30 December 2008

Verse by verse through Philippians (1:20-1:24)

Last week we talked about what it means to “glorify” something. We zeroed in on glorifying God. We saw that to glorify means to make something seem great or wonderful to others. That it means to present something, or someone—and in the case last week, we saw that it means to present God as being the great and awesome God that He is. The world will not glorify God. The world will glorify all kinds of religions. The world does not have a problem with “religion.” In fact, when it comes to the religion of Islam, or the religion of Buddhism, or the religion of Self-worship—which is, by the way, the number one religion in the world—when it comes to these “religions” the world does not have a problem with them. But when it comes to what the world calls, “The Christian Religion”—and if you have that particular phrase in your vocabulary, please get rid of it as quickly as you possibly can—when it comes to “The Christian Religion” the world can't find a place for that.

Well, almost. How many of us have seen those bumper stickers, they're usually blue, about yay big. One word—“COEXIST.” But how do they spell out the word? Like this:


You know, I think there’s more than a bit of irony in the fact that they tack the cross on at the end. Because when it comes to “religions,” anybody who claims to be “tolerant” of other religions, they tend to fall into a certain range of opinions when it comes to “The Christian Religion.” They are either intolerant of it. Or they just kind of tack it on to the end of these other religions—much like they do with the cross in that bumper sticker.

Or they will think of Christ as being a “good teacher” or a “moral figure” or they will appreciate Him for the Sermon on the Mount. “He taught us to love one another! Isn't that special!” What treacly clap-trap do we hear preached from so many pulpits these days? “God loves you!” So many people walk around with “God loves you!” dripping off their lips. Actually, there is more to that phrase, I bet you didn’t know. “God loves you……just the way you are! And He has a wonderful plan for your life!” Speaking of Joel Osteen…

But you see, Christianity—and I try to not use even that word—being a Christian is not about belonging to a certain religion. Being a Christian has nothing to do with “religion” at all. It’s not finding a set of beliefs you can be comfortable with. Because, in point of fact, being a Christian goes against everything inside of us! Being a Christian means that we look at ourselves and say, “Yuck!” We see ourselves for who and what we really are, and we despise ourselves, and we run begging and pleading to the cross of Christ.

Not only that, it’s more than just trying to stick to a set of rules in order to have a pleasant afterlife. If that's all it was, then we should all be Buddhists or Hindus. Following Christ means looking at things the way God intends for us to see them, and not just so we can get to Heaven, but we do the things we do—and we avoid the things we avoid—as a way to show that we are seeking to magnify, glorify and exemplify Christ to a world that does not know Him and does not want to know Him.

These people that drive around with the silly “Coexist” sticker, they try telling us how we are supposed to be “tolerant” of other people’s beliefs. They’ll say something like how we are trying to keep people out of Heaven. I don’t try to keep people out of Heaven. I can't keep anybody out of Heaven. People keep themselves out of Heaven by their sins. They will claim to be “Christian,” they will claim to be saved—but they still think it’s OK to disobey the will of God and they carry on with their sinful behavior, still clinging to some false belief that they are saved. Being a Christian is about more than going to Heaven. That’s just the reward, and we don’t even deserve that! The most important part of being a Christian is imitating Christ and glorifying Him! Ephesians 5:1-4Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. Galatians 6:14But God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I [am crucified] unto the world. When we are a Christian, we see God as being so glorious that even our own lives are not as important as showing the world how glorious He is. And that nothing this world can offer comes close to the majesty and glory of God.

I see all the people
Wasting all their time
Building up their riches
For a life that's fine
But nothing compares

To the greatness of knowing You, Lord

How many have heard this one:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands

I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame

I’d rather be true to His holy name

Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything

This world affords today.

That’s what Paul is saying in the passage from Philippians we’re going to look at today. Please join me in turning to Philippians 1, starting in verse 20. We’re going to look at how Paul—and in a few weeks we’re going to take a rather considerable break from this study of Philippians, we’re going to take a couple weeks and talk about how the Bible was written, and how we got it. There are humongous books, many volumes, filed with all kinds of technical details about how we got this. I’m going to try and boil it down to about an hour and a half over 2-3 weeks. Then we’re going to talk about this guy I keep bringing up, I keep talking about, this Paul guy. Who was this “apostle Paul,” why was he so important, and was he trying to set up his own religion, and is there a contradiction between what he wrote and what Christ taught, and who Christ was? Some people seem to think so, but we’re going to see why they are dreadfully wrong.

Philippians 1:20-2620 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

We’re going to start with verse 21. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. This was the goal of Paul. This—these few words—summed up Paul’s life after he came face-to-face with the risen Christ. After Christ appeared to him in Acts 9, and Paul saw the Lord Jesus in all His glory, and after Jesus revealed the truth of Himself to Paul, he lived life for one and only one reason—to declare to the world that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He ain’t—and I get to jumping up and down and spitting mad whenever I hear somebody say, “Make Jesus Lord today!” He ain't waiting for me to make Him Lord—He already is!! ALWAYS HAS BEEN, ALWAYS WILL BE!! AIN'T NEVER BEEN A TIME WHEN HE WASN’T! Following Christ—what so many people call “The Christian Religion”—is built around and for that very reason—to live Christ. Not simply to live IN Christ, or to live AS Christ, or to live BECAUSE OF Christ, although those are certainly true. We live IN Christ, we live BECAUSE OF Christ, most of all, we LIVE CHRIST. That’s what it means to be a Christian.

