July 5, 2020

To Live is Christ – Part One

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Passage: Philippians 1:19-26
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Bible Text: Philippians 1:19-26 | Pastor: Craig Wilson | Series: Philippians | Self-centeredness is a cancer that robs you, as a child of God, of the joy that is your spiritual birthright. The paradox of the Christian life cannot be found when we focus on ourselves. The joy of the Christian life can only be found, can only be experienced by denying self and focusing on the needs of others, and the first chapter of Philippians teaches us that there is joy in self-denial. If you remember from the first message in the series a couple of weeks ago, I said that there was a problem in the church of Philippi. And what was the problem? Well, the problem was a problem of self-centeredness that had reared its ugly head between two of the members of the church.
Now Paul, he does address the problem head-on, but he doesn’t do so until chapter four, which means that he spends three-quarters of this letter laying a foundation to show the church that self-centeredness has no place in the church. And one of the ways he does this is by real-life example. Paul does not talk in theory. Paul does not deal in theory. Paul does not deal with abstract, abstract truth. No, Paul brings it right down to where we live. He deals in real life. And so, in this passage we have before us this morning, what Paul does is he uses the real-life circumstances that he is experiencing. He uses his own life as a demonstration, as an illustration of what it means to live a life that stands in stark contrast to self-centered living. So, Paul teaches us that as we put the needs of others first, we live, not only as Christ lived, but we live as Christ would have us to live. So, in the preceding verses, verses twelve through eighteen, Paul rejoiced at how the gospel was being advanced by his imprisonment (Phi 1:18). And in verse eighteen, at the close of verse eighteen, which we just read, he says that he will continue to rejoice.

“Where does this joy come from?”

Now, we have to ask ourselves a very important question. The subject of joy has been mentioned frequently this morning. So, we have to ask ourselves, where does this joy come from? After all, we all want to experience joy. Let’s be honest. But, we live in a world of uncertainty. We live in a world filled with both emotional pain and physical pain. We live in a world where we experience death and loss. We live in a world where we suffer abuse. We suffer through fractured relationships. We want joy. We could say more strongly, it’s more than just wanting joy. We need joy. The problem is, even as Christians, we find ourselves repeatedly searching for joy where it can’t be found. And because as Christians we still battle with sin and we still have to fight our fallen bodies, our fallen flesh, every moment of every day and because our minds have yet to be completely renewed, we continue to look to the dry wells of this world in order to try and satisfy the thirst of our souls. We need joy. We want joy. So, where does this joy come from? Where can joy be found? Well, if we learn from the Apostle Paul, we learn where it certainly cannot be found. Your joy, as a Christian, will never be found in your circumstances, regardless of how good they may be at the moment.
Too many Christians believe that joy comes from their circumstances. So, as a result, what do they spend so much of their time and their energy doing? Trying to control their circumstances and manipulating, easy for me to say, their circumstances. They try and change their circumstances. We’re desperate in this. But remember, beloved, that our circumstances are used by God for the accomplishment of His eternal purposes. So, therefore, to try and control the uncontrollable will not bring us joy. What will it bring us? Frustration. We’ll live in a constant state of frustration because we’re always out there trying to control what we think will bring us joy when in reality, our circumstances were never designed by God to bring us joy. And Paul’s life certainly teaches us that, and just think about this. The reality of life is that our external circumstances constantly change. Our external circumstances can change in the blink of an eye.
As hard as it may be to believe, we are already halfway through the year 2020. Yesterday was the fourth of July. This time last year, schools were preparing for the beginning of another school year, and guess what? They were preparing as they had been preparing for years, but not this year. Schools, just like the rest of us, are facing uncertainty. Students and teachers here in Berea and Madison county will have to wear masks. They’re going to have to have plexiglass installed, I believe, between the desks. There’s no changing of classes. There’s no recess. Poor, poor teachers. So, our circumstances have changed dramatically and they have changed quickly. We were all caught off-guard. This was not how 2020 was supposed to be.
So, let me ask you. Has there been much joy for you in 2020? Considering everything that has gone on, can we look at our circumstances, can we look at our society, can we look outside of ourselves and say, “Yeah, this all makes me very joyful”? I don’t think so. And as we read Paul’s words, all we need to do to see through the fallacy of thinking that the joy of the Christian comes from our circumstances is to simply stop for a moment and think about Paul’s circumstances.

“First, he has lost his freedom. Second, Paul was dealing with uncertainty. Thirdly, he lost friends.”

