Christ, the Believer's Life!
William Nicholson, 1862
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!" Philippians 1:21
It is an important question to ask ourselves: "For what am I living — and where am I tending?"
Paul derived his greatest bliss from his connection with Christ, and from living to his glory. This he expresses in the context, verse 20-23.
"For me, to live is Christ." That is, while I live, Christ is the life of all my graces and of all my joys. I am his property and servant, and Christ is my portion. And if I die — if I am called to endure martyrdom, this will be my gain, as I shall be saved from the troubles and difficulties of life, and take possession of my heavenly inheritance!
This is the case with a true believer.
I. The grace of Christ, is the principle of the Christian's life."By the grace of God, I am what I am."
It is this which quickens the dead soul. Did it not meet the Apostle when, as a persecutor, he journeyed to Damascus? Did it not turn the raven into a dove — the lion into a lamb? Ephesians 2:1. Did it not transform the persecutor into a Christian, a meek and zealous apostle? "He preached the faith he once destroyed." He formerly sought to murder the saints; but when converted, he said. "God is my witness, how I long after you all in the affections of Christ Jesus!"
The grace of Christ also . . .
maintains spiritual life,
animates all its graces with vigor,
and preserves it from destruction. 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13; 1:6.
II. The dependence of a Christian's hope, is alone on Christ.
The Apostle once trusted in his own righteousness. Once he looked to the law for justification. "Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died!" Romans 7:9. He then saw the law in its spirituality, in its extensive demands. His mind, as irradiated by the Spirit, perceived that his obedience was imperfect. In Christ alone he found his salvation. See Philippians 3:4-10:also Galatians 2:16-21.
Paul's life was one of constant dependence upon Christ. So is the life of every Christian. He lives upon Jesus Christ, by faith and love — from day to day.
What Christ was,
what he did,
what he suffered,
what he taught,
what he purchased,
what he promised —
is the maintenance, the food, the support of his spiritual life, even as physical food is the support of the body.
III. Communion with Christ is the happiness of the Christian's life.Though invisible, the eye of faith sees him; though he speaks not audibly to the natural ear, he whispers by his Spirit to his soul.
The Christian life is one of mental and spiritual fellowship with the Redeemer. In the closet in perusing his word, in the ordinances of God's house in hearing the Gospel — he sees Christ, hears his voice, and feels the attractions of his love. Christ then is the life and joy of his soul. See John 14:23.
This is the very essence of the Christian life, "Our fellowship," etc., 1 John 1:3.
We may as well suppose that two friends, who cordially love one another, can live in the same house, and yet have no conversation, and never see each other — as picture to ourselves a Christian without any communion with Christ.
IV. To serve Christ is the employment of the Christian's life.Paul gloried in the service of Christ, "God, whom I serve with my whole heart" Romans 1:9. To the Church of Corinth, he said, "So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well." 2 Corinthians 12:15. For the Church at Philippi he was willing to suffer martyrdom. "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you!" Philippians 2:17
His servants are those who keep his commandments. They feel that he has a claim to every talent, to every moment, and to all their possessions. In every sphere assigned them by his providence, they labor cheerfully — heartily as unto the Lord.
V. To love Christ is the great engagement of the Christian's affections."We love him — because he first loved us." And Paul felt the mighty influence of Christ's love. "For the love of Christ controls us!" 2 Corinthians 5:14.
The Christian regards Christ as "altogether lovely," as "fairer than the children of men," possessing every divine and moral excellence. He regards him as . . .
the Author and Finisher of his faith,
the foundation of his hope of Heaven,
his divine sin-atoning Substitute,
the Ransomer of his soul, and
his Almighty and everlasting Friend!
He therefore loves him, and says, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26. This love is not merely a profession, but practical in the life.
VI. To be conformed to Christ is the Christian's strongest desire.This is the grand meaning of the Apostle: "To me, to live is Christ." I devote my whole being to him; and through grace, I am conformed to his image. I do not value my existence at all, but as it is consecrated to his glory.
The Christian life consists in its devotedness and conformity to Christ. He "left us an example that we should walk in his steps!"
"Whether I am a preacher," says the godly man, "a statesman, a magistrate, a tradesman, a mechanic, or a gardener; whether I am a master or a servant, in affluence or poverty; whatever my station or lot in life may be — it is the great object of my life to be governed by Christ's precepts, influenced by Christ's Spirit — to exercise the temper, and live to the honor of Christ."
To honor him, I employ my time, my bodily strength, my mental powers, my property, and my influence — as he has directed in his precepts, and by his example.
It is my habitual aim to glorify him who loved me, and gave himself for me. His truth — his cause — his people, are dear to me, and I will seek their advancement in the world.
VII. To be ready for the coming of Christ is the Christian's daily concern."Blessed are those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them!" Luke 12:37
To "be ready" the Christian . . .
clings to Christ,
rests on his finished work, and
keeps faith alive by the use of all appointed means.
He is anxious to have the graces of the Spirit in lively exercise — to be like the "wise virgins who took oil in their vessels with their lamps," Matthew 25:4. If there is a good supply of God's grace in the heart — the lamp of profession will be radiant.
The coming of Christ by death may to some have a somber aspect, but the believer "loves his appearing." He is ever "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ!" Titus 2:13
1. Humility. We have lived more to ourselves, to the world, etc., than to Christ.
2. Prayer. Confession. Petition for forgiveness — for renovation — for strength — that we may live to Christ.
3. Hope. Those who live to Christ will be prepared for death, and they will find death to be gain.