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Behind the Message: To Live is Christ, to Die is Gain.

April 15, 2024

In this week’s Behind the Message, Pastor Evan sits down with Brent Earwicker, Alex Mutagubya and Jackson for part 2 of the Philippians series. They talk through the concept that Paul presented when he said, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Westside Church Podcast
Behind the Message: To Live is Christ, to Die is Gain.
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Sermon Transcript:

Speaker A: From Westside Church in Bend, Oregon, you're listening to behind the message. Each week we take you behind what we teach here at Westside. My name is Evan Earwicker, and today I am joined in studio with some special guests. First of all, we have Pastor Alex from the city church in Kampala, Uganda. Greetings, Pastor Alex.

Speaker B: Thank you. It's good to be here.

Speaker A: Along with Pastor Alex, we have Brent Earwicker, who shares my last name, who was a missionary in Uganda for how many years, Brent?

Speaker C: Twelve years.

Speaker A: Twelve years. Has since come back and now serves on our team here at Westside and a good friend from Uganda, Jackson. Hi, Jackson.

Speaker D: Hey, how you doing? Good to be here.

Speaker A: Jackson, you've lived here in the states after moving from Uganda for several years. Yeah.

Speaker D: Yes. It's coming to seven years in May.

Speaker A: Okay, well, great. Well, it's good to have all of you in the studio today as we continue our talk through the book of Philippians. And today we're in Philippians, chapter one. And we're talking about this concept that Paul presented when he said, to live is Christ, to die is gain. And he says this right after describing how some are preaching Jesus out of the right motives, some are preaching Jesus out of the wrong motives, and in the end, he's just rejoicing that Jesus is being preached.

Speaker B: That's true.

Speaker A: And then he says, to live as Christ, to die is gain. And so in your ministry, Pastor Alex, let me ask you first, what are some of the challenges you face when you experience Christians or other pastors or movements that are preaching maybe a different gospel or Jesus in a way that maybe feels like it's not what Jesus was or is?

Speaker B: Yes, I think that's one of the biggest challenges for the church today, not just in Uganda or just in America, but really generally, that the exaltation of Christ has taken a backseat. And when Jesus is not preached, then we give people a count of fate rather than the truth. For Christ is the truth. He is the way, he is the life. If we don't present Christ. And I think that's why Paul is saying, I don't care. What's your motive behind presenting Christ as long as you have presented him? I don't care whether I die or I live. If Christ is lifted up, it will be okay. And I think. But we face a challenge in our generation because, like for us in Uganda, one of the biggest challenges is poverty. And so it is easier to focus more on what will help people get out of poverty. It's easier to focus on prosperity, gospel and other counterfeits rather than present Jesus Christ to the people. It is easier to get caught in all the other things, even demonology itself, and exalt the working of the devil more than you can exalt the working of Christ. And so that becomes a challenge. But Paul here is telling us, listen, for me, my fascination is Christ. I will preach Christ. I will talk about Christ. I will live for Christ. I will support anyone whether they support me or they don't, as long as they are preaching Christ. I think that's really having the first thing be the first thing Christ.

Speaker E: Yesterday, Pastor Steve Mikkel was here with us, and he talked about how in american culture, oftentimes we want to.

Speaker A: Preach.

Speaker E: Christ, but then we get off track. And for a lot of american Christians, that looks like grasping for power, maybe political power or influence, and we stop preaching the gospel because we're so concerned with this idea of power.

Speaker B: In whichever setting that we are in, we need to be careful that we are not focusing on what is here and now putting in front of us. Paul right here is in prison, and it is possible for him to focus on the present suffering that he is going through. It is possible for him to focus on those who are trying to pull his ministry down, but he is saying no. With all of those things, I will focus on Christ. Christ is the main thing. And I think for us, the destructions we have given into the many destructions that come our way. Like I said, whether in Uganda, we are dealing with all these other different destructions. You in America, you are also dealing with all these other different destructions. But nonetheless, all of those things are trying to pull us away from the real answer. When God looked at all the challenges men are facing, he sent his son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Speaker E: Amen. Amen. Jackson, you've been in the states for quite some time now. What are the differences you see in how the gospel can be distracted or pulled away from the heart of what Paul was getting at with Jesus at the center? Do you see differences in those dangers.

