A Matter Of Life And Death
“A Matter of Life and Death”
Good Morning. We are continuing our study in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi.
I’m going to begin this morning with a question that I hope you will forgive me for. It is something many will consider a depressing question, but it is one we need to think about. What would your thoughts be if you knew that you were about to die? What philosophy of living and dying, does each of us have that we would pass on to our loved ones if we only had a little time and just had a few words to say?
Please turn your bibles to the Book of Philippians.
We find that the apostle Paul is in that same situation. Remember that Paul is in a Roman prison. He doesn't know whether he will live or die. He faces the possibility of immanent death. In Philippians 1:21 Paul sums up everything we need to know about living and dying using these few words. Paul says, "To live is Christ and to die is gain."
Nowhere in this letter, will you find Paul expressing self pity. As far as Paul is concerned he is in a no lose situation. If he lives, he lives for Christ. If he dies, he is with Christ, which is gain. Paul is saying, "It doesn't matter what happens, I’m going to be OK". As we saw in our study and the first week we started this series, Paul is focused on Christ. He knows it doesn't matter what happens to him because he can't lose. To Paul Christ is a matter of life and death.
So then the question, What about us? Do we summarize life and death in terms of Christ? Most people don't. I mean most people focus on what is to be done in this life as they see it. Most people live by a different philosophy of life and death.
I. Some of them might say; "To live is me and to die is tragic”... The “me” is really a very small reason for living, and it leads to a very empty kind of living. Perhaps this explains why there is so much despair, depression and fear in the world today. The more I see the more I think most people have 2 great fears. 1. They are afraid they might die tonight. 2. They are afraid they might live tomorrow.
A. You see, dying frightens many people and living has no passion for them. Then there are people like Paul, who have a passion for living, and they have a passion for dying. If you were to ask people like that which they would choose, they couldn't answer because they have a passion for both.
B. Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 1:21-26 – “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.”.
C. Paul tells us that if he is to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for him but to chose one over the other—he cannot. Paul has the desire to depart and be with Christ, but he knows it is important he remain to teach. Since he is convinced this is important he will remain as long as he can. He will continue with them for their progress and joy in the faith, so that through him their joy in Christ will overflow.
D. Paul has summed up the philosophy of living and dying that will change our life—litterly change our life. Let's look at living first of all.
II. Living. Paul says that, "Christ provides the purpose for joy in living". There are people who don't have a reason for living and certainly do not see the joy in it. We can work hard to get a new car. We can work hard to buy a new house. We can work hard to build a business. Yet, people are not satisfied for long when they reach these goals. You might hear people say, “I don’t have enough to live on.” Perhaps the real problem is that they don’t have enough to live for. That can be a very real problem.
A. What about Paul? He had a passion for living. Paul says, "He's not afraid to live" because if he lives, it's going to matter. If he lives he knows, it's going to make a difference. He says, to the Philippians, "He’s going to continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith."
B. Paul loved living, because that meant that he could bring the joy of Jesus to other people. Perhaps there is so much depression today because there is so much pre-occupation with self. Why did God leave me on this earth? Why do I have one more day to live?
C. The old devil, Satan tries to sell us a lie here. He's says, "The reason you are still alive is because you are not saved yet”. He's says, "You better work hard to try and earn that salvation before you die”. Isn't that a miserable way to live your life? When Jesus died on the cross, he said, "It is finished."
D. We are united with Jesus Christ, as Paul tells us in Romans 8:1- “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” . Everything for our salvation has already been done. Our salvation is a settled issue as long as we are in Christ and walk in His ways.
E. Then why are we still here? Not to finish our salvation. We’re still here because God knows that somebody else needs us. That's why we're here. If we follow Christ and love God, we know what we are here to do. God isn’t letting us live another day for ourselves, but for someone else. It may be for people we already know and love, or it may be for those we have not met yet.
F. This life in these bodies will never be joyful as long as we look for our own interests and not for the interests of others. Paul is saying that, "As long as God has got something for him to do, he will stay". Although Paul desires to die and go home to Jesus, he recognizes the reason he is staying.
1. The quality of our lives really does depend on the quality of our investments. Just not the investments the world thinks about. One day we are all going to stand in front of the Lord and give an account of everyday that was a gift from Him. We have to do that.
