Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Death Where Is Thy Sting?-7/27/2011

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake." Phil 1:21-24

Let us be frank. In our western culture, death is a very scary subject. In normal fleshly thinking, there are no positives associated with it outside of praying for its onset for the purpose of relieving extreme suffering of the elderly or injured. We are filled with dread at the very thought of it. Many of us know what it is like to experience the effects of it when it happens to loved ones. It represents the great unknown. No one has gone through it and come back to tell the rest of us exactly what, if anything, happens.

Paul had a different view. As he sat in prison, contemplating both his fate and the motivations of those who preached the gospel, both out of faith and spite toward him, he indicated he was looking forward to it. Unusual? Not really.

Beloved, Paul understood that the lives we know are mere dress rehearsals for eternity. Even before he became a Christian, he was zealous for God and pursued his convictions vigorously. Once he met Christ, he became redirected:
  • "I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." Phil 3:8-11
Paul did not have a death wish but a life (resurrection) wish. The ultimate desire for the Christian is to be with Christ. This he considered gain.

But he also knew that as preferred as that existence would be, he had work to do on this side of life. Christ had commissioned him to carry forward the gospel, to be a counselor to young-in-the-faith Christians, to bring light to the Gentiles. This is what was meant by "to live is Christ."

Despite its unknown nature, death is not to be feared. For the Christian, it represents great gain.

Loving Like Jesus,


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