Christ Our Life

Philippians 1‑4  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 5
CHRIST OUR PATTERN.—-Philippians. 2:5-8.
CHRIST OUR OBJECT.——-Philippians. 3:12-14.
CHRIST OUR STRENGTH. -Philippians. 4:11-13.
HI 1:20,21{HI 2:5-8{HI 3:12-14{HI 4:11-13{We are often in the habit of thinking that Paul stood alone- that no other could say what he said, "For me to live is Christ." We think, Ah! yes, it was the apostle Paul who said that; none but he could possibly make such a statement with truth. Why not? The words were uttered by a man, and a man of like passions as we are.
If any were to ask me, "Could you say that?" my reply would be, "I object to the way the question is put." If you were to ask me whether I would be satisfied with being able to say anything short of that, I should at once say, No, I long to be able to say that truthfully, and nothing short of that. But there is something far better than being able to say it- LIVE IT.
We are living in a day of sham and form. Oh! to be characterized by their opposites- REALITY AND POWER.
Do you think it was necessary for Paul to say, "for to me to live is Christ," for the people about him to become acquainted with the fact? No, indeed, they could all see that it was true in his life.
Why was not Paul taken "to be with Christ, which is far better"? Because Christ was the gainer by his remaining on the earth. And why are you and I poor, weak, stumbling things, left here a day longer? Is it to make us fit for heaven? No, blessed be God, even our Father, who hath, made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. (See Col. 1:12-1412Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1:12‑14).) We are as fit to be in heaven as the Lord Jesus Christ is fit to be there- as fit as the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ could possibly make us: "as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:1717Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:17).) Is He free from our sins which He had upon Him on the tree? So are we in Him. Is He free from death and judgment? So are we in Him. Is He accepted by God? So are we in Him. Is He near and dear to God? We are equally so in Him. Then why are we left down here in this defiled and defiling world? Because the blessed Lord can get more gain by our being left here than by taking us to heaven. If we went to be with Him, we should be the gainers; He leaves us here that He may be the gainer.
I have met persons who have told me that they had such love to the Person of Christ, and such longings to be with Him, that they could not live down here. But I discovered, in conversation with them, that it was the rest and joy that they would enter upon, their gain, and not His; in short, that it was selfishness- spiritual selfishness, if you please- that made them desire to depart, and be with Christ.
He said, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:1515I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (John 17:15)); and if we had Christ's glory, Christ's gain, and His church's blessing at heart, we should pray and desire to be left down here, remembering that if we live, He gains; if we die, we gain.
If we have the earnest desire in our hearts to be satisfied with nothing less than being able to say, "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," God will produce it in us. Have we this intense longing?- that is the question—the longing that Christ only shall be the gainer by our being left down here; if we have, God will put us there, and work it through us.
Now let us turn to Phil. 2, and look at Christ as our pattern: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Three things are said of the blessed Lord. (1.) He made Himself of no reputation. (2.) He humbled Himself. (3.) He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Do we make ourselves of no reputation? Alas! how tenacious most of us are of our reputation. We talk and write about death and resurrection; we profess to be dead and risen with Christ, but let any one tread on our reputation, and how soon we prove how very little we are living in the power of these blessed truths. If we really believed that our good and bad characters were gone at the cross of Christ; if we had really been to our own funerals, we should never feel what are called "insults," because they simply touch ourselves; if we were really living in the power of death and resurrection, we should only feel what touches Christ's reputation, and never what touches our own.
These are days of high talk and low walk; we say and write the most beautiful things, but our walk shows that, whilst our lips and pens are full of these beautiful things, they have little or no place in, and power over, our hearts and lives. Again I say, Oh! for reality, for all was reality with Christ.
"He humbled himself," the yoke never galled His neck, He never had to be put down, He was always going down, until He reached the dust of death. There never was any resistance in Him to the Father's will. When He came into the world, He said, "I delight to do thy will." As He passed through this world, He could say, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me;" and when He was passing out of the world, He said, "Thy will be done." His whole course down here was colored by His Father's will.
