“For me to live is Christ; and to die is gain.” Phil. 1:21
Oh hallelujah to that!!
I doubt that any man would doubt the two facts of life and death. Well, these are the two agendas that God has for the church. To live and to die. In the above scripture, God, through the Apostle Paul, shows us the two singular agendas that He has for the church. Both living and dying. Now, to live is earthly; to die is heavenly. In other words, here on earth we believers have the singular agenda of living. We are involved. Somehow, we have a responsibility here on earth! We have the responsibility to live “Christ”. And what, pray, is “Christ”? “Christ” talks of a life that is fully pleasing to God.
Now, no man has ever lived a life that is fully pleasing to God. No man is capable of that. Actually, no man can even dream of coming close to scratching the surface of this particular undertaking. No man.
It was for this reason that God sent His Son Jesus Christ. God sent His own Son. And Christ proved Himself capable, and well able to please God fully. God Himself put His stamp of approval on the verity of Jesus’s accomplishment by declaring, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mat. 17:5)
Moreover, Jesus did all this for us. He became the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. Now, when God sees us who believe Christ, He sees us as perfectly pleasing Him.
But Paul tells us that here on earth we have the responsibility of living out “Christ”. We are called to live the life of victory over sin that Christ lived when He was here on earth. Christ has sent us His Holy Spirit to enable us to live that life. Paul followed hard after Christ’s footsteps. That was why he was able to say, “For me to live is Christ”!
Our responsibility here on earth is to live the crucified life that Christ has won for us. We saw in our last post how the Macedonian churches were able to live this life so fully. Praise God for the Macedonians!
But with the latter, the dying part, that is all entirely God’s territory. He alone knows what awaits us in heaven. The Apostle John declares,
“Behold, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn. 3:2)
Notice, “it doth not yet appear”.
That means that no one really knows how heaven is like; nor how things will turn out in heaven once we die.
But heaven is a beautiful place and for those who shall be found worthy to be with the Lord, the Bible says that it will be a place where they shall receive glory, honor, peace, immortality, eternal life (Rom. 2:7,10).
And if the Apostle Peter describes our present state in Christ here on earth as one of “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8), how much more joyous and glorious can we expect heaven to be?
But suffice it to accept John’s words above, that “it doth not yet appear”.
John’s words here ought to suffice for us; but there are people who are never content with the simple truth of God’s Word. They have itching ears; and they become easy prey for the many false teachers whom the devil has brought into the church to deceive the elect.
For this reason don’t let anybody tell you that they have been to heaven and that they saw this and that. Remember the Apostle Paul was also taken to heaven (2 Corinthians 12). When he came back to earth, he wanted to boast about what he had seen in heaven. He wanted to tell all! But God instead placed a thorn in his flesh. And God told him, “Mind that!”
It was then that Paul understood that the things that he had seen in heaven are secrets that are meant to remain in heaven. Actually, upon reading Revelation chapters 21 and 22 we realize that heaven is such a spiritual place that we here on earth would probably wouldn’t understand anything about it at present. Hence John’s words, “It doth not yet appear.”
Instead, God made Paul to understand that his singular calling on earth as far as his relationship with God was concerned was to mind the thorn in his flesh.
This applies to the church even today. If anyone begins preaching about how they have been to heaven and begins to tell the things they saw there, you should have only one question for them: “Do you have a thorn in your flesh?”
And should they answer that they have one, you should tell them, “Blessed are you. Now, please, mind that alone.”
What happens after we die is God’s sole prerogative. But we are assured that the outcome of what happens to us after we die depends entirely on how we live out our lives down here. It all depends on our ability/willingness to live “Christ”, Christ crucified.
Through what God showed the Apostle Paul in the vision about the thorn, it is clear that we have only one agenda here on earth: to live the crucified life of Christ. This letter was written to the Corinthians. But it is this very message that Paul reiterates here in his letter to the Philippians. Everywhere he went, Paul had a singular message. The message of “Christ crucified” was the singular message that Paul preached (1 Cor. 1:23).
God has no other agenda for us. God does not even really care whether we live or die, as we know living and dying. Preachers today are so blind! You will hear a preacher preaching an entire sermon on how God cares for you and how His favour is upon you, and how He does not want you to experience the slightest discomfort.
Well, try telling that to Jesus, the Early Church, and all the saints who lived before them. Do we really believe that they did not experience any discomfort?
It is unfortunate that God’s people are therefore so concerned with living a comfortable earthly life. No partaking of the sufferings of Christ! But, in so doing, we risk dying and finding out that what awaits us in heaven is loss, and not gain.
During these extremely uncertain times that we are living in, the church should make sure it is on the right road. Now is not the time to think of living a comfortable life in this world. Now is the time to make sure we are fulfilling the only real agenda that God has for us: daily dying to self. That is our sole reason for living.
After that, we die… and on to gain.
[The church in the village of Matongo, Singida Municipality]