To Live Is Christ

Shared on December 3, 2023


Our lesson this week takes us into the Winter Quarter of Sunday School. The first unit of lessons this quarter is titled: New Life in Christ. This quarter of lessons will take us across a topic I focused on earlier this year – our true identity. In our lesson this week, we take a look at Paul choosing to live in his identity as a child of God and how one goes about living in that identity.

Paul Identifies With Christ

Throughout my series of sermons – Know Thyself – I focused on how important it is for us to know who we are and that we are a child of God. In order to know who we are, I preached that we must confront ourselves, so that we can get aligned with God and not act out of character. Paul, is the epitome of one who took these very steps as he shared with us and the Philippians.

Paul’s arrest

Paul stated to the Philippians in his letter, “I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (v.12).”  What was it that had happened to Paul?  Paul wrote this letter while he was under arrest; while arrested Paul was able to write letters which this one was writing to those of Philippi.

As Paul wrote this letter, I believe he had contemplated his life and what led him to the position he had found himself in – he was writing as a prisoner. Why was Paul arrested? Well, the Jews that stood in opposition to the way Christ being taught and preached moved against Paul and accused him of speaking against the people, the law, and the temple; they accused Paul of bringing Greeks (Gentiles) into the temple and defiling the temple (Acts 21:27-28).

When the Roman authorities saw the great disturbance that the crowd had caused as they surrounded Paul, he was apprehended by the Romans (Acts 22:23-24). Honestly, it was a good thing for Paul that the authorities were there because that mob had intentions of killing him.

Paul gave a really good testimony that the angry mob ignored but his testimony touched on his identity. Paul told the crowd about how he was born a Jew, learned at the feet of Gamaliel, once persecuted the way of Christ, but then had a change of heart when the Lord confronted Him (Acts 22:3-15). The confrontation on the road to Damascus caused Paul to confront himself and the things he had done against God, as he chose to stand as a servant of the Lord.

All in all, Paul said to the Philippians, “the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.” Paul’s arrest was just the latest in a long line of things that helped him testify of the Lord even more. All of us as God’s children have such testimonies that we can share with others in both the good and the bad. As Paul said, all things work together for good to those who love God (Rom. 8:28).

To those in Philippi, Paul was able to say, though he was arrested and under constant surveillance, “it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ (v.13).”  Yes, Paul was under arrest by man, but he identified himself as one convicted of Christ.

You have to imagine that those who arrested Paul may have looked down on the man because of the position that he was in. The Jewish leaders that were behind Paul’s arrest, because they despised him, were likely very happy as they believed they had put an end to Paul. Yet, there Paul was a prisoner, still testifying of the Lord. When the Lord is on your side, who can stand against you? Who can stop you?

As Paul continued to stand proudly in his identity as a child of God while under arrest, he tells us that his cohorts of the gospel became more confident and bold to speak without fear (v.14).  As I said throughout the month of October, there truly is power in knowing who you are as a child of God.  When you stand boldly in your identity, you are not only blessed by God, but you also become the blessing you are meant to be.

Live True to Your Identity

Paul begins to urge the believer to live true their identity and not as others who do not live sincerely as a child of God.  We will see this begin as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife (v.15).”  Should the child of God preach Christ from envy and strife?  Certainly not.  As I said a couple of weeks ago in my sermon – Manifesting Good from a Sincere Heart – we should manifest good from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.

Move out of sincerity

Paul wrote of those that ministered in such a way, “[they] preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains (v.16).”  Let’s be frank about this:  Paul was a bit annoyed by those who professed and taught Christ by did so inappropriately.  In my sermon, I preached from Paul’s letter to Timothy where he, again, had been moved to speak against those that ministered the word of God insincerely.

Why was Paul so opposed to preaching from envy and strife? Well, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul made it very clear that the works of the flesh were evident in actions that included envy, contentions, jealousies, and selfish ambitions (Gal. 5:19-21). As I have repeated throughout the later months of this year, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:20).”

