To Live is Christ

by Mike Ratliff

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (Philippians 3:12-16 ESV)

As some of you know, this week I and several other readers of “Possessing the Treasure” had a conversation about self-righteousness and how it is a most hurtful thing to come into a body of believers. Not only does it hurt weaker brothers and sisters, keeping them from finding their freedom in Christ, it also keeps those who are in bondage to it from humbling themselves before their Lord. My post God Justifies the UnGodly was written as a response to that. No one in Christ has any business looking down their noses at anyone else, believer or unbeliever. Yes, those with discernment must rebuke and correct, but that is never a license to attack from a motivation of demoralizing or hurting someone else. The motivation must always be from a foundation of humility and love with motivation to cause people to see the truth so they can repent and become restored.

In our comment section we also discussed humility. Humility is a not easy to get our minds around. The problem is that pride sometimes masquerades as humility. We naturally act humble from a motivation of pride. It is insidious. Also, most of us have a wrong idea what genuine humility is. Is a person who is self-deprecating humble? What about the person who boldly shares his or her faith with confidence? Our fleshly minds see the former as humble and the latter as prideful, when that is more than likely not the case. If the person full of boldness and confidence is emboldened by the Holy Spirit and their confidence is in our Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit in and through them, then they are actually exhibiting Christlike humility. On the other hand, the one who is constantly tearing themselves down before others could be doing so from a motivation of false humility that is actually pride. The ones who are ready to serve the Lord and do so with enthusiasm and boldness are genuinely humble if their confidence is in God, not their own abilities. On the other hand, those who are always telling others that they can’t serve because they aren’t able are actually responding from their pride. They don’t want to look bad if they fail. They have no faith in God working through them. Do you see how insidious this is?

The genuinely humble believer is one who is available for the Lord to use as He sees fit. He or she has such confidence in their Lord that their humility is exhibited as, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” These see their affliction as in God’s hands and for His glory because He is Sovereign, He is the Potter and they are the clay.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 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. (Philippians 1:15-20 ESV)

Paul was in prison. The book of Philippians is his epistle to the believers in Philippi in Macedonia. It is one of his “prison epistles.” While in prison, others were deceitfully preaching the gospel hoping to torment him. Paul had passion for the gospel and these people knew that they were doing something that would surely cause him grief. However, what was his response? Christ was proclaimed and in that he rejoiced. Notice he told the truth about people who were deliberately trying to cause him pain. He openly said it. Nowadays, when those of us point out things that the Lord has revealed to be apostasy or heresy we are called un-loving and un-Christian. However, Paul, surely a prime example of genuine humility, openly tells us about those people. Then he tells us that it doesn’t matter because God is in control. The prayers of the Philippian Christians along with the working of the Holy Spirit would result in him being released from prison. However, even if that is not the case, Paul prays that he will not be ashamed, but will have courage even unto death or torture or both so that Christ will be honored in him. How many of us would be willing to offer up our bodies to be killed or maimed in order for God to be glorified in us?

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:21-26 ESV)

This sort of devotion is the result a life that is Spirit-led. Christians full of fear, resentment, anger, etc. are controlled by their flesh. They are Soul-led. The Spirit-led abide in Christ and have His Joy. (John 15) Because of this, they can do Christlike things such as sacrificing their lives for the glory of God. Does this mean that I am saying that those who are Spirit-led are Spirit-led all the time and never Soul-led? No, we all spend time suffering through seasons of doubt and despair as the Lord uses those times to burn away from our hearts that which is not of Him. The Soul-led must learn to become Spirit-led and the Lord draws them into doing that. Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2 is all about turning our hearts to God and becoming Christlike. Paul was willing to either die and go to Christ or continue to live so he could be used by God to help the Philippians learn how to be Christlike as well. Also, those who joyfully lay their lives down for the Lord are genuinely humble because they see the Lord’s will as far more important than their own. They are surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. They live within His Lordship. On the other hand, those who are not genuinely humble will be looking out for their own best interests above what God wills. Remember, the humble seek to line their will up with God’s while the prideful seek to line up God’s will with theirs. The Spirit-led seek only to do God’s will while the Soul-led seeks only their own way in all things. What will a life that is progressively becoming more and more Spirit-led look like?

