For Me to Live is Christ
Please read Philippians 1:12 - 26.
There are those whose whole life is spent for music; they love music with all their hearts: they have no other interest. With others the same is true of science; or business; or literature; or sports; or religion. Wholehearted effort in any of these spheres usually results in success, but as a rule the specialist knows little of anything else.
But Paul’s life was comprehended in the word “Christ”: not Christianity, but Himself. “Indeed” he confessed, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him..”; even though his ability and education must have been of such a character as to ensure prominence in any field of endeavour that he might have chosen (Philippians 3:8-9, RSV).
God’s Perfect Man
It might be asked, “Would not such a life be very restricted; would there not be a danger of one becoming a fanatic: a religious enthusiast?” God has not left us in any doubt about the answer to that question, for in the four Gospels we see the life of God’s perfect Man: the Lord Jesus Christ. There we have demonstrated what God intended every man to be like; and what every one of His own will be like some day, for we are “ … to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). The more our lives are conformed to His the more we shall attain to the fully-developed man.
When Paul wrote to the Philippians he was in prison for the testimony of Christ Jesus and facing possible martyrdom. He was assured, however, that through their prayers God would grant him deliverance; but as he mused upon the possibility of his death for Christ’s sake, he declared that whatever his lot, his resolution was that Christ should be honoured in his body. The glory of his Lord was an object dearer than life itself; for to him to live was Christ, and to die but the climax to the fellowship of His sufferings which he continually endured, and his great gain. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, RSV.).
Yet this attitude of Paul is not to be considered extraordinary in any respect whatever; for what Paul purposed is to be the normal object of every believer. If this is not so we are failing to heed the exhortation of the Holy Spirit as He presents us with our obligation to glorify God in our body, and the overwhelming reason why this should be our chief concern: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
“Ye Are Christ’s”
What could be more reasonable than that we should seek our Father’s wisdom to direct our lives? As our Creator, He surely knows better than we do how the faculties with which He has endowed us should be used to the greatest profit.
“Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not He correct? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not He know? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity” (Psalm 94:9-11).
A man consists of spirit, soul and body. One who has not the Spirit of God is described as “soulish.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, Newberry, margin). He has a spirit, but he lives in the realm of his soul. (All those things mentioned above are “soulish”: not necessarily sinful, but not spiritual). His spirit is in a condition which is described in scripture as “dead.” When such an one receives Christ he passes from death to life. Then Christ dwells within him, and the Holy Spirit Himself witnesses with his spirit that he is a child of God (Romans 8:16). Not till then is it possible for his intelligence, his emotions or his will to function as God intended them to. Then he begins to live; and the extent to which he exercises his will in yielding to God the use of his faculties will be the measure in which he will be able to say truly, “To me to live is Christ!”
Counting the Cost
Of course there is a price to pay, and not everybody is willing to pay it. One of the saddest of scriptures is Matthew 19:21-22: “Jesus said unto him, ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
“God has His best things for the few
Who dare to stand the test;
God has His second choice for those
Who will not take His best.”
It will cost—everything: and in addition, the cross; for it must be stressed that we cannot live Christ without the cross. God demands our utmost: for He gave His utmost to redeem us to Himself.
“If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple…. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27, 33).
What did the cross mean to Paul? At least part of the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-31 (RSV).
“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one… Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He Who is blessed for ever, knows that I do not lie.”
Yet far from indulging in self-pity, he gloried in the cross. Could there be a more triumphant attitude to those bitter experiences than this?
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (Galatians 6:14, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Was such a life worth what it cost to Paul? After a life spent for “soulish” things, what of eternity? If this is all we have, to die is loss: “for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). But the prospect before the apostle as he faced eternity was “… to die is gain”; “…to be with Christ; which is far better”; “… for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (Philippians 1:21, 23, 2 Corinthians 4:17). Yet we do not have to wait for death, for “… godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
To Please Him
Was Paul’s life a success? After nearly twenty centuries he who described himself as “…less than the least of all saints” is regarded by millions to be among the greatest of men: towering spiritually above the people of God as his namesake did physically, “… higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward” (1 Samuel 10:23). What greater assurance of success could one have than to be able to say in truth:
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Enoch, in ancient times, had this testimony “… that he pleased God”; and God the Father could bestow no higher honour upon His beloved Son than to express His approval in the words, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased …” (John 8:29, Matthew 17:5). To obtain such a commendation was the purpose which dominated the life of Paul, for he wrote, “We make it our aim to please Him.” This grand object, the only one worthy of those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, is well within the reach of every child of God. To prove experimentally “… what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” is the joy of those who will present their bodies to Him unconditionally. None ever did more than this, for this is to choose God’s best (2 Corinthians, 5:9, RSV, Romans 12:1).
“Brethren,” wrote Paul, “be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample … For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:17, 20-21).