Paul, as we will see him say, desired for the believer to produce the righteousness as it brought him great joy (v.18).  You and I, we must know exactly who we are and we must carry ourselves true to our identity.  In our identity as a child of God, again, we are to be a blessing in the world; we are to manifest fruit that is holy and righteous rather than fruit that is bitter, rotten, sour, and corrupt.

So, to go back a verse, Paul said of others who minister, “some also [preach] from goodwill (v.15).” As I said in the sermon I referenced moments ago, Jesus called on us, His children, to move in charity when it comes to works; our charitable deeds are to be done in sincerity (Matt. 6:1-4). Those who preached from goodwill, Paul said they did appropriately as they moved out of love (charity).

To Live is Christ

In another sermon of mine that I preached recently – What Do You Hunger For – I asked the question: what are you living for? I asked, what do you desire out of life?

Some of us live in a God fearing manner. What do I mean by this? Some of us live in a manner where we know of the day of the Lord, that it is a very dark day, and that nobody should desire to see that day (Amos 5:18-20). You see with the day of the Lord comes the day of God’s final judgment and destruction of sin; sin and those convicted of sin will be cast away from God’s presence for eternity.

With this in mind, Paul begins to speak more as to what it was they hunger for in life — what he committed himself too.  Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (v.21).”  Paul lived in a manner where he committed his life to Christ.  Have you committed yourself to Christ?

I believe that many of us don’t fully understand what it means to be committed to Christ.  To be committed to Christ, that means that God is first in your life.  Living a God first life is very confusing and difficult to understand for many people.  What is meant by putting God first?

In Matthew 10:35, Jesus spoke of how He had come to set “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” This, again, may not sound right to us because it would sound like Jesus is saying He came to create disturbances. Well, the truth of the matter is that the divine truth can, and certainly has, created much division as some choose to disregard the word of God while others choose to live in obedience.

In Matthew 10:37, Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Jesus made statements very similar to this throughout His teaching of following Him. To one man that desired to follow Jesus but wanted to be with a loved one until after he passed away, Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go preach the kingdom of God (Luke 9:60).”

Another man desired to follow Jesus but before he followed, he wanted to go back home and say farewell, but Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).” In order to be God first, one must truly commit their thoughts and actions to being obedient to the way of God.

“To live is Christ” is rather difficult for many people to do; this is why so many people find it easier to continue dwelling in sin, rather than live in repentance. If you truly are committed to living in your identity as a child of God, then rather than a worldly mindset have rule over, you are guided by the Holy Spirit. Those that put God first, live in a manner with their eyes on heaven as they lay up their treasure where neither moth nor rust can destroy the treasure (Matt. 6:20).

Ignoring the worldly desire

Now, Paul did not want anyone to think it was easy for him to live in such a manner as he had his struggles, which we will see is understandable.  Paul said, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart (die) and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you (vss.23-24).”

Paul was honestly ready to meet the Lord as he wrote this; the end was inevitable in his mind.  As Paul had said, “to die is gain” as he saw death being a reward to meet his Savior in God’s heavenly kingdom.  

So, Paul, again, trusted in the will of God whatever path that meant he would end up on.  Paul wrote, “According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death (v.20).”

Paul wasn’t certain as to where life was going to take him but what does become clear is that should he have been able to live on after his arrest, Paul desired to continue living for Christ.  Paul wrote, “I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith (v.25).”  He also desired to join those believers in Philippi and minister to them again (v.26).  

You and I, as sincere believers, should have passion when it comes to laboring for the Lord. Yes, there are going to be days when we are troubled in our soul, but in those days, when we lean on the Lord, He will renew our strength. So, as Paul showed by example, we must continue to trust in the will of God and let the Lord lead us. You and I should not grow weary in doing good, but in every opportunity we have, we should do good out of sincerity (Gal. 6:9).


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