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Living on Earth; Longing for Heaven
Philippians 1:22-26
Skip Heitzig

Philippians 1 (NKJV™)
22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.
23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,
26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians

Knowing what Paul knew about heaven made him think very differently about earth. As Thomas Watson said, "Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us." It's like a kid eating his vegetables while eyeing the chocolate cake promised after the meal (the salad becomes a means to an end). Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," indicating we should be longing for heaven. So how do we effectively live on earth with heaven ahead?

In the series Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians, we learn how to find joy in the most unlikely places as we discover that God can add color to the most black and white moments in life.

Outline

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  1. Wrestling with a Predicament (vv. 22-26)

  2. Wanting to “Push-Off” (v. 23)

    1. It Will Be a Departure

    2. It Will Be an Encounter

    3. It Will Be Much Better

  3. Willing to Persist (v. 24)

    1. For Fruitful Service

    2. For Needful Progress


Study Guide

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Recap Notes: July 9, 2017
Teacher: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Living on Earth; Longing for Heaven"
Text: Philippians 1:22-26

Path

Knowing what Paul knew about heaven made him think very differently about earth. As Thomas Watson said, "Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us." It's like a kid eating his vegetables while eyeing the chocolate cake promised after the meal (the salad becomes a means to an end). Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," indicating we should be longing for heaven. So how do we effectively live on earth with heaven ahead? Pastor Skip shared three points to describe Paul's approach to finding the balance:
  • Wrestling with a Predicament (vv. 22-26)
  • Wanting to "Push-Off" (v. 23)
  • Willing to Persist (v. 24)

Points

Wrestling with a Predicament
  • Christians live between two worlds: we're grounded on earth but going to heaven.
  • In this passage, Paul was in jail facing a trial. He was between a rock and a hard place. Paul knew what he wanted in light of his situation—to go be with Jesus—but knew what the Philippians needed in light of their situation.
  • We need to be careful in our pursuits: are we after God's glory or our own comfort? If we choose comfort, two problems can arise, neither of which causes us to think about the hereafter:
    • Fatalism: despairing, we yearn for death.
    • Materialism: seeking pleasure, we live for this world and ourselves.
  • Probe: Discuss fatalism and materialism. Think of examples in the world of these two mindsets. How is the Christian—and the church—called to be different? How can the church be, as Jesus said, in the world but not of it (see John 17:15-17)?
Wanting to "Push-Off"
  • It Will Be a Departure
    • Paul desired to depart this world.
    • The word depart—to unloose or break up—was used to describe sailors untying their moorings and setting sail, soldiers breaking camp and marching out, and farmers removing the yoke from their oxen after a day's work.
  • It Will Be an Encounter
    • What makes the death of a believer so sweet isn't the departure; it's the arrival.
    • The real joy of heaven won't be what is there but who is there: Jesus. Heaven's main attraction will be God, not people or stuff.
  • It Will Be Much Better
    • In Greek, the word better can be translated as much more better. Grammatically, it's a mess, but theologically, it's glorious.
    • In heaven there's no soul sleep, limbo, or purgatory. "To be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). We'll be far better off being in His presence.
  • Probe: Share two things you believe heaven will be like. Take a quick read of Revelation 21-22 to get a glimpse of the new heaven and the new earth. What aspects of the new heaven and the new earth stand out?
Willing to Persist
  • Paul's struggle was between what he felt he wanted and what he knew the Philippians needed.
  • The mark of a spiritually mature person is someone who puts his or her own desires on pause for the needs of others.
  • For Fruitful Service
    • As long as Paul was living, he labored for the Lord.
    • Laboring looks like:
      • People won to Christ (see Romans 1:13)
      • Holy living (see Romans 6:22)
      • Giving (see Romans 15:26-27)
      • Good works (see Colossians 1:10)
      • Praising God (see Hebrews 13:15)
    • Fruitfulness ends when we die. We don't bear fruit in heaven; our labor will be finished. Now is the time of opportunity.
  • For Needful Progress
    • The word progress indicates the advance of an army on a mission.
    • In Paul's case, he was willing to postpone heaven so he could help others grow on earth.
    • Remember: we're on our way to heaven, and until we get there we need to do something.
    • Live as the old Native American proverb states: "When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice."
  • Probe: Look up the Scriptures concerning what laboring looks like. How are you doing in each area (evangelism, holiness, giving, good works, and praise)? In what areas and ways can you improve?
Practice

Connect Up:  In the book Between Two Worlds, John Stott wrote, "Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of every truly human aspiration. To find Him is to find ourselves." How do we find ourselves in Christ in life and death?

Connect In: Apply Paul's principles to the universal church. On one hand, the church is looking to be with the Lord. On the other hand, the church is to be salt and light in the world. How does the church fulfill the truth of living on earth, but longing for heaven?