Speaker A: In Uganda versus here in the states?

Speaker D: A lot of them. And I think you mentioned something about power. And I've seen so many people misusing the pulpit here with politics, and I've seen how people's attention can be driven to politics and neglect the. The main thing to talk about. And I feel like the center of the gospel shifted because of the surroundings, like people now can. It's easy to talk about, and this is not people that love fishing. That's good, but people can talk about fishing. More than they can talk about what the pastor preached about on Sunday. People can talk about like anything outside the gospel because it's so comfortable to talk about something else, but it's not comfortable to talk about Jesus. They have been in workplaces where even you can't even mention the name Jesus to your co workers, you know, and I feel like there's so much compromise on the gospel in our era now than before. And I feel like what Paul is trying to bring closer here is that wherever you are, I don't care what situation you are in, I don't care what is happening right there. I'm in prison right now. But even in a prison, Christ is being preached because I can't stop talking about him. Even with my tight chains, even with my limitations of being an active gospel, being out there spreading it, it is not stopping me from doing it. Like, I can still mention the name Jesus. So I feel like it's a challenge to us as a church, even when we read Paul's words. Recently, God gave me a statement that has been challenging my mind that, how did you get here? And it might be I was so depressed and I found Jesus. I was so lonely and then I found Jesus. I was going through a divorce and I found Jesus. It doesn't matter how you found him, but how did you find him? And the moment you find him, that's the ultimate goal. I don't care how you got there. I don't care how you found which way, how. Yeah, we have so many false prophets and people that are going on, but I also have heard of testimonies of people that heard Jesus from a false prophet. But now when they developed a personal relationship with Jesus, they can now distinguish that, okay, he's a false prophet, but he pointed me to a source and I went there myself. The problem would be if I cling on what they preach, that is wrong. But if they point to Jesus and I go myself to the source, then I'm going to find the right thing. That's why the veil was stoned, so we can have the access ourselves with no middle money in the middle.

Speaker A: That's a great point, because oftentimes we find churches that we may disagree with or we don't like their leadership or their pastors are questionable. And yet God is still somehow using those ministries and those pastors to bring people to him. Yes, and that's not necessarily an endorsement of everything that pastor says or does, but somehow Jesus is still reaching people through imperfect leaders, pastors and ministries.

Speaker D: Yeah, I think that's it goes back into denominations. Most denominations have different theories, different beliefs, different. Like, you know, when you talk about Foursquare and you talk about assemblies of God. Baptist, like in Uganda, we have the Baptist, we have the Pentecostal. We have like, they are all like. But they're always preaching one thing. Now, as a believer, it's up to me to develop the personal relationship with the ultimate creator so I can find him myself.

Speaker B: And I think I love that Paul here is talking about Christ. I think for our time, it's easy to miss the nuance that for Paul's times to talk about Jesus as the Christ was very radical. Because when he says, for me to live is Christ, and he says Christ is being preached, when he says, I have been, Christ is everything. What we don't realize is in those days, at that time, he is saying that no one can be saved or get to God except through Christ, it's radical. And you find that most of the people that are fighting him are actually Jews, because he's saying another way has now been established that is apart from the law. And now the messiah has come. We don't need the old, we need to enter into the law. I mean, to enter into the gospel, to enter into the new covenant that Christ has come to inaugurate. And that is very antagonistic in his setting. And so when we talk about Christ, we therefore talk about the gospel. And so he's saying, I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. And I think that is where we lose it, because it's possible for our day today to talk about Christ as simply the man Jesus Christ. Jesus, as if Christ was Jesus second name, but it was not. It's a description of what he has come to accomplish, the anointed one with his anointing, that then sets us free and brings us to God. And so for Paul, he's saying, anyone that will show a man that Christ is the way to the father, let him go on.

