October 31, 2013

'To Live is Christ to Die is Gain' | Matt Chandler [Book Review]

 

To Live is Christ to Die is Gain begins with the question: "Are you growing?"

Are we aware of the Apostle Paul's single purpose in life to live and to die for Christ? In the authors' words, "The Gospel absolutely drove Paul." Paul's infectious faith influenced Lydia, the intellectual businesswoman from Thyatira. His faith liberated the slave girl from demons. Even in prison, he evangelized to the tough-looking Roman prison guards. Caged in, he wrote with passion many letters to encourage believers to hang on to Jesus. There is a worthy cause to live for, shouts Paul.

With Philippians 1:21 as the anchor verse, this book is a series of sermons on urging believers to live boldly and passionately without fear. The maturing Christian is one who is filled with "gospel courage" more and more. Such a courage will enable one to overcome all manner of insults, persecution, pain, suffering and various obstacles. In fact, these persecutions are even seen as "gifts." Why? To be opposed because of our faith is a blessing because it is a sign of our salvation. When one has found the pearl of priceless truth, he will sell all he possess to purchase the very field that holds this truth.

The four chapters of the letter to the Philippians are covered. At the heart of the gospel courage lies the element of godly fear, which is essentially reverence and awe. Such a godly fear will do nothing out of conceit or selfish ambition. It dethrones the self. It receives mercy. It accept lowliness. Such a humble servant, the Lord will exalt. Chandler reminds us again that the rich and the famous will find it most challenging to be lowly and humble, for the cross means pursuing Christ unhindered from the material cares and worries of this world. It means passionate pursuit regardless of the costs. Page after page, the message is clear. Christ desires our all, our everything, our full attention, for He wants to give us everything we need.

In order to do so, one needs to do two things. First, one cannot care for things of the world too closely, otherwise the cares will hold on to our hearts. For example, Chandler mentions how sports can emotionally grab one's heart to the point that one's mood gets completely ruined when the sports' results fail our expectations. We must watch out for things that we try to own, to be aware that if we are not careful, these very things will eventually own us and render us slave to them. Second, one needs to be taken hold by God's grace and love. It brings back to our theological understanding that we love because Christ first loved us. We serve because Christ first served us. We live because Christ is risen.

So What?

Matt Chandler has a way to nuance a simple message with so many different explanations. With a single focus on the one big idea of living purposefully and passionately for Christ, everything else will fall into place. In 12 chapters written with absolute conviction, Chandler traces the way of Paul and how living or dying does not matter anymore, as long as Christ is glorified. Suffering or rejoicing is not the main thing. It is knowing that Christ is his main concern. Whatever the cost, whatever it takes, whatever the circumstances, nothing is going to separate him from pursuing Christ.

When I read about the passion of Paul, I cannot but feel embarrassed at the way some people have tried to cling on to life because of our fear of death. Some with terminal cancer are prepared to risk their entire inheritance just to buy themselves a cure in some advanced medical facility somewhere in the world. Some even sacrificed their own savings for their families so that they can live a few months longer. Some would stop at nothing until all their financial resources are depleted. The question is this: For people who are infatuated about living a longer life, what is the purpose of it all? For those who want to cling on to life despite the pain and the suffering, is there a higher purpose in doing that?

I think Philippians 1:21 is very instructive for Christians, that whatever conditions of life that they face, if they are surrounded by fear and of death, they will implode with self-centered concerns and worries. If they are surrounded with great faith and sacrificial love, they will explode with infectious passions and a single purpose.

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!

Let me close with this quote which reminds us again that because of some witnesses who are fearless for Christ in proclaiming and preaching the gospel, we have the precious word of God delivered to us. Is it about time we pass our passions on to the next generation by living with passion?

"I live in Dallas, Texas. Do you know how the gospel got to Dallas, Texas? If you trace it back, the gospel got here because the apostle Paul went into Philippi, went into Ephesus, went into Corinth. If the gospel can do that, it can certainly stir up your affections for Him. Certainly it can captivate your mind and speak into your heart. If the gospel can transform the world and holds in its powerful reach the promise of eternal life, certainly it can transform you this very day, and day by day, until that ultimate day you join with the saints to receive the supply of all your needs according to God’s riches in glory with Christ Jesus." — Matt Chandler

This book was provided to me courtesy of David C. Cook Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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