Friday, February 13, 2009

Philippians 1:19-24 (1)

My burden for my own life, and, consequently in this short time we have together, for your life, is that we do not waste our lives. It’s so easy for us to waste our lives, even coming from a Christian school, even in North Carolina. The Bible makes it clear that our lives are short, that our lives are issuing very quickly either in everlasting joy, or everlasting torment. Our lives are short, we must not waste them.

I know you’re thinking this is an odd topic to start with. We’re teenagers, we’ve barely started to live yet, why are you talking to us about death? Well when I was a teenager, I thought two things about my self, 1) that I would live forever, and 2) that I knew everything. I basically thought I was God Himself. If we are not to waste our lives then we must appreciate how short they are, how every day is a unique opportunity. 1 Samuel 2:6 says: The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. James 4:15 says: If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. If the Lord will I will finish this message and get back to Greenville safely, if the Lord will I’ll make it to my 24th birthday next week. Life is short, life is fragile, life is totally in God’s hands, and this is very, very good news.

So, in the midst of all this, how do we not waste our lives? Do we, like the rich man in Luke, store up goods for ourselves in barns and then ‘eat, drink and be merry?’ This seems to be the response of many people, earn as much, get as much and play as much as you possibly can. But one day our lives will be required of us, then what good will the abundance of our possessions be? Jesus says in Matthew 16:25 whoever will lose their life for my sake shall find it. Whoever loses their life for Jesus sake will not waste their life. So can we only not waste our life in dying itself?
Or is there a way to live that is not a waste? I think the best answer to that question comes in Philippians 1:19-24 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I know not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

These words are, of course, written by Paul, a man who did not waste his life, a man who lived with extraordinary passion, courage, commitment, love and joy in and for Christ. So what is the unwasted life? The passage we just read shows us how to not waste our life, and then how to not waste our death.

Look with me at the end of verse 20: so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by death or by life, for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul wants Christ to be magnified, to be made to look great, and awesome in his body, whether he lives or whether he dies. This is Paul’s all consuming passion, this is the road of the unwasted life, this is the heartbeat of a life well lived, to make Jesus famous. To life up Jesus’ name in all he does whether in life or in death. We were made for this. Our hearts, our brains, our bodies, our desires are made for Jesus. Made to be filled with this and made to put this on display. CS Lewis wrote that: ‘if I try every pleasure and offer of satisfaction in this world, and yet am not satisfied, I can only conclude I was made for another.’ He was right.

What does it mean that to live is Christ? I think Paul expands on this idea in Philippians 3:7 where he says ‘what things were gain for me I counted loss for Christ’ Previous to this he had been listing everything that he used to hope in and build his life upon. His birth, his social standing, his education. He counted all these things as nothing for the sake of Jesus. Nothing! Can we say that? Can we say that we count everything that we have as loss, as nothing for the sake of Jesus? That we count all our possessions as loss for the sake of Jesus? That we count all our dreams for the future as loss for the sake of Jesus? That we count money or food or sex as loss for the sake of Christ? How can Paul say that? How can Paul mean that? Are even the good things in our life to be counted as loss?

Because Paul was a man who knew Jesus Christ. Who knew that what he gained from Him made everything else look like rubbish. And because of that, He loved Jesus. He loved Him His life was so wrapped up in Him that from his conversion every day until the day He died Jesus was His obsession, Jesus was why he woke, why he traveled, why he spoke. Jesus was it for Paul. Jesus was His life. Is that true for us? Is Jesus the deepest passion of our hearts? Do we love to meet with Him in His Word? Do we think about our witness to Him when we make our plans for the weekend? Do we let Him decide what we look at on the internet? Or how much we spend at the mall? Do we let His Word and Will define our every decision? Do we want Jesus to be our God, or just our forgiver? If Jesus is your God, and your single all consuming passion, and all your decisions are placed before Him in prayer, and made with Him in mind, then you will not waste your life.

My fiancée and I are called to the mission field in Eastern Europe, and one of my missionary heroes is a guy named Jim Elliot. He and five others, mostly young World War II veterans followed God’s call to the Amazon rainforest to preach the Gospel to the Auca tribesmen, who had never heard it. Five intelligent, married young men set off for the rainforest, a passion for Jesus in their hearts, a desire not to waste their lives driving them forward. Three days after they made their first ground contact with the Aucas they were speared to death on a sandbank in the Amazon River. The world looks at that and sees wasted lives, we should look at that and see lives lived and lost for the sake of Christ, the greatest cause of all.

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