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27-30 ESV)

Genuine Christianity results in affliction and persecution. It is not of this world so the world hates it. The Compromised Church has made friends with the world so it will never experience these things to the same level as genuine Christians living their lives before the face of God so that the lost hates and attacks them. Instead, some these Compromised Church leaders are becoming super stars with society and media. The Compromised Church is so little different from the world and so spiritually blind that when they encounter genuine Christians they see them as old-fashioned in their beliefs and a threat to their “fun.”

About 18 months ago I was at the Kansas City airport waiting for my daughter’s plane to land as she and her fiance came to visit us from OKC. I found myself in a conversation with an older couple sitting next to me in the waiting area. I could tell by their conversation that they were totally secular Catholics and more than likely unbelievers. Up to that moment, I had been reading a book by R.C Sproul. They asked me what I was reading. I showed them the cover. They both looked at each other then asked me if I was preacher or something. I told them that I was a writer even though, at that point, my first two books were still in the edit stage. They asked me what sort of books I wrote. I couldn’t think of any author they would be familiar with that writes about what I write about so I just told them I wrote about Christianity. Then the wife’s face lit up and told me that one of her favorite authors and preachers was Joel Osteen. She then went on and on about his book, Your Best Life Now. Okay, now what do I do? Do I tell them the truth about Osteen’s Palagianism? I doubted that they would even know what that meant. Do I tell them that the man’s ministry is nothing but a superficial shadow of a real Christian ministry? I doubted that that would be productive with them. They needed Jesus not a dissertation on something unbelievers would never understand. I found it telling that they could both love Mister Osteen and his book and still see no reason to repent and believe. So what did I tell them? I told them that I wrote about how to walk the Christian walk in humility and obedience to the will of God while Joel Osteen’s ministry was more to show people how to be happy and wasn’t really about Christianity at all. I got some cold stares from both of them then they got up and stalked off. I never got a chance to share my faith with them. As I waited in the gate area for my daughter and future son-in-law, I saw the couple glancing at me from time to time. I know they were hostile to me, but the only reason I could think of for that was that I had insulted their favorite preacher. It was later that it came to my mind that they were afraid that I would witness to them.

Even though that was not a truly hostile situation, it chilled my heart. It bothered me for days afterward. Why? I suppose it is that we somehow think that people want to hear the good news. Unless people are drawn to the truth by God they NEVER want to hear it. If they perceive that what we teach and preach and share is somehow a threat to them they will see us in that light. However, we must not worry about these things nor become consumed by it. Our role in God’s plan is obedience. We are supposed to have already counted the cost and seen that our treasure is in Heaven and so we obey even if it costs us our lives.

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14 thoughts on “To Live is Christ

  1. This is a great post and relates to the sermon my pastor preached. It, also, was on Philippians and hit upon Paul’s rejoicing of Christ being preached by even those who preached out of envy and strife. He said there were/are 4 reasons for Paul’s rejoicing: 1) The Gospel is always more valuable above all things, 2) supremely necessary despite all other good things, 3) encourages us regarding the efficacy of the Gospel, 4) we are saved by the Gospel alone. His sermon went into great detail on each point. In of themselves without the details, could sound superficial but it was not. You would really like to hear his sermon. If you are interested, Go here and order the sermon from him. It’s called “The Central Gauge of Our Success”

  2. Thank you Mike for the continuing biblical instruction. A blessing and an encouragement.

    The teaching on biblical / authentic humility was of particular correction to me. Thank you.

  3. Mike, personally I never get into a discussion with a lost person about anything but Jesus and His salvation. When people who are definitely unregenerate ask me what I think about for instance “Benny Hinn” who they say they watch, I reply it is not important what people think about Benny Hinn, the Pope, or me for that matter, what do you believe about Jesus.

    The only hope for adherants to people like Osteen is to be born again, only then will they see the difference.

