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The Reason We Live - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Philippians 1:18b-26

  • 2004-01-25 AM
  • The Reason We Live
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Well, I invite you to turn to Philippians chapter 1. We're continuing our study of the book of Philippians. We're enjoying ourselves, and having a good time as we go here, trying to plumb the depths of this amazing letter to the church in Philippi. You may remember. It was in late 1960s that a milestone was achieved in the space program in our country; we actually placed men on the moon. You probably still remember where you were on that momentous event, and watching with amazing surprise and excitement and even somewhat national pride as that event occurred. You may not remember, however, that it was just a couple of years before that that another significant activity occurred in the space program, not our own. It was in October 1967 that the Soviet Union launched a space probe designed to crash on the surface of the planet Venus and to send back a variety of scientific data about the planet. And the information that was received back was really quite astounding. In fact, the evidence supported the fact that Venus could support human life. The reason you've not heard much about that in the ensuing years is because the data was eventually found to be wrong. The space probe stopped transmitting 3,774 miles from the center of the planet. That, by Russian calculations, was the surface. And so when it stopped transmitting at that distance, they assumed that it had actually struck the surface of the planet. But in fact, they had miscalculated. They had miscalculated the radius of the planet. So all of the data that they collected was not in fact from the surface of the planet Venus, but was from 15 miles up in its atmosphere. In the same way, I think millions of people think they understand Christianity. They think they're receiving the correct data, when in fact, they are miles from the true heart—the true center—of Christianity.

James Montgomery Boice, before his death, wrote this, "What is Christianity? The answer to that question is not unknown to the believing child of God. Christianity is a person—the Lord Jesus Christ. All that is rightly associated with Christianity finds its center of gravity in Him." John R. Stott put it this way, "The person and work of Christ are the foundation rock on which the Christian religion is built. Take Christ from Christianity and you disembowel it. There is practically nothing left." And then this famous statement, "Christ is the center of Christianity; all else is circumference." For the Christian, the center of our universe should be Jesus Christ. This is so many places clearly stated in the New Testament, but let me just take you to a couple. Turn back to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. Second Corinthians chapter 5. Paul writes, in verse 14, "For the love of Christ [that is, Christ's love for us] controls us [it controls us, it motivates us to service], having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all [that is all of those who come to faith in Christ, and He did so] so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." Christian, the reason you live is not for yourself. Life does not find its center in you. Instead, for the Christian, life is to find its center in Jesus Christ. He is the reason we live. Paul puts it a little differently in Colossians 3:17. He says "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Our faith is about Jesus Christ. And if Jesus Christ is not the focus of your faith, then it's not Christianity that you're involved in. I remember my own epiphany, of sorts, as I was a seminary student. I was sitting in the front of the funeral home that I've told you before I worked in for a short time when I was in seminary. It was a dead night, and, sorry, I shouldn't have said that, and I was sitting up front without any company, and I opened by Bible, and I was torn in my spirit about the fact that my Christianity, my faith, didn't seem to have the same vibrancy that I saw on the pages of the New Testament. And I remember praying before I opened the book of Ephesians, Lord help me to understand—help me to see what–what's different between the faith that I'm pursuing and that of the New Testament letters. And I turned to Ephesians and I remember I was about half way through the first chapter when, it was like the Holy Spirit turned on a light bulb and I understood. You read that first chapter, and over and over and over again it talks about all of the spiritual blessings that we have come to us from God, mediated through Christ. Over and again, it says, in Him we have the spiritual blessings. In Him we are accepted in the beloved. In Him we were chosen before the foundation of the world. And I realized the difference. It was the fact that for Paul, and for those in the New Testament, their faith found its dead center—its complete focus in the person of Jesus Christ. So much of Christianity strays from that center.

