How many of you would like your life to be characterized by peace, joy, and contentment? If you really want these things, I can tell you how to get them. Are you interested? Think about it for a moment, if you have peace, joy, and contentment, does anything else really matter? People work so hard for these things because they are of great value.
In the seventeenth century, the French mathematician, philosopher, and religious thinker, Blaise Pascal, put it this way, "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves."
Paul had all these things, his life was constantly characterized by peace, joy, and contentment. If you know anything about Paul, you know that he didn't have good circumstances in his life, but yet he was at peace. Why? The answer is found in:
Philippians 1:21 (NKJV) For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Paul said that life to him was Christ. Paul lived only to serve Christ, commune with Christ, love Christ. He has no concept of life other than Christ. He is his reason for living. To Paul, Christ was life. Notice what he said in:
Colossians 3:4 (NKJV) When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Paul says to believers, "Christ is our life." He is the source of our life, the goal of our life, the purpose and fulfillment of life. Is this something that you would say about yourself? Is Christ your life? Let's ask the question this way, What would the people who know you best say is your life? If we asked someone who knows you to fill in the blank, what would he put? For (put your name here) to live is _____________. Money? Prestige? Fame? Knowledge? Power? Work? Possessions? Self-pleasure? Sports? Friends? Would those who know you say that life to you was Christ? Why or why not? If you asked someone this about Paul, I'm sure their response would be that life to Paul was Christ.
When we can come to the point in our lives that we can say, "Christ is my life." Then we'll also be able to say, "Life is good!" Believer, please remember this each time that you are unsatisfied with life - you are unsatisfied because something other than Christ is the focus of your life. Christ will never disappoint us!
One's relationship with Christ is the primary concern of the Christian. Over and over, God is reminding us that the bottom line is Jesus. Jesus said himself:
Revelation 1:8 (NKJV) "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Earlier in Colossians, Paul said:
Colossians 1:18 (NKJV) And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
The Greek word used here for "preeminence" is proteuo, and it means: "foremost in time, place, order or importance." Is Christ preeminent in your life? Is He foremost in time, place, and order of importance?
Let me share a story with you, I don't know that it's true, but its message is true:
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, along with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Their collection included priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and many others. Many of these pictures adorned the walls of their family estate, while others were in storage. The widowed father looked on with satisfaction as his only child grew up to be an experienced art collector.
As time went on, the nation they lived in became involved in a war. The young man, like many others, went off to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, the father received the news that his beloved son was missing in action. The father feared the worst, that he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. News reached him that his son had died. He was killed while carrying a fellow soldier to safety. Overwhelmed with grief and lonely, the father faced the Easter holidays with anguish and despair.
After returning from Easter services, there was a knock at his door. As he walked from his bedroom to the front door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him once again that his son was not coming home. He opened the door and was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. The soldier introduced himself by saying, 'I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.'As the two began to talk, the soldier told the father that his son often spoke of the father's love and the fine collection of art that they had shared. 'I'm an artist too', the soldier said, 'and I want to give you this.' The father unwrapped the package and to his amazement it was a portrait of his son. By the standards of great art it was not a masterpiece, but it was very well done and it brought tears to his eyes as if his son had just entered the room.
Overcome with emotion, the father thanked the soldier, promising to hang the portrait above the fireplace. The father kept his word to the soldier even though it meant taking down thousands of dollars worth of paintings. Then the father sat in his chair and spent Easter day gazing at the gift he had been given.
During the days and weeks that followed, the father learned that his son had saved dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet ended his own life. As the stories of his son's bravery and devotion continued to reach him, his grief was replaced with pride over the loving action of his son. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession; of far more value than any other piece of art in his collection.
The following spring, the father became sick and died. The art world was filled with anticipation. For with his only son dead, there was no one left in the family to receive the father's priceless art collection which now would be sold in auction. According to the will of the father, all of the art works would be auctioned on Easter day, the day he had received his greatest gift, the portrait of his son. The day finally arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world's most expensive paintings. Dreams could be fulfilled on this day; greatness could be achieved, as some would be able to boast about having one of the world's greatest collections of art.
