Monday, March 21, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Dying to Live: Phil 1.21 (Part II)

A few weeks ago we started studying Phil 1.21, and we said that this verse says two things. First, if to live is Christ means to know, love, serve, glorify, enjoy, commune with Jesus Christ. Second, we said this verse suggests we can approach death as gain, which we’ll look at next week. This week, now that we’re all back from Spring Break, I want to look more deeply, apply, illustrate the four ways of manifesting that to live is Christ that we said last week.

If those for whom it is true that to live is Christ want to know as much of Christ as possible, want to be as much like Christ as possible, want Christ to be known as far and wide as possible, and want to enjoy Christ more than anyone or anything else, what does that look like?

First, those who purpose to know as much of Christ as it is possible to know read their Bibles looking for, come to church hungry for, and are avid learners of the truth of Christ.

Are you like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who can testify that as Jesus opened that Bible to them and preached to them Christ from all the Scriptures. They read their Scriptures looking for Christ, because as our Lord Jesus said, those Scriptures speak of Him. Those who want to know as much of Christ as possible read their Bibles regularly with a view to seeing Christ revealed in all His glory.

And those who want to know Christ and want to know more of Christ, and want to know as much of Christ as it is possible to know come to church looking for Christ as He is offered in the gospel. They come to church not looking for excitement, entertainment, or styles; they come looking for Christ as He is offered in the gospel. They look for Him in the songs, in the prayers, in the words, and in the message that is proclaimed. If He is not there, no matter what else is there, no matter what entertainment, no matter what excitement, they go back empty, because what they have come for is for Christ.

Those who purpose to know as much of Christ as it is possible to know read their Bibles in this way and come to church hungry for Him in this way.

Secondly, those who purpose to be like Christ – who want to emulate Him, who want to love the things that He loves, who want to do the will of Him who sent Him – know that their acceptance with God does not rest on their wanting to be like Christ.

If you think that your acceptance with God, your forgiveness and pardon and salvation from God is dependent upon your wanting to be like Christ and in some measure becoming more like Christ, then you’re mistaken. The message of Christianity is not God giving you some good advice on what you can do to help yourself out. The gospel message of Christianity is about what Christ has done, so that you could be accepted by your loving heavenly Father, justly and mercifully, righteously and graciously; and you cannot add to that. And so those who want to be like Christ, as much like Christ as possible, don’t want to be like Christ so that they will be accepted by God: they know that in Christ they are loved as much as it is possible for a child to be loved. By His grace, sins are forgiven and washed away, not because of anything that they have done.

But precisely because they have been given that grace, they crave to manifest His character in their character. They want to manifest Christ-likeness in their vocations, recreations, and relationships. They want no part of their life untouched by the sovereign, transforming grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Those who live as if to live is Christ not only want to know Him, not only want to be like Him, but they want to make Him known to the ends of the earth, and they are ready to undertake tremendous costs.

Finally, those who purpose to enjoy Christ study to delight in Him, and prize or value Him. Those who purpose to enjoy Christ study to delight in Him and prize or value Him. Ask yourself this question: ‘What is it that I want most in life? What is it that I care most about in this life? What is it that I love most in this life?’ you can answer that question by looking at: How do you spend your money? How do you spend your time? Where are your affections? What do you think about when you’re not thinking about anything else? That will show you what you love.

True believers have come to understand that God did not send His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, so that He could save us from our sins and save us from hell so that we could go back to loving something else other than Him – or as much as, or more than Him. He saved us from sin and from hell so that we could delight in the thing which God created human beings to delight in, and that is Himself, through Jesus Christ.

But our hearts are tugged – even those who know Him and love Him, we find our hearts being pulled in two directions – to Him and away from Him. And so we have to study to delight in Him. We have to deliberately determine that we are going to delight in Him more than and above anything and everything else.

That’s why Jonathon Edwards says:
“True saints center their attention on Christ, and His beauty transcends all others. His delight is the source of all other delights. He is Himself the best among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.”

That’s why John Piper says that the authenticating inner essence of worship is being satisfied with Christ, prizing Christ, cherishing Christ, treasuring Christ. And that’s what we are to be doing in our worship services – prizing Christ, treasuring Christ, valuing Christ, delighting in Christ, being satisfied in Christ, going hard after Christ – because His delight is better than any other delight, and His delight alone cannot be taken from us.

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