Living and Dying for Christ - Philippians 1:20-21

The Road to Life Goes Through Jesus

Philippians 1:20-21

In a high school in a small rural town in Iowa, a young teacher stood before his sophomore World History class on the first day of the school year. He announced the first assignment: You will write a paragraph entitled, “My Philosophy of Life.” Keep the following questions in mind as you write: 1) Why are you here? 2) What is your purpose for living? 3) What do you most value? 4) What legacy do you want to leave behind? Due tomorrow. Questions?

The next day, he privately met with each student as they read their paragraph and answered his questions.

One student was a Christian. He chose Phil 1:21 as his statement, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

The teacher listening and then asked, “Did you talk to your pastor about this?” “No”. “Did your Dad tell you what to write?” “No.” “So, this was your own idea?” “Yes.”

“I’m impressed”, he said. “But, you need to know that I’ll be watching you.” Wow!

Well, as you might have guessed, “I was that 15 year old boy.” And the teacher was my basketball coach.

I’m sure I didn’t realize the full implications of what I wrote or of the passage. Somehow, I have lost track of the centrality of those questions over the years. It is so easy to lose focus. Sadly, I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t take much to just coast through life. Aimlessly drifting from one day to the next. Soon it is from one year to the next. Perhaps you can identify.

NAS Philippians 1:20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Maybe the reason we shy away from radical texts as this is that we know that they call us to change and perhaps sacrifice. Indeed, they call us to die.

Quote: The famous German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed in a Nazi concentration camp said it like this, “…When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.’ (Piper p63 Don’t Waste Your Life).

You see friends; there is nothing cheap about the gospel. God demands your all. The true gospel radically changes people. So much so, that they who are genuinely Christ’s count it a privilege to live for

So, lets examine this pivotal passage.

I. My consuming passion ought to be to magnify Christ 20

Paul was passionate about proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ even during his imprisonment (12-14). He was so consumed with proclaiming Christ that he rejoiced even when some proclaimed Christ for wrong reasons (15-18). Even though Paul anticipated his release from prison (19-20), it really didn’t make any difference whether he was released or not, whether he lived or died. One thing did matter to him however; that Jesus Christ be magnified through him (20-21).

In v 20, exalting Christ is a straightforward concept. megalu,nw make great, magnify; lit. of garment fringes enlarge, make long (MT 23.5); pass. be enlarged, increase (2C 10.15); fig. as recognizing the greatness of someone's name or reputation extol, praise, magnify (AC 10.46); as recognizing the importance of someone pay great respect to, highly honor (AC 5.13) Friberg Lexicon.

Thus, it is not that we add to Christ’s greatness, but that we recognize it.

This is an incredible glimpse in the heart of Paul. This is what made him tick. He was driven by this simple concept: Honor Christ at all costs. Note five principles.

A. I will not be disgraced 20 – the principle of honor

Paul chooses the word aivscu,nomai: (derivative of aivscu,nh) that according to the Louw-Nida Lexiocon means to feel shame or disgrace because of having done something wrong or something beneath one's dignity or social status - 'to be ashamed, to feel disgraced.' 'Illust: the unrigheous steward story - I am not strong enough to dig (ditches), and I would be ashamed to beg' Lk 16.3.

Wow, this implies that dishonoring Christ is beneath the station or position of being a Christian. No wonder Paul vows that this will never happen – {in no way}.

NAS 1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.

B. I will be fearless 20 – the principle of boldness

Note that this phrase begins with the strong adversative “but” (alla) – 180 degree turn. So the way to ensure that we not be disgraced is to honor Christ! If we are to exalt Christ we must be bold.

Interestingly enough, this word “boldness” literally refers to the openness or frankness that is associated with free speech. Saying what you want without fear of reprisal.

Read Acts 4:29-31 for an example of this. (Or consider Paul’s request, NAS Ephesians 6:19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,)

C. I will live consistently 20 – the principle of consistency

He piles up words – “…as always also now…” This business of honoring Christ is a lifestyle! Exalting Christ is a 24/7 proposition. It is not good enough to start well.

D. I will exalt Christ with my body 20 – the principle of reality

Let me ask a question – how could you magnify Christ apart from your body? This is not theorectical.

A.T. Robertson commenting on this passage declared, “It is harder often to make Christ great in the body than in the spirit.” An understatement! No wonder texts such as Rom 12 and I Cor 6 are so stunning.

NAS Romans 12:1 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Note especially 1 Cor 6:15-20

E. I will die well 20 – the principle of eternity

It is possible to exalt Christ through death as well as life. Paul was equally committed to both eventualities. It makes little difference to him. Either way his passion was to honor Christ. Not only should we be concerned about living in a manner that honors Christ (the “good works” of Eph 2:10), we should also be concerned about dying in such a manner.

But how can we magnify Christ in death? Probably if we get this right, we will also nail down living for his glory.

Hear Piper on this issue. “Death is a threat to the degree that it frustrates your main goals. Death is fearful to the degree that it threatens to rob you of what you treasure most. But Paul treasured Christ most, and his goal was to magnify Christ. And he saw death not as a frustration of that goal but as an occasion for its fulfillment.” (John Piper Don’t Waste Your Life, p 66). 

It all boils down to what we value! The person who values Christ most, can honor Christ when it comes time to die.

He can do this by facing death courageously;

by leaving behind a shinning life testimony;

by boldly proclaiming to those around him the gospel and the sure hope of heaven;

by holding lightly his worldly possessions;

and by humbly accepting his lot knowing that his sovereign God makes no mistakes.

Consider the startling statement made to Peter. Put yourself in Peter’s shoes as you read. NAU John 21:18 "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me!"

II. My overriding philosophy is that Christ defines everything 21

Literally we might render this verse, “For to me the state of life, Christ; and the state of death, gain.”

This is the reason why we are consumed with exalting Christ. Here is the secret of how we can both live and die in a manner that magnifies Christ:

First, we have a simple formula for life – Christ. Paul explains what he means in v 22-26. He says that a life of “Christ” is working hard in ministry for the benefit of believers. Living = Christ = spiritual work (v22). In other words, he wants to effectively advance Christ’s kingdom. The familiar refrain, “only what done for Christ will last” captures his thought.

Life itself is Christ. We should see our job through the grid of Christ – how may I magnify Christ through my work? … my leisure… my home life… in my neighborhood… at my church… the same with everything we do. Illust: the tee shirts “Basketball is life” No, Christ is life!

NAS Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Second, we are convinced that our dying is gain (profit or advantage). Whose gain? Not necessarily the gain of others! Or not necessarily the gain of Christ even though Christ is benefitted if we magnify him in our dying. Rather it is our gain!!!.

How in the world can dying be to our advantage? Let’s not make this difficult. Death is advantageous in that it means we are immediately in the presence of Christ! See v 23. Also NAS 2 Corinthians 5:8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.

So, I ask, for you is death better than long life? Better than fond memories of your childhood? Better than your best accomplishments? Better than falling in love? Better than quiet evenings with just you and your lover? Better than the gift of children? Better that the rush of wind in your face at the top of a mountain? Better than the joy of friendship? Better than retirement? Better than grandchildren? Yes, yes, yes! It is a thousand times better!! But do we really believe it?

So, death can be a means of magnifying Christ. When you loose everything you still have Christ! Death is thus gain.

Do you see it? If we are able to die this way, chances are we are ready to live this way.

 One Pure and Holy Passion

 Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me on magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your dicsiple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you

Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after you
To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in the truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you

Lord to know and follow hard after you
And to grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you