claire dp 1When I was 16 I lived in Blenheim and would get awesome summer jobs at fruit farms over the holidays.  One year I worked for The Jones Strawberry Farm picking strawberries, a delicious but back breaking job.  I then worked for an Apricot farmer, as a picker first of all, but then in the pack house because as we quickly discovered being near the ground is an excellent quality for a strawberry picker, not so great for an apricot picker.   My day revolved around sorting the fruit, packing the fruit, stacking the packs of fruit.  Sort, stack, pack.  I was the only one in the pack house and so spent long hot days sorting, stacking, packing.

On Tuesday a friend of mine shared a hilarious take on the myers briggs personality types on facebook – The post begins with “They say that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell and that couldn’t be truer when it comes to the sixteen Myers-Briggs Personality Types. Each one is inspired, enraged and absolutely tortured by something slightly different. Here’s the destiny that would psychologically destroy each Myers-Briggs Personality type.”

Im and ENFP and this is what it said about me.  Every minute of the rest of your life has been scheduled for you – and it’s a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks.

Sort. Pack. Stack.  By myself.  Sort. Pack. Stack.   For 2 long months.  Thankfully not the rest of my life.   The first few days of the job were great.  Good time to pray and think, I’m by myself, I can contemplate the great mysteries of the universe and dream and plan my future.  After about a week of sort, pack and stack, by myself, a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks, I found myself going slightly cookcoo, because how many of you know, especially if you are an ENFP there is only so much deep and meaningful productive positive thinking you can do by yourself.. through another person in the mix and boom, you’re happy, but conversating with yourself, just isn’t the same. and contemplating what is the meaning of life.  The big questions.  What was I here for.  What is God’s plan for my life.  How will I get there.  Who am I, really.

Whether you’re in a job you hate or a job you love, whether you’re at school or uni, whatever stage of life you’re at these are important questions.  What does real living look like?  Because there is a difference between being alive and living, really living.

We can go through life, even successfully, ticking the boxes that define achievement for us, getting the great job, marrying the great person, having the great kids and the great cat and the great house, travelling to the great places etc etc but even that can miss the mark of what living really is.

 

Paul summed it up in 4 simple words in Philippians 1:21

To live is Christ.

This is one those rare times when Paul is brief.  Usually he has sentence with too many commas and plenty of detail and flesh.  But this one is 4 words.  To live is Christ.

 

In 2 Cor 5:15 he says  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him.

This is the standard he is living by.  This is how he defines his life.  This is the mission statement that wraps parameters and boundaries around not only the big picture but also day to day.  Paul is saying that everything he has tried to be, everything he is, and everything he looked forward to being pointed to Christ. To live is Christ.

Personal mission statements are all the rage at the moment and as a life coach I love them.  It’s great to know where to point your life, to put words around what you’re passionate about and to give you a clear sense of direction.

My own one is to know God and make Him known which echos an amazing quote by Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf a 18th century revivalist “I have but one passion: It is He, it is He alone.”

Count Zinzendorf is credited as being a founder of not only a 24/7 prayer revival but of the modern missions movement.  The 1700’s were a dire time for passionate Christians who believed in salvation by grace and the power of the Holy Spirit and after a season of persecution Zinzendorf founded a “home” for Christians to come and pray, live and be sent out from.  Missionaries from Zinzendorfs organisation were sent out under the mission statement “that the lamb may reievieve the reward for his suffering.”  The first two missionaries ever sent out literally sold themselves into slavery to reach an island of slaves. They were sold out for Jesus.

We often hear about people like that who live radical lives and can clearly point at them and say, yes, they’re living for Christ.   Is this the only way to really live?  Can I live for Jesus, sold out and on fire, here in Auckland New Zealand, in my job, in my school, in my family, in my context? Are we disqualified because we’re not doing that?

Living for Jesus and living right here and now don’t have to be mutally exclusive.  God calls us to live NOW, here, where we are positioned, in our spheres of influence.

To live is Christ isn’t just for missionaries or pastors.

