When Christ is your treasure …

At this month’s ‘vision Saturday’ the congregations and teams in the Edge Network looked at the next in a series of ‘identities’ that are ours in Christ and which should define who we are and shape how we live. This time it was heirs of God.

In Christ we have a treasure that is worth selling everything to own. We have an inheritance that makes it worth giving up everything. We have Christ, who is of infinite value, and compared to him everything else is worthless. To gain Christ, it is worth losing everything.

Not only that. But when we see this; when we see the value of Christ; when we see our wonderful inheritance; when we see the Altogether Lovely One; when he is our treasure then we will give up everything with excitement and joy.

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.’ (Matthew 13:44 niv)

Our identity this month is ‘heirs’:

We are heirs of God.

Because Jesus is our Saviour, we are the heirs of God. Jesus has set us free from the condemnation our rebellion deserves through his in our place. We have received the promise of a glorious inheritance, making us like refugees in this age.

I want to look briefly at a few passages from Philippians. Paul is writing in prison. He’s chained up. Plus he speaks of people who are trying to make life difficult for him. You’d think he would be miserable. Think about what makes you miserable. Paul is there. Yet he is full of joy. He’s full of joy because the good news of Jesus is spreading. He’s full of joy because he treasures Christ.

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as 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 honoured in my body, whether by life or by . 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:18-26 esv)

Paul is confident that through the Spirit and through their prayers he will be delivered. ‘I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.’ (19) There is a real co-operation between the work of God and the prayers of his people. Together they will deliver Paul. Now we might think that deliverance for Paul means getting out of prison or at least escape martyrdom. But that’s not what Paul has in mind because he goes on to debate whether he will die or not (22-26). He’s confident that he will be delivered, but he doesn’t know whether he’ll die or not!

That’s because deliverance for Paul means deliverance from fear and shame and compromise. ‘This will turn out for my deliverance, as 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 honoured in my body, whether by life or by .’ (19-20) What matters to Paul is that he honours Christ. ‘Whether by life or ‘: maybe he will honour Christ by living as a faithful servant; maybe he will honour Christ by dying as a faithful martyr. It doesn’t matter which. What matters is that he honours Christ; that he expresses the worth of Christ to him in the way he lives.

How can Paul talk like this and live like this? The answer is verse 21: ‘For to me to live is Christ.’

Verse 21 says: ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ When Christ is your life; when Christ is your treasure; when Christ is everything to you then is gain. You can face without fear. s trips you of everything – except Christ. Possession, position, relationships are all taken away by . If that’s what you live for then will be a tragedy. You will fear it and it and avoid it all cost. But if you live for Christ then is gain. is gain because you depart to be with Christ – your treasure, your life, your all – and that is far better (23).

This is challenging stuff! But God isn’t saying, Live a hard life, give up everything, became a servant, become a martyr. Look at verses 25-26: ‘Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.’ What is Paul’s hope for Christians? What is the goal of his ministry? It is that they might have joy. He wants us to have joy. He wants us to glory in Christ Jesus. He is offering treasure – a treasure that is worth giving up everything else to possess – the treasure of knowing and serving Jesus Christ.

This is how Paul puts it in chapter 3:

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

That sums it up. That’s Paul’s story. It’s the story of the man in the field. Paul is that man. ‘I found this treasure – the all-surpassing treasure of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. And I sold everything to own this treasure; I count everything loss and rubbish that I may gain Christ.’

What difference will treasuring Christ make:

– when you’re feeling miserable?

– when you envy other people?

– when going to the prayer meeting feels like a struggle?

– when you start to complain?

– when you suffer?