To live is Christ, to die is gain!

by Mike Ratliff

4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NKJV) 

It seems that most of what we post here has to do with the Gospel. It is vital that we do that. On the other hand, the way we handle it here and the way we demand that it be handled in our churches has, at times, been quite unpopular with certain people who have issues with preaching the Gospel and law together as well as how genuine Christians are called to walk in repentance until they are taken home to be with the Lord forever. Our focus has been on the eternal at the expense of the temporal and the flesh. We have looked at the necessity of living lives in which we deliberately seek to work with God in mortifying our sin. To certain apostates such as Rob Bell, that is simply putting people into slavery. However, our response should always be, “What does God’s Word say about the Gospel?”

I find it very interesting that since that day God has had me concentrate almost exclusively on the gospel several years ago, I began experiencing the same stigma attached to preaching the gospel as did those great Puritan preachers like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. We know that if we preach it that way or teach it that way, right from God’s Word, that there will be scoffers who will do all they can to silence us. However, these are tests my brethren to see if our fear of men carries a greater weight in our hearts than our love and fear of God. Are we going to seek the easy, calm and popular way of handling the gospel in order to “get along with everyone” or are we going to treat the gospel like the good news it is. To do the latter requires that we also give the bad news along with the good.

1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 (NKJV) 

1 Διὰ τοῦτο, ἔχοντες τὴν διακονίαν ταύτην καθὼς ἠλεήθημεν, οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν 2 ἀλλʼ ἀπειπάμεθα τὰ κρυπτὰ τῆς αἰσχύνης, μὴ περιπατοῦντες ἐν πανουργίᾳ μηδὲ δολοῦντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τῇ φανερώσει τῆς ἀληθείας συνιστάνοντες ἑαυτοὺς πρὸς πᾶσαν συνείδησιν ἀνθρώπων ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 3 εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔστιν κεκαλυμμένον τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἡμῶν, ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις ἐστὶν κεκαλυμμένον, 4 ἐν οἷς ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἐτύφλωσεν τὰ νοήματα τῶν ἀπίστων εἰς τὸ μὴ αὐγάσαι τὸν φωτισμὸν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς δόξης τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 (NA28)

Genuine ministers of the Word of God, preachers and teachers and theologians, are so “by the mercy” [ἠλεήθημεν] of God, not by any acts or manipulations of man. Paul says that because of this, he does “not lose heart” [οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν]. Isn’t it interesting that the gifting of the ministry to Paul was an act of mercy? This implies something totally undeserved given to one wholly unworthy. This understanding by the Apostle Paul cemented within His heart to never become discouraged, to lose heart, no matter what his circumstances devolved into. At every turn Paul found those in opposition to the gospel and his ministry. He was not only verbally abused, but beaten, imprisoned, slandered, hated, et cetera. That makes our day-to-day problems and dealing with self-appointed naysayers seem like pretty light stuff. However, what Paul is teaching here is necessary for us to grasp. His ministry was entirely above board. He was not guilty of changing the gospel to appeal to the flesh, which would have made his road quite a bit easier. In fact, he admits that the way He preached the gospel insured that it was veiled to some. Some will reject it out of hand because they are insulted or offended by its exclusivity and demand for a life of discipleship and repentance as necessary in order to claim Christ as both Lord and Saviour. Many I deal with in this are of the mind that if the gospel is rejected then something is wrong. Could it be that the god of this world has blinded the minds of these unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ?

5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (NKJV) 

As we minister in whatever capacity God has gifted us, we must proclaim His truth His way, while completely avoiding self-promotion. This is why marketing techniques and any form of manipulation to try to get the results we want is not of God. We are to preach Jesus and Him crucified and we are to simply be His servants for His sake alone. As we give the gospel to this lost and dying world, we are actually shining the light of the gospel into the darkness. The gospel illumines how Christ’s death on the cross makes it possible for God’s people to be in His presence, having been transformed by God’s presence and not destroyed by it. Like Paul we are to preach the crucified Christ as Lord, and then we must live out the gospel in the service of our hearers or readers.

I will continue to proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified until God takes me home. I will never stop living out the crucified life, embodying it by the grace of God until He takes this ministry from me, all by His grace.

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Philippians 1:21-23 (NKJV) 

Soli Deo Gloria!

See also:

Reasons why the next missionary you support should be a cessationist part 1
Reasons why the next missionary you support should be a cessationist part 2
Continuationism is not a secondary issue

 

One thought on “To live is Christ, to die is gain!

  1. The gospel of grace and the doctrine of election are truths that the ones Christ died to possess never tire of hearing, for it is our security of salvation and our rest in the finished work of Christ.

    So people really say to you that if the “gospel is rejected then something is wrong?!” Wow! They must be narrowly selective in the portions of scripture they read, with no understanding. The Bible has ample scriptures declaring that the gospel will be rejected by MANY and only FEW will be on the narrow path that leads to life. It permeates scripture. It declares that the world hated Christ and, therefore, will hate those whom He purchased with His own blood out of the world. There is overwhelming evidence in scripture that would have to be intentionally overlooked, for people despise its exclusivity.

    There is a church in my area that employs marketing techniques by running commercials on television. I can only imagine how the congregation is hounded to ‘give’ to keep the advertisements on the air. It demonstrates that the pastor does not trust God to bring whomever He will into that fellowship. That indicates to me that the pastor’s focus is on numbers; that’s the results he wants.

    To die is gain. Absolutely! To depart and be with Christ is far better. Positively! Daily, true believers become more foreign to this evil world. What is there of this world to hold us here? Loved ones? We must love Christ more and be willing to lay down our lives for His name’s sake. God will not have us to cling to this world and He will use means to cause us to release our hold on it and desire our eternal home.

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