It is for teachers, parents, doctors, engineers, accountants, retailers, baristas.

It is for teenagers, middle aged, elderly.

If you are saved and breathing you are called to live for Christ.

To live for Christ means you’re not just a teacher, parent, doctor, artist, IT person – you’re a representative of Jesus Christ who happens to be a teaching a class, running a home, treating patients, fixing computers.

To live is Christ has nothing to do with your occupation.  It doesn’t matter where you’re spending the majority of your week.  It is a heartbeat, a core passion.  It is something that influences every part of your week and life.

It isn’t what you do that matters it is how you DO it.  It is how you see yourself and the attitude you carry that counts. It’s not like a hat you put on or take of when you get home, or just for Sundays.   It is an every day in every moment attitude that influences everything we are and everything we do.

To live is Christ is a way of living.  A lifestyle.   It transforms the ordinary into extraordinary.  It gives mission to every part of what you do, be it at school or uni, at home or at work.  We have to have a shift in the way that we fundamentally see ourselves and our purpose on this earth.    As Christians we are called to bring hope and light and love into every situation and every place.  We are called to influence cultures from darkness to light, to bring life not death, to change the world around us.  We are called to be ambassadors of God.

 

I want to ask you this today.  What are you here, on planet earth, for?

To get an education?

To meet someone, get married and settle down?

Have 2.5 kids.

Get better stuff.

Pay off the mortgage.

Get grandkids.

Get retired.

Then die?

 

These things are not bad.  You can do all these things and follow Jesus.  You can do all these things and follow Jesus wholeheartedly, as your one passion and one devotion.

It isn’t an either or.

But it is all a matter of focus.  A matter of priority.  A matter of really living vs doing stuff.

Paul goes on in 2 Cor 5 to say this: And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

 

Though so often we can read a passage like that and say that is for the evangelists, for the pastors, for the spiritual people.  But there is no exclusion clause.

We live in such a broken world.  This weeks news shows that in black and white.  You only have to glance at fb and you can see the messy lives people live.

Yet for some of us we forget to connect the dots.  People are hurt and broken.  We know the healer.  The world is plunging into darkness and terror.    Jesus said tag you’re it, you’re the light of the world.  Anxiety and depression rates are soaring.  God promises to give us comfort and rest, a peace that surpasses understanding.   In a world where people are giving up and taking their own lives because the hurt is too great, where they battle shame and feel so alone, where they feel like they have nothing to live for, we are saved by a Father God who says He loves us with a love that is everlasting, that His grace covers every mistake and sin, and that before we were born He has a future and a hope planned for us.

We don’t connect the dots to the problems around us to the answers within us.  Jesus within us is the answer.  If the gospel is true, your life should look like it’s true.

To live for Christ means we live in the very real hope, very real sense of purpose, very real grace, very real answers that have not only changed our lives but have the potential to change the lives of those around us as we live for Him.

To live for Christ means we live with a focus on Jesus and His ways and His will.

I love how Ps Peter says “you are the senior pastor in your world.”  In the circle of people in your workplace, your family, your friends, you are a representative of God.

How awesome are you making God look?

 

Let’s break it down.  What does to live is Christ look like in real life?

 

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To live like Christ means:

To have the same attitudes

To have the same attributes

To have the same actions

 

  1. To have the same attitudes as Christ.

Zig Ziglar  says “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

Our attitudes are a collection of the thoughts and feelings we have about a situation, person or thing that affects our behaviour.  Simplistically they are part of our soul, part of the way we feel about life and a filter we process life through.

They’re incredibly powerful.  A negative attitude can paralyse you from doing something.  It can influence the way you interact with someone.    A positive attitude on the flipside can give you confidence to step out and create warmth and connections between people.

Chuck Swindoll has said, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.” That 90% is attitude. We can’t control the 10% that happens to us, but we can control how we respond.