2. What are we going to report to Him? Will we say, "Well, in my life time, I built a house"? Will we say, "Well, in my lifetime, I had a good job". Or "God, I had a nice retirement". Do we realize that all that stuff is going to be incinerated when Jesus comes back? It’s going to be burned up. Have faith. It would be better for us to invest our life in something eternal. Every day we live, is a gift of grace from God to be used to invest in people.
G. Let me mention something Steve Jobs said in a speech he gave in 2005. He was describing how he approached each day. Since the age of 17 until the day of the speech when he was 50, without missing a single day, he looked at the mirror in the morning and asked himself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
1. Whenever the answer had been “No” for too many days in a row, he knew he needed to change something.
2. Why did he keep reminding himself everyday for 33 years, “each day could be the last day of his life?” This was his answer: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
3. Putting it simply he says, “Live like you're dying so you can live doing what matters most to you.”
H. Yet even with this wisdom, discipline and sucess, Steve Jobs acknowledged his fear of death. He said “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.” Though it sounds as if he praised death as “ Life’s change agent which he said clears out the old to make way for the new.“ You could hear in his speech the thoughts “I want to live. I don’t want to die.”
I. Unfortunately, he didn’t and couldn’t talk about hope of what that would last even after death. He could only talk about how best one may live in this life as he knew in the worldly sense.
J. Steve Jobs died in 2011 at age 56, 6 years after the speech. By human standards, no doubt he would be one of the best examples of success—he was true to himself and his own vision.
III. Dying. Since I’ve already led us into a lesson that can seem dark to some, let me make it a little worse.
A. I first want to quote something Mark Twain wrote, "A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;...they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; ...those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last—the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence,...a world which will lament them for a day and forget them forever."
B. Let me ask you this question.
1. Who's going to cry at your funeral? Who's going to cry because a major source of joy in their lives is gone? That's what Paul said, "It is necessary for me to continue living, so that you can have joy on account of me." Paul is still teaching, he is still encouraging, he is still edifying... he is still loving those who need love.
2. Who are we a joy to? That's why we are here. We are still living because the use of our lives is something that will last forever. Only Christ can give that much living.
IV. When people become Christians and think back over their previous life some of them wonder. Why did I drink? Why did I take drugs? Why did I do things that were bad for me, ungodly things and things hurtful to those around me and those I love? The answer is “I was trying to put meaning into an otherwise meaningless life.”
A. That's just half the story. Not only does Christ give us a meaning for living, Paul says that, "Christ gives us the hope and courage for dying."
B. What do we say when someone is dying? What are some of the things we hear said around the time of death? When someone is dying, we might say, "It doesn't look like they have got long to live."
1. Let me share something with you. Nobody in this room has got long to live. Everyone here is terminal.
2. Do you know what I am? I am a dying man, talking to a room full of dying people, about the only person I know that can give us life. None of us have long to live.
C. What about this phrase, "Well, they will probably be better off”?
D. "PROBABLY!!!" “REALLY?” Why do we think it is a shame when a Christian dies? Paul says, "Not probably, they are far better off." Paul says, "I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far."
V. Sometimes when we talk to insurance sales people, perhaps updating our auto insurance, or it may be in a cold call from a sales person who might ask if we have life insurance. Know what I would answer? “I’ve got something better—soul assurance.” That is something they do not have to sell.
A. When I was younger we would take vacations to other places in the US, national and state parks mostly. To stretch out our funds we often slept in a tent. You know what a tent is don’t you?
B. The tent was not our home. A tent is a place we sleep in because we're going somewhere else. Then we would fold up that tent, and we would pack it up, so that we could go on to where we were going next.
C. That's is what Paul says. He said, "This isn't my home; this isn't where I belong, because I'm ready to go home,". You see, life isn't about carnal things or success. It's about eternity rather than time. Our bodies are getting older and they’re breaking down. They are not meant to last forever. Our bodies are not meant to be permanent.
VI. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 – “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,”.
A. Why did Paul want to die and go to Jesus? If I think about our lives, I can see that a person might get tired of the struggle here. Perhaps we tire of the burden of teaching and encouraging people, or maybe we tire of seeing people make the same mistakes others have made, and then helping them by teaching over again what had been taught. That is what I imagine.
B. The main reason Paul wanted to go was simple. Paul wanted the company of Christ. Paul says, "When he goes, he's going to have Christ like he's never had him before." He's going to have union with Christ.