The centrality of Jesus Christ is the theme of this next section in Philippians that we're going to be studying together. Starting in the middle of verse 18 and through verse 26, Paul opens up his heart. This is one of the apostle's finer moments. All of us have turned to these verses, I think, many times to find help and comfort and strength in times of trouble. These verses show us Paul's raison d'être. Are you familiar with that French phrase? His reason for living. The reason he lives. It consists of three parts; this purpose of Paul's. Now, remember the purpose of the book of Philippians. Let me back up and remind you a moment; this letter is written as sort of Christianity 101. It's purpose is to help us to think like Christians. And so as Paul is writing to the Philippians, he wants them and us to know that these three priorities which are his should be ours as well. They should be at the core of every Christian's life. And over the next several Sundays, we're going to look at those three priorities that Paul had. Let me read it for you. Beginning in the middle of verse 18, which begins the new section:

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 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. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 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. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

In those few verses, Paul reveals for us his three great ambitions in life. And as we will look at them, they're all about Jesus Christ.

I want us to look at the first of those three great ambitions. It's found in verses 18, the middle of verse 18 through verse 20, and it is simply this. Paul says, my first and great ambition is to live to exalt Jesus Christ. To exalt Jesus Christ. Notice again, verse 18:

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 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.

That is all one very long and complicated sentence in the Greek as it is in the English. Simply put, this is Paul's point: The ambition of your life should be to exalt Jesus Christ. But what does that mean? And how do we set out to live like that? Well, using himself as an example, in these couple of verses that I just read, Paul identifies for us two insights about what it means to live to exalt Jesus Christ. The first is the by-products of living to exalt Christ, and the second insight is the blueprint of living to exalt Jesus Christ. You see, not only does Paul document the wonderful by-products or benefits that come into a life where you're living for Christ, but he also practically lays out a blueprint to help us build that kind of life.

Let's look at these two insights together. The first, the by-products of living to exalt Christ. "Yes and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." Specifically, Paul tells us that there are three by-products that come to those who live their lives to exalt Jesus Christ. The first one is simply this: undiminished joy. Undiminished joy. "Yes, and I will rejoice." Now you'll notice that we're beginning in the middle of a verse. That's because there's a break in the flow of Paul's argument here. You see, the English words translated "yes, and"? When those Greek words occur together, the Greek words that those are translated from, they often start a new section or introduce a fresh point. He's saying something like this: "what is more; let me tell you something else," I will rejoice. You'll also notice in verses 12 through the first part of 18, the verbs are almost all in the present tense. He's talking about his present life and circumstances, but when you come to the middle of verse 18 the tenses change. He begins to talk about the future. I will rejoice. This will turn out for my deliverance. I will not be put to shame. Christ will be exalted. You see, in the first part of verse 18, in talking about his present circumstances, he said, even though I'm in prison, I'm going to rejoice, and I am rejoicing because Christ is being preached, and therefore, people are coming to faith in Christ. The gospel is getting out, and so even though I'm in prison, that's okay; I rejoice. And then he turns to look at the future, and he says "yes, and I will rejoice," regardless of what the future brings. He is completely committed to rejoicing, even if it brings life or death. He's committed to a life of joy regardless of his future. Can you say that? Can you say that, I know that whatever the future brings, even if it means imprisonment and execution, I will live a life of undiminished joy? That kind of joy has to come from outside of your circumstances because our circumstances change every day and we have know idea what the future will bring in terms of circumstances. The reason Paul could remain joyful in spite of his circumstances, in spite of what his future circumstances may bring, was the fact that his life was not based on his own personal happiness. He was completely lost in a cause that was much bigger than his own personal fulfillment, his own personal comfort, his personal prosperity or even his own life. So even if all of those things were taken away from him, he knew that he would still be filled with joy. If you want to have undiminished joy, then give your life away. Live for something more than yourself and your own fulfillment. Live to exalt Jesus Christ. Isn't that what Christ said even in the gospel call in Matthew 16:25 when He said, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

