Today I was reading and meditating on a verse in Chapter 1 that many believers know and love to quote:
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
And I was thinking about how it's easy for me to get sucked into the lie that because I trust Jesus, my life should work out pretty well all the time. To live is Christ!! How exciting!! I know Jesus; I have an in with God. My life is going to be great!
But as I considered the weight of the second half of the statement, I was hit hard with the weight of the first half. To die, Paul says, is GAIN. For the one who has trusted Jesus for salvation, death is a bonus! It only gets eternally better after we physically die! Can I truly say that I am looking forward to the time when God calls me to my heavenly home by ending life as I know it here? ...some days, yes. I yearn for no more sin struggles; I yearn for peace in my relationships and I yearn most of all to just fall at the feet of Jesus and worship Him for all eternity. But some days, I beg God not to take me before I get to spend decades loving Will, or before I get to see my girls grow in grace and truth, or before I know that some of my family and friends have decided to trust in Jesus, too.
To die is gain.
And to live is Christ.
What does that mean?
Does it mean that life is going to be easier? Jesus is God! If living is like Jesus, then...will life be better? Will He prosper me by giving me all of the wonderful American Dream-y things that I want because I keep His rules and do lots of wonderful things in His name?
Christ lived a sacrificial human existence. He laid down all of His rights for the sake of His Father's plan to redeem and restore a wretched people (read: all of humanity). He did not live a Christian take on the American Dream. He wasn't pampered because He was God's Son. He did not complain. He did not whine. He gave. He healed. He prayed. He fasted. He extended dignity to the outcasts and sinners. He did not worry about His reputation as He called out the hypocrisy of the self-absorbed, self-worshiping religious leaders of the time. He did not fight with physical force, but He warred constantly and ferociously against the spiritual filth that was and is rampant. He spoke truth unabashedly even when it meant His dearest and closest friends and disciples left Him.
He suffered. He was bruised. He was humiliated. He was hated. He was executed.
To live is Christ.
If you consider yourself a Christian, are you willing to proclaim "TO LIVE IS CHRIST!!!" and fully take on that identity? To be hated for Jesus' sake? To be bold and speak the truth in love even if it means you'll lose friends, or a job? Are you willing to give up your "rights" to all of those things you think you're entitled to (a nicely decorated house, a new car, that prestigious career you worked so hard to get) to carry the message of repentance to a world that does not know just how holy and righteous God is?
As I was thinking about this, I was overwhelmed by a fear of the Lord that I have not had in a while. My salvation, though it's a gift, was NOT a free gift. It is given freely - meaning that I need to do nothing except receive it by faith - but oh, Christian, after we have received the gift of eternal life, Jesus demands a radical thing. He asks that we die to ourselves and let Him live in and through us. After salvation, we are no longer our own - we are His. We belong to Christ. And a life lived to Christ is going to be a life full of trials and tribulation and suffering and being hated for His Name. The fear of not laying down everything that I am at God's feet daily (and moment by moment!) - that I am bringing reproach on the name and honor of Jesus because of my preference for comfort and predictability and being liked rather than unashamedly taking on the identity and suffering of Jesus - that fear just flooded me today. And provoked me to search and weed out those areas in my heart where I am coddling the flesh instead of exclaiming "to live is Christ!" with my life.
Are you ready to abandon all you have built for yourself, to live for Christ, should He demand it of you? If not, oh friend, spend some time in prayer and the Word, until you come to that place when you can proclaim that indeed, 'to live is Christ!" and find all joy in it.
To live is Christ, and to die is gain. What a beautiful statement. What a life-altering concept. What a holy, merciful, awesome God.
By His grace and
for His glory!!
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