Faithlife Sermons

Pulled In Two Directions When Christ is Your Center

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:55
0 ratings
· 11 views
Files
Notes
Transcript
Count Zinzendorf, a Moravian leader who knew and assisted John Wesley, said this about Jesus, “I have one passion, it is he and he alone.”
A good friend of mine, who is one the greatest disciple-makers that I know, said this, “I have one hobby in life, it’s people.”
Those two statements, even though they sound very different, are actually very very close to one another. It is very close to something that the Apostle Paul said in the book of Philippians. Paul said it like this:
Philippians 1:21 ESV
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Our first task this morning is to answer the question, “What does Paul mean when he says, ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’”?
Paul states that for him, living is Christ. What does that mean? It is an important question. It is one of the defining characteristics about a Christian. It serves as an excellent test to see if someone is a Christian or not. For the believer, living means Christ. But, what does that really mean?
Let’s ask it this way, what is living to you? What really constitutes life to you? What is the thing of all things to which you hold?
How would most people answer that question? What is the most important thing to you? Is it not true that many of us would have to admit and confess that what is most important to us is our families, our homes, our work, our occupations, our activities in life?
Would we not have to admit that to many of us what makes life worth living is the companionship and love or our loved ones, the home life that we enjoy, or the memorable times of our lives or the exciting times of our lives?
These are precious things, I am not denying that, but too often they become THE thing in our life. By the way, how do you know when something has become THE thing in your life? Ask yourself this question- what would happen if that thing were taken away from you? If that thing were taken away from you would your life collapse? Would your world crumble around you? Would you feel like you have nothing left?
So what does Paul mean when he says to him living is Christ? You could boil it down to one word—love. Paul means that the most important thing to him in his life, the thing for which and by which he lives, the thing without which life would become pointless and meaningless is Christ. So what Paul is saying about himself is that He loves Jesus supremely. With all his heart, soul, might, and strength. And because Jesus is the chief love of Paul’s life it dominates and controls his life. To me living is Christ- because I love Christ supremely. And dying is gain- because it means more of Christ!
Jesus said it this way in Matt 6:21-
Matthew 6:21 ESV
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
For Paul- Jesus was his greatest treasure. Everything in Paul’s life centered on Jesus- because Jesus was the centre of Paul’s life.
Only a true child of God thinks this way. Only one who has been born again, who has put their faith in Jesus can talk like this. But if you have received Jesus, if you have trusted Him, if you believe that Jesus has saved you from all your sin, that He suffered the wrath of God for your sins- then this makes all the sense in the world!
Is Jesus your one passion in life? Is Jesus the chief love of your life? Is living to you Christ? Is Jesus your center?
How do you really know if Jesus is at the center of your life?
This is the question I want to answer for the remainder of the time we have together.
I want to argue from our text this morning, that if Jesus is truly at the center of your life then you will be pulled in two different directions. And, ironically, the one who is pulling you in two different directions at the same time is Jesus.
If Jesus is at your center then He will be pulling you in two conflicting directions.
What directions will Jesus be pulling you?

