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The Purpose of Every Person
To live is Christ, to die is gain–Philippians 1:21
Have you ever felt out of place? Guys, you accidentally walk into a women’s restroom? Or gals, you look up and all you see is a bunch of urinals? I’ve walked into a social gathering and felt like I was chocolate on steak, or Ragu on watermelon–I just didn’t belong. It wasn’t a fit. Even in ministry, I remember some gatherings where I felt like the cat in a room full of Rottweilers.
All of you have had an “oil & water” experience. Your first choice with your major at college, or now your place of employment–just not a fit. My dad was a Depression era child and chose to be a bread man/salesman to provide for his family, because he thought people would always want bread. But I really believe he should’ve been a chemistry teacher.
He was an incredible teacher and loved chemistry so much–he’d tell us what elements actually made up the food we had on our plates at the dinner table. He’d tell us what was in the potatoes, and if they were prepped a little differently they could ignite and actually destroy the house. “Eat up, son.”
Sometimes certain career choices just don’t fit us. Usually a leather-bound Harley Davidson biker doesn’t make a good hair stylist–you know, pull and cut. Would you agree, Rod Shackelford would not make a good modern dance teacher? That paints an ugly picture. A French master chef has no place working as the pipe cleaner at the sewage maintenance plant.
The problem with all of those is this—they don’t fit. They’re pursuing the wrong purpose. I’d like to suggest there are many Christians struggling with the same dilemma. Like a professional ballerina trying to function as a jackhammer operator, many Christians have adopted the wrong purpose, an incorrect focus and a lower motivation in life. Which is so sad, since many believers are not fulfilled, not passionate nor joyful, and very distracted. They’re pursuing the wrong purpose. Are you one?
What’s so difficult is we don’t recognize we’re living by the wrong purpose. We don’t know our own heart. Even though we have the right answers and can quote Bible verses as to our purpose in life, we don’t always see that our own motives are wrong. What I’m saying is this–many Christians are living by the wrong purpose and they don’t know it, even though it robs them of abundant joyful living.
Understand, I’m not talking about ministry, doing more, giving more, joining a community group, using your giftedness, having longer devotions or attending church. I am talking about why you live your Christian life–why you are really here today? Hopefully you’re asking, “What is my purpose, and how can I know whether I am living it or not?”
Open your Bibles to Philippians 1:21 and follow along with your outline. At this point in Philippians 1, Paul’s been telling us how his current situation is magnifying God. Even while Paul’s under house arrest, verses 12 to 14, God’s had Paul share the Gospel with the future leaders of Rome, which God has chained to Paul 24 hours a day.
God used Paul’s jail-time to encourage the Roman believers to be even bolder in their witness to the lost in Rome. Though some Roman Christians are preaching Christ from a self-centered motive, verses 15 to 18, Paul rejoices because the true Gospel of transforming grace has been proclaimed. As we arrive at verse 19, Paul exposes his own motives as he talks about his future–a future which will either result in his release and more fruitful ministry or his condemnation and death.
Yet do you see Paul’s heart attitude in verse 18? Paul’s rejoicing while he’s experiencing a difficult house arrest, and he declares, will still be rejoicing no matter what his uncertain future holds. But how can Paul rejoice if beheading is a strong possibility? Answer? Paul has the right purpose. He’s not a bricklayer trying to be a bridal consultant–read his purpose aloud in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Here’s Paul’s life purpose, and the motives of his heart. And be warned, as Paul reveals his heart and describes his purpose, the Word of God will do some powerful work in our hearts. These words will remind all of us who are gutting out our obedience what the true motivation behind our obedience to God’s Word really is.
For example, any here who sang with a drifting mind and a half heart, any here who place nothing or loose change in the offering plate because they’re afraid of what others might think, any who hear God’s Word but immediately forget it will be encouraged to regain the heart of their faith.
All of us who minister, yet find ourselves more concerned with others doing more instead of Christ shining through us first, then seeing Christ manifested even in the smallest way in those we minister to will be convicted about drifting away from their main calling. Those without Christ this morning will understand what Christianity is really all about and see why they’ve seen so little of the real thing.
Those of us who’re hurting will find comfort. Any addicted to some sin will find hope. And those of us who’ve let our flame for Christ grow cold will be warmed back to a genuine relationship. Maybe you are sinking under little growth, not much spiritual passion, misdirected priorities, root sin issues going unchecked and little change. Philippians 1:21 is a lifeline. This is the message FBC needs to hear right now in the new year. I am asking God to make this a new beginning for every Christian here. This is not for someone else–this is for you.
