To Live Is Christ
The Assault of Satan
Philippians 1:12-18 NASB
(12) Now I want you to know, brethren, that my
circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, (13) so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known
throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, (14) and that most of the brethren, trusting in the
Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God
without fear. (15) Some, to be sure, are
preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; (16) the latter do it
out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; (17) the former proclaim Christ out of selfish
ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my
imprisonment. (18) What then? Only that in
every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I
rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
The Power of the State
Recently (March 2011) a judge's order in the state of
Missouri came to my attention. Purely at his own discretion, without a court
case being submitted, or any other legal document the judge decided to order
all of the state's school superintendents to provide him with the complete list
of names and addresses of all Missouri children were being homeschooled.
Missouri law requires that homeschooled students register with the local
superintendent of schools. The superintendents in question notified the parents
of this demand, and asked the parents if they would participate in a lawsuit
concerning this matter. Several parents went to a homeschooling association to
do just that. The case is now wending its way up to the Missouri Supreme Court,
but as you can imagine it has caused great alarm among homeschool advocates.
The judge has given no reason for his demand. As most homeschool students are
kept that way because their parents wish to provide for religious education or
otherwise overcome the deficiencies of the public schools, you can see that
such a list is a likely prelude to some sort of process which will determine
whether or not the homeschooled student is worthy to stay that way. It is no
secret that teachers unions despise homeschooling, and see it as stealing money
from the public schools. Interestingly, when California was considering the
possibility that homeschool parents would have to be certified teachers, the
state was quick to leap to the defense of homeschooling. The reason is simple:
there isn't enough money in the budget to do what the homeschooling parents
already do for free. The key point for us is this: the enemies of Christ are
quick to use the powers of the state to harass and pursue the Christian.
Why should this be so? Because Satan is the Prince of this
world. Remember Christ's temptation in the wilderness:
Luke 4:5-7 NASB
And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of
time. (6) And the devil said to Him, "I
will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me,
and I give it to whomever I wish. (7)
"Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours."
The Christian, therefore, should expect that the state will
be his persecutor to some degree or another. This is particularly true in our
time. Liberals know that the state is supreme in all things of ethics, morality
and religion — and therefore the backwards Christians must be forced (for their
own good of course) to accept the state's will in these matters.
Perhaps more disturbing example comes from state of Maine. A
mother there, who had been granted sole custody of her child, was told by a
court appointed guardian that her child must go to public schools — because she
was getting too much Christian education at home. The guardian told the court
that the textbooks being used were unacceptable, because they were
Christian-based. Eternal vigilance the price of liberty.
The State Against Paul
If this is true for us, it was even truer for Paul. For the
first 300 years of the church, Christianity was illegal. This was enforced
fitfully, usually at the whims of the local magistrate. But let's see what
happened to Paul in this instance; it appears he has a rather cheery view of
Well, you got a free trip to Rome out of the deal.
More than that, he had a golden opportunity to preach to the
Praetorian Guard of Rome. This gave Christianity access to the inner circles of
Further, it gave a sense of courage to others in the church, which
began to speak boldly for the Gospel.
Infiltration of the Church
Satan, of course, is not going to be content with using the
power of the state. We are told that in every age of the church there will be
those who appeared to the world to be good church members, doing the will of
God, when in fact they are motivated by envy, greed or fear. Paul knows this;
we should too. But see how Paul reacts:
Christ is preached. Paul sees this as 100% favorable. It doesn't
matter about their motives.
Those who thought they were going to make Paul envious or distressed
should think again. Paul takes to heart his master's word that those who are
not against us are for us.
So, he rejoices.
To Live Is Christ
Philippians 1:19-26 NASB
(19) for I know that this will turn out for my
deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus
Christ, (20) according to my earnest
expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will 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. (22) But if I
am to live on in the flesh,
this will mean fruitful labor for me;
and I do not know which to choose. (23) But I
am hard-pressed from both directions,
having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that
is very much better; (24) yet to remain on in
the flesh is more necessary for your sake. (25)
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your
progress and joy in the faith, (26) so that
your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you
Attitude Towards Death
There is no denying: the Christian attitude towards death
has changed greatly since the first century. Then, Christians looked at death
as their entrance into Christ. Today, death is sanitized in hospitals,
conducted out of sight and out of mind, and very often alone. Our attitude has
changed greatly. Consider this writing from Athanasius in the fourth century:
A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest
by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of
Christ despise death, they take the offensive against it and, instead of
fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as
something dead. Before the divine advent of the Savior, even the holiest of men
were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that
the Savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who
believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing and prefer to die rather than
to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not
perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection. But
that devil who of old wickedly exulted in death, now that the pains of death
are loosed, he alone it is who remains truly dead. There is proof of this too;
for men who, before they believe in Christ, think death horrible and are afraid
of it, once they are converted despise it so completely that they go eagerly to
meet it, and themselves become witnesses of the Savior's resurrection from it.
