Friday, January 22, 2010



Some of you may have read the shorter version of this subject which I placed on Cybermeditations. I have been studying Philippians for my series of verbal sermons on the book. Four of these messages are on Sermon Audio with more to follow (dv). I sent an expanded version of this article to my email list.I believe blogger readers will also benefit from it, so here it is (cw).

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

Are these Holy Spirit inspired words of the Apostle Paul, stating his personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my words also? Are they yours? Paul was not stating these words to brag, nor was he confining their effect to only himself. These words should be heartfelt and part of every believer's life. It should be our "life verse". I have always said that my life verse is "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). Even that one is hard to live day by day. Being creatures of flesh, all of us are probably more prone to live as in the following phrase: "To me to live is to be successful, and to die is having to reluctantly leave it all behind.” That’s awful, I know, but that is the lifestyle of so many, even professing Christians.

Of course, to the lost world, living in Christ, walking in Christ, witnessing for Christ are all things that a madman does. Christ is dead, don't you know? He has been for nearly 2000 years, or so these blinded rebels say. What they are not seeing is that, yes, He died, but He is risen!

What made Paul different is that he met the resurrected Christ on the Damascus road, and thereafter he was never the same as before. He was a persecutor of the church, but now is a proclaimer of the gospel of the Christ that he once persecuted. Yes, even today he is still proclaiming the gospel through his inspired writings.

We are not even looking at this time at the second part of this verse. That talks about dying. No one wants to do that. Understandably so, for God so designed us with survival instincts, yet Paul says for him, to die is gain. We will examine that later. For now, focus on the living part. Is Christ so in us and our lives that we can say with Paul "To me to live is Christ"? That is a tall order. We cannot do it. In ourselves, at least, we cannot do it. The Holy Spirit (who is the Spirit of Christ), must be so in control of us that we do not live our own lives, as such, but "Christ liveth in me". (See Galatians 2:20). In reality, we must also meet the resurrected Christ as Paul did on that Damascus road long ago.

Our verse is perhaps the key verse of Philippians, and one of the most important in the Bible. Am I, are you, living it in application? I confess that I am not fully doing it, but I sincerely want to do so. I am striving against sin daily. I am looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. Yet, I still fall short of the glory of God. I am not giving up, and with God as my helper, I am going to reach that place where I can say with Paul "For to me to live is Christ". How about you?

We may say we are living our lives in Christ, and sincerely mean it. But, do those who are nearest to us in everyday life on our jobs; in our homes; in the marketplace; see this in us, that we are living out Christ in our lives? May God help us! Here we all fall short. Yet, I believe Paul was indeed living a life controlled by Christ. A life guided by the living Christ. A life exemplifying Christ. Every desire of his life was to be Christ like. To be used by Christ. To be tortured, if necessary, for Christ; and to even die for Him.

That brings us to the latter part of the verse “to die is gain.” Unregenerate men can’t say this. Ordinary men don‘t say this! Paul was not ordinary in this sense: As Paul said in the latter part of 1 Corinthians 15:31 “I die daily”. The Amplified Bible gives this expanded reading [I face death every day and die to self]”. Certainly this man did that--fearlessly! When He said “to die is gain”, he was saying “Whatever happens, you cannot destroy me, for I will be with the Lord”. I am reminded of what the late Haralan Popov said so often, “If a man is not afraid to die, you cannot hurt him, do what you will”. He said that when the communists were brutally torturing him in his native Bulgaria. I heard him express this many times when I traveled with him.

In the following verses Paul makes it clear that although he would prefer to go ahead and be with Christ, he knew the necessity of abiding here in this life for now. He knew that he had a mission to perform for Christ before God would take him home. As he said “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you”(Philippians 1:23,24). When Paul wrote this letter, he was under Roman imprisonment, not certain that he would live to see the Philippian church again.