Take Paul for example.  The letter to the Philippians is written from a prison cell in Rome.  Yet instead of a pity party Paul is rejoicing that people are seeing that God is real through his suffering.  In fact one of the founding members of the Philippian church was saved because of the attitude of Paul and Silas as they were imprisoned in Phiippi.  They were worshipping and then there was an earthquake and the chains fell off the cell doors opened.  The guard was there and cried out “what must I do to be saved”!     I cant imagine it going this way if Paul and Silas were cussing out everyone and grumbling about how life sucks and God sucks and everything sucks.  Right?

 

A few years ago we had a family holiday in Turangi.   We came home one day from touristing around to find that our hotel unit had been broken into and a number of items, including our laptop had been stolen.  Now the laptop wasn’t the important thing, it was the videos and baby photos of the kids and all the precious memories stored on it that broke my heart.  There is that yucky feeling that also comes from having someone uninvited in your space, going into your things.  That sense of injustice and violation.  We rung the police and then informed the manager of the hotel complex we were staying in only to find out that the managers office had been broken into the night before and that all the master keys and cash was stolen.  The manager was so upset and I could hear she was at breaking point.  How many of you know that my attitude at that moment mattered.  It turned out to be an amazing conversation about God and we ended up praying for her.

 

You know it has been awesome digging deeper into a passage and this may come across as heretical but I hope not, it has made it more human.  Let me explain, I believe the bible is the divinely inspired word of God. Often we can read in our plans or as we are doing our devotions and we read and receive the word of God, we are inspired, encouraged and challenged but the text and what God is saying to us.  But by looking deeper I’ve looked at who is writing it, from where and why, to whom and in what context.   It has made Paul more alive.   In a way, not detracting from the divine inspiration it has made this passage more human.

The two main themes of Philippians is joy and attitude.  Paul isn’t writing from a deck chair on the shores of the sunny Mediterranean sea, a freshly squeeze pineapple juice in one hand and a book in the other.  He isn’t writing it on a cruise liner or from the comfort of his home office.  He is writing this letter chained to a wall in a cell in Rome.

 

No matter what life brought his way Paul had faith that in all things God was at work working all things out for good.

He trusted God to complete what God had begun.

He believed that God was good and the best was yet to come.

He put on his love glasses and loved people despite flaws and failings.

He lived to serve not to be served and in Philippians 1:22-26 begins to explain how part of him is ready to go home, to die and see Jesus face to face again, to enjoy eternity with God, but that it is more beneficial for the people that he stay and continue to pastor them.  It was the same attitude that Jesus had that led him to humble himself as a servant, to become a human and to die a death on the cross, the death that rescues each one of us.

Paul put others first and lived a life pouring out.

He had an attitude that said even in the prison I will worship.  Even in the face of opposition and danger I will make a stand for Jesus.  I will not be afraid of those who mock me but I will make the most of every opportunity to tell anyone and everyone about Jesus.

 

  1. to have the same Attributes as Christ

Whereas an attitude is what we think and feel, which has an influence on our behaviour, our attributes lies at the very core of who we are.

God wants us to have His attributes as our default setting.   He wants love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness and self control to be our default way of relating to people and influencing in our world.

 

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. Romans 8:29

This might sound a bit more familiar:

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

As Paul said, we are the representatives, the ambassadors of Christ but Romans 8:29 takes it to that next level.

You May be the only Bible some people read…
You may be the only Jesus some people see…

 

Everything we do and say is telling a story about who we serve.

We when align our attitudes and attributes with Christ we live life with a different perspective and a sense of purpose.  It radically redefines every part of our life, every relationship and every situation.  It infuses a bigger why into why we are here on earth.

 

 

3.  To have the same actions as Christ

Paul understood that the goal of his Christian life was to be conformed into the image of Christ. He must think like Christ. He must talk like Christ. He must walk like Christ. He must be in submission to the Father like Christ. He must act like Christ. He must react like Christ. Everything in his life must be patterned after Christ.

James says that faith without works is dead.  Our faith – our living for Christ – must be reflected in the way we behave and act.  We don’t have an inside only faith.  It is an expressed lived out faith.  We aren’t secret Christians we are called to be salt and light.  Jesus said I am the light of the world and then said, tag – you’re it!

