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The Purpose of Every Person
And the first purpose of every mom–Philippians 1:21
Have you ever felt out of place? You know as a man, accidentally walking into a woman’s restroom–or as a woman, looking up and seeing a bunch of urinals? I’ve walked into a social gathering and felt like I was chocolate sauce on a steak, or Ragu on watermelon, I just didn’t belong there–it was not a fit. Even in ministry, I remember some gatherings where I felt like a cat in a room full of Rottweilers. All of us have had an “oil and water” experience–some with your choice of a major in college, or now in your choice of employment.
My dad was a depression-era child and chose to be a bread man to provide for his family, because he thought people would always want bread. But he should have been a chemistry teacher. He was an incredible teacher and loved chemistry so much–he would tell us what elements actually made up the food we had in front of us at the dinner table. He’d tell us what was in the potatoes and if mixed a little different and ignited could destroy the house—“Eat up, son.”
Sometimes certain career choices just don’t fit us. Usually leather-clad Harley Davidson bikers don’t make good hair stylists–you know, “pull and cut.” Would you agree that Rod Shackleford would not make a good modern dance teacher? That paints an ugly picture. A young mother of four small children really doesn’t belong on an anti-terrorist assault team. French master chefs have no place working as the pipe cleaner at the sewage maintenance plant. The problem with all of those is they don’t fit–they are filling out the wrong purpose. And I would like to propose that many Christians are 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 this life. Some moms too, which is so sad, because many believers are not fulfilled, not passionate, not joyful and very distracted. They are filling out the wrong purpose. Are you one of them?
What is so difficult is we often 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 am 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. And understand, I am not talking about ministry, doing more, giving more, joining a small group, finding 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?
Turn to Philippians 1:21 and take the outline found in your bulletin. Up to this point in Philippians Paul has been telling us how his current situation is magnifying God. Even while he is under house arrest, verses 12 to 14 tell us God has been allowing Paul to share the Gospel with the future leaders of Rome, which God has chained to him 24 hours a day. And God has used Paul’s circumstances in jail to encourage the Roman believers to be even bolder in their witness to the lost in Rome. Even though in verses 15 to 18 some Roman Christians are preaching Christ from a self-centered motive, Paul rejoices because the true Gospel of transforming grace has been proclaimed.
Now as we arrive at verse 19 and following, Paul tells us his own motives as he shares about his future–a future which will either result in his release and more fruitful ministry of evangelism or his condemnation and death. Yet in verse 18 Paul is rejoicing currently while he is experiencing a very difficult house arrest, and he will be rejoicing no matter what his uncertain future holds. How could Paul rejoice? Simply because Paul has the right purpose–he’s not a brick-layer 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.”
As Paul describes the purpose of life, he also exposes the motives of his heart. And be warned, as Paul reveals his heart and describes his purpose the Word of God is going to do some powerful work in our hearts.
1 These words will remind all of us who are gutting it out to obey, what the true motivation behind our obedience to God’s Word really is.
2 Any here who sang with a drifting mind and a half heart–any here who place an empty envelop in the offering plate because they’re afraid of what others might think–any here who hear God’s Word preached and immediately forget it are going to be encouraged today to regain the heart of their faith.
3 All of us who minister, who find ourselves more concerned with our flock doing more instead of seeing Christ shine through us first, then seeing Christ manifested even in the smallest way in those we minister to, are going to be convicted today that we have drifted from our main calling.
4 Those without Christ this morning are going to understand what Christianity is really all about and maybe why they’ve seen so little of the real thing.
5 Those of us who are hurting will find comfort, any addicted to some sin issues are going to find hope, and those of us who’ve let our flame for Christ grow cold will be warmed back to a genuine relationship.
These verses bless me. I was praying, studying, fellowshipping, and serving–but even with those healthy graces, a heart can be languishing. Maybe you are sinking under little change, not much spiritual passion, misdirected priorities and root sin issues going un-checked. This verse is a lifeline. This is the message FBC needs to hear right now. I am asking God to make this a new beginning for every Christian here. This is what I am praying for in my own heart, and I want for each one of you–brother, sister, every guest and especially for every one of you here who think I am talking to someone else.
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? Today the Bible will tell us, by redirecting our lives back to our true and only purpose. All of us today have 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. Do you want God to work in your heart today? If you are willing, please allow God’s non-optional, absolute, never-wrong and only-right Word–like a scalpel, to cut you open with three revealing cuts. 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. Are you ready for 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 emphasized something. “TO ME, to live is Christ.” Literally, Paul says, “as far as I personally am concerned.” There were others in Rome who were preaching Christ from false motives. Paul told us in verses 15 and 17 that some were ministering out of a motive of envy over Paul and out of selfish ambition to get ahead in position. But Paul emphatically says, NOT ME–TO ME, living even in jail, even under the threat of death is Christ.
These are my motives. This is my heart. Christ is the drive of my life. I’m not interested in self, but the Savior–not advancement but the advocate, not cash but Christ, not pride but the priority.
On vacation some 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 is amazing what kind of clarity you receive in a moment like that. Nothing else mattered. All the pleasures of a shower, a big Pepsi, dinner or éclair for dessert didn’t matter until I found my boy safe in my arms. All the trials of life also didn’t matter. 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 him, then I could enjoy all the pleasures and was so thankful–none of the trials mattered at all.
