Sermon for the 18th Sunday after Pentecost September 23, 2018
Text: Philippians 1:18-27 ILCW Series A 18:2085
Theme: My One Desire: That Christ Be Praised – Either Here or There.
Have you praised God yet today? Well, that seems like a silly question. We’re 25 minutes into our worship service. In that time we’ve sung 3 hymns, confessed our sins, heard God’s forgiveness, prayed, and read several lessons from His Word. Of course we’ve praised Him today, haven’t we? Think about it. What does it mean to praise God?
I looked up the word “praise” in my Webster’s Dictionary and was surprised by the first definition. The word originally meant “to set a price on something.” For example, you set a price on a house when you want to sell it. That’s how we get the term “appraisal.” The price that you set reflects its worth.
How much is God worth to you? If He’s worth a lot, you’ll praise Him. And praise is more than words. It’s the expression of worth that you feel in your heart for God. You could say a lot of words, but if you aren’t consciously expressing your thoughts about Him, are you really praising God? If over the past 25 minutes we have just mindlessly been repeating words and our thoughts have been elsewhere rather than on how much God means to us, have we really praised Him yet today?
Besides that, praise is not limited to an hour worship service per week. If we only think of praising God while we are here in church, then we don’t understand praise for a Christian’s entire existence is one big expression of praise to God. Paul was thinking that way in our text when he wrote, “Now as always Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” What Paul meant is this, “Whether living or dying my one desire is that Christ be lifted up through my life and praised.”
I. To praise Christ here is the best reason to live.
Our lives are about praising God. Our lives aren’t first of all about getting a job and making money. Our lives aren’t first of all about making good grades in school or being a star athlete. Our lives aren’t first of all about getting the most we can out of life. Our lives are first of all about praise to Christ. Is that our desire?
Such praise is given in its highest way when we talk about Jesus as
our Savior and proclaim to others the important gospel truths of His life, death, and resurrection that comfort and restore us to God. Then we show His great worth to us in the way we live to His glory. As Paul
said, “The important thing is that in every way…Christ is proclaimed.” Preaching Christ is the best reason to live.
Paul was doing it at this time in a prison in Rome. He was awaiting trial because his enemies wanted to silence his preaching of the Savior. But one couldn’t silence Paul when it came to telling about the Lord Jesus. It was Paul’s one desire for life, to praise Christ before others. So he kept on preaching to the Roman soldiers and anyone who would listen. He preached the good news of our Christ who saves us from sin.
Some of those soldiers told others. After all, guarding a preacher wasn’t their usual assignment. Normally they guarded rebels, robbers, and ruthless ruffians – not preachers. Paul’s words about Christ affected these soldiers and they told their friends. The news got all the way up into Caesar’s house. Wow! Can you imagine that? The gospel got into the Roman emperor’s house! (1:13;4:22) all because Paul’s one desire was that Christ be praised, even though he was in prison.
Besides that, other Christians in Rome were picking up the preaching slack while Paul was jailed. They became bolder at proclaiming Christ in their own lives. From what Paul said, not all of them seemed to have the best motives in mind. But what mattered most was that the Lord Jesus was praised and hearts were turned to Him in faith. How happy that made Paul, to live to see this! To praise Christ was the best reason to live.
Do we consider it that way like Paul did or do we think it would be better to have other things first in our lives? Our church attendance or your devotional times may be an indicator there.
There once was a young man whose nose was much longer than most people’s. Almost every day somebody teased him about it. When he looked in the mirror, he didn’t think anyone would ever like him. He felt so bad about the way he looked that at times he just wanted to die.
The Apostle Paul had good reason to want to die, too; he was in prison. It would be much easier to be done with life here and be in heaven. He said, “I desire to depart and be with Christ.” But did he kill himself? No, he knew that would be wrong. God still had work for him to do here. So he told the Philippians that “to go on living is more necessary” so that he could go on telling them about Christ.
That’s the same conclusion the man with the long nose had. After putting himself aside he said, “I’ll use my life for God. I’ll help others. I’ll tell others about Jesus. I’ll live for Him as long as he lets me.”
That, dear friends, is the Christian’s attitude. Our Lord Christ has wonderful plans for each of us who believe in Him. They include heaven. But they also include working for Him. Even though it would be great to be with Him in heaven, it’s necessary to live on earth as long as He gives us. Knowing that, it’s my one desire…that Christ be praised here. To praise Christ is the best reason to live.
II. To praise Christ is the best reason to die.
And ironically it’s also the best reason to die. Paul writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain…I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
Do you see death as something good or bad? Do you see death as something to be feared or welcomed? Do you see death as something in which you lose out or as something in which you win big?
It is said of a certain pastor that every night before he retired to his bed, he would go to the window, draw back the curtain, look up into the starry sky, and say, “Perhaps tonight, Lord?” In the morning as he arose from bed, his first movement would be to raise the blind, look out upon the reddening dawn, and ask, “Perhaps today, Lord?”
So it was for us. From the earliest days when we learned to fold our hands and say, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take” – until the final hour in which we will pray, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” we know it is “maybe today” or “maybe tomorrow” that our Father will call from heaven and take us home. “There is but a step between us and death,” David said (1 Sm.20:3).
But death holds no terror for the Christian. Christ be praised! Our Savior’s death on the cross has guaranteed that our death will be the opening of the gates of paradise where God will wipe every tear from our eyes, where there is no more sickness or pain or suffering or death, where we shall be with Him forever. No wonder Paul referred to his departure here as “great gain.” Forever with the Lord! – that is the glorious hope of every child of God. And when the Lord takes each child of God to Himself there, Christ is praised. One more for eternity with Him! One more to join the heavenly throng in praise!
So it is that Paul could write in the midst of His trials, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” Being with Christ and praising Him there with angels and all the saints – it’s the best reason to die. It’s the Christian’s highest desire.
III. To praise Christ is the best reason to leave it in God’s hands.
But what time is best so that our departure from here is for our gain and for other’s advantage? When is the best time so that He is praised the most? That’s what we don’t know. In fact we can be so confused that we are unsure of the kind of future we should wish for. Do we want to live or do we wish to die? How will you be most useful for God’s kingdom? Even Paul was confused and said, “What shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
What a blessing it would be for Paul if he would die and be with his Savior in heaven, there to praise Him forever! On the other hand what a joy it would be to continue working for the Lord here, on earth, and watching people praise Christ in faith! In both cases Christ was praised. That was his desire – to see Christ praised. But which way was best? Paul knew better than to try and make a decision on his own. He chose to leave the matter of his future in God’s hands.
Many try to play God, deciding on their own when life should be and when life should end. Some commit suicide; others desire mercy killing (or euthanasia). Both are wrong and such acts do not praise God. To continue with such a mindset will take one right out of His hands.
So it is that Christians commit their future to God and leave it in His hands. He knows what is best. If we have continued opportunity to work in His kingdom, He will be praised. If our God-appointed end to life here is drawing to a close, we will soon be with Him in heaven, and He will be praised. In either case our one desire is met – Christ is praised. To praise Christ here is the best reason to live. To praise Christ there is the best reason to die. And it’s best to leave the decision in God’s hands of when we live and when we die. Leaving it to Him, trusting He knows what is best shows how much He is worth to you. God grant it in our lives of faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.