Summary: A quick window on heaven and why we should look forward to it and lead others to it, now.
"For me to live is Christ, to die is gain" Phil 1:21 WBC 15/01/06 am Covenant Service
Certain things really make you stop and take stock… reflect… get things in perspective
- one of those is the death of someone close to you
- this week, Peggy. Found myself on my bike
o it’s like everything is in slow-mo… time stands still… and you glimpse through the rush and busyness to a window in heaven where you see what matters and what doesn’t
In one sense- how apt that this should be the text this morning. For all those we have loved and lost who were believers- we know that where they are is ’better by far’
So that’s my context of coming to this.
Paul’s context has been making him think about heaven, too
- although note, he doesn’t use the word. Neither does much of the Bible (about our final destination)
- it’s ’being with Christ". Fully. He knows he is now- but he’s thinking fulfilment, consummation!
Why? He’s in prison. Probably Rome in ~ AD 61 and he’s contemplating his trial which will result in either release, imprisonment or death
- and he’s not sure which. Thinks he’ll be released. Certain that he’ll stand up to it, whatever- and asks them to do the same, WHATEVER (v27)
Actually- we reckon he’s in a bit of a state about it all. I know that may not be obvious from your NIV- but it is from the Greek
- it’s all over the place in this bit. The meaning is always clear but the syntax isn’t. He really can’t decide which is best
o to live ’in the flesh’ or ’to die’
o (it’s talking about death and martyrdom, not the process of dying. I doubt he likes that! That’s why he’s perturbed…besides weighing up the two alternatives)
- and when he gets to write about the two alternatives it comes out all disjointed (V22) "But if to live in the flesh this (is) to me fruit of work and what shall I choose- I do not make known"
o hence older, RV, AV versions "I can’t speak of it!" "I wot not!"
He doesn’t know which to choose…. and just as well as we don’t get to choose anyway- God chooses for us. but he knows which is best
BETTER BY FAR (V23)
"much rather better", literally
Ò to go an be with Jesus!
Oh, wow. How we often lose this- because (for us!) this life can be so good.
- (to our detriment, actually! We place far too much on this and act as though this is all there is)
’Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home’ CS Lewis in ’The problem of pain’
- the old time spirituals knew this. Looked and hoped for heaven
Much like Joni Eareckson Tada: ’We ask less of this life because we know full well that more is coming in the next. The art of living with suffering is just the art of readjusting our expectations in the here and now.’
But what awaits us is even better. Those of us who believe and trust in Jesus. Life!
- When John Owen, the great Puritan, lay on his deathbed his secretary wrote (in his name) to a friend, "I am still in the land of the living."
"Stop," said Owen. "Change that and say, I am yet in the land of the dying, but I hope soon to be in the land of the living."