Even children hasten thus to die, and not men only, but women train themselves
by bodily discipline to meet it. So weak has death become that even women, who
used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing, robbed of all its
strength. Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by
the legitimate monarch; bound hand and foot as he now is, the passers-by jeer
at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage,
because of the king who has conquered him. So has death been conquered and
branded for what it is by the Savior on the cross. It is bound hand and foot,
all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride
it, scoffing and saying, "O Death, where is thy victory? O Grave, where is
(Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, V-27)
Men in those days live in the power of the resurrection (see
Philippians 3:8-11.) They understood that the fate of the Christian is to be
raised from the dead, and that death is not victorious over the Christian. This
can only have altered their attitude towards death. That changed attitude
towards death altered their attitude towards life. They became what I call a
"combat Christian." This is someone who is not afraid to speak the
gospel of Christ; not afraid to take a risk to do what is commanded; and even
(though you may not believe it) risk offending someone for the sake of the
Stone of Stumbling and the Rock of Offense. Sometimes this is rather unsubtle –
like the guy with the cardboard sign saying the end is near. Sometimes it's
just forceful. But it always makes people ask the question, "why does he
do that?" What they really mean of course is, "where did he get the
Simple. He knows Christ. Everything changes.
What Do I Care about?
Most of us are so busy being polite that we can't take the
time to spread the gospel. We are worried about what other people will think.
Consider, however, what was of concern to Paul:
First, that he would not be put to shame. In other words, he
would do what he was supposed to do without flinching and without hesitation.
Combat Christians always run towards the screaming.
Second, the Christ would be exalted. The whole purpose of the
Christian's life is to bring glory to God. If that's happening, what does the
Finally, there is his concern for others — the things which are
"necessary for your sake." He is taking care of God's children.
And that's a pretty good summary of what a Christian should
How to Live This Life
Paul also outlines the three things that he needs to live
such a life:
First, he needs the prayers of his fellow Christians.
Christianity is not a solo flight; combat Christianity is even less so. If you
are going to pick up the cause of Christ, the prayers of your fellow Christians
are great and valuable.
He then asked for the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The work of the Holy Spirit in us is sometimes mysterious, but always
Always, ever, and of first importance is hope.
If you are expecting a list that included car, house,
mountain cabin for vacation, etc. — then I think you are highly disappointed by
now. This is a life which is in the world but not of the world. Those who live
it know the joy of Christ. Those who don't, see it as a terrible burden.
What Is the Christian to Do?
Philippians 1:27-30 NASB
(27) Only conduct yourselves in a manner
worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain
absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one
mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; (28)
in no way alarmed by your
opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you,
and that too, from God. (29) For to you it has been granted for Christ's
sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, (30) experiencing the same conflict which you saw in
me, and now hear to be in me.
Most of us never get the chance to be a great missionary. We
live our lives in quiet times (we hope) and hope that the times do not oppress
us too much. But just what should we be doing as ordinary Christians? We must
begin with looking at the times in which we live.
Are the Times Similar?
At first it would seem that the times of Paul and our times
today are not really similar at all. Americans think they have freedom of
religion; nobody has shackled us to the wall with two soldiers to watch over us
— perhaps we're not that dangerous. But Satan is not asleep. See if you
recognize the symptoms:
"Everyone knows that Christians are evil." It has been
well said in our society that conservatives think liberals are stupid; liberals
think conservatives are evil. It is amazing how often liberals see a positive
conspiracy among Christians which they feel is inspired by some sort of demonic
energy. That demonic energy, of course, is something they deny exists.
Therefore, the liberal knows that he needs the power of the state
to keep the Christians in check. Times are desperate; the evil Christians will
educate their children to be Christians if you let them. We must force them to
go to public school so they will learn to be good little atheists (among other
If you think this has no spiritual dimension to it, think about
this: American liberalism is tightly allied with Islam. Islam is a religion
which consistently oppresses its people, particularly children and women. The
virtue of tolerance is completely unknown to Islam. Yet liberals complain about
right wing fundamentalists being the problem in America, as they are
intolerant. Moslems, on the other hand, are children of the religion of peace.
This is patently absurd. You'd think there was an alliance between the two that
can only be explained by having the same potentate at the top of both. Somebody
like, perhaps, Satan.
Suffering for Christ
Of course, this kind of life is going to make us suffer for
Christ. It can't be helped; but it might be looked upon as an advantage. Why?
Suffering is the way in which God perfects his saints. In particular,
it is through suffering that the Spirit of God rests upon you.
Suffering shows that you are worthy in the eyes of God.
You do not get to do this alone. God much prefers that you suffer
as part of the church; a shared suffering builds the church. We are to suffer
When we suffer together, this builds up the church.
And, as Paul tells us, the suffering we have in this world is not
to be compared with the glory we will gain in the next. Indeed, we are
taught that if we suffer with him we shall reign with him.
Paul leaves us with certain instructions.
First, we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the
gospel. Have you ever noticed that the world seems to know what to expect the
Christian should do? They have standards of conduct for us which sometimes are
higher than our own. People might not listen to our words, but they cannot help
see our conduct. Therefore, in all things, act as one who is an ambassador for
Christ, a representative of the gospel.
Don't be alarmed by your opponents. It is the way of the world
that our opponents constantly tell us that they are in charge, they are
supreme, we are not vain, and why is it that we are putting our feeble, pitiful
resistance up against them? He who is for us is greater than he was against us.
We are on the winning side. But don't get cocky; even David picked up five smooth
stones to meet Goliath.
You may not have good leadership skills; what you really need are
good followership skills. If you're a leader, be a good example. If you are a
follower, follow one. Follow me as I follow Christ, as Paul said.
It's just like high school physics tests: I didn't say they
are easy. It's just that they are required. And the suffering of the Christian
life is a requirement for the true Christian.