July 1, 2019
Pastor John Hering
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 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. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 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! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
You all have things that are important to you in your life. Think about those important things as you consider these points: 1) Some go through life at full speed, others try to do at little as they can. 2) What are the things you spend most of your time on? 3) What are the reasons you spend so much time on the things you do? 4) Consider this: moving to do something doesn’t mean that you’re moving in the right direction. So, by now you’ve probably come up with a few things that are important in your life: health, Relationships, your identity, and living with a purpose. If you never stop to consider the things that are important to you in life, you probably will find yourself on automatic pilot—often making silly choices. Today we consider Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi and to help us think about what is most important in our life and then to arrange everything else in our life around it. You already heard Paul’s answer. For him, Christ is everything. Is he for you?
Christ Is Everything in Death
There are a few things in life where a person gains by losing. If you lose weight, you probably will gain health. I can give up what I want for what she wants and I’ll gain a happy wife. One place where people talk about gaining by losing is at funerals. You might hear it like this, “She’s in a better place.” Those aren’t just nice sounding words if they mean what Paul said: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” For Christians, dying results in something gained, something we didn’t have before, an improvement over the way things were. We’re better off because “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thess 4:13). Falling asleep implied waking up. Waking up means a new day, new energy, and new possibilities. For Christians waking up means waking up in heaven with Jesus to a new day, new energy and eternal joy with Jesus because of Jesus. We believe what the Bible says about our death. When we die Jesus takes our souls to heaven, and on the final great Day of Judgment he will raise up our bodies and take them to be reunited with our souls to live in heaven. Yes, Christ is everything in death because we gain in dying. We will enjoy in heaven what we can’t enjoy on earth. In heaven we will not suffer what we suffer on earth. We will have all the blessings Jesus has prepared for us in the mansions of heaven.
So, just for second try to imagine your funeral. How does it look? What is the mood? Who is there and what are they saying as they exit the doors back to their everyday lives? The answers to those questions will be very different depending on what is most important for a person. A celebration of one’s life with up-beat songs and lot so of pictures of the person’s past may not offer lasting comfort to the hurting hearts of someone who has been separated from you. A testimonial funeral may include a parade of people talking about the happy times you had together, your accomplishments and your wonderful character, but may not be reality for those you’ve hurt, betrayed, cheated, or cause problems for in this life. People at your funeral will listen to you, through the presiding minister. So, what do you want him to say to those in the congregation at your funeral? John was a great guy? John was the best father one could have? John was a super grandpa? Inspiring, perhaps, but no more life-changing than a Facebook page. How about words that give real hope and comfort in death? For instance, “Whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” How about Christ is Everything, and because Christ is Everything for you “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3). There is real hope and real encouragement for those who believe that Jesus died to destroy death when he rose. And so all who die in Christ live with him in peace and joy! Or “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God,” (Job 19:25-26). At my funeral I will be the guest of honor, but Christ is your host, your everything, your joy, peace, and comfort. Go ahead. Make Christ Everything at your funeral and in your death. He is your life!
Christ Is Everything in Life
We all have things that are very important to us in our life. The things that are everything to you right now in your life will probably be everything to you when you die. I pray it is Christ. I pray it is Jesus Christ who left heaven for you, who lived a perfect life for you, who died for you, who rose again to prove that he has the victory over death. But, if Christ is not the reason you decide and do; if Christ is not what you value above all your assets; if Christ is not the first to whom you go with your problems and needs; if Christ is not the one you give credit for what you achieve; if Christ is not your every breath, your heartbeat, your hope, your history, your destiny, your dream; if Christ is only something in your life and not everything in your life, then you cannot say with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” And if you die without Christ, then your life is bankrupt!
So, let me ask again. What do you consider to be the most important things in your life? Health, Relationships, Identity and purpose? If your life was a pie, how big is the slice of that pie for each of these? So, what happens when Jesus is the crust of this pie that holds it all together? Yes, Jesus is the one through whom we enjoy the gift of health, relationships, identity and purpose! It was this hope in Christ that saw St Paul through this difficult time. He said, “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 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.” Paul knew all too well that his health was in the Lord’s hands—remember how he prayed for the throne in his flesh to be removed? He learned that Christ was sufficient for him. Remember how Paul yearned for the relationships between congregations and church leaders to be healthy, and confessed that Christ was their solution. Remember how Paul talked about his journey of life when he identified himself with the Pharisees, until Christ changed his identity as God’s own dear child and missionary to the Gentiles. Remember how Paul’s purpose in life to be a persecutor of the church, until Christ stopped him in his tracks and called him to proclaim the Gospel? In this life, Christ was everything!
With Christ at the center of all things Paul enjoyed the proper perspective of his life as a child of God. Listen: “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! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.“ We would agree that it would be far better for us to be in heaven enjoying the blessings won for us by Christ. Today, we have by faith, those blessings promised to us. We love to hear that Jesus has forgiven all our sins. We love to hear that Jesus will take us to heaven. Those belong to us today through faith. But, we also know that being in heaven to enjoy the blessings of heaven will be far better. So, what shall we choose? And once you make that spirit-led choice that is where you get to put your time and energy.
Paul understood his purpose as he testified: “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” Like Paul, our purpose is to bring glory to God. We bring glory to God when we remember all he has done for us in Jesus Christ. Christ came with a perfect outlook on life, prioritized his life perfectly regarding his health, relationships, identity and purpose. Then he took his perfect life and offered it to the Father as the perfect substitutionary payment for the penalty of our sins. Then he gave us the perfection we needed in order to stand before God declared perfect in our relationship to God, our identity as his own dear child, and our purpose to love and serve him.
Just out of curiosity, of all the important things in your life, did any of you choose, “saving money?” This really is the foundation for healthy finances. However, as simple as this sounds, 7 out of 10 households are living paycheck to paycheck and have less than $1000 in savings. Do you know why? Because people don’t take the time to think about this simple strategy and align their decisions and behaviors according to it. In a similar way, today we’ve heard that there is a simple truth for us as God’s people. Keep the important thing, the important thing. It’s Christ. It’s a simply strategy—Christ is everything. Christ redeemed you. Christ forgave you. Christ made you his own. So, dear Christians, align your life to Christ, make Christ the most important thing in your life and you will really live now, and live really forever later. Amen!