Joyous Perspective: To Live Is Christ-S5Ep5
This podcast covers Lesson 4 of Knowing Jesus…Knowing Joy! Bible Study by Melanie Newton.
Joyous Perspective: To Live Is Christ
Paul is under house arrest in Rome, chained to a guard, as he wrote this letter to the Philippians. His expectation and hope is that he would be delivered, that is, released from prison and once again allowed to preach the gospel freely wherever the Spirit sends him. Yet, he knew that he could be executed. And, if he was, he hoped that he would not to be ashamed by lack of courage at that time.
We talked in the last podcast about how Paul had released his expectations and placed them in the Lord’s hands. He knew the Philippians were praying for him. He also had confidence that the Spirit of Jesus was not only with him but also working on his behalf. Whatever Jesus decided for his future was good. And, he hopes to bring honor to Christ whether he was released or executed.
Then, in Philippians chapter 1 verses 21-24, Paul voiced his mental and emotional struggle. I think he is talking to himself here, preparing his own mind and spirit for whatever, while he is writing the Philippians. He declares that for him, to live is Christ and to die is gain. What does it mean, “To live is Christ?”
To live is Christ
- For Paul, since the moment Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus and he responded by faith, Jesus was Lord of his life. I mean Lord. Master. Sovereign. The most important person. The most important reason to live and work. Jesus commissioned him to go to the Gentiles and preach the gospel. Paul had already responded to that good news with a resounding “Yes!”
Paul says in Galatians chapter 1,
But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, (Galatians 1:15-16a)
God was pleased to reveal His Son in Paul. From the moment Paul said yes to Jesus, it was all about Christ from then on.
- In Acts chapter 9, we find Paul dynamically preaching Christ from the get-go. It was not only his message but his whole being was wrapped up in Jesus. He knew he was completely loved by the Lord.
- We see in Philippians that Paul wanted to keep on living so that he could preach the gospel, establish churches, and continue discipling believers in those churches just as he was doing for the Philippians with this letter. Serving Christ in fruitful labor was joy for him. Yet, life also holds the potential for more suffering, more struggles, and more disappointments.
- Since Paul’s life focus was so totally on Christ, either life or death was fine. His location didn’t affect his purpose or the desires of his heart. He was not tied to this world by material things, only people whom he loved with Christ’s love. Listen to what he said in Romans chapter 14 verse 8,
If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)
It matters who you belong to. It matters who gives life to you.
- Christianity is Christ! It’s not a lifestyle. It’s not rules of conduct. It’s not a society whose members are initiated by the sprinkling or covering of water. We are called first and foremost to a relationship with a Person—Jesus Christ.
Think about the striking parallel between a baby's dependent relationship with its mother and our life of dependency on Christ. Because of its dependent life, a baby in the womb could say, "For me, to live is Mom." In the same way, we can and should say, "For me, to live is Christ."
- To live is Christ doesn’t mean to deny the world and those good things that God has given us. The message of the church is to preach Christ. It’s not to preach that we can make the world better for them. Life is in Christ; for those not in Christ, to die is disaster.
- Jesus has not promised Christians exemption from suffering and tragedy. If you are released from suffering, that’s His grace.
So, continuing to remain alive and fruitful in spreading the gospel of Jesus was joy to Paul. Yet, he also could say that to die is gain. Why is that?
To die is gain
Let’s talk about death. Are you afraid of death? Not the dying process. That can be a miserable time. But, the actual moment of death. Let me give you some reassurance of the hope that we have in Christ. First, let’s cover…
What doesn’t happen at death.
- Your soul is not annihilated. It doesn’t disappear or cease to exist. You will have conscious enjoyment of the afterlife. We see that in Luke chapter 16 and here in Philippians chapter 1. Luke 16:19-31; Philippians 1:23
- Your soul doesn’t just sleep or become a floating spirit. Once again, the Bible teaches you will have conscious enjoyment of life after you die. We get that right here in Philippians 1:23. And 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and 2 Corinthians chapter 5 teach that we will be clothed with an immortal body like Jesus’ body.
