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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am service, 2007-12-09

Text: Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:17-4:1

'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.' This is one of the most beautiful and meaningful verses in the Bible! It reveals many things about the one who wrote it. Firstly, it is evident that he was fully identified with Christ, since he said that he is crucified with Christ. There is no greater degree of identification with Christ than this. In addition to that the writer was fully surrendered to Christ, because he claims that Christ lives in Him. His life belongs to Christ, and is fully yielded to fulfill the will of Christ. And that's not all - The writer is also fully committed to live for Christ, as he states that he lives by the faith of the Son of God. He has complete trust in Christ to lead him, direct him and provide for him each day.

We can also tell from the way the verse is written that this life which was fully identified with Christ, surrendered to Christ and committed to live for Christ had not been the writer's life at first. He says, 'and the life which I now live in the flesh.' This implies that at one time, he used to live for less worthy goals than Christ, but somehow there was a turning point that had changed his life. When did it come? The end of the verse shows us that it came when he personally experienced the matchless love of the Son of God who had given His own life for him. From that point onwards the writer's life was no longer the same as it was before. His old life was dead and gone - crucified with Christ. He now lived a new and better life, which was entirely for Christ alone!

I. The Life that Was Lived for Christ - Paul, the Apostle

What we have just seen is actually a very concise summary of the life of the apostle Paul, and if we want to appreciate what he wrote here fully, we must first know the full story of his life. 

A. His Early Life

Paul was born with the Hebrew name Saul, in a city of Tarsus which was on the south-eastern part of present-day Turkey. Tarsus had become a strong city through its good location as a port, and had attained the status of a Metropolis, where people from different nations and cultures mingled and lived together. 

In about 100 BC Tarsus had become a Roman city. So Paul was born a Roman citizen. Growing up in Tarsus, he became familiar with Greek and Roman manners, customs and languages. This, together with his strict Jewish upbringing, later made him ideal to become God's messenger of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul received an excellent education. As a boy he learned how to make tents because the region of Cilicia was well known for its tent-making industry. 

In his teens Paul left Cilicia for Jerusalem for his formal religious training under a famous rabbi named Gamaliel (Acts 22:3 cf. 5:34). Then he had about a decade of practical experience as a member of an elite religious order known as the Pharisees. Paul became a very zealous Pharisee and began to distinguish himself among his contemporaries by leading them in a fanatical 'jihad' against Christians, which the Pharisees regarded as a deviant movement. But while he was on his way to Damascus to carry out the persecution of Christians there, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him and stopped him in his tracks.

B. His Conversion and Training

Paul's conversion took place when he was 25-35 years old (Acts 9:3-6). His call from God was clear and unmistakable. Jesus appeared to him in a blinding light and said, 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?... I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.' Paul was struck with blindness, and perhaps this was meant to make him realise his own spiritual blindness with which he had recklessly opposed the Lord. 

Humbled and completely helpless, Paul spent three days praying and fasting in repentance for his sins of mistaken zeal, until Ananias came, restored his sight and baptized him. Paul was immediately changed from being the foremost persecutor of Christ to becoming the foremost promoter of Christ! (Acts 9:20 'And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.') This incurred the wrath of the Jews who now regarded him as a traitor. Paul then went away to Arabia for three years (Galatians 1:17). It was probably during this time that Jesus revealed directly to him everything that he needed to know to be an apostolic witness for Him (Acts 26:16). We can liken this to the three years that Jesus had spent with the other apostles when He trained them.

After this, Paul went to meet with the apostle Peter and James at Jerusalem for 15 days, before spending the next 4 years back in his home at Tarsus. When the first Gentile Church was formed at Antioch, the church of Jerusalem sent a person named Barnabas to establish them. He in turn took Paul from Tarsus to co-labour with him at Antioch for a year (Acts 11:19-26). This was where Paul gained his first experience in church-planting among Gentiles - something which he was to do for the rest of his life.

C. His Ministry

And then when Paul was in his late thirties or early forties, he and Barnabas were sent as the first missionaries of the church of Antioch (Acts 13:1-3). Within the next 15 years, Paul completed 3 missionary journeys covering 4 provinces of the Roman Empire, and planting new churches everyhere he went. During all these missionary journeys, he suffered many difficult trials which he described in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 'in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.'

D. His Imprisonment and Promotion of Glory

After completing these journeys, Paul was arrested at Jerusalem and imprisoned at Caesarea on false charges brought against him by the unbelieving Jews. At a court hearing there, he claimed his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar and so he was transferred to Rome and kept there under house arrest while awaiting trial (AD 59-61). By God's grace he was released and may have made other missionary journeys for 6 years, traveling as far west as Spain. In AD 67 Paul, now in his sixties, was arrested again, and this time he was sentenced to death as part of Nero's intense persecution of Christians. 

Paul was ready to face death. Listen to what he wrote in his last epistle (2 Timothy 4:6-8) 'For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.'