I tremble for persons when I hear them asking God to humble them. It is our privilege to look to God so to fill us with the mind that was in Christ, that, by His grace, we should humble ourselves. I have known persons who have been praying for years that God would make them humble, and yet every year they have grown in pride; they are constantly putting on bits of worldliness, instead of giving them up. How is this? Simply because they make humility their object instead of "Christ once humbled here." THERE IS NO GETTING ON WITHOUT GIVING UP. But Christ was obedient unto death, and He is our pattern in this, for we are set apart to the obedience of Christ, to obey as He obeyed, and upon the same principle, and He is surely saying to us, "Learn of me," and make yourselves of no reputation; to humble yourselves, and to be obedient unto death. Oh! for grace to get near to Him, and learn of Him.
In Phil. 3, we have Christ as our object: "This one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus."
The heart must have an object, we could not live without it. There are only two objects in this world- Christ and self; and all our thoughts, words, ways, and walk, emanate from, center in, and revolve around one or the other of these two objects. Which is it?
There is a proneness to live on our laurels, to rest on our oars, instead of "to advance be all my care." There are two striking words in this chapter-" behind" and "before." Are we looking back, or looking ahead? In Col. 3 are two more significant words- " below" and "above." Are we looking down, or looking up?
If we have not Christ for our object, then it is self; we rise early, sit up late, to advance self, our families, our belongings; everything is looked at in connection with self. If Christ were our only object in this world, what a change it would make in the way we dress ourselves, furnish our houses, conduct our businesses- in short, it would affect everything we eat, drink, say, and do.
The great tendency among us is to improve our positions in this world; what is this but to further self? Surely it is looking "behind" and "below," and not "before" and "above."
What a rare thing it is to find a satisfied heart in this world! Satisfied means much more than being content. Many a one says, "I am like to be content, because I cannot alter or improve my circumstances." But Paul could say, "for as to me, I have learned in those circumstances in which I am, to be satisfied in myself." The word translated "content," in chapter 4, comes from two Greek words, which mean a country wanting no help of others, that supplies itself, that wants no imports, because it has sufficient. What is a satisfied heart? It is one that has found a perfectly and everlastingly satisfying object, and never looks about for a second one. This is what it will be in glory, we shall never look about for a second there, we shall be supremely and eternally satisfied with Christ, and it would be so now, if He were our absorbing object. Oh! to make Himself and His concerns our life-object, and allow Him to make us and our concerns His affairs; and then what rest and joy of heart we should know in life and service. There would be no panting for change of circumstances, for we should know and believe that those we are in are the best possible, that our Father is always doing the best thing for us, the thing that is most for His own glory, and our present and future, our deepest and truest, blessing; and the result would be, unbounded confidence in unbounded love.
In Phil. 4, we have Christ our strength: "Without me ye can do nothing." It is well to learn this lesson. Have we learned it? Paul had, and hence could say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." This is the secret of how Paul, a poor, weak, failing creature like ourselves, could say, "for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." How is it possible for Christ to be the gainer but by our being left down here, where the Holy Ghost is, and where the Church, the body of Christ, is?
We become correspondingly like what we are occupied with. If we are occupied with Christ, He will strengthen us to be patient in this trying scene, and satisfied in this unsatisfied and unsatisfying world; we shall be "strengthened with all might, according to his power in the glory, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness."
And now we have Christ for our life. Do we want a better life than that? We have Christ for our pattern. Do we want a better pattern? We have Christ for our object. Do we want a better object? We have Christ for our strength. Do we want better strength? Are we satisfied with Christ? May He be the gainer whilst we are left here, until we shall gain by being caught up to be with and like Himself forever, for His worthy name's sake. Amen. H. M. H.
Croydon, July 20th, 1882.