There's a second by-product that living for Christ will produce. Not only undiminished joy, but secondly, unwavering confidence. Unwavering confidence. Notice he says, "for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance." I know—I'm certain—I'm confident—I know it to be a fact. "This" refers to his present circumstances. So he's basically saying this: I know that my present circumstances will turn out for my deliverance. He says, listen, if I'm tried and my message is vindicated and I'm released, then I'll enjoy deliverance. But if I'm found guilty of treason for having another Lord but Caesar, and I'm put to death, then I'll still enjoy deliverance—but into the waiting arms of Jesus Christ. Either way, Paul couldn't lose. He explains how his deliverance will be accomplished. Notice he says, "through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Christ." While Paul believes strongly in God's sovereignty—that God sovereignly ordains His purposes and works those purposes out, he still believed that God accomplished those purposes in response to the prayers of God's people. He was constantly asking the churches to pray for him. And for him, if they prayed for him, that meant they were actually assisting him. I love the expression in 2 Corinthians 1:11 where he says "you join in helping us through your prayers." Paul understood the importance of prayer. In fact, even the Greek grammar of this expression links prayer and provision closely together, so that the provision will only come in response to the prayer. Notice the provision; the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The word "provision" speaks of abundant supply. It's best to understand this as God's abundantly providing the Spirit in answer to the prayer of the Philippians. It's not that the Spirit will supply Paul with whatever he needs. It's that the Spirit is the supply. The Spirit is the provision. And that's very important when you remember what Paul's about to face as he stands before the emperor.

You remember what Christ promised to His followers? Turn to Matthew chapter 10. Matthew chapter 10 verse 16. He said:

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves, but beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in there synagogues, and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say, for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.

Now, this text has been terribly abused through the years by those who don't prepare to teach God's word. That's not what He's saying. He's saying, if you're handed over to secular officials—if you stand in a court where your faith is on trial, then, don't worry about what you're going to say because it will be given you. Verse 20, "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." That's what Paul was hoping for and relying on as he faced this trial. He said, you pray for me, and God will respond to your prayers by giving me the Spirit as a provision. And the Spirit will enable me, as I stand before Caesar, to give an answer for the faith that lies within me. The Spirit will speak through me the truth. He was confident that God would supply him the Spirit.

It's interesting that Paul uses an unusual name for the Spirit. He calls Him the Spirit of Jesus Christ. That's because Paul knows that Christ will be magnified by his life or death only as he is filled with the very Spirit of Christ Himself. Here's the bottom line of what Paul is saying. If you live your life to exalt Jesus Christ, you can have absolute confidence that everything in life, whether it's calm or trouble, whether it's life or death, will only serve to advance the cause you live for. You can have confidence because we're on the winning team. Folks, we've read the last chapter and Christ wins. That's why Paul can say in Romans 8:28, "I know that God will cause all things to work together for good for those who love Christ, and who are the called according to His purpose." Paul can face an uncertain future and yet still be confident about one thing. Whatever happens, it will further the cause of Jesus Christ. It will further the reason He lives. You see, if you live for Christ, then you know that what happens to you is in Christ's control, and you know that He will use whatever happens to advance His plan and His cause. That brings confidence. If you live to exalt Jesus Christ, there is absolutely no way that your life can be wasted.

That brings us to the third by-product of living to exalt Jesus Christ. Not only undiminished joy, unwavering confidence, but ultimate vindication. Ultimate vindication. I know this will turn out, he adds, "for my deliverance." That's interesting. That entire phrase is quoted verbatim by Paul from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Those words occur exactly in Job 13:16. Literally, it says this in the Greek text, "This for me will turn out unto salvation." Now, why would Paul allude back to Job 13 as he's dealing with this issue in his life? Well, here's the point of similarity. Job 13 contains one of Job's most poignant speeches. You remember, he's responding to his three friends. With friends like that, who needs enemies? But his friends are insisting that his situation is because of some hidden sin. Because he has a hidden life of shame. And Job knows that's not true. And so, he longs to plead his case with God. The key word in both Job 13:16 and in Philippians 1:19 is the word translated in the New American Standard "deliverance." It's the normal Greek word for salvation. It usually refers to the final deliverance of a believer when he stands before God and he's delivered from the coming wrath of God and he's endowed with divine glory. But some say, here, this word simply refers to Paul's being released from prison. I think that's probably even what the New American Standard translators have in mind when they translated "deliverance." But I don't think that's what he has in mind, and I'll show you why. Paul knows he will be delivered—notice the end of verse 20—whether he lives or whether he dies. So it can't mean just release from prison. Whatever "deliverance" means, it must include both the possibility of life and the possibility of death. We'd get a clue as to what it means if we'd look at the context in Job. The way the word "deliverance" or "salvation" is used in Job 13:16, it means to be vindicated before God. In fact verse 18 of Job 13 says, "Behold, I have prepared my case. I know that I will be vindicated." So here's what Paul is saying. Whether I live or whether I die, whether I'm freed or whether I'm executed, I will be vindicated. It describes the fact that whether or not it's acknowledged here, there will come a day when there will be God's final vindication of the reason Paul lived. Paul knows that whether in this life, by a "not guilty" verdict before Caesar, or in the judgment, his life, his ministry, his reason for living, his raison d'être, will be vindicated by God Himself. How could Paul be so confident? How could Paul be so confident that he would stand before God and God would vindicate all that he lived for? It's because what Paul lived for is the very purpose of God Himself.

