My Epiphany on Phil 1:21

I think that we Christians often throw out Philippians 1:21 as the “coffee cup” verse too often.  You know- the verse that gets put on the coffee cup next to a cross and a pretty shiny white cloud.  It’s just a “oh yeah, I’m a good person because of Jesus” verse.  But in all actuality, it means way more than that.  What does it mean that “to live is Christ, but to die is gain”?  It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, though at root they are all the same: To live as and for Christ and the spread of the Gospel.  Often I find that it is hard for people to actually point out a moment when this was “very clear” in their own lives.  Here’s a small one for me:

Today I tweeted about my getting a B instead of an A on a paper because I approached a paper on Biblical hermeneutics as if the Bible is the word of God.

Seriously, I got a B on an A paper because my professor worried I was “bringing presuppositions about what the Bible is and how the reader encounters Scripture to your criticism of Cassian… [You have] theology… and your criticisms are grounded in it.”

In the long run, this is no big deal.  It’s a B in a class I may very well still get an A in [Edit: I got an A].  But what did he say in that critique?   He basically said, and these are my words not his,”You are a Christian, and because of your doctrine, your approach to the work from an objective point of view was invalid or less than exceptional.”  The only problem is this:  it was an exceptional paper.  Truly, one of my better papers.  But my faith simply did not allow me to approach scripture in the way he wanted me to.  Thus, the tweet.

My phone vibrates a short time later. Of course it is Mr. Reliable, my good friend and former fellow intern at FBC Wylie, Scott Partridge.  Scott is called to be a missionary, and has a great heart for the Lord.  He is a guy I truly know that believes and lives as if living is “Christ,” and dying is gain.

Scott remarks,”That’s probably one of the biggest forms of persecution in this hemisphere.”  Ouch.  He’s right.  I’m not about to blog about why that is and how it’s because of weak Christians, the prosperity Gospel, false teachers, and nominal James 1:22 ignorers… oops, just did.  I just laugh back and tell him that he’s right and it was frustrating.

He says “Oh yeah, it would get me too, but if dying is gain, then not getting the A you deserve can be too”.  I agree and sarcastically shoot back “To write philosophy papers is Christ”.

That’s when I realize- I just got myself.  Rather, the Holy Spirit just got me, and he got me through my own pun.  I’m so worried about my grades, scholarship, money for college, perception with teachers that often I put Christ on the back burner.  This is an egregious sin in my life.  How could I possibly shelve my faith for a A given me by a secular view of the Bible?  I thank God for the grace he gave me to write a paper firmly defending the Word of God and correct model for interpretation of scripture, and for the B I was then given to show me what I am writing at this very moment.

To go to Auburn is Christ, to write my papers for my teachers is Christ, to be a good friend is Christ, to date in a godly way is Christ, to spend my money well is Christ, to LIVE IS CHRIST.  Or it should be.  How could we miss this?  How could I?  I must constantly pray for my mind to be renewed, that for me “to live is Christ, but to die is gain”… Keep reading in Philippians.  It’s not that I want to die, it’s that either way God is glorified and others benefit.

This I know:  I am a great sinner, in need of a great Savior.  And indeed, I have one.  One that is powerful to lift my head, who formed the mouth to say “To live is Christ” and who made the soul to believe it. I desire nothing more than to stand in the presence of the Lord, idols smashed around me (grades, money, self), and say “Oh God, YOU are my God, and I will ever praise You.”


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