We are saved by grace and grace alone, we can never earn or pay back the salvation that we have been given as a gift by God.  But we don’t stay the same after giving our lives to Jesus.  We change our attitudes, our attributes and our actions.

It’s like having a gym membership – you have access to the gym and all its facilities, but unless you use it and go to the gym you’ll never get fitter or stronger.  You have the membership but you never reap the benefits.

You know, sometimes it’s not even the big actions that define us and define how real our walk with Christ is.

Your character really isn’t formed by the big events of your life. Instead, who you are is ultimately determined by the smaller choices you make each day.

When you choose to do what’s right every chance you get, you’re more likely to stick to your principles when the pressure’s really on. On the flip side, if you let the small things slide, you’ll follow the path of least resistance—even if that means compromising your core values.

 

It’s what we post on social media.

It’s what we watch on Netflix.

It’s the music we listen to.

It’s the websites we look at.

It’s how we spend our money.

It’s the way we speak to our siblings. Or to those who aren’t like you.  Or to those who annoy the heck out of you.

It’s our social life.

 

It’s the things you can’t point at and say that is sin black and white… it’s the gray areas.  The Bible is very clear on some things but then there are other things that I wish were more clearer!

This is why we have the Holy Spirit in us – who partners with our conscience – to bring conviction and clarity to the things we do.

These gray things can dilute our witness and affect our relationships.

These gray areas can eat away at your passion and eat away at our love for God.  Jesus makes it plain when He said “if you love me obey me.”  If there are things in our life that are gray, the things we know maybe aren’t kosher, the things we maybe haven’t talked to God about, they eat away at that fire.

There is a burning desire planed deep within you by God that will never be fulfilled outside walking with God, outside the calling God has on your life.  There are places in our life that only God can satisfy but we try to fill them up with “stuff” instead of Jesus.

 

In Phippians 1:27 Paul encourages us to live a life worthy of the call of God.

I think he is saying more than just tick the boxes and be a good person.  He’s talking about living with that sense of purpose and identity that influences everything we do.

Like I said earlier, it doesn’t matter what day job you have you have a high calling as a child of God to bring heaven to earth, to proclaim the gospel and demonstrate that God is good and real.

Life is more than our what we do day to day, it is big picture.

Living life in Christ means we are radically redefining how what we believe affects how we behave.

A life that is lived for Christ lives with this heartbeat, this mission.  It filters everything through this question – is this worthy?  Is this acceptable?   Will this enhance or detract from my witness?  Will this build or tear down my relationship with God?

 

You know, this may seem like a very me – centric message.   Me changing.  Me transforming.  My attitude.  My actions.  My life.

And this is where the is Christ part of to live really challenges us.  It is a process of surrender and captivation.   It is a laying down of our lives to take up His life.

It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

It is like putting on your love glasses and following it up with a love suit, which may sound really dodgy (!) a complete extreme makeover.

But the joy in this, the joy that Paul so evidently tapped into and was so real in his life, is that when you really lay your life down and make to live is Christ real in your life, you begin to really live.  You begin to experience a richness that satisfies in your workplace, in your relationships, from the inside out.  You have a peace and an excitement about what God is doing in and through you.

 

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It is a bit like a continuous flowing circle of life with the key being being captivated by Christ.

God loves us first, rescues us and opens our eyes to how amazing He is, He gives us purpose and destiny

And

We are captivated by Him and His nature and want to give our lives to Him completely and fully

And

God loves us and speaks to us and draws us to Himself

And

We draw near

And He draws near

And we are captivated by Him and His nature and want to give our lives to Him completely and fully

 

This continuous cycle is fuelled by hanging out with God in prayer and worship, attending church and being around people who love Him, reading the Bible, discovering who He is and all He promises, investing your life for His purposes and telling others our story about how awesome God is and everything He has done in our lives.  These habits stoke the fire.  They nurture the passion.

 

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