The auction began, however, with a painting that was not on any museum list...As a matter of fact it was the painting of the father's son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. 'Who will open the bidding with $100?' He asked. Uncomfortable silence filled the room and moments passed as no one spoke. Finally, from the back of the room a voice expressed what everyone was thinking: 'We don't care about that painting. It's just a picture of his son. We came here to bid on the father's art collection.'Immediately, the room was filled with the sound of other voices agreeing with the speaker. 'No, we have to bid on this one first', replied the auctioneer. 'So, let us continue. Who will take the son?' More uncomfortable silence.
Finally, a friend of the father spoke: 'Will you take $10.00 for the painting? That's all I have.' In response the auctioneer proclaimed in a loud voice: 'I have a bid for $10.00. Will anyone bid higher?' More silence. Finally the auctioneer again spoke in a loud voice: 'Going once... going twice...gone! Sold for $10.00.'Cheers erupted in the room and someone shouted: 'Finally, now we can get on with the auction and bid on the real treasures.'
But before everyone could get settled in again, the auctioneer pounded his gavel on the podium and announced that the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Then someone spoke up and asked, 'What do you mean it's over? We didn't come here for the portrait of this man's son! What about all the other paintings? There are millions of dollars worth of art work here. We demand an explanation.
The auctioneer replied, 'It's very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son...gets it all.'
Believers, when Jesus Christ is our life, we get it all. When Christ is preeminent in our life, we get it all.
In his book, What Americans Believe, George Barna states, "One of the most penetrating and inescapable questions that confronts Americans is: 'Why am I alive?'"
The answer he found was most surprising. "Most adults conclude that we exist to gratify the flesh. Sixty-three percent concur that the purpose in life is enjoyment and personal fulfillment."
In the seventeenth century, Pascal wrote:
There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.
Believers, only when Christ is our life, only when He is preeminent, will we have joy, peace and contentment. If Christ is your life, your life will be good, because God is good.
Is Christ your life? Does he have the preeminence? How do you tell if Christ is your life - what would some visible indicators be? I think you would know this, but I thought of five things that would certainly be true of someone to whom Christ was life. I'm sure there are more, but these five are significant.
You know that Christ is your life, you know that He has preeminence in your life when:
John 6:63 (NKJV) "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
Here Christ tells us that His words are life. If Christ is going to be our life, we must spend time in His Word.
2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Paul is saying to Timothy that the Bible comes from God. He is its ultimate author. The Bible provides information that is not available anywhere else. The Bible is divine self-disclosure. In it the mind of God is revealed on many matters. With a knowledge of Scripture, we do not have to rely on secondhand information or bare speculation to learn who God is, and what he values. In the Bible, God reveals himself.
We were created to live in fellowship with Christ:
Colossians 1:16 (NKJV) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
Why do we exist? It is for Him. Now, since we were made for God, we will never live a purposeful and meaningful life unless we are rightly related to Him. And we won't be rightly related to God until we know what His manual says. So, as we read and study His Word, we learn the principles by which we are to live. The only place where we are going to hear God's voice is in His Word. The world around us will always be giving us its view, but we'll only get God's view as we spend time in His Word.
I think many believers have the attitude, "I'm too busy, I don't have time to study." People take time to do what is important to them. If Christ is your life, if He has the preeminence in your life, you will make time to study.
I would also suggest memorizing. In your reading, as you come across verses that are particularly meaningful to you, or that convict you in a certain area, commit them to memory, then you can meditate on them any time and place.
If Christ is your life, studying the Bible will be a way of life. We will always be seeking to learn something new and fresh every single day. We will have the attitude that Job had:
Job 23:12 (NKJV) I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.
I think this is why Job did such a great job dealing with the tremendous trials he faced, he loved God's Word.
You know that Christ is your life, you know that He has preeminence in your life when: You love spending time in his word, and when:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV) pray without ceasing,
That doesn't mean that we are always to be on our knees in prayer, but that we should always be in an attitude of prayer.
Martin Luther said, "As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray." C.H. Spurgeon said, "As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer."
For the person to whom Christ is life, prayer is not something that happens now and then, it is a continual activity. Prayer is a way of life. If Christ is preeminent in our life, we will constantly commune with Him through prayer.
Not only are there plenty of direct commands in the Word of God to pray, but as Christians, we are to be following the example of Christ, and He prayed:
Mark 1:35 (NKJV) Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Jesus, the God-Man, got up early and spent time in prayer. What does that tell you about the importance of prayer?
Prayer is an essential part of our Christian experience. What if you spent as much time talking to your spouse as you did to God? You probably wouldn't stay married long.