There are three things that are apparent to me from Paul’s circumstances. First, he has lost his freedom. Right? For the past four or five years, he has been in chains. We looked at this last week. He was a man who had a desire to preach the gospel to as many people and in as many nations as possible, but he’s lost that freedom. He no longer has that freedom. He’s not been able to do that for a long time, but yet, what does he say? “I rejoice. Yes, I will continue to rejoice” (Phi 1:18b). Second, Paul was dealing with uncertainty. I know that we are dealing with a certain amount of uncertainty, but you talk about uncertainty, Paul was dealing with uncertainty. Say, “What was he so uncertain about?” Whether he would live or die. Can you imagine living day after day, knowing that the knock at the door one of two things could happen? Either, you would be set free, or you would be killed. Now, think about that. That is the height of uncertainty. “Does the knock at the door mean that I’ve been set free? Or does it mean I’m on my way to the executioner’s bench?” That is incredible to think about. He lived with that day after day after day. But yet, he says, “Yes, I will rejoice” (Phi 1:18b).
Thirdly, he lost his friends. We seem to forget that when Paul went to Rome, people forgot about him. He wrote to Timothy in Second Timothy. He said, “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains…” Now, listen to this, “…but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me” (2 Tim 1:16-17). You know what I take away from that? The believers in Rome had forgotten all about him. Perhaps, they were afraid to be identified with him. Perhaps, they were embarrassed by him, but here he is, when he needs his friends the most, he’s been deserted. And how bad was the situation? Well, this man, Onesiphorus, he wants to come, and he wants to minister to Paul, but he gets there, and he starts asking around, and nobody knows where Paul’s at. Can you imagine the heartbreak? Can you imagine the loneliness? Paul, sitting there day after day, with the expectation that perhaps he dies, and he knows he’s going to die all alone. You know, one of the tragedies of the past few months is these poor folks that have to die all alone. And we recognize what a tragedy that is, but here’s the Apostle Paul, the man who had given his life in service to the Lord and had helped so many people, here he is. He’s been completely forsaken and forgotten, and he very well may die alone. But yet, he says, “Yes, I will rejoice” (Phi 1:18b).
So, if you think that you’re going to find joy in your circumstances, something’s wrong. Paul certainly didn’t find any joy in his circumstances. He didn’t even begin to look for joy in his circumstances. Why? Because he knows he’s not going to find it there, and neither will you or me. If we continue to look to our circumstances, we will never experience that the joy, excuse me, that God wants each one of His children to experience. Would you fix this fact in your mind? God wants you to experience joy. That doesn’t mean that everything is going to be happy-clappy in your life. Do not make that mistake. God does not want us to go around looking like we’ve been all sucking on ‘Sour Patch Kids’ or whatever those things are. There should be some real joy in our lives, not because of our circumstances, but because of our relationship with Christ, and that’s what Paul understood.

“His joy came from the purpose of his life…”

So, if Paul’s joy didn’t come from the circumstances, then where did it come from? Again, his joy… This is so simple, we’ll just gloss right over it. His joy came from the purpose of his life, and it was a purpose that Paul would hope would soon be vindicated. Look at verses nineteen and twenty. He says, “For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death (Phi 1:19-20). Paul rejoices that through the power of the prayers of the Philippians, as well as the power of the Spirit of Christ, that his uncertain circumstances will turn out for his certain deliverance. Now, what does he mean by deliverance? He means his spiritual salvation. The underlying word there is the same word that’s translated elsewhere as ‘salvation’. And remember, the man who wrote these words to the church of Philippi is the same man who wrote these words to the church at Rome. Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”
See? The overriding concern of the Apostle Paul was not his deliverance. The overriding concern of the Apostle Paul was not that he would die a quick and painless death. Those were not his concerns. His overriding concern was that he would not be ashamed, that he would not do anything that would make him ashamed, not ashamed of himself. We saw last week his reputation wasn’t the important thing. Say, “Well, what is that he doesn’t want to be ashamed of?” He doesn’t want to bring shame to Christ. He doesn’t want to bring shame to the Gospel. And he says, “I know that through your prayers and through the help of the Spirit of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, that in all these things, I won’t be ashamed” (Phi 1:19-20). In other words, “I will be vindicated. All of those out there who are preaching Christ because of envy and rivalry, all those who are out there and who are ripping my reputation and saying, ‘Look at that guy,’ I know without a shadow of a doubt that one day I will be vindicated.”
So, what is it that Paul’s relying upon to not bring shame? On the name of Jesus. What is it that Paul relies upon to not bring shame on the gospel? Well, certainly not himself, is it? And it’s certainly not his status as an apostle. No. What he is relying upon is the prayers of the Philippians and the divine help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He’s relying upon the prayers of others and the help of the Holy Spirit, which raises an interesting question. How often do you pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Let’s be honest. How often do we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ? How often do you pray for their spiritual growth? You know, as a pastor, I hear a lot of things about a lot of people. Sometimes, I’m surprised. Sometimes, I’m not. But, one of the things I always want to ask the person telling me is “Are you praying for that person?” And what they’re telling me, I may need to know, but my response would still be the same. Are you praying for that person? Are you praying for their spiritual growth? Are you praying for their spiritual welfare? Are you praying that the Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit is sanctifying them?
We, meaning our church family, we need all of us to be praying for each of us. And that’s part of what it means to put the needs of others before your own. That’s part of what it means to deny self. We pray for each other. We seek the aid of the Holy Spirit, not only for ourselves but for our brothers and sisters in Christ. And notice that Paul says that he wants to face his circumstances with full courage (Phi 1:20). Full courage. His desire is to face the risk he is facing with complete and full courage. And listen, he was in a risky situation. “Will I live? Will I die? Will I be set free?” His desire is to face the danger he’s facing with courage. None of us know how we’re going to react to death, do we? But Paul knew how he wanted to react. He didn’t want to deny his Savior. He didn’t want to deny the power of the Gospel. He wanted to face it with full courage. If he was to lose his life, he wasn’t going to go out crying and whimpering. In the spirit of Martin Luther, he would say, “Here I stand. I can do none else.”
So, what Paul says in verse twenty helps us understand what he says in verse twenty-one. Now, look at verse twenty-one, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phi 1:21). Where do we begin to deal with such a verse? The good Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of this verse, and this is extended, but I don’t apologize for it because he’s much wiser than I am. He said two things about this verse. Let me back up just a moment. Many Christians through the ages have considered verse twenty-one, really to be the apex of the Christian faith. The good doctor said that there was such a delicate balance here, a delicate balance of the Christian life, that he was afraid to touch it unless he disrupts that balance. He did preach on it at least one time and this is, this is from the opening paragraph of his sermon. He said, “We stand here face-to-face with one of the sublimest and greatest statements ever made, even by this mighty Apostle of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which anyone who faces this verse must feel that he stands on very sacred ground. Indeed, I’m ready to admit that I would almost regard it as sacrilege to approach a verse like this in an unworthy manner. Here we have not only the statement of an experience which was true, which was a fact and a reality, but at the same time, and for that reason, we also find ourselves face-to-face with a standard of judgment. Any God-given experience is sacred, and nothing is further removed from the spirit of the New Testament than approaching a statement like this in a purely objective manner, handling it with our rough hands, bringing our critical or dissecting apparatus to bear upon it. There is something so sublime about it, so delicate and pure that one is – as always with such versus – confronted with a kind of dilemma. On the one hand, one is afraid of handling it in a detached, so-called scientific manner yet, on the other hand, of course, there is also the danger that if we do not analyze it up to a point, we fail to realize its inner meaning and its true purpose. One is compelled to do both – to analyze it and try to understand it, while always remembering that it is a living experience and a statement of fact which puts us under judgment.”
Now, in light of those words, it should come as no surprise to you that I have wrestled with this all week, and I confess, rather unsuccessfully. There are times… I finally figured this out this morning, early this morning. There are times that you can study and study and study, and nothing happens. It’s almost as if God put his hand over verse twenty-one and said, “Not yet. Not yet.” It’s almost as if God said, “You’ve not worked hard enough yet. You’ve not dug deep enough yet. You’ve not sweated enough yet for me to give you much from verse twenty-one.” And I confess to you, that’s where I’m at, but God was gracious and did give me some things. Lord willing, He’ll give me more next week. So, how do we begin to understand such a verse as this? Well, the place to try and begin to understand such a glorious truth is by turning to Scripture. It’s by going to the Scriptures. And the place that we need to turn is also written by the Apostle Paul. Galatians 2:20. Most of us could quote the verse. What did Paul write there? “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