1. You will have a strong desire to depart in order to be with Christ

Philippians 1:22 ESV
22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.
Paul is contemplating two very really possibilities for his future. There he is in Roman prison, and he doesn’t know if he is going to live or if he is going to die. And to Paul either outcome is immaterial. That is why he says, “Living is Christ, dying is gain.”
But, if he lives on in the flesh- that means fruitful labor/work for Paul. For Paul- living in the flesh, living in this life was all about fruitful labor- spiritual reproduction. But Paul is not sure which option, given the choice, he would choose. That is an incredible statement. If you asked 99.9% of people the question do you want to live or do you want to die, what would be their answer?
And Paul is not suicidal! He is not contemplating ending his life prematurely out of misery. Rather, because Christ is the center of his life, Paul is looking forward to death! How many people look forward to dying? How can that be?
Philippians 1:23 ESV
23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
I am hard pressed between the two
23συνέχομαι δὲ ἐκ τῶν δύο,
But, I am in the middle between two sets of thoughts
‘my mind is pulling me in two directions’ or ‘my thoughts are going in two different directions’ or ‘my heart is speaking two different words to me. / The apostle, torn betw. conflicting emotions, says συνέχομαι ἐκ τῶν δύο I am hard pressed (to choose) between the two Phil 1:23.
Our immediate thought might be, this isn’t a hard choice- it is better to live right? But think about it this way. What if I offered you the chance to be ushered into heaven so that you might actually see Jesus face to face? Well, when you put it that way...
That, to me this is why this statement is so shocking. Paul is saying I want to go be with Jesus, but it is a really hard choice! There is something pulling me in another direction! Really, what force could be so strong that it would make one pause when presented with the opportunity to see Jesus face to face? We will get to that in a moment.
My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better
τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν[2]ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι,
the intense desire I am having (is) to die and WITH CHRIST in order to be,
πολλῷ [γὰρ] μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον·
for (that) is better by far;
Luke 22:15 ESV
15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
1 Thessalonians 2:17 ESV
17 But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face,
1 Peter 2:11 ESV
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
2 Peter 2:18 ESV
18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.
1 John 2:16 ESV
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Paul had an intense desire to depart/to die and to be with Christ. Why? What was the chief love of Paul’s life? What was at the center of Paul’s life? It was Christ! If Christ is the center of your life there should be an intense desire to depart and to be with Christ.
Why? Because that (being face to face with Jesus) is by far better than anything in this life.
Illustration: Topics on major news site: Supreme-court packing, climate change hysteria, sexual misconduct case involving a governor, boarder crisis, critical race theory training, vaccine confidence, BLM “Protests”, Big tech censorship, and the list could go on and on! Sometimes, you look at what is going on in life and you think- I just want to go and be with Jesus!
Refutation: Maybe you never think this way. Maybe the idea of dying and leaving this life is terrifying to you. If that is you this morning it may be that you don’t really know Jesus.
Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
You might still be afraid of dying because you are still under the power of the devil. You are still in the chains of the fear of death. What you need this morning is to be delivered from your fear. And the only one that can do that is Jesus Christ. Put you faith in Jesus, and he will give unto you eternal life forever destroying the fear of death in your life.
Maybe you are afraid of dying because there is unconfessed sin in you life, or you have not lived the kind of life that is worthy of the gospel and of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:23 ESV
23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
Application: Is there a strong desire on your part to depart in order to be with Christ?
If this is lacking in your life, then you must ask yourself the question- why is it lacking? My answer would be that this desire is lacking because Christ is not your life!
Philippians 1:21 ESV
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
You must consider how to make Christ the center of your life. Then when Christ is your center, when He is your passion, when He is your chief love- Christ will naturally pull you in this direction- You will want to depart and be with Jesus because that is better by far.
How can you begin to make Christ the chief love of your life? I would recommend to you learning the art of meditating on the Word of God. Let the Word of Christ dwell in your heart richly in all wisdom. When is the last time you lived inside of a text of God’s Word about the work of Jesus Christ on your behalf? When is the last time you were brought to your knees in tears because of the love of Jesus? When was the last time it really hit you personally?
“It is, of course, a characteristic of love that it is always thinking about the object of its love, and, whether we like it or not, that is true of every one of us.” —Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
If Jesus is at your center then He will be pulling you in two conflicting directions.
What directions will Jesus be pulling you in?
1. You will have a strong desire to depart in order to be with Christ.

