Updated: Feb 3
“To me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
This is the epistle reading from the Episcopal Lectionary, Proper 20, Year A, the sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost. It will next be read aloud in church on Sunday, September 24, 2017. This reading is important because it addresses the struggles that come with being Christian.
A powerful verse in this reading is number 24, which states: “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” It isn’t supposed to be you live like a common human being and then get to go to heaven. In order to get your soul released from reincarnating into a sinful world, you have to “remain in the flesh” while serving God first. This states the core purpose of a true Christian, which is not for self-aggrandizement, but to wholly be a servant to God. This is what Paul meant by stating he was, “living is Christ.”
That servitude to God, proved by living a Christ-led life, is why Paul said, “That means fruitful labor for me.” “Fruitful labor” means the work that is involved in planting and sowing, so that an “abundance” of Christians develop, ripen, and mature. [The Gospel reading for Proper 20 is the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, so this reading fits that theme.]
Remember how God instructed animal man and animal woman (not the two individuals who would be made on the seventh day, a.k.a. Adam and Eve), “Be fruitful and increase in number.” (Genesis 1:28) That was an instruction to beasts with big brains to reproduce more bodies that live in the flesh. Paul, speaking for God via the Holy Spirit, with the Christ Mind, was saying that a true Christian reproduces other Christians, increasing their numbers. Thus, Paul’s labor was spreading the seed of the Holy Spirit.
Christians that miss how Paul was writing to them (and everyone who reads Paul’s words) and do not likewise feel a strong urge to do “fruitful labor,” they need to question if their “alive [as] Christ.” Living [as] Christ [or another “Alive Christ”] means more than simply believing Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, who lived, died, was resurrected, and then floated away into heaven.
Living in Christ [or being “Christ Alive”] means you have lived in the flesh, but then you died of ego, becoming reborn as a brand new reproduction of baby Jesus (in your flesh). Your brain is what goes floating away into the cloud formed around you, which is the Mind of Christ.
Living is Christ means you gave up living as YOU. That means YOUR death [transition, change] represents “dying is gain.” Mortal death comes when God decides (other than suicide), but figurative death comes when humans decide to choose to serve God. Life stops being about “Me! Me! Me!” as one is thus reborn as Jesus was – a laborer of God for others. Living is Christ … from that point on.
Living as you is what common human beings do, with every you always seeking to please selfish desires. Because human beings are social creatures, with strong urges to eat, drink, and reproduce [carnal pleasures], the requirements of societal living mean every you has (at some point in time) to be somewhat “giving,” so that others will enjoy your company. That measure of generosity has to be viewed as selfish sacrifice, because you give in order to receive what it is YOU want. It is like giving to a charity in September and then amazingly having the receipt the next April to deduct on the income taxes.
“Your boasting in Christ Jesus” does not mean you drive a car with a Christian fish on the rear bumper or a decal for the Church you attend in the rear window. It is not exclaimed proudly by your wearing a cross pendant around your neck, for others to see. It is not proven because you “like” and “share” memes on Facebook that say, “share if you love Jesus.”
That is living as YOU, which is like carrying around a Jesus Christ fan club membership card in your wallet or purse. YOU cannot boast in Christ Jesus if you have never once reproduced Christ in another human being.
Paul was writing to Christians in Philippi, a city in eastern Macedonia. As Christians, they had received the Holy Spirit due to Paul’s fruitful labors there. Paul wrote to them afterwards as a continuation of those labors. Thus, Paul was taking the time to speak to others, some of whom he would never meet personally (in the flesh) again, to care for the fruits he had brought forth.
Paul stated that when he wrote: “Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents.” Communicating – one Christian to another or others – is fruitful labor, a labor of love.
“A manner of life worthy of the gospel of Christ” means to live like Jesus lived, leading disciples to God and not being intimidated by any opponents. Being “firm in one spirit” means to not be divided, unable to decide if you should act like Jesus today or act like YOU once more. “Striving side by side with one mind” means your little brain standing behind the Mind of Christ, understanding everything that Mind reveals to you.