Connect Out: The mark of a spiritual person is someone who puts his or her own desires on pause for the needs of others. How does sharing your faith put your own desires on pause, seeking the best for nonbelievers? Take a moment to pray for one person that you know is not a believer. Ask God to give you wisdom in sharing Christ with them.

Transcript

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Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. We pray that this message strengthens your relationship with the Lord. If it does, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.

Knowing what Paul knew about Heaven made him think very differently about Earth. Jesus Himself indicated that we should be longing for Heaven. In the message "Living on Earth Longing for Heaven," we learn how to effectively live on Earth with Heaven ahead. Now, please open your Bible to Philippians chapter 1 as Skip begins.

So let's turn to Philippians chapter 1. We'll get back to our series. I want to talk to you this morning about living on Earth while longing for Heaven. That's what I'm entitling this message-- "Living on Earth Longing for Heaven."

I brought a book. It's so beat up. It's been read and reread, and it's called Between Two Worlds. Now, it's a book that has nothing to do with the subject that we're dealing with in Philippians, but I love the title, and I'll tell you why in a moment. Between Two Worlds, the subtitle is The Art of Preaching in the 20th Century.

And what the author John Stott basically says is the job of the preacher is to connect two worlds, that he lives between the world of the ancient and the world of the modern-- a world that was dominated by the Hebrew language, Aramaic, and Greek, versus a modern culture, which has several other languages, but is principally dominated by the English language.

The ancient culture is a world where people walked great distances, worked out in the fields during the hot, sunny days. The modern world is where people drive cars, and listen to radios, and fly on airplanes, and work in air conditioned offices. So what his whole premise is is that a preacher, to be a good preacher, has to be familiar with the ancient world of the Bible and the modern world in which he lives, in order to effectively communicate to this world.

But I like the title Between Two Worlds, because that's what the Christian does. We live between two worlds. We've already seen that we have dual citizenship. We are Earth-born, but we are Heaven-bound. We live on the Earth, but we long for what is ahead in Heaven. So we live, effectively, between two worlds. We experience the tension of that.

And sometimes, we even wonder, when life gets really hard, how long do I have to stay here. Why can't I just bypass all this and go directly to Heaven? Like nine-year-old Marcia, who said, when you die, you don't have to do homework in Heaven, unless your teacher is there, too. It's a horrifying thought, isn't it? Not that your teacher would be in Heaven, but you be given assignments like that-- homework-- in Heaven. Her classmate Stephanie said, doctors help you, so you won't die, until you pay all their bills. Of course, when you see the doctor's bill, you're going to say, Lord, I'm ready for Heaven.

But Paul is living between two worlds. He is in prison. He is facing a trial. He doesn't know which way it's going to go-- if he's going to live or die. But he sees his prison as an opportunity-- a way, in his words, for the furtherance of the Gospel. And he doesn't know which way the trial's going to go, but he sees his possible extrication from prison, his release, as another opportunity to labor for the Lord. And yet, with all of that, he also knows that Heaven is just so much better than anything, any opportunity, any experience on this Earth, and he is expressing the tension in these verses.

Now I think all of us, to some degree, can relate to that. As believers, we are or Earth-born but Heaven-bound. We love serving the Lord. We love working for the Lord. But we think about what is coming up for us in Heaven, and we remember the words that Jesus said to his disciples. Jesus said occupy until I come. That is, stay busy with the task at hand until I come.

But then at the end of the Book of Revelation, Jesus said, behold, I come quickly. And John said, even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. So yeah, we want to occupy till he comes, but boy, we want him to come as soon as possible. That's the experience of Paul in these verses. So we find the difficulty in living a balanced, responsible life right here-- at the same time knowing there's something better up there.

Over in Spain, there is a monument to Christopher Columbus. What makes the monument to Columbus so noteworthy is that at the base of this statue, there is a lion clawing one of the words that used to be the motto of Spain for centuries. The motto was a Latin phrase "non plus ultra." And those words "non plus ultra" mean nothing more beyond.

You see, the Spaniards once believed they had conquered the world, and they had discovered everything discoverable. There was no more worlds beyond what they discovered. They thought that pre-Columbus. Christopher Columbus comes along and discovers there's a whole lot more than what you thought there was. And so at the base of his statue is a lion climbing up the word the Latin word "non." So it reads "plus ultra," as if to say, there is much more beyond anything you have thought up to this point.

Now I bring that up, because that really is our predicament. That's the life of the Christian. We are surrounded by people who don't think there is anything more beyond this. You live this life. There's nothing else. You die, and you cease to exist. That's the world in which we live.

We know better. We know there's much more beyond this, because our lion-- the Lion of the tribe of Judah-- took out the word "non" by putting eternity in our hearts. So we know there is much more beyond just this existence on the Earth.

