In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul presents us with a thought that has been the text for many sermons. It is a truth that calls for much thought by those who confess to be evangelical Christians. He says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21.
St. Paul wants his audience to know that their salvation is all important. Where we will spend eternity is the number one question. He clearly states that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and receiving Christ puts us into a personal relationship with him. However, Paul never allows anyone to get away from the ethical demands of life set forth in Jesus’ teaching.
R. C. Sproul, in his book, Getting the Gospel Straight, writes, “For two thousand years the Church has understood her mission as involving the preaching of the gospel and the care of the poor, the widowed, the orphaned, the oppressed, and so forth.”
While the length of our years on earth is significant, in comparison with life in eternity, this is an important time for us. Living for Christ is an exciting adventure. How different our world would be if we would accept this challenge. Just think of it: if each of us who claims Jesus as Savior would live for him, what an impact it would make in this world!
The first command that Jesus gives to his church is to share the Gospel. Think of what a difference it would make in our society if believers in Christ took this word seriously Ð to simply tell people what Christ has done for them. How simple this can be.
Two young men came to service our television set. I was visiting with one of them about his work, and when he was about to leave, he asked, “What did you do before retirement?”
I told him that I had been a pastor. Then I had a chance to ask, “What church do you attend?”
“Well,” he said, “I used to attend the Methodist Church, but I do not go to church now. My live-in and I use Sunday to sleep off Saturday night. When I marry and have children, I will get back to church. Knowing the Christian values will be important for the children.”
What an opportunity I had to tell this young man how much Christ loved him and He had not come just to give him a set of values, but to let him know that He wants to be his Savior. That He would give him a new look at life, forgive his sins, and bring him into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
He said, “Maybe some day it will seem more important to me.”
The seed was planted. That is all God has asked us to do. Now, if he heard this same message at least another half-dozen times in the next week, it might really make him ask what this Christianity is all about. That is the way it works. That young life could be changed.
Recently I conducted a funeral for a man who took his own life. A relative described this person in a newspaper article in this way: “He was smart and friendly. Most people genuinely loved him for what he was. Being successful was important for him, and I believe it all caught up with him. I think his illness and greed for money took over.”
The pressure of life became too great for him, and so he took his own life. I had to wonder if any of us had ever talked to this person about his relationship with God. He had been around many people who belonged to the church, but had they shared God’s love for him? Might it have made a difference in those depressing moments?
“For me to live is Christ.” How does this apply to God’s teaching about the sanctity of life?
How can the church be quiet when the subject of abortion is being discussed? That fetus is God’s creation. How can we let this slaughter of lives continue in Iraq? Can the Church sit idly by and say nothing? I know these are complex questions, and the average person does not have all the facts, but must we not become involved? Is there not a time when we say enough is enough? Time has taught us that guns and suicide bombings are not the answers. Why can’t quiet minds work out some solution diplomatically, and perchance some of these representatives at the table, who confess to know Christ in a personal way, be guided by his will, even if it is not allowed to mention his name? That is a part of living for Christ.
What about the sanctity of the environment? The creation story tells us that after God created the good earth, he said, “Man is to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” We are to use this creation, but not abuse it. We are to enjoy it, but not destroy it for personal gain or financial benefit.
The transition to the heavenly home carries with it many mysteries that we can ponder while we are here. But live with the security that Christ has prepared a place for us. How do we know? He says so. Isn’t that enough?