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1. The Reward Of The Cross: When Dying Is Gain (Phil. 1:12-26)

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I don’t suppose anyone reading this has been on death row. It’s hard to imagine what it might actually be like - when all the appeals have been heard, even to the highest court of the land, and now you’re just sitting there day after day waiting for the verdict. That was Paul’s circumstance when he wrote his letter to the Philippians.

The subject of this passage is, “Magnifying Christ in adverse circumstances.” The central purpose of the Christian life is to be the presence of Christ on earth and we fulfill that purpose by magnifying Christ no matter what, by life or by death - that’s a summary of the teaching of this passage, which I have titled: “When dying is gain.” No matter what, by death or by life, Paul says, we must present Christ so that He is magnified in us before the world.

If you wonder how you can magnify Christ no matter what, understand first that...

I. We Can Magnify Christ Despite Our Personal Circumstances (1:12-20)

Paul’s personal circumstances, at the time of writing this epistle, were abominable. He was imprisoned awaiting the verdict of his trial. Prison then wasn’t like ours today – no TV and three hot meals. For Paul it meant being chained in a dark, damp, cold cavern. Yet, despite such ugly and depressing circumstances, Paul could say “that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (1:12). How could he rejoice in such circumstances, not knowing whether he would live or die for his faith?

The answer is that he could rejoice despite his circumstances because circumstances didn’t determine his outlook. What determined his outlook was whether Christ was magnified. And the reality was that, even in prison, through his ministry, (1) the prison guards were responding positively to the gospel (1:13), and (2) the Christians in Philippi, who previously were timid about their faith, had become bold in their proclamation of the gospel when they saw Paul’s example (1:14).

Yes, there were those who preached the gospel of Christ insincerely, “from envy and rivalry” (1:15a) but others preached “from good will” (1:15b), being emboldened by Paul’s example, “knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel” (1:16). That there were those who “proclaimed Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment” (1:17) did not discourage Paul. Rather, it encouraged him that “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed” (1:18a). Paul wasn’t endorsing the attitude of those who preached Christ out of envy and rivalry, but he looked beyond their motives to the end result, namely that “Christ is proclaimed.” For Paul, the proclamation of Christ undoubtedly embraces the truth about Christ’s person, his life, his teaching, and his works, central to which is Christ’s work of redemption. Indeed, this was the whole purpose and focus of Paul’s ministry, to make known the manifold riches of Christ, which were most supremely shown out at the cross.

“And in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice” (1:18b), Paul says. He rejoiced in all that God was sovereignly accomplishing through him in the spread of the gospel even in such adverse circumstances as his imprisonment, and even though some people preached Christ insincerely. Paul’s overriding goal was to magnify Christ no matter what, by life or by death, which at its core meant being conformed to Christ not only in his life but also in his death, the reality of which Paul was facing at that very moment.

This is the model of the Christian life and ministry - to be confident in God no matter what our circumstances, to be glad in Christ no matter what our circumstances, to be positive that God is alive and still in control no matter what our circumstances may be.

It’s so easy for us to think that God has abandoned us when our circumstances are depressing, hurtful, gloomy. Paul could have given up when he was cast into prison. He could have concluded that his life for God was over. But instead, he just went to work for Christ in the prison and God used him mightily for the advancement of the gospel (1:12-13) and for the empowerment of the Christians in that city (1:14).

We don’t know what God is going to do through us. We only see the present; we can’t know the future. So, let’s be very careful about jumping to conclusions about our circumstances and questioning “where is God in all this?” God is at work whether we can see it or not. Our calling is to magnify Christ no matter what, by life or by death.

How do you deal with adverse circumstances? When things don’t go your way, when ill health strikes, when you lose your job, when your spouse abandons you? Can you say that you still magnify Christ no matter what? That’s what the Christian life and calling is about. But, you ask, how can we do that? Where do we find the strength? What’s our assurance? Paul gives three reasons why and how we can magnify Christ despite our personal circumstances…

1. Because we can have full confidence in the prayers of Christ’s people (1:18b-19). Though Paul did not know what his future prospects were – whether he would be set free from prison or executed – nonetheless, he says, 18b Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (1:18b-19).