- Your soul is not reincarnated into another life form as a second chance to improve your afterlife. Hebrews chapter 9 verse 27 teaches that you die only once then are judged. Hebrews 9:27
- You don’t go to a place called purgatory until you are purified enough to get to heaven. Your entrance immediately into heaven is not guaranteed by your behavior but by your faith in Jesus Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us is our guarantee of life in heaven with Jesus when we die. Colossians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5
- You don’t become an angel. Blame this popular idea on the classic 1946 American movie It’s a Wonderful Life,in which a guardian angel named Clarence occasionally refers to events of his life (and death) as a human being on earth. Actually, it goes further back than that—to an 18th century Swedish mystic and philosopher who taught that all angels and demons were once humans.
What is the truth? The Bible is adamantly clear in the distinction between angels and human beings. Never will you find any verse saying that good humans become angels when they get to heaven. Angels are beings that were made by God at Creation and are entirely different from humans. They are God’s special agents to carry out His plan and to minister to the followers of Christ. There is no indication that angels were formerly humans or anything else—they were created as angels. Colossians 1:15-17 Hebrews 1:13-14
Our greatest confirmation of this is Jesus Himself. When Jesus was raised from the dead, He did not appear to His followers as an angel. He appeared in His glorified human body. The same kind we will receive after we die. Not as an angel.
Those are things that don’t happen at death. So, what does happen at death?
What does happen at death
Death begins a new phase of existence for all believers, that will be far superior to what we experience now.
- You fall asleep on earth and wake up in heaven. The Bible teaches no time delay in the transition. 1 Thessalonians 4:14
- Your soul leaves your earthly body; you get a heavenly dwelling fashioned for us. All Christians who die will receive an immortal body like the one Jesus has. We get that from 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and 2 Corinthians chapter 5. 1 Corinthians 15:35-54; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2
- You will be immediately at home with the Lord. You will be able to enjoy all the blessings of heaven forever. We get that from 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and right here in Philippians chapter 1 verse 23.
Paul had complete confidence that his death would bring the unquenchable joy of being in Jesus’ actual presence. Face to face with His Savior and Lord. His salvation would be complete. He would no longer wrestle with sin. He would be perfected. There would no longer be any suffering to endure. Now you can see why Paul could say, to die is gain.
Serving Jesus completely means your life is focused on Him, giving you great joy, and death is the way to be with Him which completes your joy. Neither should be a drudgery or a dread. Win/win.
What about life now? When you say with Paul, “To live is Christ,” you are declaring your choice to live as Christ.
To live is Christ means to live as Christ
- When Paul said, “To live is Christ,” it not only meant that Christ was the focus of everything he did. He was literally referring to Christ’s presence in him. As he says in Galatians chapter 2 verse 20,
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
- This life of Christ is in you, dear believer. In Colossians chapter 1 verse 27, Paul describes this as “Christ in you.” From the moment you said yes to Jesus, you are made alive by the indwelling Holy Spirit who unites you to Christ so that “Christ in you” is a fact of your new existence.
- This begins a new adventure of learning how to live while abiding in Christ. Abiding means to make your home with Him so that He is the dominant influence in your thoughts, words, and behavior. Abiding also means to live dependently upon Him 24/7. You are to live by faith; faith leads to dependency upon God. That is what Jesus demonstrated for us in His own life.
I heard this phrase a number of years ago and it still resonates in my heart and mind,
“Jesus Christ laid down his life for you…so that he could give his life to you…so that he could live his life through you.” (Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ)
That’s to live as Christ.
You can dwell on the FACT that God’s life is now indwelling you forever. You are alive in Christ. Christ is alive in you. Now you can enjoy the life given to you by Christ Himself as your power for daily Christian living. That is to live as Christ. In this life choice, you will experience freedom and joy. The rest of Philippians will show us what that looks like.
Want to have joy in your life?
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the fullness of His joy. Then, live in that joy!
Until next time, I’m Melanie Newton. And, this is Series 5 of Satisfied.