C. Let us consider it this way. Have we ever been homesick for heaven? Do we ever just hurt inside to get to heaven? If we don’t why not? Perhaps we need to improve our personal relationship with Jesus. We need to get to the point where we are so obsessed with Christ, so focused on Christ and so in love with Christ that the thought of being with Christ just makes our heart ache. That’s what we should desire.
VII. People all over the world today are still deciding that Jesus is a matter of life and death. That's how we should feel about Jesus. Let me share with you 3 things that we need to take out of our heads and into our hearts.
A. First we need to internalize the certainty of salvation. Ask ourselves, do we know where we are going when we die? Paul knew exactly what would happen when he died. He knew where he was going.
B. When we go on vacation as a family, I usually go over the preparation and packing many times... because I usually forget something. The first thing when you go on any journey is you need to at least know where you are going. Then you need to make sure you are going to be able to get there before you start. Perhaps we need to consider the condition of the vehicle we will use. Condition of the tires. Is an oil change needed? How are the fluid levels? Are all the lights working?
C. Paul knew that someday Christians would weep and put that old tent of his in the ground. They would say, "Goodbye" to it. Even as they did, on the other side. Jesus was going to say, "Hello" to the new one.
D. Second we also need to internalize the necessity of service. Life is not measured by duration, life is measured by use. James tells us in James 4:13-14 - “Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit''; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
E. You may have heard this. Someone has calculated how a typical lifespan of 70 years is spent. Here is the estimate: We sleep for 23 years of our lives. We work for 16 years of our lives. We watch TV for 8 years of our lives. We spend 6 years of our lives eating. We travel 6 years of our lives. We have 4.5 years of leisure time. We suffer from illness 4 years of our lives. We spend 2 years of our lives dressing, and sadly, we only spend 0.5 years of our lives devoted to religion.
F. That’s just an average number of years for an everyday average person. I’m sure if we had calculated these things for Christians the numbers would be different. The point is this; we really need to make our short lives matter. We really need to use the gift of life, to give the gift of Jesus to someone else. We really need to be a joy to them.
G. Finally, we need to internalize the security of sacrifice. Paul says, "I'm willing to give up everything I have for Jesus." Are we willing to do that? For those who are not yet Christians, are you willing to repent and turn to God? Are you willing to confess Jesus as Lord of your life? Are you willing to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? Are you willing... to give up everything... so that you can gain even more?
H. You see, folks, we all need to say—and believe, that were going to love Him with all our mind, heart, soul and strength, and when we die, it will be a gain. The only way something can be a gain is if the reward you get is bigger than the investment you put in.
Man will pursue joy and happiness in every way imaginable. At the end of what does he have? Let me give you some words about where joy can not be found.
Not in Unbelief -- Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: "I wish I had never been born."
Not in Pleasure -- Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: "The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone."
Not in Money -- Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: "I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth."
Not in Position and Fame -- Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: "Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret."
Not in Military Glory -- Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, "There are no more worlds to conquer."
We may say, “for to me - to live is my husband or wife, son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, family, or business, reputation, even being true yourself, your own inner truths”.
No matter how noble the persons or things we mentioned are that we may live for, apart from Christ, we can’t say “to die is gain.”
The only way we can do that is if we can say “for me to live is Christ”. Without that we can’t say “to die is gain.”
To say it another way, if we say for me to live is something or someone other than Christ, no matter how good it is or he or she is, we are heading to a hopeless end.
Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).
God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son. Jesus Christ is the greatest gift God could give and He gave Him to save us. This being true, God’s greatest concern for you and me is “What did you do with my son, Jesus Christ, that I gave you?” “What did you do with my Son who died for you?” Did you receive Him as your Savior or reject Him?" What did you do with Jesus?
What Paul tells us is, "There's nothing you can give to Jesus that's not going to be a gain." There's no safer investment you can make with your life, than to spend it on Jesus Christ. Paul says, "To live is Christ and to die is gain." In Romans 8:18 Paul says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
We really need to pray that we can be obsessed with, that we can be focused on Christ, because it really is a matter of life and death.
Think about this life and ask; “If today were the last day of my life, would I be ready for my final departure? I hope and pray that our final destination is a day of endless hope rather than a hopeless end.
Where and when we meet
Chardon, Ohio 44024