I was at a baseball game here in Albuquerque a few years ago, and I was at the stadium that we had our Freedom Celebration in, but I just went to a game. And it was a good game. I think our team was ahead. But there were a couple of guys in front of me in the lower tier. And I heard them talking, and they were drinking their beers through the night-- several of them-- so that by the ninth inning, they were pretty well sauced.

And I overheard one say to the other in a slurred manner, it doesn't get any better than this. And I'm listening to that going, really, a baseball game in Albuquerque, New Mexico is as good as it gets for you, huh? I wanted to say, plus ultra, there is a lot more beyond life than just this. Paul knows that, and Paul talks about that here.

So how do we keep the balance of living on Earth responsively but longing for Heaven ultimately? Well, there's three attitudes-- three words I want to give to you that express three attitudes-- wrestling, wanting, and willing. Paul is wrestling with the predicament. He is wanting to depart or push off from this Earth-- go to Heaven. But he is willing to remain, or persist, stay behind.

Let's begin with the first by looking at verse 22. He's wrestling with a predicament. Look at what he's wrestling with. "But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again."

He's in jail. He's looking forward to standing before the Caesar himself. He is not sure which way the verdict is going to be rendered, and so he pours out his honest thoughts. These are the honest musings of a suffering servant of God. These are the kinds of things even Christians struggle with, when life gets difficult.

Paul is saying, I'm in prison. Life is pretty tough, but at the same time, Roman guards are getting saved. Christians are becoming emboldened. The Gospel verse 12 of chapter 1 is being furthered. So all of that is good. But then again, there's Heaven after this, and that looks pretty good right about now.

Now, Paul knows that God is sovereign. Paul knows God's going to do whatever God wants to do. The trouble is Paul has no idea what that is. He doesn't know if it's the Lord's will that he stays on Earth or goes to Heaven.

And look what he says in verse 22. "If I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell." The word "tell" is a very Pauline word. It's the word "gnorizo." It means literally "to reveal." What I shall choose I can't reveal. I can't really say what I choose. That's another way of saying, I can't say it, because God hasn't said it to me. He hasn't revealed it to me, so I can't really say which I would choose.

What Paul is saying is this-- I want what God wants, but He hasn't told me what he wants, so I can't tell you what I want. That's tantamount to what he's saying. Once God tells me what He wants, I'm going to say, that's what I want. If He wants me to live, that's what I want. If He wants me to die, that's what I want.

And so look at verse 23-- "for I am hard-pressed between the two." We would say, I'm between a rock and a hard place. The language he uses describes a journey of a traveler whose pathway gets narrower and narrower the more he progresses on that pathway.

It's like walking through a canyon, and the walls become closer. If you've ever walked through Petra, over in Jordan, it begins by being a very wide entrance. But the more you walk through it, it narrows, and narrows, and narrows.

So Paul is saying, I'm hard-pressed between two. On one side of me, there's a wall. And that is what I want in the light of my situation. On the other side is another wall, and that's what you, the Philippian church, needs in light of your situation. So I'm caught in a canyon of emotion between my will and ultimately what God's will is.

Whenever our life gets confining, whenever the walls of our experience close in, whenever options get taken off the table, that's when we struggle. You see, options ease our burden. The lack of options increase our burden. We become hard pressed.

It could be an illness. It could be the loss of a spouse, the end of a career, the breakup of a relationship, the death of a vision. When those things happen, and we feel like life is harder than it was before, and my options are fewer than they were, then we're left with a choice.

And we have to be careful how we go through such an emotional struggle, because our choices become critical. You see, it's an issue of our motivation. And it's good to ask yourself this-- do I want God's glory, or do I want my comfort?

You're maybe wondering, well, why can't I have both? Why can't God's will-- perfect will-- be my comfort? It might be, but it might not be. It might be uncomfortable for you, so you need to weigh yourself against that motivation. Is this for God's glory, or is it for my comfort?

I say that, because when we are in extreme situations like that, if all you want is your comfort, you can fall prey to two extremes. One is fatalism. The other is materialism. Let me explain.

Some people, when life is tough, become very fatalistic, this is hard, I hate life, I want to escape this, I just want to die, and get it over with, and go to Heaven. And those people are tempted with thoughts of suicide. They become very fatalistic.

Or they might swing in another direction and become materialistic. All my options are off the table. There's not a whole lot of things I can do, but what I can do is have a lot of fun until I die and go to Heaven. I'm going to make it all about my pleasure.

It's like when Mark Twain was told about Heaven. He scoffed, and he said, Heaven, you can have Heaven. Give me Bermuda. Just a nice long, sunny vacation is all I really want, just pleasure for myself. Forget about Heaven.