“Fact number one: if you are in Christ, if you are a Christian, you have been crucified with Christ.”

So, if we would take verse twenty-one of Philippians one as a statement of fact, that will help us. And if we will also take what Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, as statements of fact, that will help us. And if we can begin to gain just a little bit of insight in what Paul has written to the Galatians, perhaps, we will become just a little bit closer to understanding what Paul said to the Philippians. So, there are two facts that I want to point out in Galatians 2:20 Fact number one, if you are in Christ, if you are a Christian, you have been crucified with Christ. So, what does that mean? Well, I turned to Philip Ryken. He says, “But here is the surprise. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are nailed to the cross too. The Crucifixion is not just a fact about the life of Christ and a momentous event in human history, but it’s also a part of every Christian’s personal life story.” The Puritan, William Perkins, said this, “We are in mind and meditation to consider Christ crucified: and first, we are to believe that He was crucified for us.” We don’t have that… We don’t have a problem with that. I dare say, we don’t have a problem with that. But the great Puritan goes on to say, “This being done, we must go yet further, and as it was spread ourselves on the cross of Christ, believing and withal beholding ourselves crucified with Him.” In some way, that only God fully understands, when Jesus Christ was crucified, all the elect were crucified as well which means that if you are in Christ, you were crucified when Christ was crucified. That’s a fact. That’s a statement of fact.

“Fact number two: If you have been crucified with Christ, then it logically follows that it’s no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you.”

