The Christian Faith presents many paradoxes that challenge the believer and non-believer. Charles Spurgeon once said, “The same sun which melts wax hardens clay & the same Gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.” The paradox of the Gospel of Faith which Paul taught is this: so long as he lived it was to and for Christ’s glory, but to die would be infinite gain in that he would be present with his Savior.
This is the heart of the message of the book of Philippians. Matt Chandler, with Jared C. Wilson, presents a systematic study on the book of Philippians. This is not a book which slowly plods through each verse by exegesis, rather it centers on the scriptures that we have made into a marketable product and slapped on mugs and t-shirts. We have unfortunately misinterpreted the heart of Paul’s letter. Of all the books Paul wrote this is the only one which is not aimed at correcting a local church body. Paul writes as a father to a family he misses and wants desperately to encourage. (Click past the break for more)
Chandler takes from many other Pauline letters to expound upon the purpose and context of Paul’s writing to show us how we might live. Through the dichotomy of Paul’s disrepute for things of the world and American animal consumerism, Chandler presents an opportunity, as Paul does to the Philippians, to follow after Christ more deeply than before so that during seasons of greatness or lowliness we might also say, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
Chandler shares so many personal experiences that it will be nearly impossible for readers to relate with all of them. I was deeply impacted by the topic of affection. Chandler says that we have things that will tip our scale towards or away from Christ, and that we must give to that which leans our affections towards Christ while taking from that which does not. This was a very hard thing for me to read for one big reason…
I am on vacation right now. In fact, I devoured the book while lying in, by, or within a stones’ throw of a either a pool or ocean in Florida (sometimes both at the same time). There is no more difficult time to challenge your inner being than while on vacation. It’s difficult to overdo it on food and drink when you’re reading Paul’s statement “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” or to sit on sandy shores watching the sunset and meditating on the words, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” Yet there I was, ringside seat, watching a fight between my soul and my sins as the sun retired for the day.
Needless to say I am now at the end of my vacation with a laundry list of adjustments to be made, by God’s grace, so that my affections tip further towards Jesus. Practically that means: less Netflix/T.V. time; doing personal and family devotions daily; deleting a few apps that kill time; working out and eating healthy; reading more; selling my xbox and games; praying alone and with my household; and getting involved in my church community. Now tell me that I wasn’t changed by this book!
To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain comes out September 1. Go pre-order a copy and prepare your heart for change.