How wonderful it would be if each of us is able to say the same thing at the end of our lives - I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. It speaks of a life that was well spent. But in order to be able to end so well, we first have to emulate the well-spent life of the apostle Paul. And we need to know what it was that really enabled him to accomplish so much. The answer lies in the words that Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'

II. The Life We Ought to Live ' for Jesus Christ

Your conversion to Chritianity may not have been as dramatic at Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. But if you are saved, you have certainly received the very same mercy and grace from the Lord that he received because your sins are as much deserving of God's judgment as his. You may not have been endowed with the same abilities and talents as Paul which enabled him to preach the Gospel of Christ and plant churches. But you have certainly been endowed with a life that can be used by the Lord. 

And so as the apostle Paul lived his life for Christ, you also ought to be living your life for Christ! Paul's words in Galatians 2:20 should be yours as well. It ought to speak of your full identification with Christ, your full surrender to Christ, and your full commitment to live for Christ alone. In the words that the hymnwriter Isaac Watts wrote, 'Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all!' In the light of this, I would ask all of us here to examine our lives - are we truly living for Christ? Have we really died to self? Are we seeking to do His will every day rather than our own will? 

Perhaps you may have at some point in your life been moved to tears by what the Lord has done for you, and you responded by giving yourself to Him. You had said to Him, 'Lord, I consecrate my life to Thee. Take it and use it for Thy glory.' And then you thought that the matter has been settled and you proceeded to live exactly as you had done before. There was little or no follow up on your promise. Dear friends, please understand that living for Christ is not merely a promise you make when you are deeply moved by God's love. Living for Christ is a daily commitment that requires your conscious efforts to involve Christ in every aspect of your life. In order for us to understand what it means to live for Christ let us look at what Paul wrote in Colossians 4:17-5:1.

III. How to Live for Christ

Verse 17 'And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.' This verse tells us to do everything is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. This means that we give glory and honour to His name, by acknowledging that it is by His grace and strength alone that we can do all things. The accompanying words 'giving thanks to God and the Father by Him' show that this is the intended meaning. When we recognize that all we have done is only possible by the Lord's grace, then thanksgiving for that grace becomes the most natural thing to do.

So in practical terms, v.17 means that in whatever you do in word or deed, whether it is work, or play, traveling or eating or even sleeping, you should always be ready to acknowledge, either by prayer or by public testimony that you do it all by the grace of God. With the apostle Paul you should say, 'by the grace of God I am what I am.' If Christ does not provide the strength to work, how would you earn your living? If Christ does not permit you to have a good night's rest, how would you be able to sleep? If Christ does not keep you safe in your journey, how would you reach your destination? Since we can do all these things only by Him and through Him, let us always be ready to give glory to His name in everything we do. 

Now we look at v.23 and we notice that it is also about 'whatsoever we do' like v.17. It says: 'And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men.' This time the emphasis is not on the ultimate cause of all our deeds (as in v.17) but on the ultimate purpose or object of all our deeds. What do we do them for? We do all things for the Lord, to please Him rather than to please men. And since God alone sees our hearts, we must be doing all things heartily or with all our heart, in order to please Him. So all our work ought to be dedicated to honour and please the Lord who is our real Master. This means that it must be of the best possible quality. 

This is the attitude that you must have for everything you do - to put all your heart into it, to do it well, because you do it for Christ, and not for men. Do all things as if Christ is going to check the quality of your work, just as He will one day assess the quality of all your labour on earth and will reward you accordingly. In verse 23 we see that the prospect of being rewarded by the Lord is found in the following verse: 'Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.' Let this become your motivation to do all things well in life, whether at work (since this verse is primarily given in the context of servants working for human masters), or at home (for housewives in doing various household chores like cooking, washing and ironing), or at school (for students preparing for tests and exams) or at church (for those who are serving in the various ministries) - do all these things heartily, with the very best effort, as to the Lord, knowing that He is going to assess the quality of your work. 

Thus by studying vv.17 and 23, we have seen two aspects of living for Christ - doing everything gratefully in His name, and doing everything heartily as unto Him. Christ must be the acknowledged as the ultimate cause of everything we do and the ultimate purpose for everything we do. That is how He becomes the centre of our lives. And this is rightly so, because God's Word tells us that every thing in life derives its existence, its subsistence, its meaning, its purpose and its sustenance from Jesus Christ. Every fact, every work, and every accomplishment in life must be seen in relation to Him, for He is the ultimate reference point for every thing. 

And this is why Christ should be the centre of our lives. There is not a thought we can think without Him, or a word we can speak without Him, or a deed we can do without Him. There is not a day, or an hour or even a second of our lives that can go by without Him. His involvement in our lives must be 100 % it must be full and comprehensive. That is what v.17 of our text means when it tells us: 'And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.'