You know that Christ is your life, you know that He has preeminence in your life when: You love spending time in His Word, you love spending time with Him in prayer, and:
Hebrews 1:9 (NKJV) You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions."
The past tense of the verbs should be carefully observed. The reference is to the Lord Jesus in the days of his humiliation. Jesus hated lawlessness and loved righteousness. The word "righteousness" comes from the Greek word dikaiosune, which means: "that which conforms to a standard or norm." Jesus loved what is right and hated what is wrong. The more that Christ becomes our life, the more we will love what is right and hate what is wrong. The writer of Proverbs tells us that when we break the law, we are praising the wicked:
Proverbs 28:4 (NKJV) Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, But such as keep the law contend with them.
If Christ is our life, obedience to him will be our highest priority. If Christ has the preeminence in our life, we will always tell the truth, no matter what it cost us.
Proverbs 12:22 (NKJV) Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal truthfully are His delight.
If God hates lying, and does not lie, but is "the God of truth" (Is 65:16), what place will lying have in the life of someone to whom Christ is life? None!
You know that Christ is your life, you know that He has preeminence in your life when: You love spending time in His Word, you love spending time with Him in prayer, you love righteousness and hate unrighteousness, and:
Acts 28:30-31 (NKJV) Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
Christ was Paul's life, and this was evident to anyone who got close enough to Paul to hear him speak.
God has put the responsibility of sharing the glorious gospel into our hands:
Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"
People can't believe what they have not heard, and they won't hear without a preacher. If Christ is your life, you will be that preacher!
You know that Christ is your life, you know that He has preeminence in your life when: You love spending time in His Word, you love spending time with Him in prayer, you love righteousness and hate unrighteousness, you love talking about him to others, and:
Romans 1:1 (NKJV) Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God
Now notice what Paul calls himself - "bondservant." Some translate this "servant", which is not a very good translation. A servant is one who can quit. "Slave" better fits the picture here. The word "bondservant" is the Greek word doulos. Doulos conveys the idea of: "ownership, possession, dependency, subjection, loyalty." It also conveys the idea of: "willing service", not a forced service. They are a slave, but they are a slave by choice. They have willingly made themselves a slave of Jesus Christ to do His will. Look with me at:
Exodus 21:1-6 (NKJV) "Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: 2 "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. 3 "If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 "If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.
Every seventh year there was a year of release. The Hebrew slaves were set free. You could become a servant by getting into debt that you could not pay. If you couldn't pay your bills, you became a slave until the debt was paid off. You couldn't file for bankruptcy and walk away. You became a slave. It sounds like a good system to me. You could also sell yourself into slavery. Or you could become a slave by conquest.
5 "But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' 6 "then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.
Our view of slavery is not a very good one today, but biblical slavery is not so bad. This slave says, "I love it here, I don't want to go free." Slavery is not so bad when you have the right master. Slaves don't worry about their needs, that is up to the master. It was a service of love. Paul was a willing slave of Jesus Christ. Paul was no doubt implying that what was true for himself should be true for all those to whom Christ is life.
Are you a bondslave of Jesus Christ? Is your desire to please yourself or your master? How are you involved in service to Christ? What are you doing for Him? If Christ is your life, your desire will be to serve Him.
So, now you know. Is Christ your life? Does He have the preeminence? If not, how can you grow to the point where Christ is your life? Christ will become your life if you: spend time in His Word, spend time with Him in prayer, strive with His help to live a holy life, talk about him to others, and get involved serving Him.
Let me pose a question for you to think about this week: WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR? Is Christ your life? Does He consume you? Does He have the preeminence in your life? I don't care if people leave here thinking, "Boy, they sure have their theology figured out at BBC." I'd rather have them walk out thinking, "Boy, those people really love Christ."
I have discovered an amazing secret of success: People who keep their priorities in order, keep their lives in order. People who have happy marriages are happily married because they have made their marriage a priority. People who are in excellent physical shape are that way, because they have made their health a priority. If you keep your priorities in order, you can keep your life in order. Paul says, "Christ is our life"; all of our priorities must revolve around Him.
Simply put, joy, peace and contentment come from Christ being your life. Nothing else can bring the joy that an intimate relationship with God can bring, and once you learn to base your peace and contentment on your relationship with God, nothing in the world can take it away from you. If Christ is your life -- you'll have it all!