Let me show you this. Turn to several passages. Let's start at Psalm 2. I want you to see that God is out to exalt His Son, and therefore, Paul knew that if he lived for that purpose, he would be vindicated, because that's what God has set out to do as well. Notice Psalm 2:6,

But as for me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.[referring to Christ] (And then Christ says) 'I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, You are My Son, today I have begotten You, ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like clay pots.'

God's purpose is to install His Son as King over the whole universe, and for every tongue to confess and every knee to bow before Him. That's God's purpose. You see this in so many places. Let me just have you turn to a couple of others. Romans chapter 14. Romans 14:8,"…if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might become Lord both of the dead and of the living." Verse 11, "For it is written, AS I LIVE, DECLARES YAHWEH, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD." God is about exalting His Son. He's about lifting up His Son, and so Paul knew that if that was the purpose of his life—if that's the reason he lived—then someday that would be vindicated because that is what God Himself is accomplishing in the world. He sets this forth in clear terms in Ephesians chapter 1. Yesterday, those who were with us, we saw that these early verses of Ephesians 1 are all about the purpose or will of God. Notice what His will is, :verse 8, "In all wisdom and insight he made known to us the mystery of His will," God's made known to us what was not formerly known but now is revealed—this mystery of His will—what is it? Verse 10, "that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth." God's purpose is to bring everything in the universe under Jesus Christ. We see it in the book that we're studying. Philippians chapter 2—those famous verses—after Paul describes the self-emptying of Christ and how He was willing to become a servant, he says this in Philippians 2:9, "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name." What is that name? It's Lord. "so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." There's the eternal purpose of God for mankind—that all mankind, whether in grace or in judgment would fall before Jesus Christ and acknowledge Him to be who He really is. Paul knew that, someday, his purpose for living would be vindicated because it was God's own purpose, to exalt His Son. Listen, folks, in this world, your spouse, your parents, your children, your family, your friends, your co-workers may question your commitment to Christ. They may even ridicule you for living your life to exalt Jesus Christ, but you will be ultimately vindicated. Just as Noah's 120-year boat project was vindicated the day the rain began to fall. If you live to magnify Jesus Christ, it will produce the by-products of undiminished joy, unwavering confidence, and ultimate vindication.

But what exactly does it mean "to live for Christ"? What does it mean? Well, Paul provides us with a second insight in this passage, and that is the blueprint of living to exalt Christ. He gives us the plans on which to build our lives. Notice verse 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." If I could paraphrase verses 18 and 19, it would be something like this: Paul says I'm going to continue to rejoice because I know that my present circumstances will turn out to vindicate me. A day is coming when what I believe, the reason I live, will be vindicated. And I know that, but my knowledge is also confirmed by my earnest expectation and hope. It's not only what I know, but it's what I want more than anything else. The Greek word translated "earnest expectation" is a very interesting word. It appears only here and in Romans 8:19 in the New Testament, where it's translated "anxious longing." As one writer describes it, it means "the concentrated intense hope which ignores other interests and strains forward with an outstretched head." The picture is of a marathon runner who's run for over twenty miles with runners right at his heels, and now he's only a few yards from the prize—only a few yards from victory. And as he sees that victory line coming, and as he realizes defeat is still possible with the runners close behind, he stretches himself to the fullest extent possible and he strains every muscle forward and nothing distracts him—nothing turns his eye away from the goal. That's how Paul said he pursued exalting Jesus Christ. That's the single minded devotion that we are to give to exalting Jesus Christ. Notice Paul adds to the phrase "my earnest expectation," "hope." Now, rather than seeing those words separately, it's best to see this expression as what grammarians call a "hendiadys." It's simply combining two words and creating a new single thought. It's like our English expression, "sick and tired." I shared this with the group yesterday. When you say you're sick and tired—when your mom said that as you were growing up—she didn't mean she was sick, and she didn't mean she was tired. She meant she was sick-and-tired. That those two words joined together took on a totally different meaning, and that's what Paul's doing here. He's combining earnest expectation and hope. We could translate it like this: It is my certain anxious longing. This is what I live for. This is what compels me. This is what is most important to me. Together, these describe the ambition of his life. He's about to describe the compelling motive for which he lives, and he puts it in the form of a contrast. First, he describes it negatively. He said, this is what I live for. This is my ambition. This is the thing I strain with every muscle to achieve, not looking at either side. This is the earnest expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in anything. At first reading, that seems an odd thing to say, doesn't it? But you have to remember that that phrase is informed by how it's used in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, it refers to being ashamed before God. So this shame has nothing to do with public opinion. Paul doesn't care what people think about him. Instead, his great ambition in life is that when he stands before God, he will not be ashamed. Paul's driving concern is not that he be released. And that it's not that if he must die it be quick and painless. What dominates his mind as he sits in prison is that he do nothing of which he would be ashamed when he stands before his Lord.