So we can see Paul's struggle. He's suspended between two worlds. He's in this in-between state. I'm on Earth, facing possible death-- which would take me to Heaven. But maybe if I stay behind, it would be better. So he's wrestling with a predicament.

Here's the second attitude-- wanting. What is it Paul really wants? What's his desire? He tells us, verse 23-- "for I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire." This is what I want-- "to depart and be with Christ, which is far better."

Now we're going to drill down in this verse for a moment. What I want you to notice is how Paul describes his future possible death. Notice the words he used. First of all, he says it's a departure. He said, "having a desire to depart."

Now let me tell you about this word. Once I tell you about it, you'll I think appreciate the beauty of it, the depth of it, the richness of it. The word "depart" that he uses here is "analyo." And it means "to break up," "to unloose," or "to undo."

It was a word that was used by three groups of people in antiquity. Sailors used it. Soldiers used it. Farmers used it. Sailors used the word "depart" or "departure," when they were going to go from one port and sailed to another port, they would pull up the rope off the moorings, they would bring in the anchor, and they would move from one port to the next.

I think that is in Paul's mind, when he writes his last letter, 2 Timothy chapter 4, and he says, "for the time of my departure is at hand." Timothy, it's time for me to pull up the anchor and set sail. And that's why I think so much of the writing of the hymns is based upon this thought of meeting together, gathering together on that distant shore we call Heaven. For example, the hymn "I'll Fly Away." "Some glad morning when this life is over, I'll fly away. To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away."

So that's the word. Sailors used it. Also, soldiers used it. Soldiers were out camping, when they were fighting. And when it was time for them to move from one campsite to another or to go back home, they would break the camp up. And the word they used was "analyo." They'd break up the camp, and they'd move on.

And I like thinking about our lives that way. We're camping out here. This Earth is a campground, not much more than that. We're just passing through. Our permanent abode will be in Heaven. And one day, it'll be time for us to break up the camp, put away the tent, and move on.

I love camping. I always have, but I love it for a little while. And I think I speak from experience. I once spent three straight months camping out around the United States and Canada with a buddy. You know, when I was done, I was done. I was done camping and for a long time.

Somebody a couple of weeks later said, let's go camping. Nah, I'm good for a few years, because when you go camping, it's cool. It's fun. You put up the tent. You light the campfire. But then eventually, everything smells like campfire. All your clothes smell like fire. You start smelling pretty ripe yourself after a couple of days. So you start longing for something more permanent.

And then the tent, the tent that you bring along, if you use it a lot-- like I've had a tent for years, and you ought to see it. It still works, but you can tell it's old. The threads are coming undone. The flaps are not flapping right.

And that's a good description of our body. This morning, when I got up and got ready for church, I looked in the mirror, and I saw the tent, and I saw the threads and the flaps, I go yeah, it's not flapping quite right. I thought that's a tent right there I'm looking at. It's about done. It's been well used, but it's a tent. And Paul talks about our body this way in 2 Corinthians 5. "We know that when this Earthly tent we live in is taken down"-- that is, when we die and leave these bodies-- "we have a home in Heaven, an eternal body made for us by God and not by human hands."

Another author whom I have loved besides Stott is FB Meyer. FB Meyer was a contemporary with DL Moody, so a century ago or about. And FB Meyer was close to death, and he wrote a letter to a friend. Here's a portion.

He said, "I've just heard, to my great surprise, that I have but a few days to live. It may be that before this letter reaches you, I shall have entered the palace." Don't you love that description. And then he says this-- "don't even bother to write. We shall meet in the morning." I love that, because he says, you know, I'm living in this campground, the tent's about done, and I'm trading it in for a palace. I'm going to move very shortly.

The problem is-- see if you agree with this-- we live in this campground in these tents, but we are so preoccupied with our tents. How does my tent look? It's OK for a tent, but don't be surprised when the tent doesn't look the same next year, and the year after, and the year after.

We get so preoccupied with our tent, and the color of our threads, and is the tent too big or too small. And I mean, we're so preoccupied with our bodies, even to the point of death.

I go to funerals, and the casket's open. And people go by, and they look inside. And this is what they say, man, he looks good. He looks dead. He looked better a month ago. This is good? But we're just so preoccupied with how the tent looks. Paul says, there's going to be a departure. I'm going to pull up the rope and set sail. I'm breaking down the tent and moving on.

And then I said, it's also used-- not only by sailors and soldiers, but by farmers. And it was used by farmers when they had an animal that had a yoke on it. You know a yolk is? It's a steering device, controlling device. At the end of a workday, when the yoke was lifted off the animal, the term they used was "analyo." "Analyo," job is done. Yoke is taken off. It is removed. It has departed from off the animal.

And don't you love that Jesus said this? Take my yoke upon you. You know what that means? Let me rule you. Let me control you. Let me steer your life. I'll be in charge, not you. But then, there comes a day when the yoke is removed. And he says to us, well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord. And we get rewarded.