He knew that “to die is gain”, as it is for all Christians, for after death for us we will awaken in Christ’s presence. “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Paul had said in the latter part of verse 20 “With all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Philippians 1:20b). The apostle’s ultimate goal was to magnify Christ (Greek megaluno= to declare, or show great; to extol Him), whether by living for Him, or dying for Him. So Paul lived what he preached and wrote. Regarding himself, he was truthful when he said “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

So if the Father wrought our salvation; the Son bought our salvation; and the Holy Ghost sought us for salvation, we ought to be more able each day we live so say with Paul “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” O great God, help us to live like that, with our eyes always on our strength and our redeemer, Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God. Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


2009 was a year of re-runs, in a way. I republished earlier works a little more than I did in 2008. Here is another, from all the way back in the print issue of Word of Truth from March/April 1984; 25 years ago, when I was with Russian Bible Society. I have revised it with some necessary changes, but I think it is still relevant for 2010.

Speaking of vintage material, I have obtained some old tapes of W.F. Bell from days of old. I have placed a good one called Breaking Our Nehushtans on our Sermon Audio site. It is getting quite a bit of interest. To hear it, just
scroll down in the left column of this page where sermons are featured; or click on the link for Sermon Audio in the My Other Blogs column.

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus'' (Philippians 4:7).

"Die Religion ... ist das opium des Volkes!" This statement in German is by Karl Marx. Translated into English it reads as follows: "Religion is the opium of the People!" This is one of the most quoted statements ever made. Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto, one of the "ten books that shook the world." Being myself an anti-communist, I would disagree with much that Marx wrote. I have seen what communism has done to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, China, etc. They suffered greatly under the totalitarian system of communism. So I am against Marx and Marxism, but I agree with his statement, "Religion is the opium of the People!" Perhaps it startles you that I would agree with Marx on anything. Let me explain to you my reasons.

One of the greatest problems in the world is too much religion. There is the Buddhist religion — the Moslem, Shinto, Confucian, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, etc. In each of these there are sub-religions and cults. In Christendom alone there are the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Pentecostal, etc... Then there are various state churches. Then there are cults such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormon, Unitarian, Christian Science, and many others — all corrupted forms of Christianity. Most of the world's people are religious.

In the USA if you ask the average man to give you the name of his religion, he will usually name the religious group his family is associated with, or church he has visited a few times, even if he does not attend regularly. Most people identify with some religion. Some might think that this is good. I don't! It is deplorable! It is really terrible that there are so many religious people in the world. Marx was right; they are drugged with their opium! Lulled into a state of sleep by their "religious cocaine," it's extremely difficult to penetrate them with the gospel. In fact, only the Holy Spirit can penetrate the barrier. Today people are not only drugged on religion; they are already "O.D." (Overdosed and dead)!

Although I can agree with Marx regarding religion, let me hasten to say, I do not agree for the same reasons. He wanted to abolish all beliefs, good and bad, from the face of the earth. Communists are atheists and believe there is no god. When I say I am in agreement, I mean that Marx's statement correctly expresses the problem. Millions of people are drugged on religion.

Lenin also wanted to abolish all religion. He said, "Religion is a kind of spiritual gin in which slaves of capitalism drown their human shape and their claims to any decent human life.” (1) In examining why Lenin and Marx hated religion so much, I found that much of the reason focused on the Russian Orthodox Church and its great wealth. Also, its corruption, identification with the czar and high visibility in largely backward, czarist Russia made it easy for Marx and Lenin to blame religion for many things, and they hated all religion.

I am not advocating we emulate their hatred, but compare their statements with reality. We have to admit there is some truth in their statements, regardless of their motives. Religion and religious people have helped to get the world into its present mess as much as greedy politicians.

Before someone thinks I've gone off the deep end, I'm speaking of religion, not Bible Christianity. There is a difference! In Acts 17:22, Paul, speaking to those in Athens, told them they were "in all things too superstitious" (Gr. Deisidaimon; religious (2)).They had more religion than anybody in the known world! They had numerous gods and goddesses and were "wholly given to idolatry" (Acts 17:16). To make sure they didn't miss the supreme being they had an inscription "to the unknown god" (Acts 17:23). Paul proceeded to tell them about the true God revealed in Jesus Christ. Readers, this is my point. God has a quarrel with religion! Religion worships an unknown god. The true Christian has the true God, the Creator, revealed to him, "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Athens had only religion.

