Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”
Does this mean that we long for death? Does this mean we coast through life waiting for the place Christ went to prepare for us (John 14:3)? This is a verse I struggled with because frankly, I love my life. I love the people in it and although we have had some hard times, I am generally a happy person. For me to better understand what this verse meant I had to meditate on what it means to live for Christ instead of focusing on the second half of the verse.
Living like Christ requires us to meditate on Jesus and how he spent his time. Christ has so many attributes we want to model, but the three we want to highlight are as follows: to live in Christ is to love like Christ, serve like Christ, and make disciples like Christ.
1. To live is love like Christ
1 Corinthians 13 is often referred to as the love chapter. The first three verses read,
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”
Love is all about our intentions. In the past I admit that I had the mindset of “I love them because I am a Christian, and that is what I am supposed to do.” I had it backwards. Loving like Christ requires us to kill that old man's mindset and truly want the best for everyone–and what is better than heaven? Dean preached a sermon on heaven recently; he said something that made me think of how I approach people. He said, “Heaven is too good to miss, and hell is an awful alternative that I would not wish on my worst enemy.”
Jesus has the ability to look past all of our messes and just see a soul in need of saving. Jesus loves everyone not by accepting their sins but by empowering them to live in sin no more. Jesus frees us from sin with his great sacrificial love.
I think about the woman at the well in John 4. He did not seek to embarrass her for her sin of having multiple husbands; he showed her love by telling her the truth. To love like Christ takes practice, but it is achievable when we examine our intentions with honesty.
2. To live Is to serve like Christ
We hear a little something about service from Jesus himself in Matthew 20:26-28,
“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus never asks you to do something that he wouldn’t himself do. I played college basketball, and it always frustrated me when my coaches would say things like, “it’s not that hard,” or “why are you so tired?” I wanted to say, “because you have us out here doing crazy drills. Why don’t you come out here and try it!” But I had to suppress that urge. Though I understood only players were allowed on the court while our coaches were on the sidelines with whistles, the statements they would make felt like they didn’t understand how physically demanding the drills were. The difference with Jesus is that he showed us the way AND he is with us every step of the way because HE IS THE WAY.
Looking for opportunities to serve may seem hard, but, remember, it does not have to be a grand gesture. Service is simply helping others. This can be anything from financial support to simply giving your time to a ministry. Whatever we do we must serve in love not caring about getting the credit. We are here to be helpers of one another.
Galatians 5:13 says,
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
3. To live is to make disciples
I Thessalonians 1:8-10 says,
“For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
When I read this in a recent study I stopped there and meditated because it hit me like a ton of bricks. Am I living my faith in such a way that others don’t even have to say anything? Is the way I live for Christ just SO evident that it can go without saying?
These new Christians went from serving idols to serving the living God. Others around them saw the drastic change in their priorities. They were living testimonies. Are we sharing ours? We have to teach Jesus; a part of that is telling others what he has done for you, and not only that but HOW he has changed you–how your heart is different because of him. Paul told his testimony often, and the Bible is filled with testimonies about sinful people who were redeemed by the blood. A testimony from scripture is an amazing tool, but sometimes people need personal testimonies for them to get an understanding of what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ.
Many times we try to make disciples by talking about things we gave up or the things we do not do. Although that may be true, let us look at the example of some ways Jesus made disciples.
On one occasion he talked about the rest that comes from following him.
Matthew 11:28-29 says,
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
On another occasion he tells us that being a disciple means God will supply every single one of our needs. Matthew 6:31-33 says
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
God is so good. He is the supplier of our needs, the sustainer of life, the giver of all things good. Let us not lose the hope and rest that is in Jesus as we try to make disciples.
We have to talk about both the benefits and the call to have a heart change. It is amazing to say I have material blessings like a car and house. It is amazing to say I have spiritual blessings like peace and joy. But let us not forget the blessing of a renewed heart. My heart is changed because of Jesus.
In conclusion, let us do all we can to love like Christ by seeing everyone as a soul in need of saving, loving people with pure intentions realizing that our good works mean nothing without love.
Let us serve like Christ by seeking opportunities to help others whether by sending food or cards to those who are sick or in mourning, or being the first to volunteer when our local congregation needs help with a ministry–we should realize that we are here to be helpers of one another.
And finally let us make disciples like Christ by telling our testimony. Sharing with others the blessing of our renewed heart and seeking to save souls because we know how amazing it is to be a child of God.
The word tells us that wisdom will come when we seek him with urgency, realizing that life is short and living for Christ is so worth it in the end.