Philippians 1:21. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
When standing face to face with the ultimate questions of living and dying, these are the words that flowed from Paul’s pen – “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” Can we say that these are also our living and dying wishes? Can we look at our life and declare that to be alive in the world is to be as Christ was in the world?
“To live is Christ” is the very definition of a Christian. The Christian’s life flows from Christ to Christ. And everything in between is done for Christ, by Christ, and in Christ.
But the truth is that for most of us these words rarely sink into our hearts. In fact, we tend to live exactly the opposite of what Paul is saying here in Philippians 1:21. Our lives look more like “to live is gain,” and “to die is Christ.” We spend our whole lives trying to gain the whole world. The world’s comforts. The world’s control. The world’s power. The world’s meaning, purpose, and identity. Or simply the world’s things. Yes, even as Christians, we have turned living into gaining. We are entranced by materialism and empowered by entitlement. We are motivated by performancism and the meritocracy that we are told that we live in. Do more to achieve more. Even in ministry – if it’s not growing it’s not “blessed.”
But then, if you live long enough, you eventually lose it all. Until all you have is Christ, and faith in him. Comfort, control, power, status, identity, they all have faded away. Your only ministry is prayer. Your only prayer is Jesus. “To live is gain” has finally become “to die is Christ.”
Christian, there is a higher calling.
“To live is Christ” means there is nothing left to gain in this life, because in him we already have all we need for daily living. All that’s left to gain, the fullness of Christ’s presence, can only be gained in dying.
Therefore, we are called to find gain in dying not in living. And we are called to find life in Christ, not in gaining.
What does this “to live is Christ” mean?
First, it means simply yet fully trusting Jesus as our savior. To find all our hope in life and in death in Jesus alone. To reject the “gaining’ of this life by our own good deeds and deserved honor. To embrace the simple grace of God in Christ as our greatest need and our greatest desire. To know that we owe Jesus nothing because he has given it all to us freely. To believe that what he says is true. That he is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do. To put your entire life into his hands, keeping back not a single part of who you are from him. To trust your glorious union with him as the source of all that is eternal and good inside of you. To trust him with your soul, even when it means losing the world.
This trust then results in finding a whole new motivation for life. We are no longer driven by gain but by grace, finding all our hope, joy, peace, identity, meaning, purpose, and significance in Christ alone. Giving up our comforts. Setting aside our power. Submitting to others. Trading status for sacrifice. Giving until it hurts. Loving those who will never love in return. Embracing weakness and humility. Holding everything with an open hand. Everything. Family, career, ministry, possessions, pleasures. Everything.
Finally, “to live is Christ” means completely dedicating your life to Christ in service to him. To take up his cross of suffering and follow Jesus into a broken and battered world. To embrace the burdens and the losses of the crucified life. To make Jesus Christ and his glory the center of every choice, every response, every action, every desire, and every emotion. As Paul will say a few verses later: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death.” That’s “to live is Christ.”
Is “to live is Christ’ your desire today? To simply trust Jesus your Savior and to passionately serve Jesus your King?
“To live is _____.” What would go in your blank today?
You in Christ
How does knowing that death is gain allow us to live as Christ?
Christ in you
Where do you need to fully trust Jesus today? Where do you need to fully serve Jesus today?
Extended Playlist: To Live is Christ.
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