David writes in from Little Rock, Arkansas: “How would you share the message of Christian Hedonism (i.e., we exist to glorify God by enjoying him forever) from a single passage of Scripture with a coworker or fellow college student over a thirty-minute lunch meeting? Where would you go?”
I’d go to Pizza Hut.
Oh, that is not what you meant. I would go to Philippians at Pizza Hut with a Bible or iPad and a napkin and pen to write with. I would go to Philippians 1:20, which says, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body.” Now, that is one piece of what I want because part of that statement is this: God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him. Here I have got Christ being magnified. That is what Paul wants: Christ magnified in his body whether by life or by death.
Loss and Gain
Then, in verse 21, he says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Now, I would stop right there and get my friend to talk with me about how Paul arrived there. What does he mean when he says “to die is gain”? Tell me. What do you think he means? My friend would probably say something like this (at least, I would tell him this is what I think it means): “Paul believes that when he dies he is going to be more satisfied than when he lives.” Doesn’t it say that?
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Imagine two columns: gain and loss. If you put everything this life has to offer in one column, and you put death in the other column, Paul says the death column is gain. This means he values something on the other side of death more than he values all the stuff here. It is more satisfying. Then you ask, “What is that?” Then you read the rest of the text.
“What could be gained if everything in this life is lost? Paul answers, ‘Christ.’”
“If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:22–23). Now, there is the answer to the question. What could be gained if everything in this life is lost? Paul answers, “Christ.”
So, I would apply the language of satisfaction to that. I would say that means Paul is saying, “To die is gain.” That is, to die means he will experience a superior satisfaction on the other side, because Jesus is there. He will be face-to-face, more intimate than here. If I could get my friend to agree with that, then we would go back to verse 20 and get the logic.
Honoring by Enjoying
Philippians 1:20 says, “It is my eager expectation and hope that . . . Christ will be honored” — magnified, glorified, made much of. We would linger over that for a little bit. Christ would be glorified in my body by death for to die is gain. I would ask him to talk to me about that. I would try to get him to give me what I see here.
Paul says Christ will be magnified by my death because to me to die is gain. We have already said that the gain is finding Christ more satisfying than everything in this world. So, wouldn’t the paraphrase be this? Christ is magnified in my body when I die if I experience Christ in dying as supremely satisfying. And then I would collapse it further and say, “Doesn’t that mean that Christ is magnified when I am satisfied in him?” And I hope he would say, “Well, yeah. That is what it says.”
Glad Actions Exalt
Then I would tell my rose story. Suppose I take flowers to my wife. I ring the doorbell. She looks at me, and I say, “Happy anniversary, Noël.” She says, “Oh, they are beautiful! Why did you?” I say, “It is my duty.” And she is not happy with that answer. Run the video again.
“Christ will be magnified by my death because to me to die is gain.”
I ring the doorbell. She looks at them. “Oh, Johnny, they are beautiful. Why did you?” And I say, “Because I can’t help it. I love buying flowers for you. In fact, I have got a plan for the evening, and we are going to go out on the town because there is nothing I would rather do than spend the evening with you.” Not in a million years would she say, “‘Nothing you would rather do than go out with me’? That’s all you ever think about — you, you, you, what would satisfy you.” She would never say that. Why? Because when I say, “Nothing would make me happier than to be with you tonight,” she feels honored, glorified, magnified. The more satisfied in her I am, the more glorified by me she feels. Therefore, we operate on this principle all day long when we are thinking clearly.
So, I would go to Philippians 1:20–23, and I would tell my rose story. At Pizza Hut. At Pizza Hut, over a personal pan, with a Diet Coke.