Speaker A: It's beautiful how he's presenting Jesus over and over again as the Christ, as.

Speaker B: The Christ, the messiah.

Speaker A: That speaks to his jewish audience.

Speaker B: Exactly.

Speaker A: And then he's saying, and remember, Jesus is Lord, which speaks to the Greeks. Caesar's not lord. Jesus is. So he's both preaching to both groups and making enemies out of both groups.

Speaker D: Exactly.

Speaker A: And then he says, you know what? I'm going to keep saying these things even though it might kill me to live as Christ, to die is gain. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Christ, come what may. I will not stop preaching I think.

Speaker C: That attitude of Paul, to live as Christ to die is gain, just really flies in the face of prosperity type of gospel. Especially this. Like, some preach for selfish ambition. We see that all the time around the world. It's like this competitive between churches. Like, which one's better? Which one should we be a part of? I have a pastor friend in Texas that likes to say, jesus Church is not competitive. It's collaborative.

Speaker B: That's true.

Speaker C: And I watched him recently share their brand new building that was gifted to them, and within months, they've opened it up to share with a hispanic congregation just, you know, right next door. That isn't even in their denomination, isn't even, you know, it's just like, we're collaborative. We're going to share. This is kingdom work. And that heart is just so. That sincerity is so much like Paul. Like, live or die, I'm gonna live for Christ. I'm not in this for selfish ambition. We're not in this for gain. We're not in this for political power. Like, this is just pure and simple devotion to Jesus.

Speaker A: Pastor Alex, how do you push back against bad teaching around prosperity?

Speaker B: Teaching, specifically, every form of corruption that comes to the church is because it takes Christ out of the center. And so what happens with gospels like, the prosperity gospel is it brings you as the man and puts you at the center on you become the focus. So that becomes very anthropocentric. It is focused on the man. And so now Christ becomes your servant, rather than you becoming the servant. You really are the Lord. It's another form of humanism. And so really counteracting that, again, it's funny, but again, it is bringing Christ back to the center, the gospel back to the center, the focus. And saying, listen, the focus is not on you.

Speaker D: When you ask that question, the first thing was like, how did Paul find Christmas? And when you go back into acts, how Jesus encountered him, it gave him the boldness to speak about Christ with no counterfeit without faking it, because he encountered Christ himself, right? That's right. Himself. So I can only speak about my daughter because he's my daughter and I can speak about him. About her. Well, right. So it points, when you ask that question, how do you go over this? And, you know, with all these challenges of. I think, yeah, I know where he phoned me, and that's what I'll preach about. I know how he got me, and that's what I'll preach about. So these other prosperous money and everything seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then that rest will be added unto you.

Speaker A: It's a reminder for all of us as leaders and pastors. We need an encounter with Jesus.

Speaker B: That's right.

Speaker D: Come on.

Speaker A: When we preach out of our own assumptions or because we heard somebody else say it, but we don't have that encounter. For us, that's, I think, the first step to the road where we get completely off.

Speaker B: That's right.

Speaker A: The gospel that Paul is preaching.

Speaker D: Amen.

Speaker B: Exactly. And Philippians is one of those letters that are talking about such joy, to rejoice in the Lord, to be joyful while the man is in prison for the gospel. And he's saying, you see, the joy doesn't come from the accumulation of material wealth. The joy does not even come from being in health. The joy doesn't really come from having all these accolades. He will later tell us that whatever thing that was of gain to me is dung, that joy is finding him, touching him, encountering him. And so the way we are going to encounter all counterfeits, it's like when you work in a bank, the only way they tell you to identify a counterfeit is by focusing on what is right and real. And so that is it. The only way to counter all these other counterfeits is to preach Christ, preach the gospel. And whether in season or out of season, let's exalt his name.

Speaker D: Amen.

Speaker A: Well, thank you for joining us today, listening to behind the message. You can hear all of our messages anywhere. You get your podcasts, of course. And our church website is westsidechurch.org dot. The podcast website is behindthemessage.com and we'll be back next week as we continue our walk through the book of Philippians.