Before we self-righteously divorce our modern city situation from first century Athens, we should consider this quote regarding Acts 17 from William Arnot: "I suspect there is more to make an apostle shudder in Edinburgh and London than there was in Athens and Rome. Oh, it is pitiful that near a whole city of comfortable Christianized inhabitants, so many wretches in human form should be permitted to torment and destroy themselves and one another by open, organized, wholesale vice, and crime"(3) (emphasis mine).

Since he wrote these words in 1873, you can substitute your modern city and my own (Atlanta) for Edinburgh and London, and the picture Dr. Arnot painted will be effected only by a worse degree of corruption today. And what would Brother Arnot say about our modern toleration of abortion, homosexuality, drug abuse, debased music, and the general condition of his England and our America? The gods of pleasure are quite evident, and the religious everywhere are devoted to them. It was religious people who put Jesus Christ on the cross. It was religious people who stoned Stephen. It was religious people who banished John the Apostle to the Isle of Patmos. Over the centuries religious people have slain millions of true believers! Foxe's Book of Martyrs is one verification of this solemn fact.

Religion is a drug. What we need is not "a religion." We need Jesus Christ, the living person. Not abstract words about Him, but Him. He lives and without Him we cannot live. "I give unto them eternal life" (John 10:28). As A. W. Tozer has well said, "A religion, even popular Christianity, could enjoy a boom altogether divorced from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and so leave the church of the next generation worse off than it would have been if the boom had never occurred. I believe the imperative need of the day is not simply revival, but a radical reformation that will go to the root of our moral and spiritual maladies and deal with causes rather than with consequences, with the disease rather than with symptoms"(4) (emphasis mine).

Yes, I know Marx meant to abolish the true with the false, the good with the bad. But true Christians in the Soviet Union during that time knew the difference between religion and Christianity. About 40 years ago the famous "martyr of Leningrad," Aida Skripnikova, wrote a letter to atheist V.I. Kuzin who had attempted to discredit Christianity. She wrote these words, "You say, 'innumerable are the crimes of all religions, including the Baptist faith, before humanity and particularly before science.' 'All religions,' you say."

"We are not concerned with religions," says Aida. "There are many religions, some with difficult and complex rituals, some thought up by men. The Christian religion without the living Christ is powerless: such a religion does not save. It is dead and cannot enable a man to be born again. We are not religious people. We are Christians!"(5) (emphasis mine).

By contrast, Marx said, "But communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religions and all morality. Instead of constituting them on a new basis, it (communism) therefore acts in contradiction to all past, historical experience"(6) (emphasis mine).But, ironically, the system that claims to have abolished religion has one all its own. It is not only "slaves of capitalism" who are "drowning in spiritual gin." In the Soviet Union the state had become the all-powerful god. Lenin and Marx were its prophets. Yes, communism itself is a religion! It is not just a political system. Some worshipers even bowed at Lenin's tomb in Moscow to revere their communist "saint." It is the same as the religion of humanism and socialism that is being now forced on the people of America as our freedoms are being threatened. Communism, like humanism, is a religion. But it is not thought of as a religion by most people.

David V. Benson has well said, "Communism is a religion, if by religion we mean a collective cult excites the adoration and motivates the actions of a people. If we disregard its atheism for a moment, communism has all the trappings of an organized religion: (1) its messiahs and saints — Marx, Engels and Lenin, with hosts of other figures who wax or wane in popularity as the ruling priests decide; (2) its sacred scriptures — the writings of these men; (3) a band of apostles and prophets — the communist party; (4) an elect nation — the Russian (or Chinese) people; (5) a sense of predestined authority — the immutable course of the dialectic working in history; (6) a millennial period of transition — socialism; (7) which leads to an endless state of bliss — pure communism; (8) redemption — through the sacrifice communists must make to free the working masses; (9) bondage — living under capitalism; (10) sin — rejecting communism; (11) conversion — becoming a communist; (12) and above all, faith — that complete trust one must have in the truth of communism's holy dogmas (numbering emphasis mine).

