But really? What are you living for? What am I living for? If we are totally honest with ourselves & with God, we will admit that even though choosing to live for Christ, much of our time is not spent living for Jesus, glorifying God, building the kingdom, or bringing others to Christ. Much of our time is spent on us! We go to church, sing wonderful songs about God, give some money, greet each other, and listen to a sermon. But what happens Monday morning? What does life look like on Thursday afternoon?
What do we spend our time, energy, money, and our very lives on? What are we living for? What is the point of living – and for that matter dying? Is it worth fighting our own desires to live for Jesus? Is what you are living for worth dying for? Is what you are living for worth Jesus dying for it?
Paul said, in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Faith is a fight. Has anyone found it not to be a fight? Does anyone want to share their easy secrets of living a successful Christian life? I don’t have any. It’s a constant battle.
Paul said to fight the fight. To take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, the life you confessed at your baptism if nowhere else, in front of witnesses. Your testimony, sworn to be true, was that you now choose to live your life for Jesus Christ. Grab that promise, hold onto it and keep fighting that fight.
This could be called, “Paul’s Secrets To Successful Living & Dying”. It sounds like a great infomercial title. Paul had unique way of looking at life & death. His vision was unique, different, set apart, in other words holy.
Peter also had a holy view of life and death. 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Peter was quoting from Leviticus 11, in a passage where God was giving Israel commands concerning what would make them unclean, & how they would become clean again. Entire chapters were devoted to God’s law designed to keep people safe and keep them pure, holy to God. Then we come to verses 44-45: For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
God says that to be holy, you need to consecrate yourself. It means to give yourself to God, and not take you back. It means to be completely devoted to Him. It means making a conscious decision that today you will live for Him. and when you find myself not living for Him, you choose apologize, turn around & go back to living for Him. In the middle of a situation I find myself in, in middle of conversation, or even argument, you commit myself to stop, say “I am sorry” to God and to whoever else is involved, and to turn back to Jesus, and to do it right then, in that very moment. It is a commitment that you will not wait until later, but you will turn back and follow Him in the second you realize that you have strayed.
That is how to be holy.
If you live every day consciously giving yourself to Jesus, what will change in your life? If you get up in morning, give yourself to Jesus, and consecrate yourself to live every moment for Him, what will change in your life, in your family, in your work, in your relationships, and in your world?
Paul had unique, set apart, holy way of looking at life & death. He was often threatened with death. Yet he said in Philippians 1:21-24, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Paul was really saying, “Do you want to kill me? To die is in my favor. It’s my gain. You’re going to let me live? That’s okay, to live is Christ. I can go on serving Him & sharing Him with others.
Do you remember new math? I remember going home from school and trying to teach it to my parents. We use base 10 in math. If we changed to base 7, we would write that 6+3=12. If we used base 4, 3+3+3+3=110 would be true. It’s confusing. New math seems illogical, like math standing on its head, until you understand the concepts behind it.
Paul’s writings are sometimes new math. We have to understand what is behind the words. Paul says that to die is to gain. To live is to keep working. Both are good. What is the truth behind this statement? What is it in Paul’s life that allows him to make a statement like that?
I think the answer is Galatians 2:20: 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.
When Christ died for me, He gave me the ability to die, too. He gave me the ability to die to self, to die to sin, to die to my own desires. And he gave me the ability to live His life with Him. That is why it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Paul says, I’m still living in this flesh, but now I am living by faith in the Son of God. Why? Because He loved me & gave Himself for me.
Therefore, for me to live is Christ. To die is to gain heaven, be in God’s presence forever, but for me to live is simply Christ. To live isn’t to build my empire, but to live is Christ. To live is to be what He wants my life to be, to go to whom He guides me to so I can share His love and His light.
Are you ready for more of Paul’s new math? Paul was telling the Philippians that they needed to stop bragging about their accomplishments, pedigree or status. Paul then proved that his pedigree, status and accomplishments would make theirs look weak in comparison.
Then he wrote in Philippians 3:7-10, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, 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 rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”
Paul says: My gain in my own life = loss in the kingdom. In fact, everything about my life outside of Christ = loss. Here’s how to count in the new math. Count everything as worthless, as rubbish. What is rubbish? It’s garbage. We pay to get rid of it. But I have good news: Jesus has paid the price. I count everything as loss so I can gain Christ, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…”
But Paul went on in verse 10: That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death
I want to live like Jesus, and yes, I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection, but there is more. I also want to share in His sufferings, and become like Him in His death. Does that mean I want to be crucified? No way! I want to go quietly in my sleep like my grandpa did, not yelling and screaming like his passengers.
