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The Logic of a Gospel-centered Life

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Want only Christ. Receive what you want. Live for another's Gain.

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Introduction

Most people think we’re nuts. Our lives appear illogical and irrational to an onlooking world. In 2014, Dr. Kent Brantley traveled to Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse to serve in the heart of the lethal Ebola outbreak. Dr. Brantley left behind children, a wife, and a prosperous career to serve the ‘least of these.’ When Dr. Brantley contracted Ebola himself, Ann Coulter called him ‘idiotic.’ She asked, “Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? The very first risk factor listed by the Mayo Clinic for Ebola - an incurable disease with a 90 percent fatality rate - is: ‘Travel to Africa.’” In other words, she viewed Dr. Brantly, not as heroic, not as inspiring, not as sacrificial, but as foolish. His decision to not accept the deaths of Africans was viewed as illogical and irresponsible.
And, this is a picture for what it means to live for Christ in a devolving world. Christians live in a tension that cannot be understood apart from Christ. It’s the tension of living between two worlds. Our Treasure is not here. Our home is not here. Our hope is not here. But, for now, we live here, and we live here with a mission. So, we’re caught between two worlds, and it’s this reality that shapes the decisions that we make and the tone that we take and the lives that we live. This morning, I want us to examine the logic of this life so that we can see The Logic of the Gospel-centered Life:(Headline).

God’s Word

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“Want” Christ Only.

v. 21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The first layer of logic to understand the joy behind the gospel-centered life is that Gospel-centered lives “Want” Christ only. We catch Paul here in a moment of contemplation. Paul has just said in verse 20 that he is going to magnify Christ ‘whether by life or by death.’ And now, he takes a bit of an aside to contemplate those two options, to contemplate how he will magnify Christ if he lives and how he will magnify Christ if he dies. So, when he says, ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,’ what we should understand is that Paul is applying the gospel to two different scenarios. He’s showing how he will glorify Christ and apply the gospel if he is freed from prison and lives, and he is showing how will glorify Christ and apply the gospel if they take him to the chopping block and cut off his head. Both scenarios are best understood in the context of gains and losses. We know exactly what is meant by ‘For to me to live is Christ’ because of what it says in chapter 3 verses 7-8: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count the as rubbish that I may gain Christ.” So, if Paul is released and lives, he will live like everything is loss compared to Christ. Christ is all that he wants, and he doesn’t need comfort or marriage or a satisfying career or a healthy retirement or to make the varsity. He only needs Christ. Every other treasure, every other attraction, every other prize that earth can offer him are losses when they are compared to the prize of Christ himself.

Even Losses are Gains

“to die is gain” He views the other scenario through the very same lens. Imagine the courage that it took to write these words, knowing just realistic this scenario was. If he lives, he will live like Jesus is the only prize he really wants, but if they kill him, if they behead him, if he dies, he will get that prize in full. If he’s released, he will live in Christ and with Christ and for Christ against the grain and his own sin nature, but if he’s executed, he will live with Christ fully and in Christ’s presence totally. Paul’s death would not be the loss of life, it would be the gaining of a fuller life. In Christ, what appears to be a “loss” is ultimately “gain”. Living means that I have to count losses in comparison to the gain of Christ. Living means that there’s pain and hardship in not having enough and in being rejected and in facing sickness, but it’s still a net gain. In fact, whatever costs associated with living for Christ will be returned to us as treasure in eternity. And in dying, there are no losses. In dying, the losses melt away and the hardships are impossible to find and the sicknesses are no more. In dying, there is only gain, that is, there is only Christ and his presence eternally. All Paul wants is Christ, and even if they kill him, all Paul will have is Christ. It’s gain!

How Do You Measure Losses and Gains?

