Philippians 1:21 (ESV) — 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
In this remarkable phrase, the apostle Paul sums up what it means to live life as a Christian: to die for gain. That’s it. To live the life of a Christian is to live in such a way that dying is actually gain. Here’s the rest of what he says about living for Christ:
1. to live Christ means to exalt Christ in everything we do
Look at what he said in verse 20: “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 honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.”
This is just another way of stating the great goal of the Christian life, which is to glorify God by everything we are and do.
To glorify God means to make God look good, as He truly is.
We find a similar sentiment in Job 13:16
Job 13:16 (ESV) — 16 This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him.
In that story, Job was suffering and he was on trial by his “friends” who were saying that God was punishing him because of sin. Job had lost his whole family and all of his belongings had become sick and he wanted to be “saved” from being found to be a hypocrite. That in spite of all that he had suffered, God was still the one to follow and trust in. So, Paul perhaps is reminded of that story and recognises that the Philippian church are praying for his salvation, not spiritual, but being saved from denying Christ and disgracing the gospel at his trial before Caesar.
And so, even in terrible hardship, Paul’s goal was to magnify Jesus.
2. to live Christ means that He becomes our all in all
One of the things we have seen as we have journeyed through the book of Romans is that the thing that enables us to make Christ our all is that we were the object of God’s love. Because of that we are now alive to God in Christ
Romans 6:10–11 (ESV) — 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
one of the other things we are learning is that although this is our true standing before God we have to continue to grow in our experience of the reality of that standing so that each and every day we are living in fellowship with Christ, communing with Him and depending on Him for everything. This means growing to know Christ intimately
Colossians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Every person who professes Christ as Saviour must grapple with the question, “Is the thing you’re living for – the thing worth dying for? Is Jesus really what you want?“
3. To live Christ means to die to selfish desire in order to serve others for Jesus’ sake
This is what Paul writes in verse 22:
22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard-pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
So this is not an easy decision. Why is it so hard? Because life is hard! The prospect of departing from the pain, suffering, and hardship of earthly life in order to be with Christ is clearly better and who wouldn’t want that? Let’s be honest … If anyone deserved a break, it was Paul! His desire was to depart but he also knew that others needed his ministry. So he was willing to deny his desires for the sake of serving others for Christ’s sake. The obvious implication is that if you’re not denying self in order to serve Christ, you are not “living Christ you’re living for self.