In more simple words, Paul told the Philippians (and you), “Remember to live by the Holy Spirit.”
To hear Paul speaking to YOU, it is important to understand just why YOU have such a hard time “letting go” and having faith that the world cannot harm the soul giving life to your flesh. A lifetime of struggles has made all adults wary of the promises of the world. Many have learned that YOU must take what YOU want, because nobody else will give YOU anything. The world is where survival goes to the fittest and only the strong get anywhere of value.
That fleshy YOU has been “intimidated.” YOUR “opponents” are those like YOU, who see religion as a trick that fleeces sheep for profit, while selling belief in the invisible. YOU are distracted by those opponents of Jesus Christ.
YOU do not want to be fooled by life again; but you know you need a warm security blanket to hold onto, just to keep being YOU. So, you go to church and you privately tell people you are Christian; but YOU have a hard time fully grasping what that really means, because it is YOU who keeps Christ a separate entity that you could never match. He lives outside of YOU. Jesus Christ was the Son of God and YOU could never make that claim.
I have said it before (many times), but I will say it again. YOU have to marry into wealth, where “wealth” means “eternal life.” YOU do that by marrying God (not Jesus … Roman Catholic nuns do that).
Marriage to God is how one stands “firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” Forget all the “equality” stuff that buzzes in a human brain, where women have careers and men do housework. That is more of that distraction that is the opponent that must be destroyed.
Marriage to God means: 1.) One has a deep love for God, which is recognized and accepted through a proposal of marriage. 2.) God is the master of the union with the one to whom He is betrothed, who is totally subservient to God. 3.) God is the husband, a word that means the one who brings forth offspring, with the human being the wife (regardless of physical gender), meaning the womb in which God creates. 3.) The consummation of the marriage bears fruit through the Mind of Christ being born, with the human body caring totally for the needs of that “baby Jesus,” as its mother (regardless of physical gender).
The union is the point where the physical and the Spiritual become One. It is like the 0-point on a graph. That 0-point is where God resides – in the heart. The symbol of holy matrimony is the cross.
Vertical is the physical. Horizontal is the Spiritual. They meet at the heart when married to God.
What Paul wrote in this selection supports this conclusion I have made, as it is representative of his stating: “progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus.” A true Christian has “progressed” in his or her love of God (the husband), leading to the “joy” that the birth of the Christ Mind brings, greatly expanding one’s “faith.” As Paul was also married to God and had been blessed with the birth of the Christ Mind, he “shares” as a brother to this newborn of the same Father. Brothers and Sisters (depending on gender) “Living as Christ.” Together, all reproductions of Jesus Christ represent an “abundance” of duplicates, all who can “boast in Christ Jesus.”
The Greek word that is translated as “boasting” is “kauchēma.” According to Strong’s cognate of this word, it means: “boasting, focusing on the results of exulting/boasting (note the -ma suffix). This boasting (exulting) is always positive when it is in the Lord, and always negative when based on self.”* This usage by Paul, in the context of “progress” and “joy in Christ Jesus” is then better translated as “exulting,” as such receipt of the Holy Spirit is a triumphal success.
The element of suffering that Paul referred to, which is aligned with the struggles the Philippians had witnessed Paul have, and he knew they faced, can now be seen like birth pangs. The symbolic or metaphoric meaning of “birth pangs” is “Difficulty or turmoil associated with a development or transition.”** Paul is then stating the obvious, which is the joy of giving birth to a new YOU – a true Christian – will always come with tests that will bring aches and pains. Like Paul, YOU will survive this transitional stage and be elated with the new development within your being.
God will be in the delivery room holding your hand, “striving side by side with one mind” to guide you through all that this test brings. That is the fruitful labor that is required first, so all the work to come afterwards will be a piece of cake.
* Helps Word Studies, copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.
** Fair use.