Do you know your purpose and are you living it? Do you know why you attend worship, why you give, serve, fellowship, sing and obey the Word of God? Do you know why you work at your marriage, parent your children and live with integrity in the world? Do you know why you can’t seem to overcome certain sins? The Bible will tell us today by redirecting our lives back to our true and only purpose.
Each one of us has drifted at one time or another from our purpose. And we will continue to wander from it while in this life. I stand before you as someone who is “prone to wander, Lord I feel it.” The less mature wander more readily, the more mature wander less–but if any of us want to find true fulfillment, complete security, unfathomable love, joy inexpressible, certain hope, and genuine peace we must recommit ourselves to our true purpose.
If you’re willing, please allow God’s non-optional, absolute, never wrong Word–like a scalpel to cut you open in three ways. I will seek to be as loving and gracious as possible. And I believe as you allow the Holy Spirit to work this morning, He will bless you incredibly. Ready? Surgical cut number one . . .
#1 Examine your MOTIVES carefully
Paul begins verse 21 with, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In the Greek text, “to me” begins the sentence–it’s called being emphatic. This is how the Greek emphasizes something. “To me, to live is Christ” is literally saying “to me”–Paul means, “as far as I personally am concerned.”
There were others in Rome who were preaching Christ from false motives. Paul told us in verse 15 and 17, some were ministering out of a motive of envying Paul, and out of selfish ambition to exalt themselves. But Paul emphatically says, “not me—to me even living in jail under the threat of death is Christ. These are my motives. This is my heart. I’m not interested in self but the Savior, not advancement but the advocate, not cash but Christ, not pride but my purpose.
Many years back we left an Oregon beach, walked about a mile to the parking lot with some friends, only to discover that Matthew was not with our friends. We’d left him back at the beach. It’s amazing what kind of clarity you get in a moment like that. Nothing else mattered. All the pleasures of a shower, a Pepsi, dinner or eclair for dessert didn’t matter until I found my boy safe in my arms.
No discomfort mattered. I was tired, beat, sandy and sore–but I ran back down the trail with a sprained ankle just to find him. Once I had Matt back, then I could enjoy the rest of life. Paul says being shipwrecked, snake bit, and placed under house arrest while being chained 24 hours a day to an elite Roman guard doesn’t bother me.
Plus, being out of church planting work for 4+ years while others are free to preach, some who want to discredit me—none of that matters compared to having Christ. Christ is my life, my delight and my satisfaction. When Paul says, “for me,” Paul is saying, “Because I have Christ, none of my trials matter.”
God stripped all external ministry away from Paul. Paul is old. Paul is tired. Paul’s been in prison for four years. He says he’s ready to go on to Heaven. They’ve taken everything away from him. They’ve taken away his friends, they’ve taken away his church planting ministry, they’ve taken away his freedom, they’ve even taken away his privacy–he can’t even go to the bathroom on his own. They’ve taken every single thing away from Paul except the one thing that can’t be taken away from him, nor taken away from you–Christ.
Paul had great joy, was totally content, and viewed his potential death as an advantage because he had Christ. Do you treasure Christ the same? In ministry, are you more concerned about what others think of you or what they think of Christ? Is it more important for the people you minister to to do more like Martha, or to enjoy Christ more like Mary?
Is your focus to make your children obedient to the commands of Christ, or for them to see the truth, life, and obedience of Christ through you? In worship, are you here merely to learn more facts about the Bible, fill out a sermon outline, or to delight in Christ as you learn more about Him? In life, Paul could rejoice in the midst of terribly unjust situations and painful trials because he says, “My motives are not about me–I’m not full of selfish ambition. No, to me, to live is Christ.” But you say, “Exactly what does Paul mean when he says, ‘To live is Christ’”? Look at surgical cut number two.
#2 Evaluate the PURPOSE of your life
Verse 21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Why are you alive? Christ. What is real life? Christ. What is the essence of Christian living? Christ. Paul doesn’t say, “To live is doing for Christ, giving to Christ, or speaking about Christ.” He says, “To live is Christ.” Paul says, “I’m joyful because my purpose is a person.” Say that with conviction, “My purpose is a person.”