Paul knows that Christian people were praying for him. That’s why he is absolutely confident that all of his circumstances would turn out for his deliverance (cf. Ps. 34:3-6), whether that means physical deliverance from prison or moral deliverance from his accusers through God's vindication of his life and faith. Like Job, Paul is adamant in his trust in God (Job 13:15-16). “He will deliver me from this present circumstance. He will prove that my manner of life and ministry are true. No matter what others say or how it turns out in the end. He will vindicate me.”

God responds to the united prayers of his people: 19a …through your prayers…this will turn out for my deliverance.” That’s why we pray for those who need deliverance - deliverance from economic slumps, from relational breakdowns, from spiritual attacks, from physical ailments, from false accusations, from persecution, or whatever other circumstances they may face. When God's people pray, you can have full confidence that God will intervene in your circumstances to sustain you, encourage you, and deliver you – physically or spiritually or both.

Prayer is our moral, emotional, spiritual, and, sometimes, physical lifeline. When God's people pray, our souls are nourished, our spirits are lifted, our hearts are refreshed, our hopes are reinforced, our faith is strengthened. For we know that God responds in dynamic ways to the fervent, united prayers of his people. I’m not saying that things will always be pleasant or the way we want them. But God is always there for us, whether in deliverance or sustenance.

So often we want to keep our troubles to ourselves. That’s part of North American culture particularly – self-sufficiency, independence. But that’s not the teaching of the New Testament. In fact, Paul himself frequently asked for the prayerful intercession of God's people, that he might be faithful amidst opposition (2 Cor. 1:8-11), that his ministry would be effective (Col. 4:3), that he might be bold in proclaiming the gospel (Eph. 6:18-20). We need the prayers of God's people. When my wife and I travel overseas we are very aware of the prayers of Christian friends here at home for us. That sustains us, protects us, empowers us, enables us to do what we do.

First, then, we can magnify Christ despite our personal circumstances because we can have full confidence in the prayers of Christ’s people. And, second, we can magnify Christ despite our personal circumstances...

2. Because we can have full confidence in the provision of Christ’s Spirit (1:19). “I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance (1:19). On the human side, God's people pray, and on God’s side, he supplies to us “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” The two go together - the intercessory prayers of God's people and the empowering provision of God's Spirit. There is a mysterious relationship between the efficacy of our prayers and God's responsive action. There is this inexplicable interplay between human agency and divine intervention in sustaining and empowering us no matter what our circumstances may be. How can it be that we pray and somehow influence a God who knows the end from the beginning and who is unchanging? I don’t know how that works, but I know it is true.

Paul was confident that the Spirit of God would teach him what to say (cf. Jn. 14:26), give him boldness of speech when he stands trial, and enable him to face the verdict whatever that might be. In like manner, we can have confidence that when God's people pray, God supplies us with the Spirit of Jesus Christ to enable us to remain true to him despite circumstances, to sustain us and empower us to keep on living for him, to break down the opposition of our enemies, to effect our spiritual, emotional, physical, and psychological protection and sustenance when we are under attack.

We have the same basis for confidence as Paul. That’s how we can carry on despite our circumstances. That’s how we can magnify Christ despite our circumstances. That’s how we can be the presence of Christ on earth despite our circumstances. No matter what our circumstances may be our hope and confidence are that God is in control, supplying his Holy Spirit to us so that we can sustain a vibrant and consistent testimony for Christ. Otherwise, we would give up, excusing ourselves with “What’s the use?” But, instead, these two inseparable resources (the prayers of the saints and the power of the Spirit) form the basis of our courage and confidence.

So, we can magnify Christ despite our personal circumstances, first because we can have full confidence in the prayers of Christ’s people; second because we can have full confidence in the provision of Christ’s Spirit; and third…

3. Because we can have full confidence in the preservation of Christ’s testimony (1:20). “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (1:20). His future deliverance and his present confident expectation concerning the outcome of his circumstances were in harmony with one another. Because Paul was absolutely confident of God's intervention on his behalf, he is also full of hopeful expectation that his testimony for Christ will be preserved, that he will not be ashamed about anything. That was the focus of his life, that when his life ended he would not be ashamed of anything - not ashamed of the gospel of the grace of God, not ashamed of the accusations brought against him, not ashamed of the final outcome of his imprisonment, not ashamed of any failure on his part to speak for Christ at his trial no matter what the outcome may be, not ashamed of his message of Christ and him crucified, not ashamed of his mission as an ambassador of Christ, not ashamed of his calling as an apostle of Christ, not ashamed of the circumstances of his life - even though that included bodily weakness, rejection, abandonment, shipwreck, and imprisonment for the name of Christ.

