Sunday Sermon: Between Two Worlds

Philippians 1.21-30??

21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.??

27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God???s doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well??? 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.??

In Philippians, Paul is writing from prison, and yet throughout history this letter has been known as the 'letter of joy'. If Paul can write of hope, contentment, and faith from jail, then I would say that he has something to say to us about what it means to live out the Christian life with one foot here and the other in the kingdom to come.??

Prison doesn't scare Paul. If anything, it is his suffering that gives him a pulpit. Through his suffering, Paul is able to hold fast to his faith. If this is the case, then Paul is able to preach Christ to any and all no matter what the circumstances. This is why in v.21 he says that living is Christ and dying is gain.??

See, Paul understands that he wins either way. So many of us look at life and its struggles as a roller coaster. We focus on the ups and downs, sometimes losing sight of Christ along the way. Sometimes we forget Jesus when things are going well. Other times we forget God because we'd rather hold on to our grumbling and complaining. The trick is to not chase Jesus through the ups and downs, but to ride the waves with Him.

But the difference between many of us and Paul is perspective. He sees both life and death as a victory. In life, Paul gets to proclaim Jesus' Lordship from the mountain top and in the valley. He is able to give God glory in the good times and lean on God's everlasting arms in the bad. Either way, we can see life as an opportunity for faith. In death, Paul understands that through Jesus sacrifice for us, he will be with Christ in paradise. Death has no sting and no hold on Paul because his hope is in Christ's defeat of death. Therefore, even death is gain for Paul, for through death he will receive the benefits of God's gift of eternal life.??

This is what it means to live between two worlds. In Christ, we have one foot in heaven and one foot in the world. Because of our Divine connection through Jesus, we are able to exercise great faith, testify to Jesus' sacrifice for us, and meet others needs in ways that the world never could because they lack the love from On High to do it. Understand what Paul is saying, that heaven is a reality both now and later. We're either experiencing its effects as it breaks into this world through God's love or we're breaking through to the other side with an everlasting passport called 'Jesus'.

Yet Paul admits that there is a slight tension. It is difficult when pressed to decide whether it is better to be with Christ now or live IN Christ here and now. His conclusion is that the better benefit is that his life be used as a witness to others. He knows that his presence here on earth is more important than his desire to be with God because he can show the way to God by being devoted and showing others the way to life. Therefore, it is the life we have now, God's gift of life here, that we must capitalize on for the sake of other people. This is why our lives are to be lived out in ways that are self-less. A self-less life is a life lived for the sake of others. Paul gets this and wants us to as well.??

It is in living out the life of Christ tha
t Paul is able to hold the two worlds together. Living like Jesus is meant to bring heaven to earth and pull earth closer to heaven. As we live out a Christian life we reveal heaven to those who are without it in their hearts. The love of God lived out, places God's love in the hearts of those who do not have it. It is the business of planting seeds. This is why Paul is so excited, whether he is faced with life or death. Life cannot separate him from God and death cannot steal him away from his Creator.??

V.27 may be my favorite, when Paul says,??

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.??

Paul wants to be sure that above all else, people are actually living out the gospel, testifying to the truth of who Jesus is, and spreading God's love through the life we've been given. This is what ministry and discipleship is all about.??

Here at this church, we have the opportunity to raise up generations of Christians who will carry on the life-giving life of the Christian. Through our ministries here, we can instill in children values that will be their foundation the rest of their lives, that will set them up for a committed relationship with God and they'll know what it means to trust God and have faith. Here, we can engage adults in ministries of both education and support. We can learn through Bible studies and discipleship classes, but we can also begin to support one another through small groups and conversations on things like raising teenagers, struggling relationships, loss of loved ones, addictions, and even things like cancer support.??

And so the question is before us today: Will we live between two worlds? Will we live a life worthy of the gospel, a life of ministry, that brings to life the reality of who God is and what God expects of us? May God give us the spirit to live a life worthy of spreading His love. Amen.??

Written with Essay on iPad

Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor,??New Liberty United Methodist Church

Devotional Blog –

Sent from Whit's iPad??

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