This is God’s purpose for every person, yet we all know how those without Christ and even those of us with Christ drift toward other purposes. How would you, your children or friends (Christian and non-Christian) fill in this blank? “For me to live is [blank].” How would you fill that in? If you look at the ads on television, you know what the values are in our society. Based on advertising, I’d have to say most Americans would fill in the blank, “For me to live is [blank]” in three ways.
Some people would say, “For me to live is POSSESSIONS.” Get all you can. Can all you get. Sit on the can. Spoil the rest. Get, get, get. Buy my product for ultimate happiness and total bliss. The problem in my life, and why I’m so miserable, is this—“I don’t use Scope!” Or, I don’t eat Grape Nuts. It’s as if we can purchase happiness.
We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t even like. Can you see how foolish that is? For me to live is possessions. Some couples kill themselves to get a house, car, and toys in order to have now what took their parents a lifetime to accumulate.
Or worse, in order to keep up with the VanderBucks. Just about the time I catch up with the VanderBucks, the VanderBucks refinance–then I’m in trouble again. The Beatles sang it, “Money can’t buy me love.” But money can’t buy me happiness either. “For me to live is possessions” is an empty purpose.
The second big answer you’d find in our society–many people would say, “For me to live is PLEASURE.” If it feels good, what? Do it! Indulge yourself. Anything to relieve the boredom in my life. Go on vacation, go to the cabin at the lake, go boating, snowmobiling, go to a sporting event, watch TV, go to a movie, go out to eat–anything, anywhere to relieve my boredom for one little moment. But Monday morning when I go back to work, life is still the pits. Pleasure doesn’t last. For me to live is possessions or pleasure is empty.
Many people in America answer this third one this way, “For me to live, is power, position, PRESTIGE. We dress for success. We drive to impress. We pay for our power lunch with our prestige card because image is everything. When riding their bikes, your kids would often call out to you and say, “Dad, watch me, watch me do this.”
I see adults doing that exact thing all the time. Watch me! Watch me in my new car. Watch me cause of the clothes I wear. Watch me with my video game, or the newest electronic toy, watch me! For me, to live is prestige.
Students might say, for me to live is POPULARITY. I’ll do anything to fit into this group, even if it means disobeying God’s Word. I don’t care what it takes, I want to be popular. The problem is, you could be the most popular person on your campus. Graduate, come back two years later and nobody will remember you–it doesn’t last. One minute you’re the hero, the next minute you’re the zero.
The problem with possession, pleasure and prestige, the Big 3 is they don’t last. They don’t last a lifetime much less last an eternity. There’s no ultimate fulfillment–if that were true, then the people with the most possessions would be the most joyful. The people who had the most pleasurable experiences would be the happiest. And the most famous or powerful would be the most content—and that’s just not true.
Ultimately, true Christians do not pursue possessions, pleasure or prestige as our purpose. But we sure can get sidetracked, can’t we? We say, “I put Christ in the blank–for to me to live is Christ.” But honestly, it is “for me to live is Christ PLUS wealth, pleasure or power.” We want it all–Christ plus the world’s goodies. And as a result, we lose our joy.
Others say, “For me to live is my kids, my spouse, my ministry.” Okay, so I’m not supposed to live for those things. What does Paul mean when He says to live is Christ? How can our purpose be a person? Again, Paul doesn’t say to live is to do for Christ, give to Christ or serve Christ, but he literally says, “to be living is Christ.” I believe I can best summarize what Paul means to say to us in two main ways.
First To live is Christ is to live by FAITH in relationship to Christ
Sure, Chris, we know that–we live by faith in Christ. “To live is Christ” means depending on Christ alone to be forgiven now and go to Heaven later, yet I’ve noticed the tendency for people to try to earn their salvation and make up their own form of salvation not found in the Word of God. Or worse, replace true salvation with some external action of Christianity like professing a decision, being baptized, reforming their morals, or conforming to rules.
But Jesus said salvation was coming from Him. And the Lord defines salvation as knowing Him. In John 17:3 Jesus says it this way. “This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” Salvation by grace through faith is a dependent personal relationship, not a religion or a system of rules.
Faith in Christ means you depend upon Him to save you and reject any efforts on your part to save yourself–and that heart of dependent faith continues on as a Christian. “To live is Christ” means depending on Christ alone to live ordinary, everyday life and to live godly in every aspect of your life.
Yet you know how easy it is for church attendance, praying at meals, having devotions, placing a fish sticker on your car, living moral at work and not driving like a maniac (how easy that is) to replace simple, genuine dependence on the person of Christ. Will you admit it? We can all go through the motions of doing our Christianity with no dependent faith on Christ.