That was the focus of his life, that his testimony for Christ would be preserved such that, at the end of his life, he would not be ashamed of anything. “I never want to be ashamed of how I’ve spent my life,” he says, “but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be honored (magnified) in my body, whether by life or by death (1:20b).” Because of the intercessory prayers of Christ’s people and because of the empowering supply of Christ’s Spirit, Paul’s unwavering conviction and unswerving commitment is that in his life and testimony he would demonstrate his customary boldness, even now while waiting in prison for the verdict of his trial, such that Christ will be magnified before others in his life no matter what his circumstances or the outcome may be.

It didn’t matter that he was facing the death penalty for his faith and message. It didn’t matter that he was chained in a Roman prison, guarded by Roman soldiers. It didn’t matter that he had no one to defend him. It didn’t matter that everyone and everything seemed against him. His confidence was that the provision of Christ’s Spirit in response to the prayers of God’s people was sufficient to enable him to preserve the same testimony he always had, to persevere in proclaiming the gospel with the same boldness he always had, to defend the truth with the same courage he always had, to sustain the same faith in God that he always had, so that Christ would be exalted, highly honored, magnified in his life.

So, what does it mean “to magnify Christ”? It means to make Christ real before others, to bring Christ into view in a tangible way, to be the presence of Christ on earth so that when others see you they see him, when others hear you they hear him, when others are attracted to you they are attracted to him. John Piper describes it this way:

“You can magnify like a telescope or like a microscope. When you magnify like a microscope, you make something tiny look bigger than it is… Pretending to magnify God like that is wickedness.

“But when you magnify like a telescope, you make something unimaginably great look like what it really is. With the Hubble Space Telescope, pinprick galaxies in the sky are revealed for the billion-star giants that they are. Magnifying God like that is worship.

“We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. In the night sky of this world God appears to most people, if at all, like a pinprick of light in a heaven of darkness. But he created us and called us to make him look like what he really is. This is what it means to be created in the image of God. We are meant to image forth in the world what he is really like (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 32-33).

So, to magnify Christ means to live our lives (in our behavior, our thinking, our relationships, our ethics, our attitudes, our language, our goals, and our choices) in such a way that we make visible the One who is otherwise invisible; that we bring into view the One who is “unimaginably great”; that we make known the One who would be otherwise unknown. “And that,” Paul says, “is the purpose of my life – to preserve my testimony for Christ, to magnify Christ in my body (physical flesh), whether by life (freedom from death row) or by death (execution for his faith).” He fully expects to be delivered but whatever the outcome, he wants to magnify Christ and so “to image forth in the world what (God) is really like.” No matter how hard the circumstances may be, Paul is singularly focused and undeterred in his goal. Vindication isn’t his goal, exoneration isn’t his goal, clearing his name isn’t his goal, retiring and taking life easy isn’t his goal. His goal and the overriding passion of his life was that through his life and testimony (undergirded by the prayers of the saints and the power of the Spirit) he will magnify and glorify Christ.

Notice that it does not say “in” life or “in” death but “by” life and “by” death. In other words, he is not referring to his life or his death as circumstances by which he would magnify Christ, but as the manner and the means by which he would honor and glorify Christ. How can he have such unswerving commitment to this end? Because he is confident of God's care and control of all things; because he is confident of God's protection, intervention, sustenance, and response to His people’s intercession.

“But,” you say, “I understand how we can magnify Christ by our lives, but how do we magnify Him by our death?” On May 14, 1988, newspapers throughout the U.S. carried the story of a bus carrying the youth group from the First Assembly of God church in Radcliff, Kentucky, that was involved in what was called “the worst drunken driver accident in Kentucky” history in which 24 children and 3 adults died. At that time, Ninie Harmon was a reporter for a small newspaper in Lebanon, Kentucky. Though she did not cover the story, many of her reporter friends did.