So he's wrestling with the predicament. He's wanting to push off and depart. And it's a departure. But we're still drilling down in verse 23.

It's more than a departure. Death is an encounter. For he says, "having a desire to depart and be"-- what? Go ahead, talk out loud in church. "Be with Christ." Now this part is what makes death sweet for a Christian. It's not the departure that makes death sweet. It's the arrival that makes it sweet. It's the encounter we have with Christ.

There was once a man who spoke about Heaven. He was a young preacher, and he spoke about Heaven in his younger days in terms of what was in Heaven. You know, he'd talk all about the golden streets, and the river of life, and the tree that lined the river of life, because he was taking his cues from the Book of Revelation. He was talking about Heaven based on what's there.

Until the day his daughter died and moved to Heaven, and years later his wife died and moved to Heaven, now the older preacher started talking about Heaven not in terms of what's there, but in terms of who's there. And for the believer, who's there aren't just relatives and friends that you long to be reunited with-- and you will-- but even above and beyond that is the joy of that intimate face to face encounter with Jesus Himself.

That's the highlight of Heaven. Heaven's main attraction is not stuff. Heaven's main attraction is God. He'll be there. You'll be with Him. Heaven will display God's glory undiminished, full screen. The wow factor will be immense. Wow! It's God. I'm looking at him, and I didn't burn up, because I have a glorified resurrected body.

Now, just in case you're wondering if that really is the highlight of Heaven, just listen to how Jesus described Heaven to his disciples. He said, "and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there you may be also." It's the encounter that he was talking about.

Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 wrote, "we will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord." Again Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:8, "to be absent from the body"-- finish this one up-- "is to be present with the Lord. It's all about the encounter with him.

Isn't it funny how we talk about Heaven? I've heard people say, well, is there golf in Heaven? Like, it's not going to be cool if there's not a golf course in Heaven. Was there football in Heaven? What about pets? Heaven won't be Heaven, unless I can have my doggies there. Really? You really want them there? I don't want to clean up poops in Heaven. It's not Heaven to me. Don't you think that whatever great joy we can think of on Earth, God can say, I can top that? More than what you can think about, I can top that. I think He can.

So it will be a departure, it will be an encounter, and it will be much better. Look at what he says, again, verse 23. "Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ"-- so that's departure and encounter-- "which is far better." This is what he meant a couple of verses back, verse 21, "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

People often ask me, Skip, how will we look in Heaven? My answer is simple-- better. Better, you'll look much better than you do now. Oh, well, I look pretty good now. Oh, but you'll look a whole lot better then. You'll feel better. You'll be better, which is far better.

Now, here's something interesting-- and this is why I'm glad we have time to go through Philippians like this, and slow down, and pick it apart, because we start understanding the mind of Paul. When he says, "which is far better," he actually stacks up words together. So the literal translation would be something like which is much more better. I want to depart and be with Christ, which is much more very better-- which is bad English, but good Greek, and great theology.

He's saying, as good as I can describe it, it's even better than that. It's just awesome. Now he would know, because Paul had an experience where he was close to death. And he said he was taken up and caught up to the third Heaven. Remember that, 2 Corinthians 12? "I was caught up to the third Heaven, and I saw and heard things inexpressible, unlawful," he said, "for a man to utter."

I've always been mad at Paul for that. I've sort of held a grudge against Paul, because he saw Heaven, experienced Heaven for a moment. It's like give us something. Because, nah, it was just so good, I can't even say anything. And so he doesn't. He just goes on to the next subject. It's like, man! But he would know.

It so astonishing that it cannot be told. There is no soul sleep in Heaven. There is no intermediate state. There is no purgatory. There's no limbo. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The moment you are absent from your body is that very moment that you are present with the Lord.

So think of what that meant to Paul. He would never again have to smell that prison cell again. He would never again feel the whip-- the Roman whip-- on his back. He would never hear the sneers of his detractors-- even Christian detractors-- who talked in a way that would make his incarceration worse. He would never again be shackled to a guard. He would be with Christ, which is much more better.

When DL Moody died-- I'm covering now all my favorite preachers in one sermon-- DL Moody had his family around him on his deathbed. And I'm bringing it up, because what Moody said sounds so much like what Paul writes. Moody said, "I am not discouraged. I want to live as long as I am useful. But when my work is done, I want to be up and off." Most of us feel that way, right? I want to do what God wants me to do. But when I'm done, take me to Heaven.

Now that's what he said on his deathbed. That night, he had a horrible sleep, very restless. Early the next morning, he said in a very deliberate, slow cadence these words. He said, "Earth recedes; Heaven opens before me."

His son Will thought his dad was having a dream, so he pushed him to wake him up. And Moody said, "no, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go."