APPLICATION: The question that is facing Paul in that Roman prison is the same question that faces every one of us that bear Christ’s name. It’s a question to apply to every scenario and circumstance that we find ourselves in: How do you measure losses and gains? If it comes down to magnifying Christ and being alone or having a date, how will you measure what is loss and what is gain? If you have to choose between the ethics of Christ and the advancement of a career, how will you measure what is loss and what is gain? Is Christ all that you really want so that whatever and whoever falls away as you pursue him can still be measured as gain so long as you have Christ? Christ is “magnified” in us when He is “contentment” enough for us. Day in and day out, the decisions that you make and the prizes that you chase are revealing what you really want. So, how will you measure losses and gains?

“Receive” What You Want.

Christ is magnified in us when He is contentment enough for us.
v. 22b-23 “Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two.” The first layer of logic to making sense of the gospel-centered life is understanding that the gospel-centered life only wants Christ. But, that’s not enough to understand the joy of a life that appears so difficult, so sacrificial, so self-denying. So, it’s not just that you want Christ only, but, next, you “Receive” what you want. All you want is Christ, and you are already in Christ now and will be with Christ eternally. If joy is having what you want and all you want is Christ, your joy is secure because Christ is yours and you are Christ’s! The Christian life is “freedom” because all you want is Christ and you have him “forever”. Think of how this looks in Paul’s life here. He contemplates his situation by playing out hypotheticals. He asks, “Which one would I choose? Which would would I prefer? Would I prefer to go and be with Christ and have only gain? Or, would I prefer to remain with you and build you up and help you to glory in Christ?” It’s important that you recognize here that Paul is not suicidal here. He’s posing to himself a hypothetical question that he already understands, as we can see when he says “Convinced of this” in verse 25, that God’s sovereign providence will determine this for him. Rather, he is choosing between two near identical desires. He desires to be with Christ for that is ultimate and complete freedom. But, he also desires to help them and to aid them in their passion for Christ and to reach more. You can see how strongly he feels about each option when he says, “I am hard pressed between the two.” It’s a phrase that paints a picture like a vice closing in on both sides or like an enemy that has you surrounded and is pressuring your for surrender from every side. It’s an equal pressure. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, that doesn’t sound very good to be hemmed up from every side.” But, that’s to miss Paul’s point. Paul’s point is that he only has two options, and they’re both good options. Option A: They execute him, and He gains all of Christ. That’s really easiest for him. Option B: They release him, and he brings glory to Christ by serving the Philippians. More people will progress and have joy if that happens. Paul only has good options.

Your Gains Are Secure

And, that’s freedom, isn’t it? “Freedom” is having only “good” options. We are torn between two worlds. But, we can have Christ in both. If we’re here, we live through Christ and for Christ. If we die, we live with Christ in the full presence of Christ. This is how Christians are able to fly into the middle of Ebola-ridden Liberia apart from their families and not be fools. This is how we are able to send our children to live on the other side of the world and not be fools. This is how you can not maximize your earning potential and not be a fool. If you lose something here, it was already counted as a loss any way. Your gains are secure. Who can scare you if death is a gain? Who can stop you if whatever they can take away is already counted as a loss? Your worst case scenario on earth is that they help you realize your best case scenario in eternity — to be with Christ fully!

Always Thirsty, Always Satisfied

v. 23b “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” After all, that is his his chief desire any way. All he really wants is ‘to depart and be with Christ.” That’s better for him! “Desire” is the same word that’s used negatively in the scriptures as “lust”. It’s a yearning. It’s an appetite, a hunger, a thirst. Paul’s daydreams are not lustful fantasies about the girl on the Hardee’s commercial or having huge crowds of adoring fans; instead, his singular passion, his insatiable thirst, his yearning is that he would be in the presence of Christ forever, and that was secure! What are exposed as Paul applies the gospel to the two scenarios of his life are two simultaneous joys found in the Christian life. We are always thirsty for Christ, and yet, we are always satisfied in Christ. We are always hungry for Christ, and we are always full in Christ.

