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Philippians 1:21 > For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain…

PHILIPPIANS – SERIES NR 5
BEING A CHRISTIAN IS CHRIST

WHAT IS IT TO BE A CHRISTIAN? What really is the Christian Faith?

As many people, as many opinions.

But like a surgeon’s scalpel, Philippians 1:21 cuts right to the core of the question about what exactly the Christian Religion is. And it is not what people sometimes think it is!

There are numerous false ideas, because we are inclined to look at the people in the church, and then we imagine that is what the Christian Religion is all about. The things which we see and not see in Christians and churches! Or the ceremonies and activities. Or the confessions of faith and doctrines etc.

Phil 1:21 puts it outright: The heart of the Christian Faith is a PERSON! It is the Lord Jesus Christ. Who He is, and what He did – that is the cornerstone. Remove that and nothing remains. Remove that, and there is nothing left of the Christian Faith.

One can actually read Phil 1:21 along with Gal 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”…

That was the live-blood of the Apostle Paul’s religious life.

What does it mean that CHRIST is the essence of the Christian Faith?

Three things:

1 The Christian Religion is a whole-hearted faith-trust in Christ > It is the honest admission that I can do nothing to get myself reconciled with the most holy God, that I thoroughly deserve – not heaven – but the eternal infernal judgment from God, and that Jesus died in my place to reconcile my sins.

In other words: The fact that the Christian Faith is a Person – Jesus Christ – means that it results in an absolute, distinct conversion and faith. A conversion to CHRIST JESUS.

So many people ooh and aah this way and that, and cannot clearly utter the name JESUS. They talk about the “old man”, the “creator”, the “man from above”, the father”… While Phil 1:21 teaches us that JESUS is everything! When the Holy Spirit comes to do something in a person’s life, the Holy Spirit always pushes CHRIST to the forefront in our thoughts, our emotions, our focus, our words, our expressions, our behaviour, our choices, our entertainment, our sport, our reading and listening, our food, our relationships, our finances… Either it is CHRIST JESUS or else we have the cat by the tail and are not yet regenerated Christians.

Once more read Gal 2:20: “To me life is Christ” … Clear and distinct come to HIM with your whole heart!

Our reformed confessions of faith are also very clear about this.

Listen how the Canons of Dort puts it in 1:4 > “Who will be saved from the wrath of God and eternal condemnation? Answer: Those who EMBRACE Jesus with true faith”.

The Belgic Confession connects with that in Article 22: “Faith embraces Jesus with all His merit and it makes HIM our own”. That is to say: When you come to faith, you make Him your own!

Or the Heidelberg Catechism Question 20: ” Only those who ACCEPT all Jesus’ benefaction will be saved”.

Also question 30: “Those who RECEIVE this Saviour with a true faith, have in Him everything which is needed”.

Many years ago a lady from a town in the Overberg approached me for councelling, and it was my privilege to help her to actively accept Jesus as her Saviour and Redeemer.

The following day her husband called me to ask what it was that had happened to her, because she was a completely new person. He said that the many hours she had spent with psychologists and psychiatrists was not able to bring about the change she has now undergone.

You see, it is about someone who is truly alive. The Lord Jesus. HE makes all the difference.

Yes, the heartbeat of the Christian Faith is JESUS!

2 The Christian Faith is fellowship with Jesus > Not only faith in Christ and conversion to Him, but also sustained daily communion/fellowship with Him. Of course it has to be purposefully cultivated. It is a life-long process! God is a Person. A living relationship with a person has to be cultivated and nurtured.

To know how the spiritual works, we must look at how human relationships operate. How does inter-human relationships work? It is a daily interaction of: Listen, speak, love… communicate. Associate. Purposeful. With fixed choice.

It is about a Presence with us and in us

Think again about the difference between the choices made by Martha and Mary – Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and Martha was busy in the kitchen. (Luke 10)…

3 The Christian Faith is to FOLLOW Him > He does not follow us. We follow Him. He is LORD. He has all the say and authority. Therefore it is a matter of single-minded obedience. The Shepherd walks in front. Jesus’ call was always FOLLOW ME.

How? How do we follow Him? Bible and more Bible. Prayer. Practical obedience. Obey also the impulses of the heart. The carry of a cross = scaffold. Die to self. Grain of wheat.

Eventually the Christian-believer will also die physically. The Apostle knew that his own departure was at the door. Even then Christ is the core and essence of everything!

Jesus is the essence of the Christian’s LIFE and the essence of the Christian’s DEATH.

Second half of verse 21 …. “and to die is gain”!

Verse 23 > I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far

DEATH > GAIN! And BETTER BY FAR!!

Now look, nobody can talk about something like death in such a way! Only someone who is speaking out of unity with Christ, can say that! It is ONLY the living Jesus who can make such a radical viewpoint possible!

Death to someone who is not in unity with Christ, is something utterly different. The closest such a person will get to heaven is the heaven he creates for himself here on earth. Outside Jesus no human being is ready to meet his/her Creator. And the unsaved person instinctively knows something about this. How grateful we ought to be that the Lord has come to save us from such fear and uncertainty!

What does the Apostle mean with “death as GAIN”? We think that – when someone is suffering severely, death is gain. For example illness or torture. It is a “release”. That is not what Paul means. He means: The death of a true Christian is an improvement on the BEST in this life! And life is already the best, because Jesus is life. Thus: Life is the best and death is the best, because both are Christ! Now Paul did not know which one he should choose!

Lastly: What then is the gain of death for someone who lived a Spirit-filled life here on earth?

NUMBER ONE: Absolute freedom from evil.

NUMBER TWO: Absolute likeness to the image of Christ (1 John 3:2).

NUMBER THREE: Being in eternal ceaseless fellowship with the Lord.

