The title of this message is: “Addicted, but not Ashamed.” The word “addicted” is found once in our King James Bibles in I Corinthians 16:15. Speaking of a particular church family, Paul says, “ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” That is an interesting concept. Usually, addictions are considered to be evil, but this is good. Also, addictions are not often directly chosen. We never hear: “Today, I have decided to become addicted to cocaine.” Usually addictions sneak up on their victims: marijuana, cocaine and then meth. An occasional beer, then wine with a meal then on to alcoholism. Curiosity, pornography, sexual addiction, rape and prison. In Stephanas’ case, their addiction was deliberate, and Paul hinted at his pleasure in their choice.
Speaking of addicts, probably few drug addicts would ever delight in saying, “For to me to live is fentanyl.” But there are people who cannot wait to get out of class, or to get home from work, so they can have some more of their favorite opiate. It may not be long before their lives are consumed by their addiction. They are identified by their drug habit. Many in today’s society, including many Christians, look at those people and shake their heads in disgust. But some of those same people should admit, “For me to me to live is football,” or “For to me to live is the Mariners, or the Lakers.” There are millions of people who are so obsessed with their favorite sports team that their thoughts are consumed with them. From the moment they wake up, to the time they go to sleep, they think about that team. Sometimes those teams are even in their dreams.
Similar to those people, but then again quite different, the Apostle Paul said, “For to ME to LIVE is CHRIST, and to die is gain.” I’d like you to consider that statement this morning. Just prior to that, Paul said, “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.” To paraphrase these verses, he said, “All that I have, and all that I am, are dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ, my Saviour, and whether I live or die, I will never be ashamed to identify myself as addicted to Him.” Those are two powerful statements, and they need to be examined. Our world would be turned up side down if these principles were true in just 10% of professing Christians. And these thoughts should draw the interest of the unbeliever as well. “What is this lunatic saying? Paul thou art beside thyself thinking like this.” What is so special about Christ to become so addicted as to be willing to sacrifice one’s life for Him? Can someone overdose on Christ? Should someone mainline Christ into his heart?
“For to me to live is Christ.” What are you saying Paul?
Behind the thought, he was implying that Christ was the SOURCE of his life.
“I live, because Christ has given me life.” For nine months, there was a young woman in Tarsus, Cilicia, who carried in her womb an unborn baby. And then Saul was born. In that birth he began a new kind of life – a life which he didn’t have before. Saul of Tarsus grew, moved to Jerusalem, was educated in Pharisaism, becoming a shining light in Judaism. But then one day Christ Jesus confronted him, knocking him to his knees and knocking his pride and self-righteousness into the dust. Saul was born a second time; he was born again spiritually, and for a second time a new life began in him. Over time, his name was changed to Paul, and he became known as Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles.
There is unborn life; there is unregenerated physical life; and there is the gracious gift of God called “eternal life.” A person can have all three of these forms of life, but most people only enjoy the first two. The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle: “This is the record, that God hath given to us (some of us) eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” The Lord Jesus once said to a crowd in Jerusalem’s temple: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Just prior to that Jesus said to the majority in that crowd, “some of you people don’t believe me, because you are not of my sheep.” The lesson in this is there are people, whom He calls His sheep, to whom Christ gives eternal life, and there are others who do not have this life, and they shall one day eternally perish. In that same context Jesus said, “I am come that (my sheep) might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
It was to this kind of life that Paul was referring. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” When an unborn baby is murdered through a deliberate abortion, he is never given the opportunity to experience the joys, challenges and blessings of seventy years outside the womb. And when a person isn’t born again, he will never enjoy the blessings of eternal fellowship with the God of grace and joy.
Paul was given that blessing of life. But he wasn’t referring simply to its origination.
For him, Christ Jesus was the PRINCIPLE INGREDIENT in his life – the substance of his life.
Earlier this week, I read and reread the first half this chapter, and as I did something jumped out at me. That led me to read the introduction to several of Paul’s other epistles. In the majority of them I saw a pattern. Here in this Philippian letter Paul speaks of “Christ Jesus” seven times in his introduction. He was a servant of Christ, writing to other saints of Christ. Grace comes from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Twice, he refers to the day of Christ – the day of the glorification of Christ. He reveals his yearning for Christ’s blessings on his readers. And then he speaks of being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ. In his second paragraph, of which our text is a part, again he speaks of Christ five more times. In twenty-one verses he refers to his Saviour about a dozen times. This is indicative of his addiction to the Lord. He was constantly thinking about the Lord Jesus. Christ occupied his every moment and colored his every thought. He didn’t just think about his Lord first thing in the morning during his devotions and then again before bed. His life was filled with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. “For to me to live is Christ.”
