You need a stronger word where you don't have to use very. Well, Paul uses the word very. And it's very much better – it's just taking something to the superlative degree. It's a double comparative. It's the greatest good, not just better, but much better, not just much better, but very much better.
Good, better, and best. And Paul says, for me to pass through the iron gates of death will be very much better because I will go immediately into the presence of the Lord. Paul's had a lot of time to think about this.
He's been sitting in this house arrest chained to Roman soldiers during this two-year imprisonment in Rome. We don't know exactly when Philippians was written in that two-year period of time, but let's just put it right in the middle. He's had a year to just sit there and think about his life, about his future, about his ministry, about his ambitions, about his goals, about what's really important, what's of lesser importance. And Paul has processed all of this, and he's come to the conclusion that the greatest thing that could possibly be in my life will be to go be with Christ. So that needs to be our passion in life. There's a sense in which God has made us with a desire for self-preservation.
That's why we look both ways when we cross the street. That's why there's an instinctive fear when we're in danger, and God has put that within us to preserve our life. And we should do all that we can to preserve our life. But we do know this, that whenever it is that our life will be taken, it will lead to the greatest thing that will ever happen, not just that we'll be made like Christ, but we'll be with Christ and we'll see Him, and we will worship Him forever and ever. We will have a glorified body that will never grow tired and never grow weary. We will be able to worship Christ forever and ever and ever. We will have glorified eyes that will be able to look upon Christ and see Him in the beauty of His holiness. We will have a glorified tongue that will never grow weary of praising Him and extolling His name. We will have glorified knees and will never tire of kneeling before Him and worshiping Him.
We will have glorified ears with which we will hear Him, hear His voice, hear Him speak to us with the sound of many waters, drowning out every other voice. We will have a glorified body that will be perfectly adapted to our new home in heaven, but specifically it will be an enlargement of every capacity that we have towards Christ. We will have a glorified heart with which we will love Christ with an even greater capacity than we presently love Him. Everything will be enlarged to the maximum degree regarding our relationship with Christ, how much greater it will be. But as we find ourselves in this world now, then let us live for Christ now.
Let us have no regrets. Let us give our all for Christ. If Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice is too great for me to make for Him, C.T.
Studd. Let us give everything for Christ as we live our life. And then when we come to die, we will have no second guessing. We will have no regret because we left it all in the field for the Lord.
We gave everything that we have to give. May this be our testimony for me to live as Christ and to die is gain. Knowing Christ brings confidence and joy to life, doesn't it? The world can't give us joy or take it away because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. This week on Renewing Your Mind, we are focusing on Dr. Stephen Lawson's latest teaching series, Rejoice in the Lord, Paul's letter to the Philippians.
In 42 messages, we learn and discover verse by verse how the joy of the Lord can transform our lives. Today is your first opportunity to request this six-DVD set. Just contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we'll add the teaching series to your online learning library.
You'll also receive the digital study guide that includes lesson goals, message outlines, and questions for group discussion. Plus, we'll send you the DVD set to keep and share with a friend, or maybe you'd like to donate it to your church. You can find us online at renewingyourmind.org, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343. We are grateful for your generous support. Your gifts allow us to continue producing teaching series like this one, and that's especially true of our ministry partners, those who commit to a monthly gift of $25 or more. If you see the value of what we're doing here at Ligetor Ministries, would you contact us today and ask about becoming a ministry partner?
Our number again is 800-435-4343. What's the source of your joy? The world says you are the source. It can only be found in serving yourself, making yourself happy. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul turns that notion on its head. Whatever time I have, it's really not for me. It's for others. Whatever treasure has been entrusted to me, it's not really for me. It's for others in serving the Lord. And that's the focus of Dr. Lawson's next lesson. I hope you'll join us for that tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. God bless you.
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