Here’s the second fact. And the second statement of fact is the logical conclusion of fact number one. Well, what’s fact number two? If you have been crucified with Christ, then it logically follows that it’s no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you. If I’ve been crucified, it means that I’ve been what? I’ve been put to death. Crucifixion was a sure means of death. So, what is Paul describing here? We’ve touched on this in earlier messages, and I think I did a whole series on this. He’s talking about our union with Christ, our union with Christ. Again, Ryken helps us. He writes, “The surprising truth that the Christian has been crucified in Christ rests on the most magnificent of all doctrines, union with Christ, which the Scottish theologian John Murray called a central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.” When encountered everywhere in the New Testament, again and again, the Scripture teaches us that the Christian is in Christ. To use the proper theological category, the Christian is united to Christ.
You don’t want an easy there’s… I think there are two easy ways for us to understand what it means to be in Christ. I don’t know what these things are called, but I think they’re some kind of Russian doll. Have you ever seen these Russian dolls, where they start out large and you open it up, and there’s another one inside and you open that up, there’s another one inside? Well, that big Russian doll is Christ. And when you open it up, we’re in Christ. Or let’s say that you’re going to send out a bill and you… I know most people don’t send out bills by mail anymore. I’m giving my age away here. But anyway, you put that check-in that envelope. Christ is the envelope, you’re the check. You’re in Christ. That’s what Paul’s describing here.
And we have to ask ourselves this question. How does all of this take place? By faith. By faith. Paul writes “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 2:20b). So, when we go back to Philippians 1:21, and we read Paul’s words, “For to me…” It’s a very strange way that he says it, isn’t it? “For to me to live his Christ, and die is gain.” How do we take that? Where’s the beginning point of this, our understanding? Faith. Faith. We don’t have to fully understand it, and we probably never will in this life. We will never fully comprehend the dimensions, the depth of the truth that’s in verse twenty-one, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot, will not benefit from it. We can, and we will benefit from it if we take it by what? Faith. Faith. Even if we never fully understand it, we must by faith believe it is a reality. “For me, for to me to live as Christ…” What does it mean? I don’t know fully, but let me give you a couple of things to meditate on this week.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a life filled with shame? Do you see a life filled with regret? Do you see failure staring back at you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Now, if we could ask the Apostle Paul this question, I believe his reply would be something like this. “Well, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a Pharisee who was responsible for the persecution and death of members of the early church. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see the face of a man who stood by and held the cloaks of those who stoned an innocent Steven to death. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see the chief of sinners. I don’t see anything like that.” Paul would say, “No, when I look in the mirror, I see Christ. I see a man in Christ. I see myself the same way that God the Father sees me.” Well, Paul, how does God the Father see you? “He sees me in Christ, clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ. When I look in that spiritual mirror, that’s what I see.” And by the way, in the original text, there is no verb here. It simply says, “For to me to live, Christ. For me to live, Christ” (Phi 1:21a). This was a win-win situation for Paul. “If I live, I win and others benefit. If I die, I gain. I win.”
Christian, beloved, there’s no fear in death for those who are in Christ Jesus. Death is not a punishment for the believer. Death is a reward for you as a believer. Do we get that? Now listen, my pastor used to say, “I’m not afraid to die. I’m afraid of how I may die.” I don’t want to die a horrible death. No sane person does. But, I don’t fear what comes after death. Why? Because I will finally, fully be exposed to the glory, the brilliance, the magnificence of Christ unhindered. My love will not be cold. My praise will not be lukewarm. “For, for to me to live, Christ. To die, gain” (Phi 1:21).

“‘For me to live is Christ’…This is the only way to live.”

Here’s a couple of other things. When Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ,” I want you to consider that part of what Paul is saying is that you as a believer, this is the only way to live. Oh, that we as Christians could wrap our heads around this. When you were crucified with Christ, you died. What does Paul say in Second Corinthians? “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17b). I think what Paul’s saying here, this, as a believer, this is the only way to live. This is the only way that you’re ever going to truly experience joy. Perhaps, you can think of it this way. “For to me to live is more than a possibility, but a necessity, but a necessity.
Second, when Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ,” take that personally. Just think of the way he says it. “For to me to live…” That’s very personal for Paul, isn’t it? But it’s not just for Paul. It’s for all believers at all times. When Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ,” Paul reveals his identity. Can you see, can you see the tremendous unity in Paul’s theology? Go to the Ephesians. Go to Galatians. Go to Philippians. Go to any book that you want, and you’re going to see the same themes that run throughout and unite it all. This is his identity. “For to me to live Christ…” “This is who I am.” Three, when Paul says “For to me to live is Christ,” Paul reveals he will live for others. Isn’t that what Jesus did? Four, when Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ,” Paul reveals his purpose. You know, a few years ago, we had the “40 days of purpose” phenomenon. Rick Warren didn’t invent that. I’m not even sure he got it all right, to be honest with you, but the purpose is Christ. Christ. And finally, when Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ,” Paul reveals the source of his joy. Now, let me say this. Verse twenty-one, if you take it the wrong way, if you read it the wrong way, it will be a tremendous burden to you because you’re going to think, “Now, I’ve got to go out there, and I’ve got to live just like Jesus. I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to do that. I’ve got to stay up all night praying. I’ve got to walk on the water. I’ve got to feed them all. I’ve got to! I’ve got to! I’ve got to!” Then, you’ll be burnout in no time. No, no, no. This is not meant for you to bear a burden. This is meant to be an encouragement to you.
In order to experience the reality for you to live as Christ, you must ask the Holy Spirit to help you believe it. Pray, and ask for your faith to be strengthened, so that you can believe the reality behind the words. Remember, you don’t have to fully understand to benefit from it. For you to live is Christ means, I hope this is helpful, means that in all the circumstances of your life, the good, the bad, the shameful, the regretful, you know that Christ is there. Christ does not desert you in your hour of need. For to me to live, Christ. In all of these circumstances, what did Paul say? “There’s nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom 8:38-39).
So, where was Paul’s purpose in life? Well, he just told us. “For to me to live is Christ.” So, what was the source of joy in Paul’s life? Living out his purpose which was Christ. For Paul, it was all about Christ. Go home this afternoon, and take five minutes, and read through this passage, and mark every time Paul mentions Christ. It’s remarkable. If you want to be able to experience joy, real joy, eternal joy, then Christ must be your life. Live out the reality of who you are. Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phi 1:21).