This letter was being sent to those saints who were members of the church in Philippi, Macedonia. If there were children of God in that city who were not a part of that church, then most likely they were not going to hear what the Holy Spirit had to say to them through this letter. There are blessings and opportunities which God gives to the members of His churches which other saints, by their own choice, will not get to enjoy. But that’s not my point. Paul was writing to saints of God in Christ, and he, too, was one of those saints. A saint is not some super Christian, a miracle-worker, as some branches of Christendom try to teach. A saint is simply someone who has been born again, and set apart to God as one of His own.
Paul was a saint of God in Christ, but here he calls himself a “servant of Jesus Christ.” He was a servant of the God of Heaven. But he was not just employed as a servant of God; he was totally occupied with serving his Saviour. He awoke every morning with a desire to hear how the Lord Jesus wanted to use him that day. He was a willing bond slave of Christ, twenty-four hours of every day, every day of the year. He was listening for the Lord’s voice; he was watching His gestures; he noted the direction of the His eyes. As a servant of the Lord, simply put, his life was Christ.
In reading his epistles, there are hints that Paul was not unfamiliar with the sports of his day. He understood the rules of wrestling and how to successfully run a marathon. But he wasn’t addicted to sports. He had no time for either football or fooootball; basketball or baseball. His life was filled with the Lord Jesus. In those periods when he had to take up secular employment as a tentmaker, as he saw it, it was only because his master commissioned him to do so. His eye was upon the Lord, not on the ledger or profit line. When he wrote a letter or had time to enjoy the fellowship of other saints and other servants of God, it was with a desire to glorify his Saviour. During his Christian-lifetime, Paul spent years in prison by the will of the Lord, and he occupied his time receiving visitors and writing letters, always extolling his Redeemer. “For to me to live is Christ.”
Notice verse 8: “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” When Paul thought about his friends and acquaintances, it was in the context of Jesus’ love and will. Paul was consumed by Christ. He was addicted to Jesus. His joy was in Jesus. Continuing his thoughts about his friends, “This I pray… that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.” He yearned that others would become as addicted to the Lord as he was until the day of Jesus’ glorification
“For to me to live is Christ.” His life was Christ. His essence was his Saviour. At the time he wrote this letter, he was under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial as a servant of Christ. He described his condition as being “in bonds in Christ,” verse 13. He didn’t think of himself as being in Rome because the Jews hated him, or because Governor Festus wasn’t man enough to set him free after his meeting with Agrippa and Festus. He was awaiting trial before Caesar, because of his willing and joyful bondage in Christ Jesus. “For to me to live is Christ; for me to wait in chains or with an ankle monitor, or even to die – is Christ.” He wasn’t putting on a false face; this wasn’t a stiff upper lip under some bad, out of control, circumstances. It was with a genuine smile that he said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
He might have said, “For to me, the JOY of my life is Christ.” Like the Ethiopian whom Philip led to the Saviour – after he was born again he “went on his way rejoicing.” Rejoicing? He had no idea what the future of his new life in Christ would entail. But it didn’t matter. There was a joy in his heart that did not exist before – planted there by the grace of God. Paul was like the Philippian jailer, someone who was listening as this letter was being read in his church. Just at the time that man thought his life was over… just as he was prepared to take his own life… Paul led him to the Christ of Calvary, and immediately “he rejoiced, believing in God” for the first time in his life. And he had the opportunity to experience joy from that moment on, and he is still enjoying that joy in the presence of his Redeemer.
I remember the evening when the Lord saved me. The day began like every other day, but along about 7:00 or 7:30, the preaching of the gospel was making me miserable. Like the Philippians jailer, the weight of my sins began to crush the life out of my soul. I was miserable. But two or three hours later, as the Lord enabled me to trust Christ as my Saviour and my Lord, I pillowed my head in peace, the happiest kid in Northglenn, Colorado. Most likely neither of those Bible men could explain the source of their joy any better that I could that night. But I’ve since learned from the Bible that the kingdom of God is one of “righteousness, and peace, and JOY.” To be a citizen of the kingdom of Christ is to be among the happiest people on earth. I’ve since learned that part of the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy and peace,” and that every child of God is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.
What do these things mean? They mean that Paul, in the midst of his prison sentences, possessed the joy of the Lord Jesus. They mean that despite the thorn in his flesh – his poor eyesight, the residual pain from his many beatings, or whatever physical infirmities he had, he could still rejoice. The saints in Acts 5, “departed from the presence of the council, REJOICING that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” – the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said in II Corinthians 6:10, after listing some of the problems and trials which he had endured for the glory of Christ, said “Yet alway rejoicing.” Peter said, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you… but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering, that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
Why is that some Christians are not as joyful as they could be? The simple, but unpopular answer is, “for them their day-to-day life is NOT Christ.” The more their hearts are linked to the world, the more tenuous and fleeting their joy becomes. I don’t know how many football teams there are in the NFL, but I do know that only one team won the Super Bowl the other day, and millions of football fans had no joy in that particular winning team. Do you remember the old poem? “Somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.” Paul’s joy was not linked to sports or his bank account or his success in climbing Mount Rainier. He had joy day after day, in rain or in sunshine, in the pulpit or in prison, because from the depths of his heart he could say, “For to me to live is Christ.”