So you can understand why Paul is saying, for me to depart means I'm going to be with Christ, which is far better. It's going to be a departure. It's going to be an encounter. It's going to be far better.

So he's wrestling. He is wanting to go. But here's the third word-- the third attitude-- he is willing. He is willing-- if it's in God's will-- to stay if he can help other people. Verse 24-- actually, let's go back up to verse 22. "But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor." Now verse 24, "nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith. That your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Christ Jesus by my coming to you again."

That's interesting. I just got to bring this up. The theme of this book is joy. He writes about it through the book. Now what he's saying is it's not about my joy. It's about your joy. I am willing to remain if I can add to your joy-- first of all by bringing fruit, verse 22. This will mean fruit from my labor and progress in your Christian life. And that is verse 25-- "with you all for the progress and joy of your faith."

Now let me just say here's the mark of a spiritual person. A spiritual person is willing to put what he or she wants on pause if it means helping somebody else. What I really want is to be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, I'm willing to but what I want on pause if I can see other people helped, blessed.

I can just say that Paul practiced what he preached. What he preached-- I want you to see what he preached, and then you'll see how he practiced it. Look at Philippians 2, just skip ahead. We'll get there someday. Philippians 2:3, "let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind"-- that means humility-- "let each esteem"-- or consider-- "others better than himself. Let each of you look out, not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others."

That's what Paul told them they ought to do. What Paul is saying in chapter 1 is this is what I do. This is how I live my life. I want to go to Heaven, but being here may help you. Two ways he mentions-- fruitfulness and progress.

Fruitfulness, "if I live on in the flesh"-- verse 22-- "this will mean fruit from my labor." In other words, if I'm still kicking, I'll still be working. As long as I'm breathing, I'm still going to be battling. I'm going to use every breath I can for His glory and your betterment. This is what he meant in verse 21 again, "for me to live is Christ." "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Now what is fruit? You know, that's a Christian term. You should be fruitful. You go, huh, what does that mean? What does it mean as a Christian to be a fruitful Christian? Well, the New Testament speaks of fruit in a few different ways.

Number one, winning people to Christ is called fruit. Romans 1:13, "I often plan to come to you that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among other Gentiles." Winning people to Christ-- converts are fruit.

And Paul said, you know, I want to go there to have converts where you live, just like everywhere I've gone so far. That's what I do. I'm that guy. I'm the evangelist. I want to see people won to Christ.

Number two, holy living is called fruit. Romans 6:22, "Having been set free from sin and having become slaves of God, you have fruit to holiness and in the end everlasting life." The holier you become, the more fruitful you are.

Number three, giving is called fruit-- financially supporting God's work. Romans chapter 15, Paul spoke of their contribution to the saints. And he calls it "this fruit," this fruit being their monetary contribution.

Number four, good works is called fruit. Colossians 1:10, "Pleasing him and being fruitful in every good work." And finally, praise is called fruit. Hebrews 13:15, "Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God. That is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." So here is Paul saying, I hate prison, but I'm willing to stay here if it's going to help you, if I can do more for His glory.

Fruitfulness, listen to this. Fruitfulness ends when you die. Get that truth. Fruitfulness will end when you die. You will not be fruitful in Heaven. You can't be fruitful in Heaven. You can't pass out a tract in Heaven. You can't support God's work in Heaven. You can encourage a young believer in Heaven. We're in perfection. All of your fruitfulness is on Earth. You get rewarded for your fruitfulness in Heaven. Your fruitfulness ends the day you die.

So Paul wanted fruit. Number two, he wanted progress. That's the word you will notice in verse 25-- "for the progress and the joy of your faith." See, what's on Paul's heart is their spiritual growth, their spiritual growth. And so far, being in prison has not hurt Christian spiritual growth. It's furthered the Gospel.

So if Paul moves to Heaven, all of his hassles are done, but so is his effectiveness. He won't win any more guards to Christ. He won't stimulate boldness like he has so far that he mentioned a few verses back. He won't be able to inspire others with his pen as he writes letters. He won't be able to build up other churches. And knowing that, he says, I am unwilling to postpone going to Heaven if I can help others grow on Earth.

Now, let me boil this down to a single statement, this whole message. You're on your way to Heaven. Until you get there, do something. You're on your way to Heaven. Yay, Hallelujah! But it's not God's will for you to be in Heaven today. How do I know that? Because I'm looking at you. You're breathing. You're not room temperature yet.

Now, one day you will be. And it's appointed to every man once alive. That will be your appointed time. But it's not God's will today that you're in Heaven. So until you get to Heaven, Do something. Get involved in something. Help someone grow in their faith, become a fruitful believer.