Self-centeredness is a cancer that robs you, as a child of God, of the joy that is your spiritual birthright. The paradox of the Christian life cannot be found when we focus on ourselves. The joy of the Christian life can only be found, can only be experienced by denying self and focusing on the needs of others, and the first chapter of Philippians teaches us that there is joy in self-denial. If you remember from the first message in the series a couple of weeks ago, I said that there was a problem in the church of Philippi. And what was the problem? Well, the problem was a problem of self-centeredness that had reared its ugly head between two of the members of the church.

Now Paul, he does address the problem head-on, but he doesn't do so until chapter four, which means that he spends three-quarters of this letter laying a foundation to show the church that self-centeredness has no place in the church. And one of the ways he does this is by real-life example. Paul does not talk in theory. Paul does not deal in theory. Paul does not deal with abstract, abstract truth. No, Paul brings it right down to where we live. He deals in real life. And so, in this passage we have before us this morning, what Paul does is he uses the real-life circumstances that he is experiencing. He uses his own life as a demonstration, as an illustration of what it means to live a life that stands in stark contrast to self-centered living. So, Paul teaches us that as we put the needs of others first, we live, not only as Christ lived, but we live as Christ would have us to live. So, in the preceding verses, verses twelve through eighteen, Paul rejoiced at how the gospel was being advanced by his imprisonment (Phi 1:18). And in verse eighteen, at the close of verse eighteen, which we just read, he says that he will continue to rejoice.

"Where does this joy come from?"

Now, we have to ask ourselves a very important question. The subject of joy has been mentioned frequently this morning. So, we have to ask ourselves, where does this joy come from? After all, we all want to experience joy. Let's be honest. But, we live in a world of uncertainty. We live in a world filled with both emotional pain and physical pain. We live in a world where we experience death and loss. We live in a world where we suffer abuse. We suffer through fractured relationships. We want joy. We could say more strongly, it's more than just wanting joy. We need joy. The problem is, even as Christians, we find ourselves repeatedly searching for joy where it can't be found. And because as Christians we still battle with sin and we still have to fight our fallen bodies, our fallen flesh, every moment of every day and because our minds have yet to be completely renewed, we continue to look to the dry wells of this world in order to try and satisfy the thirst of our souls. We need joy. We want joy. So, where does this joy come from? Where can joy be found? Well, if we learn from the Apostle Paul, we learn where it certainly cannot be found. Your joy, as a Christian, will never be found in your circumstances, regardless of how good they may be at the moment.

Too many Christians believe that joy comes from their circumstances. So, as a result, what do they spend so much of their time and their energy doing? Trying to control their circumstances and manipulating, easy for me to say, their circumstances. They try and change their circumstances. We're desperate in this. But remember, beloved, that our circumstances are used by God for the accomplishment of His eternal purposes. So, therefore, to try and control the uncontrollable will not bring us joy. What will it bring us? Frustration. We'll live in a constant state of frustration because we're always out there trying to control what we think will bring us joy when in reality, our circumstances were never designed by God to bring us joy. And Paul's life certainly teaches us that, and just think about this. The reality of life is that our external circumstances constantly change. Our external circumstances can change in the blink of an eye.

As hard as it may be to believe, we are already halfway through the year 2020. Yesterday was the fourth of July. This time last year, schools were preparing for the beginning of another school year, and guess what? They were preparing as they had been preparing for years, but not this year. Schools, just like the rest of us, are facing uncertainty. Students and teachers here in Berea and Madison county will have to wear masks. They're going to have to have plexiglass installed, I believe, between the desks. There's no changing of classes. There's no recess. Poor, poor teachers. So, our circumstances have changed dramatically and they have changed quickly. We were all caught off-guard. This was not how 2020 was supposed to be.

So, let me ask you. Has there been much joy for you in 2020? Considering everything that has gone on, can we look at our circumstances, can we look at our society, can we look outside of ourselves and say, "Yeah, this all makes me very joyful"? I don't think so. And as we read Paul's words, all we need to do to see through the fallacy of thinking that the joy of the Christian comes from our circumstances is to simply stop for a moment and think about Paul’s circumstances.

"First, he has lost his freedom. Second, Paul was dealing with uncertainty. Thirdly, he lost friends."

There are three things that are apparent to me from Paul's circumstances. First, he has lost his freedom. Right? For the past four or five years, he has been in chains. We looked at this last week. He was a man who had a desire to preach the gospel to as many people and in as many nations as possible, but he's lost that freedom. He no longer has that freedom. He's not been able to do that for a long time, but yet, what does he say? "I rejoice. Yes, I will continue to rejoice" (Phi 1:18b). Second, Paul was dealing with uncertainty. I know that we are dealing with a certain amount of uncertainty, but you talk about uncertainty, Paul was dealing with uncertainty. Say, "What was he so uncertain about?" Whether he would live or die. Can you imagine living day after day, knowing that the knock at the door one of two things could happen? Either, you would be set free, or you would be killed. Now, think about that. That is the height of uncertainty. "Does the knock at the door mean that I've been set free? Or does it mean I'm on my way to the executioner's bench?" That is incredible to think about. He lived with that day after day after day. But yet, he says, "Yes, I will rejoice" (Phi 1:18b).