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 four years while others are free to preach, some who are seeking to discredit me—none of that matters compared to having Christ. He’s my life, my delight and my satisfaction. Paul says because I have Christ, none of my trials matter and everything else good is all the sweeter.
God stripped all external ministry away from Paul—he is old, tired, he has been in prison for four years. He says he’s ready to go on to heaven. They’ve taken everything from him–his friends, his planting ministry, his freedom, his privacy, he can’t even go to the bathroom by himself. They’ve taken every single thing away from him except the one thing that can’t be taken away from him nor taken away from you—Jesus Christ. Paul had great joy, was totally content, and viewed his potential death as an advantage because he had Christ.
Allow me to ask you some questions I’ve asked myself. 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? And is your focus to get your children obedient to the commands of Christ or for them to see the truth, compassion 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 am 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
Read verse 21 again, “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 _____. How would you fill that in? If you look at the ads on television, you know what the values are in our society because they only tell us what we want to hear. Based on advertising, I’d have to say that most Americans would fill in the blank in one of 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 and you’ll have ultimate happiness and total bliss. The problem in my life and why I’m so miserable is 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 Joneses. Just about the time I catch up with the Joneses, the Joneses refinance; then I’m in trouble again. The Beatles sang it, 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, or popularity. 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, kids often call out and say, “Dad, watch me, watch this.” I see adults doing that all the time. Watch me! Watch me by the car I drive! Watch me by the clothes I wear! Watch me by the nice things I have in my house! Watch me by the color of credit card I pull out. Watch me! For me, to live is prestige.
Some of you students; it’s for me to live is popularity. I’ll do anything to fit in to this peer group, even if it means lowering my standards. 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. Then 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 three is they don’t last. They don’t last a lifetime, much less an eternity. There isn’t ultimate fulfillment–if that were true 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 people would be the most content. 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. For me to live is my kids, my spouse, my ministry.
Okay, so we know what not to live for. 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 all know that, we live by faith in Christ. But let me share how I have seen the drift from faith in my own heart and in the hearts of others in the church. To live is Christ means depending on Christ alone to be forgiven now and to go to heaven later–yet I’ve noticed the tendency for people to try to earn their salvation, make up their own form of salvation not found in the Word of God. Or worse, try to replace true salvation with some external action of Christianity like professing a faith, being baptized, reforming their morals, conforming to rules or being disciplined over issues.
But Jesus said salvation was coming to 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 dependant 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 I can tell you how easy it is for church attendance, praying at meals, having a devotion, placing a fish on your car bumper, 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 with me? 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. I’ve seen it in my own life and honestly, I can see it in you too. 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.
Remember 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.” Notice, 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.
It reminds me of the young swimmer whose dad was also his coach. Swimming was fun because father and son enjoyed each other so much. But slowly over time the son became more enamored with the timer, the clock, the swimwear, the haircut, and the lap pool. Swim practice turned from joy to a duty because his focus turned from his pop to the peripherals. He moved from the relationship to the routine, from the true guts to the gimmicks, from the major to the minor and so have many of us. We are in constant danger of moving 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 says 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 is 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. Do you remember 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. He desired to be the lens for the world to see Christ better. Why?
Because Christ was his 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 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. Pastor John Piper has wonderfully brought this truth to the forefront in all his writings and has summarized this message under the phrase, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Verse 21 is actually the source for His Christian hedonist philosophy.
Again 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. So 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.
In other words, Paul has a heart that 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. So 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? You say, Chris can you make it a little more practical? Sure, let’s look at three practical tests.
1 To evaluate your purpose, look at your ministry to your D-group, to children, or to youth–what do you desire from them? Do you want them to 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? Ask yourself, are you telling them to follow Christ more than showing them what it means to delight in Christ?
2 To evaluate your purpose, look at your parenting. Let’s skip the discussion of pushing your kids so hard for grades and involving your students in sports so much that they have no time for the Lord or the things of the Lord, like church activities or youth group. Ask yourself what you want from your children–external conformity to the commands of Christ, prayer only at the table and a Bible only cracked on Sunday? Or are you seeking to develop a heart in your children that delights in Christ? This will only happen 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 seeking to fulfill your duty on Sunday by attending, 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 that you will make me a nice meal.” That is 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 I just mentioned will automatically happen when we delight in God alone, but, they are 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? It is only when you do that you can accept surgical cut number three.
#3 Embrace the advantage of eternity
Verse 21 says, “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 am anticipating what is ahead. I’m not afraid of dying–I’m already a friend of the Lord’s, I have been born again and made 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 am freed from the presence of sin. To die is gain because my satisfaction is Christ, which means that 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, and that’s death. People rarely deal with death today. We don’t talk about it at all. The only time we face death is when a friend or family member 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 that insurance people don’t even like to admit the certainty of death? They say, “Just suppose you were to pass on.” Friends there are no suppositions about it. One day I’m going to pass on–I just don’t know the time frame. 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 would 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 of you here 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 that 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–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 will 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 the dirt off 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.