No Risk with Secure Gains

APPLICATION: There is no risk in your investment if your “gains” are secure. If your desire isn’t for a fortune or a mistress or getting even or Facebook attention, but for Christ alone, then you can be assured that you have and will always have what you want. You have what you need for joy, and you will always have what you need for joy. So, you can forgive your dad for abandoning you. You don’t need vindication in his sight. It feels risky, but you have Christ, and Christ is secure. You don’t have to run up your credit card bill. You don’t need that stuff. There’s no risk in not having stuff. You need Christ, and Christ is secure. You can spend your vacation on a mission trip. You don’t need Maui. Your gains are secure. You can move to China to reach the unreached or you can evangelize your neighbor at the risk of repelling them, and your investment, regardless of its seeming cost, will be nothing in the sight of the gains you have secured. Brothers and sisters, live in the freedom that Christ has secured for you.

“Live” for Another’s Gain.

v. 22 “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” So, I want to land this with conclusion that Paul comes to. It’s a logical culmination of all that he has said. All that he wants is Christ, and he will have Christ no matter what. So, he can afford to live for another’s good and another glory. That is, because your gains are secure, “live” for another’s gain. He already knows that his eternity is with Christ. If he departs, he will be with Christ. That’s settled. There is no hint of having to earn the favor of God or catch the eye of God. But, just as surely as he knows that, Paul also knows that if he is released, he will be going to work. It’ll ‘mean fruitful labor for (him).’

Live for Christ Like Death is Gain

v. 25 “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” Freedom is for “fruitfulness”. This is how Paul views his security. Because he only wants Christ and he is certain that he will always have Christ, regardless of the outcome, he is set free to be fruitful in the face of incredible hardship and apparent costs. Security in Christ isn’t intended to be an excuse to let off the gas and to live however you want and to not sweat sins or your commitment to the church. Security in Christ is to ignite in you a desire to live for Christ at all costs. It isn’t just that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Live for Christ “like” death is “gain”. How would a person live who knew that he was invincible? There is a sense in which this is the type of freedom with which Christians live. We aren’t invincible, but our gains are. This is what Paul is talking about when he talks about continuing with them for their ‘progress and joy.’ He’s convinced that in the providence of God that he will be spared, not for retirement, not for resting, not for taking it easy. But, to keep doing what go him in trouble in the first place. To keep preaching and to keep teaching and to keep writing and to keep evangelizing so that the gospel might be advanced, so that their joy might be fuller, so that they might continue to progress in the faith. He was going to keep preaching and proclaiming and traveling so that more glory might come to Christ. So, for Paul, his freedom is for others. He has been set free from concern about himself so that his freedom is targeted for the good of others. This is what he will call us to in chapter 2, when he says to ‘count others more significant than yourselves.’ It’s being so secure in Christ, so satisfied in Christ, so free in Christ that you can afford to live for the good of your neighbors and the glory of your God at cost to yourself. For you’ve already counted those as losses anyway in comparison to the surpassing glory of Jesus Christ.

If Christ has Raised, Playing it Safe is Illogical

APPLICATION: If Christ has not raised, then the Christian life is a waste. If Christ isn’t what you want, the Christian life is irrational. For if Christ is not raised and Christ is not what you want, then this life is all that you have and you better indulge every appetite and every pleasure and every prize that you can get your hands on. Because life is short and prizes are rusting and all of this will end quickly. But, if Christ is raised, if Christ is who you want, if Christ is already yours “forever”, playing it safe is “illogical”. Playing it safe is foolish. For Christ has secured your freedom already, and you can afford to live for someone else’s good and for Christ’s glory advancing. You can afford to move to an Ebola ridden land. You can afford to be an evangelist at UAB. You an afford to raise your kids to walk against the current. You can afford to reject status symbols and self-indulgences so that more might hear and more might know and more might have joy that Christ will be glorified. If Christ has raised, live for the gain of another. Live for the glory of another.
advancements, not playing it safe, you can afford it
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