Thirdly, he lost his friends. We seem to forget that when Paul went to Rome, people forgot about him. He wrote to Timothy in Second Timothy. He said, "May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains..." Now, listen to this, "...but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me" (2 Tim 1:16-17). You know what I take away from that? The believers in Rome had forgotten all about him. Perhaps, they were afraid to be identified with him. Perhaps, they were embarrassed by him, but here he is, when he needs his friends the most, he's been deserted. And how bad was the situation? Well, this man, Onesiphorus, he wants to come, and he wants to minister to Paul, but he gets there, and he starts asking around, and nobody knows where Paul's at. Can you imagine the heartbreak? Can you imagine the loneliness? Paul, sitting there day after day, with the expectation that perhaps he dies, and he knows he's going to die all alone. You know, one of the tragedies of the past few months is these poor folks that have to die all alone. And we recognize what a tragedy that is, but here's the Apostle Paul, the man who had given his life in service to the Lord and had helped so many people, here he is. He's been completely forsaken and forgotten, and he very well may die alone. But yet, he says, "Yes, I will rejoice" (Phi 1:18b).

So, if you think that you're going to find joy in your circumstances, something's wrong. Paul certainly didn't find any joy in his circumstances. He didn't even begin to look for joy in his circumstances. Why? Because he knows he's not going to find it there, and neither will you or me. If we continue to look to our circumstances, we will never experience that the joy, excuse me, that God wants each one of His children to experience. Would you fix this fact in your mind? God wants you to experience joy. That doesn't mean that everything is going to be happy-clappy in your life. Do not make that mistake. God does not want us to go around looking like we've been all sucking on 'Sour Patch Kids' or whatever those things are. There should be some real joy in our lives, not because of our circumstances, but because of our relationship with Christ, and that's what Paul understood.

"His joy came from the purpose of his life..."

So, if Paul's joy didn't come from the circumstances, then where did it come from? Again, his joy... This is so simple, we'll just gloss right over it. His joy came from the purpose of his life, and it was a purpose that Paul would hope would soon be vindicated. Look at verses nineteen and twenty. He says, "For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death (Phi 1:19-20). Paul rejoices that through the power of the prayers of the Philippians, as well as the power of the Spirit of Christ, that his uncertain circumstances will turn out for his certain deliverance. Now, what does he mean by deliverance? He means his spiritual salvation. The underlying word there is the same word that's translated elsewhere as 'salvation'. And remember, the man who wrote these words to the church of Philippi is the same man who wrote these words to the church at Rome. Romans 8:28. "And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose."

See? The overriding concern of the Apostle Paul was not his deliverance. The overriding concern of the Apostle Paul was not that he would die a quick and painless death. Those were not his concerns. His overriding concern was that he would not be ashamed, that he would not do anything that would make him ashamed, not ashamed of himself. We saw last week his reputation wasn't the important thing. Say, "Well, what is that he doesn't want to be ashamed of?" He doesn't want to bring shame to Christ. He doesn't want to bring shame to the Gospel. And he says, "I know that through your prayers and through the help of the Spirit of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, that in all these things, I won't be ashamed" (Phi 1:19-20). In other words, "I will be vindicated. All of those out there who are preaching Christ because of envy and rivalry, all those who are out there and who are ripping my reputation and saying, 'Look at that guy,' I know without a shadow of a doubt that one day I will be vindicated."

So, what is it that Paul's relying upon to not bring shame? On the name of Jesus. What is it that Paul relies upon to not bring shame on the gospel? Well, certainly not himself, is it? And it's certainly not his status as an apostle. No. What he is relying upon is the prayers of the Philippians and the divine help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He's relying upon the prayers of others and the help of the Holy Spirit, which raises an interesting question. How often do you pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Let's be honest. How often do we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ? How often do you pray for their spiritual growth? You know, as a pastor, I hear a lot of things about a lot of people. Sometimes, I'm surprised. Sometimes, I'm not. But, one of the things I always want to ask the person telling me is "Are you praying for that person?" And what they're telling me, I may need to know, but my response would still be the same. Are you praying for that person? Are you praying for their spiritual growth? Are you praying for their spiritual welfare? Are you praying that the Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit is sanctifying them?

We, meaning our church family, we need all of us to be praying for each of us. And that's part of what it means to put the needs of others before your own. That's part of what it means to deny self. We pray for each other. We seek the aid of the Holy Spirit, not only for ourselves but for our brothers and sisters in Christ. And notice that Paul says that he wants to face his circumstances with full courage (Phi 1:20). Full courage. His desire is to face the risk he is facing with complete and full courage. And listen, he was in a risky situation. "Will I live? Will I die? Will I be set free?" His desire is to face the danger he's facing with courage. None of us know how we're going to react to death, do we? But Paul knew how he wanted to react. He didn't want to deny his Savior. He didn't want to deny the power of the Gospel. He wanted to face it with full courage. If he was to lose his life, he wasn't going to go out crying and whimpering. In the spirit of Martin Luther, he would say, "Here I stand. I can do none else."