What does it mean to share in Jesus’ sufferings, and to become like Him in His death? That’s a good question. I don’t know what Paul meant by becoming like Jesus in His death, unless it meant that he wanted to glorify God not only in life, but in death. I do know that those who follow Him in life see Him in death. I do know that willingly suffering for His sake prepares us for following Him in death. And I do know that those who follow closest in life, and know Him best, also know the power of His resurrection. We can willingly die for Jesus if we know the power of His resurrection.
Paul was at peace in life, and ready to die for the sake of Jesus. He said in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul talked about having thorn in flesh. We don’t know for sure what this was, but we know how God used it in Paul’s life. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 says, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Charles Spurgeon, in suddenly realizing meaning of the words “My grace is sufficient for you” said this: This verse seemed to make unbelief totally absurd. I pictured a thirsty little fish who was concerned with drinking the river dry, with Father River saying, “Drink away, little fish; my stream is sufficient for you.” … I imagined a man high on a mountain peak, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I am afraid I will deplete all the oxygen in the atmosphere.” But the earth says to him, “Breathe away, filling your lungs forever; my atmosphere is sufficient for you.”
O people of God, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls. – Charles H. Spurgeon
What made Paul content? How could he be so at peace in every circumstance? I think the key is Galatians 2:20: 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.
It’s not my life anymore. It is His. We are living sacrifices, consecrating ourselves to Him daily. And His grace is sufficient for us. I am convinced that we struggle with giving ourselves completely to God because we really don’t believe that He is big enough to take care of us. We let go, but then we suddenly feel the need to take control, to take back the reins. Our world teaches self-sufficiency, and it goes against our culturally ingrained nature to give up that self-will, even to God.
What are you living for? Is what you are living for worth dying for? Is it worth Christ dying for it?
Do you remember the time on the boat with the disciples in the middle of the storm, with Jesus asleep on a cushion? There the disciples were in only a physical storm threatening to sink the boat, and the creator of the wind and the waves was sleeping in the boat. He was at peace. He knew that his creation could never overpower Him. But the disciples didn’t really know who He was.
The question Jesus asked was, “Why do you have so little faith?” The question the disciples asked was, “Who is this man?”
Both are valid questions. Jesus asks us, “If you know who I am, why don’t you have more faith in me?” We ask, “But who are you?” Because if Jesus is just a man who could do amazing things, we’ll pay our $2 and see the sideshow. But if we know that He is truly God, the creator of heaven and earth, the One who died, rose again, and gives us resurrection power, why are we still asking the question?
If Jesus is God, who died and rose again to save us, the question we need to ask is, “Why do we have so little faith?” Why do I feel like I am losing the fight of faith? Why is it so hard to have victory over sin?
Galatians 2:20 changes everything: 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.
Do you believe that? Do you know that YOU have been crucified with Christ? Do you KNOW that you are no longer alive? Do you realize that it is CHRIST who lives in you? You are still living in the flesh, yet you live by FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, who loved you and gave Himself for you.
He’s right here with us in the boat! He will never let us drown because He created the very storm that threatens us! He is the only One who brings peace in the middle of the storm.
Consecrate yourself to Jesus. Be holy, because He is holy. Every morning before your feet hit the floor, remind yourself, “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. This is NOT a one-time commitment. It is a daily consecration to Jesus. Paul said, “I die daily.” (1 Cor. 15:31) We need to die daily, too.
Make a conscious decision every morning that today I will live for Him. And when I find myself not living for Him, I will apologize, turn around & go back to living for Him. In the middle of a situation I find myself in, in the middle of conversation, or even an argument, I commit myself to stop, to say that I am sorry to God and to whoever else is involved, and to turn back to Jesus, right then, in that very moment. I will not wait until later, but I will turn and follow Him in the second I realize that I have strayed.
Make this commitment: I will be consecrated to Jesus, living every day consciously giving myself to Jesus. I will in fact trust Him to change my life. I will live my life starting today in the truth that I have been crucified with Christ. And I will trust Him to change my life, my family, my work, my relationships, and my world.