We can go through the motions of Christianity, without any thought of Christ at all. Instead of hungering and thirsting for Christ in loving dependent faith, we sing songs, give, serve and talk to each other in our own strength. You know Galatians 2:20? “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”
The life I live in this body I live by faith in Christ who loves me–a love relationship. “To live is Christ” means living in a dependent, loving, faith relationship with Christ in all of life–at church, home, at work and at school.
Beware of moving from relationship to the routine, from the true guts to the gimmicks. We are in constant danger of moving away from Christ to Christianity, from relationship to religion. To be living is Christ, means to live in a dependent faith relationship with Christ everyday with everything–which leads to . . .
Second To live is Christ, is to find your SATISFACTION in Christ
The Stones sang, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” because they didn’t believe what Paul said in verse 21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Living is Christ, but dying is a gain? How come? Paul tells us this later in verse 23, “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.”
Why is death, our departure, “very much better”? Death is a gain simply because our death means enjoying greater intimacy with Christ. Paul is telling the Philippians, who are worried about whether he’s going to live or die as he is under house arrest in Rome, that he values Christ more than life, and he values Christ more than death.
Look at what Paul said at the end of verse 20. His purpose in life was that “Christ shall even now as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” True worship for Paul was exalting/magnifying Christ, whether he lived or whether he died. Paul desired to be the lens for the world to see Christ better. Why?
Christ was Paul’s gain, his advantage, his genuine satisfaction. It wasn’t merely Paul’s duty to exalt Christ, it was his pleasure. It wasn’t merely a decision to exalt Christ, it was Paul’s delight. Paul saw his purpose in life was to magnify Christ, and his motive for doing so was that Christ was his satisfaction, his gain, both in death and in life.
Later in chapter 3:8, Paul says gaining Christ is not merely an advantage in dying but an advantage in living. “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.” Paul says my purpose in life and death is to gain Christ.
As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Paul doesn’t say to live is doing for Christ, serving Christ, giving to Christ, or praying to Christ–Paul says living is Christ Himself and dying is even better. Christ is the treasure I seek and the purpose of my existence. My purpose is a person.
Paul’s point to the Philippians is not to be overly concerned for him, because whether Paul lives or dies, both options are opportunities to exalt, literally magnify, Christ–to reveal and express His greatness. And this will occur with Paul, whether he lives or dies, because his purpose in life is Christ. Paul has a heart which treasures Christ as gain.
Christ is his delight. He is satisfied with Christ, prizing Christ above all. So living is an opportunity to enjoy Christ, and dying is even a greater opportunity to enjoy Christ. And as I enjoy Christ, I will magnify Him to the world. Let the surgical cut expose your heart this morning and ask, “What is my purpose? Is it a person?” Is your heart given to cherishing Christ above all? Look at three practical tests.
1 To evaluate your purpose, look at your MINISTRY to your CG, ministry, children or to students
What do you desire from them? That they would DO more in ministry, participate in more programs, or do you want them to learn how to prize Christ more than anyone or anything? Ask yourself, what are you trying to cultivate in their lives–the duty of a Martha for Christ, or the delight of a Mary with Christ?
2 To evaluate your purpose, look at your PARENTING
Skip the discussion of pushing your kids so hard for grades, and involving your students in sports so much they have no time for the Lord or the things of the Lord. Ask yourself what you want from your children–external conformity to the commands of Christ, prayer at the table and a Bible cracked on Sunday? Or are you seeking to develop a heart in your children that delights in Christ. They only will when they see you delight in Christ–when Christ is your satisfaction.
3 To evaluate your purpose, look at your WORSHIP
Why are you here? Are you fulfilling a duty on Sunday, or are you coming to be delighted in God’s presence? Are you trying to give God something, or coming to receive from the only One who can satisfy? Are you seeking to be entertained, or to hunger after Christ? You and I are to come saying Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.”
Nothing magnifies God better than when a church is utterly persuaded that nothing–not possessions, pleasure or prestige, not family, marriage, or friendships, not health, hobbies or hunting, nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their aching hearts beside God Himself. They don’t see songs, prayers or sermons as duties, but as a means of delighting in Christ as gain. They may even show up early because their hearts desire Christ so much.