And then he states his desire positively. This is my earnest expectation and hope. This is what I strive for. This is what I pursue—that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. The main verb and the driving point—the core of this sentence is "will be exalted." The Greek word that's translated "exalted" is, and you'll recognize a portion of it, megaluno. It means "to make great." To declare to be great. To show to be great. Now, obviously, we can't make Christ great. The emphasis here is that we should so live that Christ would be shown to be and declared by others to be great. When we praise God, as we did this morning with our words, we declare Him to be great. When we live according to His words, our behavior shows our Christ to be great. Paul wants Christ to be magnified. That's how this word is sometimes translated. Magnified. This last week I did some reading on the principles of magnification. It's really interesting. A microscope and a telescope operate on very similar principles, but are greatly different. A microscope magnifies things that are small and makes them appear larger than they are. That's how most people spend their lives. Giving their lives to things that are really small but trying to make them seem larger. But a telescope simply allows us to see, and to see more detail and grandeur of those things that appear small to us but, in reality, are vast beyond our imagination. If you've ever taken a telescope and trained it on a star in the night sky; that small dot on the horizon becomes in a powerful enough telescope a small circle that shows you the surface of a star or a planet. But what you see is only a fraction of the reality. Christians are, in essence, to be telescopes. Not to make Christ larger and more impressive than he is, but we're simply to allow the naked eye to capture, in slightly better vividness, just a faint glimpse of His true greatness—of His true glory. That's what Paul means when he says that he wants to magnify Christ. He wants people, through his life, through his words, through his actions to see Christ—not as great as He really is—but to get a little better glimpse, to understand a little more of the greatness and a little more of the glory of who Jesus Christ is.

But how can we show Christ great? How can we magnify Christ? Paul attaches several phrases that, I think, fill out this concept and show us how we can actually magnify Christ. The first phrase is "in all boldness." We can magnify or exalt Christ by speaking up. The word "boldness" means outspokenness. It is speech that conceals nothing and passes over nothing. Paul is referring here to boldness at his upcoming trial. He wants to speak up—to magnify Christ when he's before the dignitaries of Rome. He wants to be able to speak out without holding anything back, the truth about Jesus Christ. Well, we need boldness to speak up for Christ in everyday life. Listen, folks, one of the chief ways you and I can magnify or exalt Jesus Christ is just by speaking up. Is just by telling people about Christ. By showing others your commitment to Christ. By talking about Him and how much you admire Him, and what He has done in your life. Christ put this in pretty somber terms in Matthew's gospel—chapter 10. Matthew chapter 10 verse 32, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." You want to exalt Jesus Christ? You want to magnify Him in your life? Then start by speaking up. Let it be know about your love for Christ just as you let it be known about your love for things of the world—sports, cars—whatever it is that you get excited about.