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Philippians 1:21 > For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain…

PHILIPPIANS – SERIES NR 5
BEING A CHRISTIAN IS CHRIST

WHAT IS IT TO BE A CHRISTIAN? What really is the Christian Faith?

As many people, as many opinions.

But like a surgeon’s scalpel, Philippians 1:21 cuts right to the core of the question about what exactly the Christian Religion is. And it is not what people sometimes think it is!

There are numerous false ideas, because we are inclined to look at the people in the church, and then we imagine that is what the Christian Religion is all about. The things which we see and not see in Christians and churches! Or the ceremonies and activities. Or the confessions of faith and doctrines etc.

Phil 1:21 puts it outright: The heart of the Christian Faith is a PERSON! It is the Lord Jesus Christ. Who He is, and what He did – that is the cornerstone. Remove that and nothing remains. Remove that, and there is nothing left of the Christian Faith.

One can actually read Phil 1:21 along with Gal 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”…

That was the live-blood of the Apostle Paul’s religious life.

What does it mean that CHRIST is the essence of the Christian Faith?

Three things:

1 The Christian Religion is a whole-hearted faith-trust in Christ > It is the honest admission that I can do nothing to get myself reconciled with the most holy God, that I thoroughly deserve – not heaven – but the eternal infernal judgment from God, and that Jesus died in my place to reconcile my sins.

In other words: The fact that the Christian Faith is a Person – Jesus Christ – means that it results in an absolute, distinct conversion and faith. A conversion to CHRIST JESUS.

So many people ooh and aah this way and that, and cannot clearly utter the name JESUS. They talk about the “old man”, the “creator”, the “man from above”, the father”… While Phil 1:21 teaches us that JESUS is everything! When the Holy Spirit comes to do something in a person’s life, the Holy Spirit always pushes CHRIST to the forefront in our thoughts, our emotions, our focus, our words, our expressions, our behaviour, our choices, our entertainment, our sport, our reading and listening, our food, our relationships, our finances… Either it is CHRIST JESUS or else we have the cat by the tail and are not yet regenerated Christians.

Once more read Gal 2:20: “To me life is Christ” … Clear and distinct come to HIM with your whole heart!

Our reformed confessions of faith are also very clear about this.

Listen how the Canons of Dort puts it in 1:4 > “Who will be saved from the wrath of God and eternal condemnation? Answer: Those who EMBRACE Jesus with true faith”.

The Belgic Confession connects with that in Article 22: “Faith embraces Jesus with all His merit and it makes HIM our own”. That is to say: When you come to faith, you make Him your own!

Or the Heidelberg Catechism Question 20: ” Only those who ACCEPT all Jesus’ benefaction will be saved”.

Also question 30: “Those who RECEIVE this Saviour with a true faith, have in Him everything which is needed”.

Many years ago a lady from a town in the Overberg approached me for councelling, and it was my privilege to help her to actively accept Jesus as her Saviour and Redeemer.

The following day her husband called me to ask what it was that had happened to her, because she was a completely new person. He said that the many hours she had spent with psychologists and psychiatrists was not able to bring about the change she has now undergone.

You see, it is about someone who is truly alive. The Lord Jesus. HE makes all the difference.

Yes, the heartbeat of the Christian Faith is JESUS!

2 The Christian Faith is fellowship with Jesus > Not only faith in Christ and conversion to Him, but also sustained daily communion/fellowship with Him. Of course it has to be purposefully cultivated. It is a life-long process! God is a Person. A living relationship with a person has to be cultivated and nurtured.

To know how the spiritual works, we must look at how human relationships operate. How does inter-human relationships work? It is a daily interaction of: Listen, speak, love… communicate. Associate. Purposeful. With fixed choice.

It is about a Presence with us and in us

Think again about the difference between the choices made by Martha and Mary – Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and Martha was busy in the kitchen. (Luke 10)…

3 The Christian Faith is to FOLLOW Him > He does not follow us. We follow Him. He is LORD. He has all the say and authority. Therefore it is a matter of single-minded obedience. The Shepherd walks in front. Jesus’ call was always FOLLOW ME.

How? How do we follow Him? Bible and more Bible. Prayer. Practical obedience. Obey also the impulses of the heart. The carry of a cross = scaffold. Die to self. Grain of wheat.

Eventually the Christian-believer will also die physically. The Apostle knew that his own departure was at the door. Even then Christ is the core and essence of everything!

Jesus is the essence of the Christian’s LIFE and the essence of the Christian’s DEATH.

Second half of verse 21 …. “and to die is gain”!

Verse 23 > I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far

DEATH > GAIN! And BETTER BY FAR!!

Now look, nobody can talk about something like death in such a way! Only someone who is speaking out of unity with Christ, can say that! It is ONLY the living Jesus who can make such a radical viewpoint possible!

Death to someone who is not in unity with Christ, is something utterly different. The closest such a person will get to heaven is the heaven he creates for himself here on earth. Outside Jesus no human being is ready to meet his/her Creator. And the unsaved person instinctively knows something about this. How grateful we ought to be that the Lord has come to save us from such fear and uncertainty!

What does the Apostle mean with “death as GAIN”? We think that – when someone is suffering severely, death is gain. For example illness or torture. It is a “release”. That is not what Paul means. He means: The death of a true Christian is an improvement on the BEST in this life! And life is already the best, because Jesus is life. Thus: Life is the best and death is the best, because both are Christ! Now Paul did not know which one he should choose!

Lastly: What then is the gain of death for someone who lived a Spirit-filled life here on earth?

NUMBER ONE: Absolute freedom from evil.

NUMBER TWO: Absolute likeness to the image of Christ (1 John 3:2).

NUMBER THREE: Being in eternal ceaseless fellowship with the Lord.

Translated by Marthie Wilson

Category Philippians Series

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