Sermon

To Live is Christ (Philippians 1:19-26)

In a recent survey of the most common phobias (fears), a few of the most common are: Mysophobia—Fear of Germs, Acrophobia—fear of heights, Ophidiophobia —fear of snakes, and Arachnophobia—fear of spiders. What isn’t always at the top of the list but should be is Thanatophobia—fear of death because the main reason we are afraid of germs, heights, snakes, and spiders is because we fear dying. It is natural to fear death, especially if you are not a Christian. The Bible teaches us that when non-believers die, they face judgment (Heb 9:27). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God while still bearing your sin (Heb 10:31) because the destination of the lost is the lake of fire (Rev 20:15). 

Christians, however, have no valid reason to fear death. In fact, the fear of death is deadly for a Christian’s faith. If you are afraid of dying, you cannot faithfully live for Christ. Holiness requires that we are willing to give ourselves for the Gospel (Matt 10:39). If you are afraid of death, your commitment to self-preservation will result in being ineffective and unfruitful in your knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:8) and your witness for Christ. Consider:

To Live is…

What is your reason for getting out of bed in the morning? You may or may not be aware of what it is, but everyone has a reason.  What motivates you? Is it:

Money? Possessions? Power? Your motivation may be money. You may be the person who earns money to simply have money or you may be motivated to get money so that you can spend money. You bear your burdens, work long hours, and sacrifice in order to have nice things or go to nice places because you tell yourself these things will make you happy. Closely related to money is power. In our society, the more money one has the more powerful they become. Many people, sadly many Christians, are motivated to get money because they crave power. 

Pleasure? Your motivation may be pleasure—specifically physical pleasure. For many people, their life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure and they bounce from one superficial relationship to the next. They beg, borrow, or steal so that they can have the next moment of pleasure. A person who is motivated by physical pleasure becomes consumed with sensuality and lust. Their entertainment—movies, TV, magazines, internet—is a daily indulgence in sensuality. They pursue physical pleasure with all their might.

Family? Job? Your motivation may be more respectable. It may be your family. Some people devote themselves to the care of their family and will do whatever it takes to make sure they have what they want and need. They want to be a good mother or father, so they work very hard to make sure family is taken care of. You may be motivated by your job. You could care less about how much money you make because you enjoy the type of work you do. You are motivated to be the best and you expend all your energy into your job. 

If you see yourself in any of these areas, you need to know: Money cannot save you (Prov 11:4), your family and friends cannot save you (Psalm 49:7), power cannot save you (1 Cor 1:20), and the pursuit of pleasure is foolish (Ecc 2:11). If the primary motivation for your life is not Jesus Christ, then you are the foolish man Jesus spoke of who built his house on the sand (Matt 7:26) and who will suffer great loss. 

Christ Jesus! Paul wrote: “For me to live is Christ.” This is the only proper reason to get out of bed in the morning. Paul wrote that his life is devoted to Jesus and nothing else comes close. Paul preached and lived so that men and women may be saved and know Jesus Christ as their Lord. What does this mean for us? We say to God in prayer, “My life is yours, you are the reason I am here and the reason why I do everything I do.”  Our priority in life is to know Jesus and make Him known to others. With Christ as your reason for living, you are now truly living (John 10:10)! Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). You are free to earn money; not for your gain but for God’s glory. You are free to pursue influence; not to get power for yourself but to influence people to become followers of Jesus. You are free to pursue pleasure; not to satisfy your sinful lusts but to better enjoy the goodness of God. You are free to love your family; not so that you can find your worth in them but to help them grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 8:36: “if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed!

To Die is…

Matthew 10:39. Once you have the right motivation to live, you are prepared to die. Paul wrote: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” If you remove Christ from the verse, the last word changes from gain to loss. If you live for anyone or anything other than Jesus, you will suffer loss. Sadly, far too many people in our community and world have given themselves to idols and when they die, they will suffer the loss of all things. They need a witness for Jesus. They need to be told about the forgiveness of sin. We must examine ourselves, get our priorities straight, and make disciples. For Christians, death is gain!    

Living and Dying for Christ’s Honor

What is remarkable about Paul’s perspective in this section of Scripture is that he is more fearful of dishonoring Christ than he is of dying. It is his expectation and hope that in no way would he be ashamed by dishonoring Christ whether by life or by death. He even admits that he would rather die because that means departing from this world and being with Christ. Paul considers death to be far better than life. By no means is Paul suicidal; he entrusted the time and manner of his death to God and was confident of His eternal state. Paul lived courageously in every situation and in every place. His primary motivation in life was “fruitful labor” (1:22) and he encouraged others “for your progress and joy in the faith” (1:25).

Do you have this type of courage? This courage is not unique to Paul, it comes from Christ. What about you? Are you willing to surrender all to Jesus? Are you more concerned with your life than you are of honoring Christ in your body? Are you more concerned with death than you are of honoring Christ in your body?