Benson continues "Only thus can the heartbeat of communism be understood. It is a religion, and as such its transgressions of logic and consistency, its narrow-minded prejudices, its violence and fanaticism are all essential parts of its makeup. For no man-made religion in all of history has ever been impregnated with a sense of a holy war of deliverance more than has communism."(7)

Jesus Christ? The communists call Him a mythical character, yet today in 2010; He is still worshipped by over sixty million evangelicals in Communist China! These worshippers are not the drugged ones. The drugged ones are those who worship the false ritualism of the state in any country. Even though there is no Soviet Union any more, there are millions of Christians in the former Soviet block today as well. This same Jesus, which the state calls a myth, will be the Judge of all men. If Leonid Brezhnev or Mao Tsetung could return from the dead for a few minutes, they could no doubt tell us that a few ideas they once had have drastically changed! The communists have made a great error in classifying all religions as the same. Pontius Pilate, when speaking of our Lord said, "I find no fault in this man" (John 19:4). Pilate struck at the truth though he failed to grasp the truth. Karl Marx did the same thing. He recognized the dangers of religion, but he never understood the truth. There is good evidence that Marx himself was a Satan-worshipper. Man will worship something, either the true God or man-made religion. Ever since the Garden of Eden man has tried to cover himself with fig leaves (religion), but as our Lord Jesus illustrates vividly in Luke 13:9-11, the barren fig tree (empty religion without the fruit of the Spirit) is cursed by the Lord. It withers and dies.

Perhaps you, dear reader, only have a religion. You may be very devout. A. W. Tozer said, "Religious work can be done by natural men without the gifts of the Spirit, and it can be done well and skillfully. But work designed for eternity can only be done by the eternal Spirit. No work has eternity in it unless it is done by the Spirit through gifts He Himself implanted in the souls of redeemed men."(8)

If you are drugged on this opium of the people, if you are drunk on spiritual gin, I ask you to sober up. If you are a devotee of some religion or even if you consider yourself an atheist, I beg you to consider the words of Jesus Christ. He said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). You need to be born from above. Jesus Christ lives! He is the only religious leader that has conquered death. His tomb is empty! If we must call our faith a "religion," let it be the religion of the empty tomb. Let it be the pure religion, undefiled before God (James 1:27). The only true religion is a revealed religion! It is a revelation of the sovereign God to a sin-sick soul. Is He speaking to you, right now? He who truly believes will no longer be a religious dope addict being lulled into hell, but will be a child of the true God, one day to reign with Him, the King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the only real cure for addiction to the opium of the people.


(1) Lenin's Selected Works, XI (New York: International Publishers, 1943).

(2) Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words gives us two Greek words that are translated "religion." In the King James Bible the word "religion" is only used five times. Deisidaimonia primarily denotes fear of the gods. Threskeia signifies religion in its external aspect; religious worship, especially the ceremonial service of religion.

(3) William Arnot, Commentary on Acts (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1978), p. 327.

(4) A. W. Tozer, Keys to the Deeper Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957), p. 12.

(5) Michael Bourdeaux, The Evidence that Convicted Aida Skripnikova, (Elgin, Illinois: David C. Cook, 1972), p. 60. A Letter from Aida, a booklet, may be ordered for $1.00 postpaid from Russian Bible Society, P.O. Box 6068, Asheville, NC 28816.

(6) Karl Marx quoted by Cleon Skousen in The Naked Communist (Salt Lake City: Ensign Publishers, 1961), p. 92.

(7) David V. Benson, Christianity, Communism and Survival (Glendale, California: Regal Books, division of Gospel Light Publishers, 1967), p. 3.

(8) A. W. Tozer, op. cit., p. 40.