Chuck Kytta, the youth minister of the church, was seated right behind the bus driver, and when the gas tank exploded, a heartbeat after the collision, he was instantly encircled in flames. When Chuck saw the flames around him, witnesses said, he looked up, lifted his hands and cried out, “Jesus, I'm coming home!” Some of the kids said he was smiling. Ninie Harmon wrote, “I was not a Christian in 1988, so I couldn't make any sense of what Chuck did. Here's this guy standing in flames, moments from a horrible death and he's smiling?” No matter how hard she tried, Ninie could not erase from her mind the image of Chuck Kytta. She wrote, “The only way to explain how a man could calmly accept, almost welcome, a painful death was to acknowledge that he understood some great truth I didn't, that he had something - faith? hope? God, maybe? - something I didn't have. And try as I might, I couldn't help yearning for whatever he had that made death a thing to embrace rather than to fear.”

Two years later, Ninie would come to faith in Christ. She says, “Chuck Kytta planted a seed in me that took root in my heart. One day, I will see Chuck in heaven. I'll tell him how the manner of his death pointed me toward eternal life” (Ninie Harmon, “Jesus, I'm Coming Home,” The Southeast Outlook, Louisville, Kentucky).

By his death, Chuck Kytta magnified, honored, and exalted Christ. In Paul’s case, his death would magnify Christ by his unswerving faith in Christ no matter what by paying the ultimate price for his faith in Christ, by illustrating that nothing even as powerful as death could disturb his faith in Christ. In our case, we can magnify Christ by our death, by maintaining our trust in him right to the end, by being confident in Christ even at death’s door, by praising God in death for a life that he redeemed.

I was vividly reminded of this one time when my wife and I visited a brother from our church in hospital. Here was a 93 year old man, lying in a hospital bed recuperating from hip surgery while also battling an infection. But despite the circumstances he was full of praise to God, saying: “There has not one thing failed of all his good promises” (1 Kgs. 8:56). Jim Hayley was magnifying Christ, no matter what. This is a message of motivation for us all that, no matter what the circumstances of life may bring, we can magnify Christ by life or by death.

So, we can magnify Christ despite our personal circumstances. And...

II. We Can Magnify Christ Despite Our Personal Desires (1:21-26)

The pivot and apex of Paul’s argument is that, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21). This sums up his life. This is why he got up every day. This is how he could face tomorrow no matter what the circumstances. This was the passion of every heartbeat. Life, for the apostle Paul, was living Christ, being the visible manifestation of the ascended Christ, demonstrating the life of Christ to a lost world, proclaiming to needy people the redemption that is in Christ Jesus by grace through faith, preaching “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2; 1:23).

Living Christ is, then, the characterization of Paul’s life - not a life of mysticism or isolation from the world, but the life of Christ lived out in him, the life of one who has been taken captive by Christ, the life of one who is united with Christ and devoted to him. Everything he worked for, hoped for, trusted in, taught, loved, and obeyed was for Christ and about Christ from the moment of his Damascus road conversion experience. For Paul, there was no other reason for living than that. That’s why he encountered Christ on the Damascus road. That’s why he went into Arabia for three years to learn about Christ and the gospel. That’s why God sent him to be the apostle to the Gentiles. That’s why he was commissioned by the church at Antioch to engage in a ministry of church planting.

So, we can understand why, for Paul, “to live is Christ” but what does he mean that “to die is gain? When is dying gain? What benefit is there to dying? How would dying perpetuate the work God called him to? In what sense is death gain? To die, for Paul, was gain because that would be the culmination and fruition of everything for which he had lived! The sole purpose and object of his life was to gain Christ (see Phil. 3:8). While he lived, he gained Christ by counting everything he had once highly valued as nothing and Christ everything, by entering into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and being made conformable to Christ’s death, by striving toward the resurrection of the dead. This is the reward of the cross!

And when he died, he would also gain Christ because then he would gain the ultimate prize, attaining the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:11). He would gain Christ by dying because the ultimate goal was not merely to live Christ but to enter into the fruit of that life by being with and like Christ. That’s when dying is gain, because that is the end of a life well lived, the reward of a race well run, the prize of a fight well fought, the fulfillment of a lifelong goal (2 Tim. 4:7) - to see the One who had died for him and be completely and perfectly like him. This is why “to die is gain” because life is but the conduit to glory, because life on earth is but an interlude before life in heaven, because death holds no terror or sting for the Christian – it is merely the portal through which we attain our final goal. This is the reward of the cross!

