When we look at history, we find that people who have done the most for this world have been those who thought more of the next one.
For example, look at our own nation. Some of the great universities we have today were started by Bible-believing Christians with the intent not only to educate people, but to teach them about Jesus Christ. You may be surprised to know that institutions such as Yale and Harvard have solid Christian roots.
This is typical of the direction Christians have taken throughout history. They’ve wanted to make an impact on our culture. Christians have started hospitals. They’ve started shelters. Christians have reached out to the downtrodden and the hurting in our world today with the gospel of Jesus Christ, clothing them, feeding them, and taking care of them.
Even today when a problem develops somewhere in the world, whether it’s a famine or natural disaster or some other crisis, it’s Christians who usually lead the way through relief organizations, trying to do something for others.
It shows us that those who are truly heavenly minded will be of the greatest earthly good.
When the apostle Paul said, “To live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21 NKJV), he was speaking of the fact that he had an interest in the things of this life as well. Later he said, “I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” (verses 23–24 NLT).
He was saying, “I want to go be with the Lord, but I have a job to do.” What I appreciate about Paul is that he had a practical spirituality. Yes, Paul loved Jesus and wanted to live for Him. Without question he had a holy passion for the things of God.
But it’s also true that Paul was utterly human. He didn’t live in stained glass. He didn’t walk around with a little pedestal that he climbed up on when he wanted to make a pronouncement. Rather, he was someone like you and me.
We know from reading Paul’s life story in the Book of Acts and other places that Paul had conflicts. He had a conflict with one of his associates, and they parted company for a time. (They reconciled later.) Even Paul got into disagreements.
We also know that he would get upset at times. There was an occasion when he was standing before the high priest, Ananias, on bogus charges. At one point he said something to Ananias, and as a result, Ananias commanded that he be struck in the mouth.
Paul shot back: “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?” (Acts 23:3 NLT).
That doesn’t sound like turning the other cheek to me. It sounds like something I might do.
Yet Paul didn’t sit around with some kind of death wish. He was imprisoned and chained to a Roman guard, but he wasn’t saying, “I hope I die today. I hope my life is taken from me.” Actually, I don’t think anyone loved life more than Paul did.
On one occasion when his life was threatened, other believers lowered him in a basket over the city wall to help him escape during the night. He was practical. He wanted to live. But he had his priorities in order. He had a balanced spirituality.
The most godly men and women that I’ve had the privilege of meeting over the years have always impressed me with their genuine spirituality.
I’ve spent time with Billy and Ruth Graham, Chuck Smith, and Alan Redpath, all of whom have since gone to be with the Lord. I’m not saying this to brag; I’m saying this to tell you that the godliest people I’ve known are real people. And I can also tell you they loved God and had their priorities in order. Yet there was a balance to their lives.
The spirituality I’m talking about isn’t some kind of spacey, wild-eyed, one-taco-short-of-a-combination-plate spirituality.
I’m talking about practical faith, a real faith that the Bible proclaims. That is the kind of spirituality Paul was speaking of when he said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Paul wasn’t speaking of an elite spirituality that can only be experienced by him or by Christians in the first century. He was speaking of an experience, a lifestyle that should quite literally be the norm for every follower of Jesus Christ from his day to ours.
However, the Christianity of the New Testament does seem different from the Christianity of today. That’s because as a contemporary church, we have strayed, to a large degree, from God’s original intent.
I think most of the first-century church had the same motto for living as Paul’s: to live is Christ. There were no social advantages to being a Christian in those days. In fact, they could lose their lives because of it.
Yet the way the first-century Christians impacted their culture is nothing short of breathtaking. They didn’t outargue the pagans; they outlived them.
And it’s worth noting that Christians of the first century made no attempts to conquer paganism and dead religion by reacting blow by blow. Instead, the early believers outthought, outprayed, and outlived the nonbelievers.
Their weapons were positive, not negative. They didn’t conduct protests or organize boycotts. They didn’t put on campaigns to try to unseat the Roman emperors. Instead they prayed, preached, and proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ. And to a large degree, they won over a good portion of their culture. They, like Paul, could say, “To live is Christ.”
If we would say the same thing, we could impact our culture today in a much more effective way. To live is Christ.
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Originally published at WND.com
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