Summary: Paul saw himself as a winner either way. To live is Christ, to die is gain. How can we gain the victorious life Paul is talking about?
Gaining the Victorious Life
As much as I tried to focus on doing a Father’s Day message, the Holy Spirit kept bringing me to this passage for our message this morning. So, I hope you’ll indulge me as I spend time talking about our heavenly Father more than I talk about us dads today?
It is unfortunate that many believers live their life muddling through, waiting patiently for the coming of the Lord, or their graduation to heaven beyond death’s threshold. The reason I say it is unfortunate is because I believe God would have us to experience a victorious life in Christ even now.
Heaven will be a sight to behold for sure. As we cast our eyes for the first time on the streets of gold and the pearly gates, we will be awe struck by its beauty. The Bible says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Yes, Beulah Land will be a wonderful place to experience someday. But, we don’t have to wait till then to experience victorious living. We can experience it now. Look with me at just two verses in Philippians chapter 1. Paul is writing this prison epistle to this warm hearted church to encourage and thank them for their generosity, prayer and faithfulness. As he greets them and speaks of his current condition we hear him say beginning in verse 20:
20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Paul writes from a perspective many of us have never, and will never experience. He is in prison for his faith in Christ. He knows his ultimate fate at the hands of Caesar, but at the time of writing he is unsure when it will happen. He has hopes that he will be delivered from prison and that in fact he might visit once again with the church at Philippi. His overriding hope is that whether in life or death that Christ would be exalted. I want us to look at the few words he writes in verse 21.
First, he writes, “For to me, to live is Christ.” What does that mean to you? For me I see someone that has surrendered. He has surrendered all that he was for what he could be.
Paul was a well educated Jew having studied under the great scholar Gamaliel. He was well known for his understanding of the law and his devotion to it earning a reputation of being a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was so well respected by the Jewish leaders of his time that he was given warrants to arrest and imprison any Christians he could find. From the outside looking in, Paul had it made. He was living the good life. Yet, something happened that would change his life for all eternity. On the road to Damascus, Paul encountered the Lord Jesus Christ. When you have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ it changes your life!
This same man that went about putting Christians in prison now finds himself in prison. Strangely, he doesn’t count this as something that is to be ashamed of or discouraged about. He sees it all as God’s plan to work through him for Christ’s sake. And so he writes in verse 21, “to live is Christ.”
Paul feels an obligation to live by faith, a life that exemplifies a victorious spirit. I wonder if we understand that concept of living. What does it mean “to live Christ?”
It means that we die to ourselves and dedicate our lives to living for Christ (Romans 12:1). Folks, that’s more than just sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. That’s more than putting your name on a membership book. That’s more than placing an offering in the plate on Sunday. It means that we give up our selfish attitude and put on a selfless attitude that lets Christ shine through us. I can’t put it better than Paul did in Galatians chapter 2.
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.
Jesus gave his life to redeem us from an eternity in hell. When we put on Christ, we are dying to self and living in Christ.
It means that we live a life that demonstrates the love of God for our neighbor. 1 John 4:16 says: