Philippians 1:21 - For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
It's my life and I can do with it as I wish. Well, in the verse here in Philippians and in the Gospel lesson for this Sunday in Matthew 20, God says no it's not. Life is His gift of life for you. It's given on His terms, and He desires that it be blessed on His terms alone as well.
To live, to die, in Christ is gain? What? In the Gospel, when Jesus says that heaven is a gift given and received by grace alone because of His generosity and not because of our works -- what? That doesn't sound fair; it doesn't sound right. Well, that's what most people say today. One of the great problems with Christianity for many people is that it treats all people exactly alike: all people are 100-percent sinners who receive God's love as 100-percent grace, or they can't receive it at all.
It seems so unfair until you realize how grave our predicament is -- not only in this world -- but in our lives. Before God, every one of us is in the same boat. As I get older, I realize how entrapping sin and temptations are. I realize how inept all of us are at doing the right thing at the right time for the people who need it when we don't get anything out of it but the joy of doing what's right alone. That doesn't mean we should stop trying. But it does mean that even when we actually do something right, for the right reason, for the right purpose, even that is a gift of God's grace at work through His love in our lives.
The problem today ... so much of the puritanical bravado, both on the left and the right, that I see going on in our world today is about setting up straw men and woman and then punishing them with vitriol, with shame, even with threats to their well-being. Why? Because they really aren't all that powerful, and they can't or won't fight back. Listen, I'm not saying we shouldn't stand up for what's right and fight for the truths of God in the public arena of life. The key to it all is "Why?"
Jesus wants us to be His people for others. He wants us to live life in Him for others. He wants us to speak His truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15), with gentleness and respect. Why? Because He ultimately wants all people to come to faith and trust in Him alone.
When the apostle Paul says that "to live is Christ, to die is gain," he was being clear. Life is about Jesus Christ being our Lord and Savior. We live now in Him and through Him for others. And even the greatest challenge to life -- physical death itself -- can't get in the way of Him blessing us with life and salvation, even then. Thank God it's not my life; it's not your life to be lived on our own, with our strength and wisdom alone. Look at human history, and you'll see how that story ends. Thank God there is another way to live. It's one that blesses now and forever. To that end, God bless you today and always.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, give me a clarity of heart, mind, body, and soul to see how all things relate to You as my Lord and Savior, and then give me courage to live that reality for all its worth. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz
Speaker of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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