I love the old saying that one of the tribes of the American Indians-- the Native Americans-- had, and that is this. When you were born, you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries, and you rejoice. Now you're going to rejoice going to Heaven, but you'll rejoice even more as you are rewarded by your Savior for the faithful, fruitful service on Earth. When he says to you, well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord, it's like, yes, yes!

Our Heavenly Father, it's such a beautiful perspective that drips from the very pen of Paul at every phrase and every sentence. He's honest here. He's honest with his thinking. He's honest with his mental wrestling over a predicament-- not knowing what he ought to choose, Heaven or Earth, because he's not sure what you want. And he's willing to say whatever God wants, that's what I want.

In his heart, he really wants to push off. He really wants to depart. He wants to pull up the rope, pull up the anchor, set sail for a celestial shore. He wants to move from the campground to the palace. He wants to take the yoke off and be rewarded for his service. But then finally, he says, but if I can help you become fruitful, if I can stay fruitful, and if you can grow in your faith, then it's worth it for me to hang around a while-- such a beautiful commitment.

And I pray, Father, for all of us. I thank You for faithful labors in the Gospel. I thank You for men and women who love Your word, and love truth, and love to learn, and love to apply, and love to invite friends, and love to see Jesus glorified. Thank You for them, Lord. It's such an honor to pastor such a wonderful, godly group of men and women.

Would You strengthen us, so that we might grow to the point-- not just for we wrestle and want Heaven, but we are willing, even if it means our discomfort for the Gospel to be furthered, even if it means us living an example of patience, and long suffering, and joy, and for the advancement of others, but especially of Your glory.

We're going to close this service, and we have our heads bowed. We have our eyes closed. I always want to make sure that, if we have the time, that there aren't people here who don't know the Lord, I want to give them an opportunity to change that. And so I just want to offer what God offers in his word, and that is salvation.

And you know what, you don't have to make a long pilgrimage, you don't have to crawl on your knees across the world. All you have to do is open your heart. Open your heart and by faith say, I believe in Jesus, who did the work for me on the cross. I believe that's enough to please God. Jesus took my punishment on Himself. And I'm going to trust and entrust my life to Him. I'm going to turn around from living my way and go His direction.

It's a simple act of faith, but it will change you forever. It will change you here and for eternity. If you're not sure whether you've done that or not-- though you may be a nice person, a religious person, raised in the church-- if it's not personal for you, if you're not living for Christ now, or if you've walked away from Him and need to come home, let me just give you an opportunity to say yes to Him this morning.

If you want to do that, our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed, my eyes are open. I need to know who I'm acknowledging and praying for. Would you-- if you want to receive Christ-- right now just raise your hand up in the air? Raise it up and keep it up for just a moment. God bless you in the front, on my left, on the side. Anybody else? Raise that hand up. Right there in the middle, thank you, right here on my left, on the aisle. Anybody else, would you raise your hand up? If you're in the balcony, raise your hand up, raise it up high-- family room. If you're outside, or you're in the hub next door, we have pastors who will see that.

You just ask yourself if you are sure that you're going to Heaven. I guess the first question is-- do you even want to go to Heaven? And if so, you have to come through Jesus Christ. There's no other way. There is no other way. And if you say, well, I don't believe that, then you are banking your eternal destiny on what you believe. And I'm saying, bet your eternal destiny on what Jesus proclaimed. Anybody else, raise that hand up. Say yes to Him.

Father, we thank You for those whose hands were raised. We thank You for their decision to say yes to You or to come back to You. And I do pray for them-- as we all do-- that You give them strength, Lord, to live out what they believe, what they're going to come to experience in this world. As You put eternity in their hearts, and they live around people who think there's nothing beyond this life, I pray that they would live with the truth, the awareness, there is much more beyond. They tap into that. You'd make them buoyant with a sense of joy, rejoicing, and a sense of peace. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Let's stand. If you don't mind, we'll close this service. As we do, if you raised your hand-- I do not want to embarrass you. I want to celebrate with you. If you raised your hand, I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing, find the nearest aisle, and stand right up here, where I'm going to lead you in a prayer to say yes to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, to invite Him into your heart. So as we sing this song, you get up and come. God bless you. Come right up here.

[APPLAUSE]

If you're in the back on the side, please come up. Jesus called people publicly, and we believe in doing that. It settles something in the heart of a person who's willing to go public.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Of God.

God bless you, sir. And you, God bless you.

I'm no longer a slave to fear, because I am a child of God. Oh, I'm no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God. Oh, I'm no longer a slave to fear.

So glad you came.

I am a child of God. Oh, oh.

Real quickly, whether you raised your hand or not is really irrelevant. If you want forgiveness, if you want a place in the Lamb's book of life, then by faith receive the only solution that God gave to the world, His only begotten Son. Is there anybody else? I'm going to lead this fine group in a prayer in just a moment. Anybody else?

