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To Live Is Christ

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NIV)

It can be so easy to see Christian faith as knowing the Bible well and obeying God's moral rules. Keep the ten commandments. Obey the most important commandment, according to Jesus, which is to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Read your Bible. Go to church. Be a good person. These are the things many people think of when we define what being a Christian is all about.

The Apostle Paul had a completely different perspective on what following Jesus meant. For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. You might remember that Paul was a persecutor of the followers of Jesus until he was traveling on the road to Damascus and Jesus knocked him off his horse, blinded him temporarily, and called him to be an Apostle. Paul's life had been gripped by Jesus. Everything Paul lived for was all about Jesus.

Sadly, I would have to confess that everything I live for is not always about Jesus. Sometimes it's all about me. Will it be convenient? What will it cost me? Will it make me uncomfortable? Will it make me happy? These are the questions I ask too often when living my life.

I believe Paul lived by a different set of questions. Will it glorify Jesus? Will it lead to people coming to know Him? Is it God's will for my life? These are the questions that sold-out followers of Jesus ask on a daily basis.

Life was not all about Paul. Life was all about Jesus. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Here is a discovery only those filled with God's Holy Spirit find: Jesus Christ is raised from the dead and wants to dwell in my life. More than that, He wants to live His life through me. He wants to become incarnate again, to become tangible in the world in human flesh, through me. He desires that I become His hands and feet and voice. Paul understood that we are called to be Jesus with skin on for others.

I was lost in sin and selfishness when I heard the Gospel at age 15 and gave my life to Jesus Christ. He forgave my sin and granted me eternal life. He began to change my life to become more and more Christlike. He called me to pastoral ministry, and so my vocation can easily get mixed up with my profession of faith. But truth is, even if Jesus did not call me to be a pastor, I must aim my life where Paul aimed his. Life must be all about Jesus, my Savior and King. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

And just this one thing about the second half of that sentence. To die is gain. Death will not destroy me, it will set me free to be with Jesus for eternity. In Jesus Christ, death is no longer the enemy. I don't have to be afraid to die. I have already died to myself and my sin. I have already been given new life in Jesus. Eternity has already begun for me. To die is to leave this fallen world for a better place. To die is gain.

I believe that is the secret to the first half. Having died to myself, I am free to make my living all about Jesus. So when things are hard, when illness comes or I'm facing a hurricane-sized storm in my life, I can turn to this great truth and find strength from God: For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. The enemy of my soul may attack me, but he cannot destroy me. Even if he takes my life, he only launches me into unending joy in eternity. There is great victory and great hope in coming to the place where Paul was living: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Like most great truths of Scripture, this one is highlighted in one of the beloved hymns:

O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever

He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood

He loved me 'ere I knew Him, and all my life is due Him

He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood


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