2. You will have a strong desire to remain in order to exalt Christ

This is the other direction that will be pulling at your mind- on the one hand you will strongly desire to go and to be with Christ- to see Him- to no longer walk by faith, but to walk by sight. But on the other hand there will be an even stronger desire causing you to remain here in this life. And that desire to exalt Christ more and more. How do we exalt Christ, how did Paul seek to accomplish that here in this life?
Philippians 1:24 ESV
24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Paul was in the middle between two sets of thoughts- he wanted to die and be with Jesus, but the other force acting on him so strongly that he was actually pausing in making his decision- was the saints in the church at Philippi.
Because it was more necessary for other people Paul was willing to remain in this life rather than to go and be with Jesus. That is a powerful force! But we need to define this force, this pull more precisely.
Philippians 1:25 ESV
25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,
Why was it more necessary for Paul to stay on account of the Philippians?
For the progress and joy in the faith!
Progress- Gradual improvement or growth or development- DISCIPLE-MAKING!
Joy- as one comes to know Christ more and more, they mature in their faith, they learn the joy of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Essentially the force that kept Paul here on this earth was spiritual reproduction!
Philippians 1:22 ESV
22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.
Fruitful labor! He wanted to reproduce himself in the lives of the Philippian believers. BUT / and this is a critical point- spiritual reproduction was not an end for Paul. It was not Paul’s ultimate goal or driving force in his life. It was one of the primary means to Paul’s ultimate end, but it was not an end in itself. What do I mean?
Philippians 1:26 ESV
26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Why did Paul remain on this earth? It was more necessary for the Philippians. What was more necessary? For Paul to pour his life out for the progress and joy of their faith. Why did Paul want to do that?
SO THAT in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus!
26ἵνα τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν περισσεύῃ
so that your ground for boasting might abound
ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ
in Christ Jesus
ἐν ἐμοὶ
because of me
διὰ τῆς ἐμῆς παρουσίας πάλιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς.
Because of my coming to you again.
Because when Paul comes to the Philippians he will teach them for their progress and joy in the faith. And as they become mature in the faith the ground of their boasting or they will have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus!
Philippians 1:20 ESV
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 honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
What is better than one mature saint who can boldly say- whether by life or by death may Christ be honored in my body? A whole body of mature believers who are willing to stand up and say- God give me all boldness so that no matter what happens, by life or by death, may Christ be honored in my body!
Romans 5:11 NIV
11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Galatians 6:14 ESV
14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Notice the force pulling at Paul to remain on this earth. At first glance it appears to be the Philippians themselves. But, in reality it is Paul’s desire that a great many people would become mature disciples of Jesus so that Christ might be exalted by more and more people.
Is that the kind of force that is pulling on you to remain here in this life?
Illustration: Many times when I am talking to a parent about the imminent return of Jesus- we call the rapture. They will say something like this, “I can’t wait until Jesus comes back, only I wish he would wait until____” What? What do they want Jesus to wait for? The salvation of their children! Don’t you sometimes feel unspiritual when you say things like that? But, right here isn’t that what Paul is talking about? I have a strong desire to depart and to be with Jesus, but to remain is more necessary on your account- for your progress and joy in the faith- so that you will have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus. So that my children will grow up and be able to say- I want Christ to be magnified and honored, whether by my life or by my death!
Refutation: This is natural and easy to feel this way towards our children. Do we feel this way about other people in our church? Toward our community? Why do we feel this way for our kids, but not the rest of the people in our sphere of influence?
Application: Is the force that is pulling us to remain on this earth really the exaltation of Jesus? Why do you want your children to be saved? You don’t want them to spend eternity in the lake of fire right?
Do you want them to be saved so that there will be more people to glory in Christ?
Why do you disciple other people? Is it so you can give testimonies and pat yourself on the back? Is it so you can be rewarded someday? Or are you involved in helping others in the progress and joy of their faith so that Christ might be exalted?
Shouldn’t this give us a whole new perspective on the importance of ministry in the local church to one another? Some people don’t even take a second thought about leaving their local church and going somewhere else. But if Christ is our center shouldn’t that change the way we view the importance of causing other believers in our church to progress in their faith? Does it make the importance of being a disciple-maker significant to you?
Philippians 1:26 ESV
26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
If Jesus is at your center then He will be pulling you in two conflicting directions.
What directions will Jesus be pulling you?
1. You will have a strong desire to depart in order to be with Christ
2. You will have a strong desire to remain in order to exalt Christ
This is how Paul fleshes out Philippians 1:21
Philippians 1:21 ESV
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Commenting on this verse, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said this,
"What he means is that in Christ he has been delivered from the thralldom of things that happen. He is no longer a victim of circumstances and chance. He goes on in the last chapter to say, ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.' Christ has delivered him from the tyranny of what might happen to him."
What does he mean when he says that Paul had been delivered from the "thralldom of things that happen," or from the "tyranny of what might happen to him"?
When Christ is your center- it doesn’t much matter what happens in the world around you. It doesn’t much matter whether God allows you to go on living or if he takes you to be with Christ. Because what matters more than anything else is Christ. That Christ is exalted, that Christ is honored and praised.
“I have one passion, it is he and he alone.”
Related Media
Related Sermons