I'm no longer--

You have an opportunity today. You may never have an opportunity again.

A slave to fear. I am a child of God.

One day, you'll hear your last sermon. One day, I'll preach my last sermon. But we have today. We have right now, and I'm so glad that you guys all came forward. Real quickly, anyone else? We'll give you time. It's just us. You can run up here. We don't care. Just be careful.

Well, for those of you who have come forward, I'm going to get close to you. Come on over this way a little bit. Come on in. I'm going to lead you in a prayer, and I'm going to ask you to say these words out loud from your heart. You're saying them to the Lord. You're giving Jesus control of your life. You're going to take His yoke on you. Remember that steering device. He's going to control. You're asking him to do that. And you're turning from your way to go His way.

So let's pray. Say, Lord, I give You my life.

[AUDIENCE PRAYING]

I know that I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus. I believe He died for me, that He shed His blood for my sin, and that He rose again, and that He's coming back. I turned from my sin. I turned to Jesus as my Savior. I want to live for Him as my Lord. Help me. In Jesus' name, Amen, Amen.

[CHEERS]

As believers, we have the assurance of Heaven to help us live fruitful, productive lives for Christ. Did this message motivate you to change the way that you live? We want to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.

Additional Messages in this Series

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Date Title   Watch Listen Notes Share Save Buy
4/23/2017
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A Joy Unexpected
Philippians 1:1
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful. In fact, ease of living and joy of heart have little to do with each other. Joy is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of Jesus. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is a letter dripping with joy and surprisingly so—it’s not what anyone would expect given the circumstances surrounding the author and the recipients. As we dip our toes into the joyful waters of this epistle, it’s my prayer that your smile will grow bigger and your heart will become lighter.
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4/30/2017
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News Flash: You’re a Saint!
Philippians 1:1-2
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
You've heard it before. Someone excuses his or her crude behavior by saying something like, "Well, I'm no saint, but I do the best I can." Or, "She's so wonderful; she's a saint!" The idea most folks have is that saints are those who've died and attain special status because of their unusual accomplishments while they lived on earth. Nothing could have been further from Paul's mind when he wrote this letter to living "saints." I hope you're one.
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5/7/2017
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The Family Business
Philippians 1:3-8
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
No matter what you may do for a living, there is a higher purpose for your life. No matter what you do for work, God is at work in you and through you. You may have a career in mind, but God has a calling in mind. These are not contradictory paths but complementary ones. The apostle Paul assured his audience of God's work collectively, personally, and practically. We are the objects as well as the instruments of God's work in the world.
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5/14/2017
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Pray for Love
Philippians 1:9-11
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Love is the subject of more songs than any other topic. It's a word that falls off countless lips effortlessly and often without thought. But as someone noted, "One of the great illusions of our time is that love is self-sustaining. It is not. Love must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed." The great apostle Paul had a deep love for the Philippian believers, and they for him. But love must be understood and developed intelligently. On this Mother's Day, when we celebrate the unique love of a mom, let's also consider how our love can become mature and God-honoring.
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5/21/2017
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The Happy Prisoner
Philippians 1:12-14
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
What does it take to steal your joy? To answer that question honestly, you would need to discover what you're passionate about--what drives you and what your expectations of life are. Why is this so important? Because things won't always go your way. Unfavorable winds will toss the ship of your life around on the ocean of circumstances and heartbreaks. What do you need then? The right perspective! Let's learn these truths from Paul's prison cell in Rome.
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6/11/2017
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Pest Control
Philippians 1:15-18
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
Every group—whether it’s a club, a corporation, a homeowner association, or a church—has its share of problem people and detractors. Such can be touchy, irritable, irrational, unreasonable, contentious, or legalistic. Their words may hurt us deeply. Their actions may confuse us greatly. So how do we handle these pesky folks? Most importantly, what should we do or not do with those who name the name of Christ but act like pests?
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6/25/2017
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Can You Predict Your Future?
Philippians 1:18-21
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
If you were going to sit down and write a short description of what you wanted your future to look like, what words would you choose? Let me suggest four that come straight out of Paul's experience: joy, confidence, hope, and life. After musing over past events that brought him to prison, Paul looks ahead to his uncertain future. But these four words sum up what he expected his future to include--even if it meant his possible execution.
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7/16/2017
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How to Stand When They Want You to Fall
Philippians 1:27-30
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The truth is, we’re surrounded and outnumbered! The vast majority of the people we encounter in life don’t share our values nor worship our God. The difficulty of the Christian life is that we’re called to stand up for Christ when the rest of the world wants us to sit down or fall flat. They would much rather that we keep our mouths shut and conform to their standards. Let’s consider four spiritual weapons that will help us in the fight to stand strong in our faith.
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There are 8 additional messages in this series.