Only if you can truly say that “for me to live is Christ” can you also truly say “and to die is gain,” not because you have some sort of morbid death wish, not because you are tired of living and want to give up, not because you have a perverted view of life after death, but because your whole goal is to be present with the Lord.

If your life in Christ is not the “loss of all things” (Phil. 3:7-8), then to die is not truly gain. If you have not surrendered everything earthly in order to pursue everything heavenly, then to live is gain and to die is loss. If your priority now is to accumulate earthly treasure rather than heavenly treasure, then to live is gain and to die is loss. But, for Paul, that paradigm is turned upside down. For him, possessions and position are illusive rubbish, but a relationship with Christ is eternal treasure (Phil. 3:8). Therefore, to die is the final step in gaining what he had given up everything to attain.

But now Paul discusses the “what if.” What if I live, and what if I die? He has already said that it doesn’t matter because he will magnify Christ whether by his life or by his death. But, if he had a choice, what would be his personal desire? If we had a choice, what would be our desire? Here’s the answer...

1. Our personal desire isn’t the deciding factor (1:22-24). 22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful labor for me. Yet I do not know which one I should choose. 23 I am torn between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (1:22-24). Paul seems to be on the horns of a dilemma. “I don’t know what to choose. I’m hard pressed to decide.” He sounds like Tevia in “Fiddler on the Roof,” trying to decide whether to allow Mortel, the poor tailor, to marry his daughter, Zeitel.

Tevia says to Mortel: “You’re just a poor tailor.”

Mortel replies: “I promise you, Tevia, your daughter will not starve.”

And Tevia thinks out loud: “Oh! He’s beginning to talk like a man. On the other hand, what kind of match would that be with a poor tailor? On the other hand, he’s an honest, hard worker. But on the other hand, he has absolutely nothing. On the other hand, things could never get worse for him - they could only get better.”

Similarly, Paul argues out loud: “On the one hand, 22a if I live on in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me” among God's people, because then he would be able to continue to teach them and to serve with them “in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (1:7) - that would be good. 22b Yet I do not know which one I should choose. 23a I am torn between the two (1:22b-23a). On the other hand, 23b my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (1:23b) - far better because to die is gain. But then again, “to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake” (1:24), presumably because he could continue to pastor them, teach them, build them up in their most holy faith (Jude 20) and assist them in their gospel outreach (1:5-7).

His dilemma here is not between life and death, about which he has no choice anyway, but between the desire to be with Christ (which, for him, is “far better”) and the need for his continuing ministry (which, for them, is “more necessary”).

“To depart and be with Christ” expresses the same idea as to “fall asleep in Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:14). These are simply euphemisms for death itself. At death, the Christian departs this world, your physical body is committed to the grave, and at the same time your spirit enters immediately into the conscious presence of the Lord, awaiting the moment of reunion of the spirit and the body at the coming of Christ. If the death sentence should be the immediate outcome of his imprisonment, Paul anticipates with great joy and anticipation the reality of being instantly with Christ. But if that should not be the case, then he would continue to await the upward call of Christ at His return, that glorious moment of the resurrection of the believing dead toward which Paul is striving - “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14; cf. 3:20-21).

These are the two blessed prospects for the Christian: (1) to die and to be ushered spiritually into the immediate and conscious presence of Christ; or (2) to continue to live on in the flesh eagerly awaiting our resurrection at the imminent return of our Lord and Savior at the resurrection of the dead (3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Whichever it should be – to die now or to live on until the return of Christ - both experiences achieve the same goal, to “be with Christ” which in Paul’s view is “far better” than our present earthly experience.

So, what to do? Paul answers the question. Our personal desire is not the deciding factor, but rather...

2. Fulfilling God's desire is the deciding factor (1:25-26). 25 Being convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus because of my coming to you again.” The tension is resolved. He is confident that their spiritual needs supersede his personal desire. If he is set free from death row, it is for their benefit - 25b for your progress and joy in the faith” - with the result that 26 in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus because of my coming to you again” (1:25b-26).

That’s the deciding factor – doing God's will in serving others, producing fruit for God. For Paul, if he is set free, it would not be for his benefit but theirs - their spiritual growth, the strengthening of their faith, their spiritual encouragement, their joy in Christ. That’s the mission of the Christian life, to always fulfill God's will not our personal desire, to always minister Christ to others so that their faith in Christ is strengthened, their joy in Christ is more abundant, and their spiritual needs are met. This is the life of a servant of Christ, to be the presence of Christ on earth by magnifying Christ no matter what, by death or by life.

