To Live Is Christ
Updated: Mar 23, 2019
by Dave Miller
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The Apostle Paul was consumed with the glory of Jesus Christ. When staring down an impending death because of the message of Jesus he wrote:
Yes, and I will rejoice, 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. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Jesus and his glory were primary for Paul in his life and mission. His desire for Christ made the decision for life or death difficult. Death meant faith becomes sight; right before his very eyes could be Jesus. Life meant more opportunities to tell of Jesus and lead others to the joy Paul had found in a life with Christ.
Often, as I grew up, the gospel was presented as an opportunity to get heaven. Usually it went something like this,“If you were to die today, do you know that you would get to go to heaven?” or “Do you want heaven or hell? Jesus can get you to heaven.” Not long ago I sat through a Vacation Bible School training at a very large church in my city. When learning to “lead a child to Christ” the volunteers were instructed to say, “Jesus died on the cross so that you could go to heaven.” I do understand what they were trying to communicate, at least if I give the benefit of the doubt. But at the same time, is heaven really what they are offering? Is Jesus the opening act for the real main event of heaven? Jesus, many times, is the means to what you really want, instead of the point. What if the story of God’s glory is not about me? What if God’s story is about Jesus? To put it another way, if Jesus wasn’t in heaven would you still want to go?
Sadly, it took 39 years to get to a George Strait concert. The Cowboy road away from Texas Stadium in 2013 and I thought I would just live with regret. But in June of last year the King of Country showed up to the Big Ball in T-Town and I sang every word of every song live. You may be thinking you should have waited another 39, but to someone who can shuffle George for 9 Strait hours on his iPhone while flying over the Pacific and still have songs left when he lands; never going to a concert would have been a major life regret. This country boy spent hours making one round after another in a John Deere listening to steel guitars, fiddles, and three chords compliment the scoops and twang of the King of Country. It is in my blood. So much so that the smell of diesel and dirt ignites the need for country swing. Yet, I have never sat online waiting for tickets to go on sale for a George Strait cover band. If they happen to be playing at the state fair I might sing along as I walk by. I might even try to convince my wife for a two-step or swing dance as we stop for a couple of songs. However, if George isn’t the one singing, I have no desire to go out of my way to be there. I fear that Jesus isn’t in our blood; that we have settled for a cover band.
We have been satisfied once again with mud pies on the shore when God is offering a holiday at sea. We want Jesus for heaven instead of heaven for Jesus. Heaven has become a cover band. We seek a preacher to give us God’s word instead of God’s word to show us Jesus. The preacher becomes just another cover band. We want bible studies to tell us about Jesus instead of thirsting for righteousness as we follow Jesus. Bible studies have become another cover band. We go on missions trips around the world to tell of Jesus and neglect the everyday moments of Jesus’ mission in our everyday lives. Mission trips are just another cover band in our complacent Christless Christianity.
For Paul, heaven was heaven because Jesus was there. Life was life because Jesus was there. A world filled with idolatry and those who don’t follow Jesus ignited in him a need to preach the gospel. He was not satisfied with any Jesus cover bands, only the real, living, breathing, Savior of the world would do. Jesus is the point. To live is Christ.
Dietrich Bonheoffer said it well:
Discipleship is commitment to Christ. Because Christ exists, he must be followed. An idea about Christ, a doctrinal system, a general religious recognition of grace or forgiveness of sins does not require discipleship. In truth, it even excludes discipleship; it is inimical to it. One enters into a relationship with an idea by way of knowledge, enthusiasm, perhaps even by carrying it out, but never by personal obedient discipleship. Christianity without the living Jesus Christ remains necessarily a Christianity without discipleship; and a Christianity without discipleship is always a Christianity without Jesus Christ.
Christianity without discipleship is always a Christianity without Jesus Christ. Take that in for just a moment and keep the idea in mind, we will return to a life of discipleship in chapters to come. To live is Christ. To die is gain. Jesus is the radiance of God’s story of glory. So what cover band are you settling for? Let the scripture speak to us about the center of the story of Glory.
Until there's #NoPlaceLeft...
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2003-04-15). Discipleship: DBW 4 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works) (p. 59). Augsburg Fortress. Kindle Edition.
Sentergy: When Jesus, People, Practice and Theology Collide
Chapter 1: The Glory of God
Chapter 2: The Glory of God in Jesus
Chapter 3: The Glory of God in the Gospel
Chapter 4: The Glory of God in Disciple Making
Chapter 5: If You Love Me You Will Obey What I Command
Chapter 6: Monday Morning Disciple Making
Chapter 7: Monday Morning Disciple Making Part 2
Interlude: The Father's Heart
Chapter 8: All Scripture All People All Places by Carter Cox
Conclusion: The Lump In Your Throat