Doing this can be quite challenging because the world we live in is opposed to Christ. While we are trying to make Christ the center of all the things we do, the world is trying to displace, and even to remove Christ from every place where He ought to be. For instance, Christ is removed from Christmas and replaced with Santa Claus. Sometimes ironically, Christians are the ones who are most ashamed to honour Christ! Some do not want to be perceived as fanatics. They may say, 'If everything in my life has to be centred that much on Christ alone, will that not make life rather monotonous and even boring? Will people not think that I am obsessed with Christ, and that I have a one-track mind?' 

But if you were to look at what the apostles wrote in the Scriptures, you will realize that they were really all out for Jesus Christ, even to the point of being despised as fanatics by their contemporaries. The apostle Paul boldly said in Philippians 3:13,14 'this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.' If you are ever afraid that you might be overdoing your commitment to Christ, learn from the Scriptures what normal Christian living is all about - it is all about a completely Christ-centred life!

Let us realize that we can never have too much of Christ in our life. In fact all too often, the problem with us is that we do not have enough of Him. We may involve Him fully in our time in church, and in all our Christian activities. But when we go home to our families we forget to involve Him in our home life. And when we step into our workplace we forget to involve Him in our work life.

This is perhaps the reason why immediately after v.17, the apostle Paul gave a whole series of instructions on these two large areas of our lives - our family life and our work life. And here we can see how the Lord must be involved each important relationship. First in v.18 Paul addresses the wives, saying, 'Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.' (The last part, 'as it is fit in the Lord' means that it is right and good in the sight of the Lord Jesus Christ).

Then to the husbands he says, 'love your wives, and be not bitter against them.' You may be wondering where Christ is involved in this injunction. The answer is found by comparing this with the more detailed version of these same instructions that Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians (Remember that both epistles were written at about the same time). In Ephesians 5:25 Paul repeats the same command to husbands 'Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it;' Christ's love for the church becomes the standard for the selfless love, that all husbands must follow. As the apostle Paul speaks to the children in verse 20, he brings Christ in again 'Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.' This means that the primary motivation for obedience to parents is not to please one's parents, but to please the Lord Jesus Christ! This has one important implication for us: That the Christ-centred life is not only for adult believers, but for children as well.

They too must be taught to put Christ first before everything in their lives, even before their own parents! During the time when Christians were tortured and persecuted in communist Rumania, the communists were trying to make a Christian deny Christ, so they took his 10-year old son and threatened to slaughter him in front of the father unless he would deny Christ. But the boy said to his father, 'Father, if you deny Christ, you are no longer my father.' And so the father stood firm and had to watch in tears as his son was beaten to death in front of him, and as the son died he continued to shout to his father not to deny Christ!

The instruction for fathers in v.21 is given more fully in Ephesians 6:4 which says, 'And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.' The nurture and admonition of the Lord means a Christ-centred upbringing, teaching the children to love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts and to serve Him. Parents, please remember that Christ is the head of your home. He watches how you handle your children, and so you must handle them carefully, giving the right amount of discipline and instruction. Do not neglect the spiritual nurture of your children and leave it to the Sunday School ministry. It makes a difference who the child learns spiritual things from. Receiving the truths about God from one's parents adds an element of familiarity to it that makes it more precious. 

In v.22 the servants are told to obey their masters, and to carry out all the tasks given to them heartily, as to the Lord. Now this injunction applies to all of us who are employees. We are to do our work well whether or not we are treated well. And Christian employers are not exempted from living for Christ. They too must include Christ in their relationship with their employees because 4:1 says 'Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.' If you have people working for you treat them well ' pay them on time, don't overwork them and make them come back to work on the Lord's Day or on their off days. And most of all do your best to bring them to Christ if they are non-Christians.

And so we have seen that Christ must be involved in everything we do and in all our relationships, at home and at work. We may broaden the scope further to include our personal life, social life, and even our recreational life. Christ must be the centre of every aspect of our lives. He should be Lord or all, or else He is not lord at all.

You may want to spend some time today going through each area of your life and think of how Christ should be involved in it. For example, in your personal life you should give priority to your daily Quiet time, Bible study, prayer and fellowship. For your home life you should make your home as conducive as possible for Christ to exercise His divine lordship within your family. If you are a student, you should study well, not for the grades or degrees, but to obtain all the skills and knowledge that will enable you to serve the Lord better for the rest of your life. For your working life you should do your very best with the help of Christ, so that you may eventually bring glory to Him through the honest hard work, diligent fulfillment of your responsibilities and a shining testimony to your colleagues. 

For your social life is you should seek to build good friendships through which you can communicate Christ to others by your word and life. For your recreational life you should enjoy edifying music and art that will make you appreciate Christ's design of all things. For the management of your time, your possessions and financial resources is you should seek to be a good steward of all things that Christ has given to you. 

Now, setting all these goals is only the beginning. Make plans to review them regularly, and perhaps even to share them with someone you can be accountable to, who will help you to follow up on them. May this help you to apply what you have learnt from God's Word fully so that you may be able to say with full conviction, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25