Summary: Make Paul’s Motto Your Life’s Model 1) “I want to live with Christ!” 2) “I want to live for Christ!”
Freedom 55. For over 25 years now this has been the motto of a financial company headed by Canadian billionaire, Paul Desmarais. Many Canadians have adopted this motto as the model for their lives. They are working hard and making shrewd investments so that by the time they turn 55, they can quit their 9-5 jobs if they want. Not many reach this goal however, as the average retirement age in Canada is 62. And even those who can retire at 55 often don’t. Paul Desmarais himself is 84 and is still at the helm of his financial empire. It turns out that those who do retire at 55 often become bored with life as they don’t seem to have a purpose anymore.
So there must be a better motto than Freedom 55. There is. Another Paul, the Apostle Paul, gives us this two-part motto on which to model our lives: “I want to live with Christ!” and “I want to live for Christ!” If this is not your motto, your life now and your life in the hereafter will be a big disappointment. Let me explain why.
The Apostle Paul, an early follower of Jesus, wrote the words of our text when he was under house arrest in Rome for preaching about Jesus. He wrote them as part of a thank you letter to the congregation in the Greek city of Philippi. That congregation had sent Paul one of its members to deliver financial support and personal encouragement. Still, life wasn’t easy. Paul was tired of being chained up like a common criminal and was ready to be done with everything. He wrote: “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:22, 23).
It wasn’t unusual for those serving prison sentences in ancient times to desire death rather than go on living. That’s how bad conditions were in prisons where wardens had never heard of rights for inmates. But that wasn’t exactly Paul’s sentiment, was it? He saw the value in continuing to live because he could be of service to his fellow man. But he also knew that death would bring him in contact with Christ, which was “better by far.” Paul even wrote, “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21b).
Don’t we usually think of dying as losing? When someone dies of cancer we often say: “Gene lost the battle.” That’s what the disciples thought when Jesus died on the cross. They thought that he had lost the battle against his jealous enemies and that all their hopes that he was the promised savior had passed away just as Jesus had. But Jesus’ death was actually a great victory for mankind. Like the soldier who gets shot with the last arrow the enemy has in his arsenal to fire, Jesus took the full brunt of God’s anger over the world’s sins. All of God’s fury for the times you thought your kids were a hassle or treated your parents like dirt was spent on Jesus at Mt. Calvary. Jesus died, yes, but in so doing he redirected God’s anger over your sins to himself and so secured forgiveness and opened the doors to an everlasting life of happiness for all people.
We know that this is true because Jesus rose from the dead to explain to his disciples what he had accomplished: not just victory over sin, but victory over death as well! Paul would describe later in his letter to the Philippians what this all has to do with us. “…our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20).
Do you understand now why Paul would say that dying is gain? Just as a caterpillar must look forward to disappearing into his chrysalis where he will shed his ugly green exterior and take on the beautiful and freedom-giving wings of a butterfly, we too can look forward to being cocooned in the dust of the earth, for we know that Jesus will raise up our bodies and glorify them, that is, make them so that they will never grow old, get sick, or die again!
But this is only true for those whose motto is “I want to live with Christ!” For without Jesus we have no forgiveness, and death won’t bring gain but increased pain as we’ll have stand before a holy God without Jesus as our go-between. Just think of how it hurts when you inadvertently grab the cookie sheet out of the oven without oven mitts! That’s only slightly what it will be like on Judgment Day and for the rest of eternity if we think we can shake God’s hand without Jesus’ righteousness covering our filthy fingers like a white glove.