Final Remarks

You can magnify Christ despite your personal circumstances because you can have full confidence in the prayers of Christ’s people, in the provision of Christ’s Spirit, and in the preservation of Christ’s testimony. And you can magnify Christ despite your personal desires because your personal desire isn’t the deciding factor; rather, fulfilling God's desire is the deciding factor.

Christ is most magnified when we proclaim his substitutionary death on the cross for our sins and his glorious resurrection for our justification. May we never be ashamed of this message (Rom. 1:16; 2 Tim. 1:8, 12; 16; 2 Tim 2:15), which is so simple and yet so profound and life changing. May the message of the cross be central to our lives and ministry for in it, gruesome and cruel and unjust as it was, we magnify Christ in all his glory and supremacy.

To what extent does your life magnify Christ? Does your life (your speech, behavior, attitudes, relationships etc.) bring Christ into full view before others? Do your school or college friends notice that you have a totally different perspective and objective in life than they do? When people at work face difficult situations, do they turn to you because they know that you have a peace and confidence that transcend earthly living? Are you fully using your spiritual gifts in the church and community for the benefit of others? After you die, what will other people say about you or what would they write on your tombstone as their impression of you? Would they say: “He lived Christ,” or, “She was the living presence of Christ to me.” Will that be the legacy of your life?

Above all else, at the end of my life, I want others if possible to truly say: “He pointed me to Christ. He brought Christ near and personal to me.” A few years ago I wrote a poem based on our text entitled “Whether by Life or by Death.” For some of you this may bring back memories of loved ones who have already gone to heaven. For my wife and me, it brings back the memory of her brother who suffered a fatal stroke on August 26, 2006.

To live for God’s glory, that’s why we’re here on earth;

To worship our Maker, and praise his matchless worth;

To show in deed and word that Christ now reigns within;

To show and tell a dying world how to be saved from sin.

To live for him I understand, but what is dying for?

Is there a purpose even there, in pain and suffering sore?

Can we somehow serve God in the hour of our death?

And bring him glory even then in our dying breath?

“Oh, yes,” says Paul, “to live is Christ; to die is gain.”

Whether by life or death we can honor his name.

In our life he’s our Sovereign, Saviour, and Sanctifier.

In our death, our comforter, security, and peace-maker.

Sometimes, I think it’s easier in life more than death,

To live as Christians, fulfilling our purpose on earth.

But many have gone before who’ve shown us how to die

In the certainty of meeting our Savior from on high.

They knew the joy of heaven when they said their last goodbye.

They knew that God was in control, whatever ahead might lie.

They sought to honor God in the best way they knew how,

By loving Christ with all their heart, then at his knee to bow.

If you don’t live Christ, then you’ll live self, satisfying your own desires, chasing materialism, advancing your position, achieving greater recognition in the world. And that, says the preacher in Ecclesiastes, is vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl. 1:14) because you end up with nothing, life slips through your fingers.

What about your church? Do you collectively embody Christ? Does your church minister to the needs of others, loving those who feel unloved, caring for those with burdens beyond their ability to bear, extending hope and peace and joy through the salvation that is in Christ to those who desperately need him? Reaching your community for Christ isn’t about events or programs, it’s about ministering to people at the basis of their need. We’ll only reach our community for Christ if, in his name and for his glory, they see him in our actions, hear him in our speech, recognize him in our relationships, and discern him in our consistency with the message of the gospel of Christ.

Is that true of you in your community? Are you ministering to the people of your city, people whom only Christ can deliver from their destructive habits, from their sexual immorality, from the grief of loss and broken relationships? Do the outcasts and disenfranchised people of your city know that if they come to your church, they will receive the unconditional love of Christ through you? Do those suffering from addictions in your city know that if they come to your church, they will be nurtured and restored to physical and spiritual wholeness and well-being? Does the homosexual community in your city know that through you there is hope and salvation and healing? Are they coming to your church because they recognize that Christ is present among you?

May God enable us to fulfill our Christian calling, magnifying Christ no matter what, by life or by death, to be his living presence in a world that desperately needs him, to radiate his presence to others whether by life or by death.

Related Topics: Christian Life

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