There's a second phrase. We can magnify Christ by being consistent. Notice what he says. "Even now, as always." Literally the Greek text says "as always, even now.". You see, since Paul's conversion he had seen exalting Christ to be his purpose in life. I love the fact that right after his conversion, he begins this immediately. In Acts chapter 9 and verse 19, shortly after Ananias came and talked to him after the event there on the Damascus Road, verse 19, "and he took food and was strengthened." Now, for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues saying He is the Son of God. Paul says, listen, it started at the very beginning. "As always, even now." Paul had considered this to be his purpose in life. Folks, you want to exalt Jesus Christ? You want to lift Him up? Then just consistently do it. Consistently show your faithfulness to Jesus Christ. As always, even now, and into the future show this as your goal in life. You see, this is not a hobby—it's a career. It's not a passing interest—it's a lifetime pursuit.

There's a third phrase that sort of fills out our understanding, tells us how we can magnify Christ, and that is by never quitting. Notice what he says. "That Christ may be magnified in my body." That means, while he's present in his earthly body. If you notice in verse 22 and verse 24, he uses the expression "in the flesh" and that's compared to being dead. So as long as he was in this body he wanted to remain faithful to this singular purpose—to glorify Christ. He's saying, I don't ever want to quit. As long as I'm in the body—as long as I'm connected to this flesh, I want my purpose in life to be to exalt Jesus Christ. So many Christians end poorly. They begin well but they end poorly. My prayer for all of us, and for myself, is that God would help us to end well. To go through all of life being committed to Christ. And when we do that, we exalt—we magnify—Christ because we show others that regardless of what comes—whether it be trouble or whether it be joy, through everything that life brings, to the very end and through the process of death itself, we can magnify Christ. That He's sufficient, that He is all that he claimed to be, and that all that we've claimed Him to be.

He adds a fourth phrase that I think helps us understand how we can practically magnify Christ. He says, the end of verse 20, "by life or by death." He wants to exalt Christ in whatever circumstances Christ chooses. Whatever it means to me, he says, I want Christ to be exalted. It would be like us saying this, "Lord, if you want to heal me or take my life. If you want to give me long life or die as a martyr, if you want me to live in prosperity in Texas, or in poverty in Uganda, I just want Christ to be exalted." Although Paul expects to be released; we'll see that in verses 24 and 25, that's not what matters to him. Paul isn't after release. He's not trying to get out from under what God has put him in. He just wants Christ to be exalted regardless of what it costs. Let me ask you a question. What's more important to you? To have the life and circumstances you want—to have comfort, family, the joys of living, fulfilling job, or for Christ to be magnified? We got a phone call this last week about an old acquaintance. In 1976, this man started on a project that he has just completed. For the last 28 years, he's been building with his own hands his dream house. It's consumed his time and his energy. It's drained his resources, but finally, he and his wife are scheduled to move in next month after 28 years of tears, toil, and sweat. But the phone call was to tell us that a few days ago, he sat down in a chair in his living room to take a nap and he never woke up. As I thought about that man, I thought there is a parable of how most people live their lives. They spend their lives pursuing their own goals, and frankly rarely even get to fully enjoy those, and then they turn around, and life is gone. They've frittered away their time, their talent, their resources, on something that will just be burned up some day. Folks, don't waste your life. If you'll commit yourself to live to exalt Christ then nothing will diminish your joy. Nothing will undermine your confidence. And ultimately your aim and your goal for living will be vindicated when you stand before Christ. There was a phrase that I remember reading in a number of places as I was growing up, and you probably did as well. And it said this, "Only one life 'twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last."

Let's pray together. Father, forgive us for wasting our lives on temporary and unimportant things. Lord, I pray that you will help us to get the heartbeat and the passion of this man. Thank You for Paul. Thank You for the example that he is to us. Lord, I pray that You would give us a single-minded purpose to live to exalt Jesus Christ. Lord, I pray for those who might be here this morning who don't live to exalt Christ, and even as we've opened Your word this morning, they've seen themselves as outside of Your mercy and grace; as standing guilty before you, without hope, without any help. Lord, I pray that this morning they would turn to Jesus Christ and embrace Him as Lord and Savior. Lord, that they would cry out in repentance toward You and faith in Your Son and to begin a life of exalting Christ, even as Paul did from the very day that he turned in faith to Christ. May that be true even today, we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

The Reason We Live