Not only was the Saviour the source of Paul’s life and the substance of his day-to-day life…
Christ was the PURPOSE and END of his life as well.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” There is a day on the calendar of God, which we might describe as the “day of Christ.” Paul uses those words twice in his introduction. The first is in verse 6 – “Being confidence of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” What good work had God begun in those formerly unforgiven sinners? It was the work of salvation through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The Lord had given eternal life to a bunch of unworthy children of Adam, and the resurrected Christ was the living guarantee of the eternal nature of that life. Christ “because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood, Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Christ Jesus, “is able also to save… to the uttermost… them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
It was in the light of Jesus’ words in John 17, that Paul said “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Christ prayed “Father I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me…” (John 17:24). Paul grasped and claimed Jesus’ prayer for him. “I am soon to be with Christ, beholding His magnificence.” He lived in the light of presence of Christ. “For to me to live is the glory of Christ.”
Paul lived for the honor of Christ, but then he added, “and to die is gain.” Modern medicine with all its drugs, procedures and treatments, is both a blessing and a curse. It enables us to live through, and throw off, diseases which killed our grand parents and great grand parents. It is extending the average time of our second lives. But it has also warped our concept of death, as something to fear and put off even though we may be living in severe pain for a decade toward the end. It use to be a fact of which everyone was well aware – that death was always near at hand, and people weren’t so fearful of its approach.
It is not true for the unbeliever, but for the Christian, “to die is gain.” No matter how much of this world you possess, and no matter in what way you measure a good life, death for the Christian is better. Is a good life three square meals a day and a warm bed at night? Heaven will be better than these things. Is a good life measured by comfortable economics? There will be no need for gold and silver in heaven. Maybe you weigh the blessings of life in good friends and family. We will have better friends in Heaven and an extended family it will take an eternity to meet. To die is gain.
In Revelation 14 John was in the midst of revelations about what was coming. Verse 1 – “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” Verse 3 – “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” The new song they sung is described elsewhere. It will be filled with praise to Christ for salvation from sin. Then as John looked on, the scene shifted to others who could not sing that song. Verse 10 – “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. But then come some of the most comforting words in the entire Word of God. “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” When God considers something to be precious we should consider it precious. Going back to Paul, he said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
The other day in my reading I ran across some material I thought about putting in the bulletin some day. But then that afternoon I realized that it was appropriate for this message. The author of the book I was reading spoke of a Christian woman who was dying of cancer. He said, “In her days of health she had witnessed to the lost. Now she was brought low, waiting to die. A lost man who had a high regard for her, but who did not understand her faith, sent her a message asking her to go and see a “faith doctor” who reputedly could heal cancer. She had me write him a letter in which she said in part:”
“I appreciate your kind interest in my welfare, and I pray that God will bless you for it. However, you do not understand. It is not important that I get welt; it is only important that I do God’s will. He has let me live for some purpose of His own wisdom; it may be that He will heal me. But, it may be that He wants me to die, for some purpose still known only to Him. Whatever He chooses, I must yield myself to His good pleasure. If faith will heal, I have the faith. We will use every means of medical aid that God has provided, but the outcome is entirely with Him. I would not try to deprive Him of doing with His own what He wills. Should I get well of this disease, I must die at last of something else. Being healed is not the greatest thing in life; being His is the greatest realization of any life. If I die I am sure He will in my death perform His will just as much as He would in healing me. As for my pain, He will supply grace for every hour, and in it will reveal Himself to me more tenderly. While I suffer, He will be able to show the world about me that I still love and trust Him, and in that way my witness will be more convincing. Meanwhile, I hope you and others will see how blessed it is to be in the hands of One who will see to it that all things work together for good to them that love God. He will be with me every moment. I trust Him fully, and I know His grace will be sufficient. Than you again, and may God bless you.”
Why are so many Christians unable to say with any joy, “to die is gain?” Ultimately it is because the first part of the verse isn’t true in their lives. They don’t recognize and find that Christ is the source, the purpose and the joy of their lives. It may only be a lack of consideration. It may be a lack of faith. But it is sin on their part. And yet they are still children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
On the other hand, if you are not a Christian, if Christ is not your life, you are in a dangerous place. Sooner than you imagine, you are going to die and leave this second life. If you haven’t received the Lord’s eternal life, then you will face eternal death. You need the Saviour; you need the One who is “the way, the truth and the life.” No man cometh unto God without the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, I plead with you to humble yourself before God and trust Christ and His shed blood to save you from the penalty your sins demand.