So, what Paul says in verse twenty helps us understand what he says in verse twenty-one. Now, look at verse twenty-one, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phi 1:21). Where do we begin to deal with such a verse? The good Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said of this verse, and this is extended, but I don't apologize for it because he's much wiser than I am. He said two things about this verse. Let me back up just a moment. Many Christians through the ages have considered verse twenty-one, really to be the apex of the Christian faith. The good doctor said that there was such a delicate balance here, a delicate balance of the Christian life, that he was afraid to touch it unless he disrupts that balance. He did preach on it at least one time and this is, this is from the opening paragraph of his sermon. He said, "We stand here face-to-face with one of the sublimest and greatest statements ever made, even by this mighty Apostle of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which anyone who faces this verse must feel that he stands on very sacred ground. Indeed, I'm ready to admit that I would almost regard it as sacrilege to approach a verse like this in an unworthy manner. Here we have not only the statement of an experience which was true, which was a fact and a reality, but at the same time, and for that reason, we also find ourselves face-to-face with a standard of judgment. Any God-given experience is sacred, and nothing is further removed from the spirit of the New Testament than approaching a statement like this in a purely objective manner, handling it with our rough hands, bringing our critical or dissecting apparatus to bear upon it. There is something so sublime about it, so delicate and pure that one is - as always with such versus - confronted with a kind of dilemma. On the one hand, one is afraid of handling it in a detached, so-called scientific manner yet, on the other hand, of course, there is also the danger that if we do not analyze it up to a point, we fail to realize its inner meaning and its true purpose. One is compelled to do both - to analyze it and try to understand it, while always remembering that it is a living experience and a statement of fact which puts us under judgment."

Now, in light of those words, it should come as no surprise to you that I have wrestled with this all week, and I confess, rather unsuccessfully. There are times... I finally figured this out this morning, early this morning. There are times that you can study and study and study, and nothing happens. It's almost as if God put his hand over verse twenty-one and said, "Not yet. Not yet." It's almost as if God said, "You've not worked hard enough yet. You've not dug deep enough yet. You've not sweated enough yet for me to give you much from verse twenty-one." And I confess to you, that's where I'm at, but God was gracious and did give me some things. Lord willing, He'll give me more next week. So, how do we begin to understand such a verse as this? Well, the place to try and begin to understand such a glorious truth is by turning to Scripture. It's by going to the Scriptures. And the place that we need to turn is also written by the Apostle Paul. Galatians 2:20. Most of us could quote the verse. What did Paul write there? "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20).

"Fact number one: if you are in Christ, if you are a Christian, you have been crucified with Christ."

So, if we would take verse twenty-one of Philippians one as a statement of fact, that will help us. And if we will also take what Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, as statements of fact, that will help us. And if we can begin to gain just a little bit of insight in what Paul has written to the Galatians, perhaps, we will become just a little bit closer to understanding what Paul said to the Philippians. So, there are two facts that I want to point out in Galatians 2:20 Fact number one, if you are in Christ, if you are a Christian, you have been crucified with Christ. So, what does that mean? Well, I turned to Philip Ryken. He says, "But here is the surprise. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are nailed to the cross too. The Crucifixion is not just a fact about the life of Christ and a momentous event in human history, but it's also a part of every Christian's personal life story." The Puritan, William Perkins, said this, "We are in mind and meditation to consider Christ crucified: and first, we are to believe that He was crucified for us." We don't have that... We don't have a problem with that. I dare say, we don't have a problem with that. But the great Puritan goes on to say, "This being done, we must go yet further, and as it was spread ourselves on the cross of Christ, believing and withal beholding ourselves crucified with Him." In some way, that only God fully understands, when Jesus Christ was crucified, all the elect were crucified as well which means that if you are in Christ, you were crucified when Christ was crucified. That's a fact. That's a statement of fact.

"Fact number two: If you have been crucified with Christ, then it logically follows that it's no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you."

Here's the second fact. And the second statement of fact is the logical conclusion of fact number one. Well, what's fact number two? If you have been crucified with Christ, then it logically follows that it's no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you. If I've been crucified, it means that I've been what? I've been put to death. Crucifixion was a sure means of death. So, what is Paul describing here? We've touched on this in earlier messages, and I think I did a whole series on this. He's talking about our union with Christ, our union with Christ. Again, Ryken helps us. He writes, "The surprising truth that the Christian has been crucified in Christ rests on the most magnificent of all doctrines, union with Christ, which the Scottish theologian John Murray called a central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation." When encountered everywhere in the New Testament, again and again, the Scripture teaches us that the Christian is in Christ. To use the proper theological category, the Christian is united to Christ.

You don't want an easy there's... I think there are two easy ways for us to understand what it means to be in Christ. I don't know what these things are called, but I think they're some kind of Russian doll. Have you ever seen these Russian dolls, where they start out large and you open it up, and there's another one inside and you open that up, there's another one inside? Well, that big Russian doll is Christ. And when you open it up, we're in Christ. Or let's say that you're going to send out a bill and you... I know most people don't send out bills by mail anymore. I'm giving my age away here. But anyway, you put that check-in that envelope. Christ is the envelope, you're the check. You're in Christ. That's what Paul's describing here.