We don’t worship to raise money, attract crowds, heal human hearts, recruit workers or improve church morale. We don’t worship to give talented musicians a platform, nor preachers a place to teach. We don’t worship to help marriages, evangelize the lost, cultivate a family feeling or motivate people to serve. We worship to delight in Christ alone. Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves.
I can’t say to Jean, my wife, “I really do cherish you, honey–so you will make me a nice meal.” That’s not the way delight works. True delight terminates on her. It does not have a nice meal in view. Our goal with Christ is the same. We come to delight in Him and let Him take care of the results. Authentic delight in God, this kind of true worship, will have a hundred good effects on the life of our church.
Those good things will automatically happen when we delight in God alone. But they’re not our purpose–they are just the result. Our goal in worship is Christ. Our purpose here is a person. We seek to savor, treasure and be satisfied in Christ alone. Your purpose in ministry is a person. Your purpose in parenting is a person. Your purpose in worship is a person. Your purpose at home, work, play and school is a person. Do you find your satisfaction in Christ? For only when you do, can you accept surgical cut number three.
#3 Embrace the advantage of ETERNITY
Verse 21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Now by saying death is gain, Paul is not suicidal–he’s just saying, “I’m anticipating what’s ahead. I’m not afraid of dying–I’m already a friend of the Lord’s, I’ve been born again and made into a child of God, which means that death is just a transfer for me, from Earth to Heaven. Death is actually a promotion, from this place to the place of perfection.
The word gain is a banking term. Gain here is a single act of cashing in both principle and interest so as to have more of Christ than when we were living. Death is going on to better things. I get out of this rotten prison and this broken body. I get to be freed from not only the penalty of sin and the power of sin, but now in Heaven I’m freed from the presence of sin.
To die is gain, because my satisfaction is Christ, which means living is an opportunity to enjoy Christ and dying is a bonus, for death means immediate and unhindered enjoyment of Christ forever. Paul says, “I’m not just looking for the here and now. There is more to life than cars, stereos, nice homes, friends, sex or the latest electronic toy.”
Only a fool would go all through life unprepared for something he knows will certainly happen–that’s death. People rarely deal with death today. We don’t talk about it. The only time we face death is when friend or family is diagnosed as having a terminal illness. I’ll let you in on a secret–everybody here in this room has a terminal illness.
Have you ever noticed insurance people don’t even like to admit the certainty of death? They say, “Just suppose you were to pass on.” Friends, there’s no supposition about it. One day I’m going to pass on–I just don’t know the timeframe. Paul says, “I’m living in light of eternity. I have a purpose to live for–finding my satisfaction in Christ.”
If it were ministry for Paul, he’d not be rejoicing now as his ministry is limited in prison. If it were church or family, he’d be depressed since all that has been taken away from him. But no matter whether Paul is in prison or released, he rejoices because his purpose is delighting in Christ. As he lives on, he will delight in Christ and if he dies, then that will only mean greater joy as he delights in Christ perfectly in person forever.
Men and women, these surgical cuts were meant to fill you with joy. Christ is the hunger of the Christian’s heart, and Christ wants you to be filled. Christ is the only real satisfaction in life or death, and Christ wants you satiated. Christ is the only one who can mend your hurts and replace your sins, and He calls you to pursue ultimate happiness and joy that are found in Him alone.
The purpose of every person here is Christ. For a few, to find your purpose, the first step is, by faith, to exchange all that you are for all that Christ is–to give your life to Christ. To trust He took the punishment you deserved on the cross for your sins. That He rose from the dead and is alive today to give you a new life now and eternal life forever in bliss.
For those of us who have Christ, today is the day to repent and recommit ourselves to our true purpose–which is our happiness. That’s right, our joy, our satisfaction, our delight–and that is Christ Himself. Christ alone is the motive to obey, not gutting it out, not motivated by guilt or trying to repay Christ. No, delighting in Christ is the motive to obey.
Christ alone is the answer to your root sin problem. The reason you enjoy sin is because you are not enjoying Christ enough. Once you are satisfied in Him you will not crave lesser sinful pleasures as much. Christ alone is the answer to your struggle to pray, serve, read the Word or faithfully attend church. When you are craving Him, you’ll seek to participate in any practice that allows you to be satisfied in Him.
Christ alone is the answer to your hurts. Hurts are just God’s way of wiping off the dirt of your glasses so you can see Christ better and enjoy Him more. Say it with me, “My purpose is a person. I magnify Christ by delighting in Him as gain.” God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Let’s pray.