To Live for Christ – To Die for Christ

A Yet Unfulfilled Longing
For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1: 21-24)
To die is gain for those who believe
These words of the apostle Paul addressed to the Philippians are powerful words. Are they words you are able to apply to your own heart? As Christians we know that to die in the Lord is gain. But most of us would probably say; I long to be with you Lord, but not yet! I’m not ready to die yet!  We are strongly rooted to this physically visible world we live in. We are attached to the people we know and love and to what is familiar to us.
In spite of the many promises in Scripture which tell us heaven will be a wonderful place where we will dwell in the presence of God and will be able to talk to Him face to face, there is still that spark of fear which humans possess. It is a fear of the unknown. It is also a fear resulting from the thought of a sinful human nature coming face to face with a holy God. God has promised us heaven because of Jesus. We can rest assured of that, but there is still that small voice in the back of our mind which resists the idea that we will die someday.
To not want to die is normal for humans and it is healthy and good. God did not create us to die. He created us to live forever on His beautiful earth, but sin changed all that. Because of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, we are all sinners. Death is punishment for sin. Scripture tells us;The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) How many times do you remember as a child, after having done something you knew was wrong, dreading/fearing the punishment you would more than likely receive from your parents? Did you hide in your room or put off coming home? Did you feel ashamed and wish in your heart that you could go back in time and hopefully have made a better choice?
 It was the same with Adam and Eve. God tells us that after Adam and Eve sinned they tried to hide from Him. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8) Of course Adam and Eve could not hide from an all knowing, all powerful and ever present God and we can’t either.
The good thing is that God loves us. Instead of leaving us in our sin and dooming us to everlasting punishment in the fires of hell, He rescued us through the gift of His own perfect Son.
Big Sister/Little Brother
I remember one day when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, writing with my finger in the dirt on my dad’s car. I was not intentionally doing wrong. I didn’t realize that it would leave scratch marks in the paint on the car. When my father saw it he was very upset and he immediately assumed my little brother who was about 6 years old at the time had done it. I was afraid to admit that it had been me. I let him take the blame and the punishment for it. I never admitted the truth to my parents even though I felt horribly guilty. He was punished in my place.
Jesus did the same type of thing for you and for me and for all people that my little brother had unknowingly done for me. We committed the crime. We are the sinners – the offenders – the breakers of the law. He is the perfect Son of God. He had done nothing to deserve punishment, yet He took the punishment we deserve for our sin upon Himself and in turn gave us His holiness – and unlike my little brother, He did it willingly and with full knowledge. 
He gave us His holiness
The second part of that verse in Romans 6:23 reads; but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. God sent Jesus the God-Man to live the perfect life we cannot live. He sent Jesus, His innocent Son to suffer the consequences and punishment for our sin. He was forsaken by God His Father while hanging on that cross. He died and was buried in the ground just like we will be someday.  But He didn’t stay dead. He rose again three days later, conquering death and the devil for us. He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead. (Colossians 1:18) In simple words; Jesus is the first human to rise from death never to die again. Like Jesus, all who believe in Him will also rise from the grave on the last day to live with Him forever. At that time our body and soul will be reunited once again and we will live in the way God had intended from the beginning.
God’s gift of life
It is natural for humans to fear death because life is a gift. God is the author of life and therefore only He can determine when our life will end. In the meantime He wants us to live our life here on earth in loving service to Him. It is our time of grace. Instead of being fearful we can relax, knowing that our life is in good hands. God is in control. We can leave the end of the story to Him.
In the scripture above the apostle Paul states; I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  I have heard and read these words many times in my life. Each time I hear or read them, I hear that little voice in the back of my mind saying; but not yet Lord, I don’t want to die yet.Yes, I love God and I believe His promises, but at the same time, I have always thought to myself; I don’t want to die. I have a difficult time thinking of my body rotting and decaying in the ground. It isn’t a pretty picture. 
The apostle Paul refers to the human body as a tent when he says; Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1) My body is simply the place in which my soul dwells while here on earth. When my body dies, my soul, which is who I am, will be in heaven with Jesus. I am confident of that fact.
On December 13, 2011 I experienced a life changing event from God that made me excited to go to heaven. I believe that God allowed me to see an angel in the flesh. Now I know that angels are spirits, but God does allow them at times to take on human form according to His purpose, and for the benefit of those who love Him. I believe that on this particular occasion, God wanted to reassure me that He is always present and that He is aware of the needs of each person on this earth, both believers and unbelievers alike and especially helpless children.
Each child has a guardian angel
 We are told in Hebrews: 13:2; Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. About children Jesus states; See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:10) If you would like to know the details of my encounter, you can read the story in my article, An Angel on my Shoulder.
It took me awhile to process the details of this incident, and understand without a doubt that it was from God. The moment I realized for sure that it was from God, I felt a wonderful excitement. I wanted more! I wanted to see more! I would have gladly left this world at that moment and gone to heaven. I am eager to meet Jesus face to face. When that day comes, all doubt and fear will be erased and replaced with excitement and joy. I am able to finally understand where the apostle Paul was coming from when he said; I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  
Jesus, the beginning & the end
Isn’t it wonderful that God is the author of life? If it were up to us we would never choose to leave this earth and we would miss out on what God has waiting for us in heaven. He gives us glimpses of it in Scripture, but our human mind cannot totally comprehend it. It sounds wonderful, but foreign to us. We think we will miss this life – our friends, our family and all that we are familiar with. It is difficult for us to let go and let God.
He helps us out by taking it out of our hands. Death is a sure thing and it is the one thing we have no control over. The time of our death is determined by God because He can see the big picture. He knows the best time to call each of us home. He will take me at a time which will most benefit me and the family and friends who love me.
I am humbled and feel very privileged that God allowed me to experience His presence here on earth in such an awesome way. My prayer each day is that He would make me always aware that He is with me, and that He would take hold of my heart and lead me to where He needs me the most. I want to serve Him. My heart bleeds for those who don’t know Him and live in fear of dying in their sin. I will gladly work hard to tell everyone I can about the hope that they have in Jesus and I look forward to the day when I will meet Him face to face. Although I am a sinful human I am confident that because of what Jesus did for me, God will say to me; Well done, good and faithful servant…Come and share in your master’s happiness! (Matthew 25:23)
Gloria Dei!
By Christine

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