And we have to ask ourselves this question. How does all of this take place? By faith. By faith. Paul writes "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God" (Gal 2:20b). So, when we go back to Philippians 1:21, and we read Paul's words, "For to me..." It's a very strange way that he says it, isn't it? "For to me to live his Christ, and die is gain." How do we take that? Where's the beginning point of this, our understanding? Faith. Faith. We don't have to fully understand it, and we probably never will in this life. We will never fully comprehend the dimensions, the depth of the truth that's in verse twenty-one, but that doesn't mean that we cannot, will not benefit from it. We can, and we will benefit from it if we take it by what? Faith. Faith. Even if we never fully understand it, we must by faith believe it is a reality. "For me, for to me to live as Christ..." What does it mean? I don't know fully, but let me give you a couple of things to meditate on this week.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a life filled with shame? Do you see a life filled with regret? Do you see failure staring back at you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Now, if we could ask the Apostle Paul this question, I believe his reply would be something like this. "Well, when I look in the mirror, I don't see a Pharisee who was responsible for the persecution and death of members of the early church. When I look in the mirror, I don't see the face of a man who stood by and held the cloaks of those who stoned an innocent Steven to death. When I look in the mirror, I don't see the chief of sinners. I don't see anything like that." Paul would say, "No, when I look in the mirror, I see Christ. I see a man in Christ. I see myself the same way that God the Father sees me." Well, Paul, how does God the Father see you? "He sees me in Christ, clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ. When I look in that spiritual mirror, that's what I see." And by the way, in the original text, there is no verb here. It simply says, "For to me to live, Christ. For me to live, Christ" (Phi 1:21a). This was a win-win situation for Paul. "If I live, I win and others benefit. If I die, I gain. I win."

Christian, beloved, there's no fear in death for those who are in Christ Jesus. Death is not a punishment for the believer. Death is a reward for you as a believer. Do we get that? Now listen, my pastor used to say, "I'm not afraid to die. I'm afraid of how I may die." I don't want to die a horrible death. No sane person does. But, I don't fear what comes after death. Why? Because I will finally, fully be exposed to the glory, the brilliance, the magnificence of Christ unhindered. My love will not be cold. My praise will not be lukewarm. "For, for to me to live, Christ. To die, gain" (Phi 1:21).

"'For me to live is Christ'...This is the only way to live."

Here's a couple of other things. When Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ," I want you to consider that part of what Paul is saying is that you as a believer, this is the only way to live. Oh, that we as Christians could wrap our heads around this. When you were crucified with Christ, you died. What does Paul say in Second Corinthians? "The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Cor 5:17b). I think what Paul's saying here, this, as a believer, this is the only way to live. This is the only way that you're ever going to truly experience joy. Perhaps, you can think of it this way. "For to me to live is more than a possibility, but a necessity, but a necessity.

Second, when Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ," take that personally. Just think of the way he says it. "For to me to live..." That's very personal for Paul, isn't it? But it's not just for Paul. It's for all believers at all times. When Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ," Paul reveals his identity. Can you see, can you see the tremendous unity in Paul's theology? Go to the Ephesians. Go to Galatians. Go to Philippians. Go to any book that you want, and you're going to see the same themes that run throughout and unite it all. This is his identity. "For to me to live Christ..." "This is who I am." Three, when Paul says "For to me to live is Christ," Paul reveals he will live for others. Isn't that what Jesus did? Four, when Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ," Paul reveals his purpose. You know, a few years ago, we had the "40 days of purpose" phenomenon. Rick Warren didn't invent that. I'm not even sure he got it all right, to be honest with you, but the purpose is Christ. Christ. And finally, when Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ," Paul reveals the source of his joy. Now, let me say this. Verse twenty-one, if you take it the wrong way, if you read it the wrong way, it will be a tremendous burden to you because you're going to think, "Now, I've got to go out there, and I've got to live just like Jesus. I've got to do this. I've got to do that. I've got to stay up all night praying. I've got to walk on the water. I've got to feed them all. I've got to! I've got to! I've got to!" Then, you'll be burnout in no time. No, no, no. This is not meant for you to bear a burden. This is meant to be an encouragement to you.

In order to experience the reality for you to live as Christ, you must ask the Holy Spirit to help you believe it. Pray, and ask for your faith to be strengthened, so that you can believe the reality behind the words. Remember, you don't have to fully understand to benefit from it. For you to live is Christ means, I hope this is helpful, means that in all the circumstances of your life, the good, the bad, the shameful, the regretful, you know that Christ is there. Christ does not desert you in your hour of need. For to me to live, Christ. In all of these circumstances, what did Paul say? "There's nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ" (Rom 8:38-39).

So, where was Paul's purpose in life? Well, he just told us. "For to me to live is Christ." So, what was the source of joy in Paul's life? Living out his purpose which was Christ. For Paul, it was all about Christ. Go home this afternoon, and take five minutes, and read through this passage, and mark every time Paul mentions Christ. It's remarkable. If you want to be able to experience joy, real joy, eternal joy, then Christ must be your life. Live out the reality of who you are. Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phi 1:21).