  4. Sarah,

    Sounds like you have a very well grounded Pastor who preaches the truth. Rejoice my sister that God has you in that church. I will listen to that sermon later this evening.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Thank Kim,

    Humility is our greatest struggle I think, at least it is for me. Pride is that ugly thing we all have that causes to worship self in our Idolatry of the Heart. When we are humble, we are actually being obedient to God in His strength. We can do whatever the Lord wills for us to do because it isn’t really up to our abilities, but His grace.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Rick,

    That’s very wise of you. After that happened, I knew I had not done that right. That was what was bothering me more than anything else. Thank you for your advice and godly example.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. Hi mike,
    Those folks were probably afraid of just that, hearing the truth. On the other hand I have met folks that say that they don’t tell everyone they meet about the gospel. They say their not sure that some people are open to hear about salvation. I think to myself when it comes to salvation you can never speak to the wrong man about Christ. It is opportunities God give us and we should take Him up on it.

    As for pride and humility

    Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty…acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours. – James I Packer


  8. Mike
    I don’t think it is always necessarily wrong to tell someone that the person they are listening to or reading from is off base. Perhaps you put some doubt in their minds about Joel Osteen. At the time, they may have resented it, but then maybe they’ll begin thinking about the fact that there may be truth to what you shared. You never know what the Lord will use. Jesus told the people to beware the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Paul also warned about false teachers. Sometimes you have to tear down before you can build up. It would have been nice of course if you had had more time with them in order to go into more detail about what you were warning them against. But still, I would not discount it. Pray that the Lord would lead them to the truth. Who knows but that they had been feeling a little uncertainty already and your words were an (unwelcome at the moment) confirmation.

  9. Thanks Julie. That incident still bothers me at times. Of course, there have been several times in the past when I tired to witness to someone only to have some other “Christian” interfere like they were embarrassed or something. I often wonder how the Lord will deal those who do things like that. What do you think?

    In Christ

    Mike Raltiff

  10. I am not sure what you mean? I guess I have had times where I was trying to witness and others became a distraction, is that what you mean? Personally, I find witnessing very difficult, and I would much prefer one-on-one with the unsaved person in order to limit any distractions, though one-on-one is not always possible of course.

    If a “Christian” is embarrassed by Jesus, that is a red flag. On the other hand, a strong Christian friend to go witnessing with, that would be a real blessing, I would think (someone you know well, who is solid and would be a real help and not a hindrance).

    How will the Lord deal with those who are embarrassed by Him? Jesus said,
    “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26)

  11. Julie,

    Sorry, I wasn’t very clear. I have a couple in incidents where I was ready to present the gospel to someone and I had a “fellow Christian” who was with me interrupt and not allow me to do it. Why? I have no idea except they must have been embarrassed or ashamed of the gospel. It still bothers me.

    In both situations the person who interrupted me was not a person I picked to go witnessing with. They were people I worked with. In the first case the guy I worked with told me that we were getting ready to have lunch with his friend who needed Jesus. When the opening came that I had prayed would come to share the gospel, my friend from work wouldn’t let me do it. He just changed the subject and wouldn’t even look at for the rest of the time.

    The second one happened on a business trip to California. My boss and I and a friend I worked with who was a professing Christian went out to eat the last night we were in San Jose. My boss asked me about my faith. I started to present the truth to him and my “friend” interrupted us and changed the subject and that was that. I tried to share with my boss when we were alone together, but he wasn’t receptive anymore.

    Sad, very sad.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  12. Comment:

    My first encounter here; I liked very much the different responses; thank you. but I was seeking to know about Palagianism; and i noticed that Palagianism was mentioned in connection with Joel Osteen; that got my attention for I had thought it was charismatically bent and that that was unacceptable to God; I don’t know about Palagianism; so please explain this theology in connection with Joel Osteen; that should be interesting.

    I appreciate your response

    In Christ

    Eleanor Goldstein

  13. Eleanor,

    I think the best way to understand Pelangiansim is to read this article and this one.

    After reading them then look at Joel Osteen’s “message.” It is all about people being in control and in charge of their salvation, etc.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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