So, what does it mean to “live Christ?” 1st Peter 4:1-2Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. That ain't me. He’s dead. Romans 6:11--Therefore, reckon yourselves dead indeed unto sin, and alive to God. Romans 8:1-4There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. When we belong to Christ, we look at things—not according to whether we like them or not, but we step back, and we look at things and we take an extra second or two and ask—we don’t ask ourselves, because we’ll always get the wrong answer—we ask the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us if we have indeed been born again—“Should I do this?” That’s what it means to not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. The thinks we enjoy will change. We used to enjoy doing all kinds of sinful things—but now, we hate those things and we love the things of God.

Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9:23“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” The cross was what? What was the cross Jesus was referring to? We hear people say “I guess that’s just a cross I have to bear.” Well, not quite. The cross Jesus was referring to was more than just some minor inconvenience. When Jesus told us to take up our cross, He meant that we should be ready to say goodbye to the life we know—even to the point of being ready for physical death if that’s what it takes. That’s what Paul is saying in this verse here. That if he’s going to live, then his life is going to be consumed by living Christ. Luke 9:61-62another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” If we belong to Christ, we should tend to look at this world a little less affectionately. A lot of people who claim to be Christians—they want to say, “Oh, I believe in Christ! Oh, I'm saved!” They’ve put their hand on the plow, but they're looking over their shoulder at the world they should be leaving behind.

A little trivia—what’s the shortest verse in the Bible? John 11:35. Jesus wept. What’s the 2nd-shortest verse? Luke 17:32“Remember Lot’s wife.” Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his wife and daughters, God sent angels to get them out of the city before He destroyed it. What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah? A lot of people try to say it was “being inhospitable to strangers.” Uh, no. The sin that those in the city were guilty of is described in Jude 1:7Even as Sodom and Gomorrha…giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. God saved Lot and his wife and daughters, and gave them one command as they fled the city. What was it? Genesis 19:17—“Escape, do not look back.” What happened? Genesis 19:26But his [Lot's] wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. Now you know why Jesus told the people to “Remember Lot’s wife.” Because in order to flee the destruction that is going to come upon the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6), we can't be looking back and gazing lovingly upon this world of sin and corruption. So, we are to live Christ.

…and to die is gain. We have so many promises from God about the world to come. We know that we are never promised a bed of roses in this present world. Amen? John 15:20-21“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 16:33“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation…” 2nd Timothy 3:12…all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Now, I don’t believe that Paul sat around, while he was chained to this Roman soldier, I don’t believe he sat around thinking, “Boy, I can't wait to get my head chopped off!” I really don’t. What he was saying was that he wanted nothing more than to just be with the Lord. And if God would have taken him up and into Heaven—that’s what anyone who loves God wants, Amen? But he also knew that God had more for him to do. And that if God left him here, that every day he lived he got to do something that brought glory to God.

But really, he didn’t care if he lived or died. Verses 22-24--But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. "If I live—great, I get to tell more people about Christ. If I die—great, I get to be with the Lord! I can't lose!" 2nd Corinthians 4:13-14…we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 2nd Corinthians 5:6-8So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. If we know Christ has saved us, and we are living Christ—then for us, it’s a win-win. If we live—fine. If we die—great! If we live, we have promises of living in His presence after we die. If we do die—we’re there!

The Westminster Catechism, which is used by many—but unfortunately, not all—Presbyterian churches, and many churches of other denominations, is a question-and-answer format for explaining and defining what that particular church believes concerning subjects like who God is, His nature, the sinlessness of Christ, etc.
The most famous of all the 107 questions, is question #1. “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, “Why are we here?” Who knows the answer? “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Matthew Henry, who wrote a humongous commentary on the whole Bible, wrote an article called “A Scripture Catechism in the Method of the Assembly.” And he expands on that first question, and reveals to us what it means to glorify God, and to live Christ. Here are a few snippets:

1. What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.

3. Is it your business in the world to serve the flesh? No: for we are not debtors to the flesh that we should live after the flesh, Rom. 8:12. Is it to pursue the world? No: for we are not of the world, John 17:16.

4. Is your happiness bound up in the creature? No: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit, Eccl. 1:14. Will the riches of the world make you happy? No: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth, Luke 12:15. Will the praise and applause of men make you happy? No: for it is vain glory, Gal. 5:26. Will sport and pleasure make you happy? No: for the wise man said of laughter, It is mad Eccl. 2:2. Can the gain of the world make you happy? No, for what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Matthew 16:26.

5. Is God then your chief end? Yes, for of him, and through him, and to him are all things, Rom. 11:36. Were you made for him? Yes: this people have I formed for myself, Isa. 43:21. Were you redeemed for him? Yes: ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price, 1 Cor. 6:19, 20.

6. Is it your chief business to glorify God? Yes: we must glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are God's, I Cor. 6:20. Is God glorified by our praises? Yes: he that offers praise, glorifies me, Ps. 50:23. And is he glorified by our works? Yes: herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, John 15:8.

9. Is communion with God in grace here the best pleasure? Yes: it is good for me to draw near to God, Ps. 73:28. Is the vision and fruition of God in glory hereafter the best portion? Yes: for in his presence there is fulness of joy, Ps. 16:11. Will you therefore set your heart upon this chief good? Yes: Lord, whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee; when my flesh and my heart fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever, Ps. 73:25, 26.

The chief end of man is to realize that to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

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