C - commands (to obey)
P - promises (to claim)
W - warnings (to heed)
T - truths (about God)
These four things were taught to me by our church when my wife and I took a class called "Body Builders". They relate to how we read God's Word, what we should look for in each passage.
So, when I read Philippians 1:20-21 recently, I applied these four things to the verses.
"... my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."(Philippians 1:20-21 NASB)
Do not be ashamed of Christ. Exalt/honor Christ with/in my body.
If I obey these commands, I will not be put to shame before God.
If I do NOT obey, I will be shamed before God.
To die and go before the face of God is GAIN!
I love my study bible(s). One of them points out Matthew 10:32 in relation to the shame that Paul speaks of here.
"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."
(Matthew 10:32-33 NASB)
Paul even references this later in one of his letters to his son in the faith, Timothy:
"If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us"(2 Timothy 2:12 NASB)
So the promise/warning here is that if we are ashamed of Christ, He will 'return the favor' when we stand before God one day.
Now, the part that really fired me up and had me studying (the Word), and reading (commentaries), and listening (to sermons/podcasts) is verse 21:
"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
In a sermon I read on this passage, the pastor says,
That helped me to wrap my head around the first part of that verse, but the second is somewhat harder to swallow. I guess the thing that makes that a little harder to understand is when I think of all of the wonderful blessings with which God has graced my life. Specifically, I'm thinking of my wife and sons. Which, of course, brings to mind Luke 14:26:"There aren't even any verbs in the Greek: living Christ, dying gain. I live only to serve Him, only to commune with Him, only to love Him. I have no concept of life other than that.
Now follow this thought: He is saying I am totally wrapped up in Christ, loving Him, knowing Him, preaching Him, serving Him. Christ is the 'raison d'etre', the reason for my being, the reason for my existence. He doesn't mean Christ is the source of his life, though He is. He doesn't mean Christ lives in him, though He does. He doesn't mean Christ controls him, though He does. He doesn't mean that Christ wants him to submit to Him, though He does.
He simply means living is Christ. Life is summed up as Christ. I'm filled with Christ. I am occupied with Christ. I trust Christ, love Christ, hope in Christ, obey Christ, preach Christ, follow Christ, fellowship with Christ, Christ is the center circumference of my life, it's all Christ. Christ and Christ alone is my inspiration, my direction, my meaning, my purpose...consumed, dominated by Christ."
"If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple."
(Luke 14:26 NASB)
Wow! Not the first time I'm reading that or anything, but WOW! In light of my marriage and how much I treasure my wife; in light of holding my son when he was just born and watching him grow this last year... still, My Lord and Savior is reminding me that as much as I love that little boy, He (Christ) has to mean much more! But the word "hate" here is tripping me up a little... ok, a lot. Gotta go to the Greek.
The word is μισει (miseō) which is derived from the word μῖσος (misos).
As far as I can tell, the word really does mean 'hate'. However, I also need to take into consideration the context in which we find this word.
Looking at Matthew 10:37 where Jesus says pretty much the same thing, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."
The Greek there is ῾Ο φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ and comes out to literally say that "one that has affection for father or mother above me". That helps... I get the impression that it isn't hate necessarily that's being advocated, but a picture of contrast is being drawn between where I place my affections.
This gets us back to verse 21 in Philippians 1, and "to die is gain". Gain. To die, leaving this fallen world, even with its temporal joys, and to enter into intimate, unhindered fellowship with Christ truly is gain. How joyous that will be!
Now, perhaps there is a question or concern back in your mind about this. Paul is telling us that while he's living on this earth, his life will be driven and focused only by Christ and preaching His Gospel. I think it is right to say that by doing so he ultimately is pursuing his greatest joy. Paul knows that when he dies he will be in the presence of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:6-8), and that hope brings him joy.
To pursue our greatest joy is what God commands of us, and our greatest joy is found in Him. And in this passage of his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul lays out in one sentence the dynamic balance between seeking to be obedient to God and pursuing joy. They are not exclusive - instead, they are inexorably bound.
Of course, since that moment in Eden when man chose to seek his own joy apart from God, sin has offered up myriad options of lesser joy. They do not seem to be lesser joys,
what would be so tempting about sin if it didn't present itself as the joy that we seek.
"Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment?"Someone has put it like this: the world offers 95% joy, but why settle for that when we can have 100% joy in Jesus Christ?!?! The obvious point Job is making is that joy of the godly is everlasting - forever.
(Job 20:4-5 ESV)
We read in Psalm 16:11, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." And fullness of joy is exactly what Jesus wants for us. Also we see in the following passages the coorelation between obedience and joy.
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
(John 16:20-24 ESV - emphasis mine)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
(John 15:9-14 ESV - emphasis mine)
And we're only going to find true, everlasting joy in Him. That's what this passage says and I believe it's exactly what Paul means when he says it. A life pursuing Christ will be a life filled with eternal joy, and culminating with an eternity of joyous fellowship with the unending Fountain and Source of joy.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
(Psalm 32:11 ESV)