To Live is Christ – Sermon – 20 September 2020


Good morning First Baptist. It is once again a pleasure to worship God with you this morning. We hope that more of you will begin to join us in the sanctuary this fall, but for as long as it is needed, we will make sure you are able to join us in some fashion.

If you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church or the pastor through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Scripture Reading - Psalms 105

1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

5 Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
6 you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.


Dear Lord,

We do come to you with thanksgiving this morning. While we struggle with the uncertainty of these days, we also know that you are with us, trustworthy and true. May we learn to live in the reality of this truth, may we lean on it in difficulty and experience Your joy in all circumstances.

Open our ears and hearts today, as we worship you. And may our encounter with You – the Living God – leave us forever changed!

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen


Today's Message


Saint Ignatius of Loyola is the 16th-century founder of the Jesuit order in the Roman Catholic Church (or as it was called in his day a century before the reformation, the church). Ignatius was a reformer in his own right, convinced that the church had gotten off track in many ways. He established an organization that was committed to living out their relationship with God through Jesus Christ and bringing the gospel to the nations. The formal name for this new order was, “The Society of Jesus,” and Ignatius committed his life to help people grow in their faith by being transformed by the gospel.

His greatest legacy was the creation of what is known as “The Spiritual Exercises,” an intensive retreat where participants take an in-depth look inward in order to re-arrange their lives and live in the fullness of God’s desires for them. Ignatian spirituality transcends denomination, and Christians of all traditions have experienced spiritual and emotional transformation in their lives through taking part in Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises of discernment.

One of the critical elements that a follower of Jesus absolutely must be able to adopt is the establishment of spiritual indifference. It is important to distinguish that indifference doesn’t mean you don’t care what happens, in fact, it means that you care very much. Spiritual indifference in an Ignatian context means that in your heart – the place where decisions are made and priorities set – you are committed to following Gods’ call on your life above anything else.

A good example of someone who did not operate out of indifference was the rich young man of Matthew 19:

Matthew 19:16-24  New International Version

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

16  Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17  “Why do you ask me about what is good?”  Jesus replied.  “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18  “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied,  “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery,  you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony,  19  honor your father and mother,’  and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20  “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21  Jesus answered,  “If you want to be perfect,  go, sell your possessions and give to the poor,  and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”
22  When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23  Then Jesus said to his disciples,  “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich  to enter the kingdom of heaven.  24  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

This young man was a follower of God who had a desire to be faithful, but he was not indifferent. There was a limit to how far he was willing to go with his obedience. Through our worldly eyes, we might think Jesus went a little hard on him. I know people like this young man, and my tendency is to make excuses for them. To give them the benefit of the doubt. To give them space for compromise, likely because I can see a lot of myself in that young man.

But Jesus laid it all out for him with greater clarity than you or I will probably ever encounter. He gave the young man the opportunity to leave his privileged life behind and be part of history! To become one of His own chosen disciples. But the young man couldn’t let go of all that he had worked for, or all that his family had accumulated over the generations. And so, he was not indifferent to anything but the will of God. He chose his own path, one he was comfortable with, rather than a life in Christ that would have been filled with unknowns, even the possibility of living in poverty. He made a decision the same way any good businessman would; weighed the pros and cons, assessed the risks, decided what he was comfortable with, and made a choice.


Put yourself in the place of this young man in Matthew 19. Are there any “deal breakers” in your life? Anything you would refuse to walk away from, even if Jesus was face to face with you and asking you to choose? If so, hold it out in your prayers before God, and ask Him to help you to understand, why?

Paul's Indifference

I certainly don’t want to end right here, because if we are being honest, every one of us most likely has a potential “deal breaker” in our lives, whether it be a relationship, a lifestyle, a job, a hobby, an investment portfolio, or anything else that would be very difficult for us to let go of.

At this point, I want to make it clear that scripture demonstrates that God doesn’t call us to cut all of our ties and commitments or give everything away. He has called some to do this, but it is rare. Instead, what God does do with regularity is call all of us to be prepared to cut our ties and commitments, and give everything away. He calls us to put everything in our lives on the table, especially those things that have become more important to us than our relationship with Him.

This attachment to things other than God doesn’t just happen overnight. Throughout our lives they build up as we are spiritually formed by the world around us: our families, our experiences, our relationships, our hurts, our successes, our failures. While the Holy Spirit is unquestionably more powerful than we can imagine, it is typical that the decision to be formed by God and not the world is the beginning of a long process; a process that will happen in stages, sometimes slowly and sometimes much more quickly. The process of unravelling all of those attitudes and defenses that have often served us well for so long is not an easy one. Very often we feel like we are making progress, only to lose ground later on; wondering if we should just abandon altogether the hope that we can even change at all.

Spiritual formation is a process that could take all of our lives, and often it is one where most of our progress is made only when the end of our lives is looming large. Many of us have been with people in the last years or even days of their lives and witnessed a dramatic shift in them. At that time, their prayer lives become more vibrant and personal; they pay attention to their most important relationships; they experience a spiritual clarity; a more intimate understanding and experience of God and life than ever before.

In this passage, Paul is at a place like this in his life. He is writing from prison, most likely in Rome, and is facing an uncertain future, even the possibility of death. And yet, we see in his words a beautiful clarity of who he is, who he belongs to, and the purpose of whatever days in this life he had left.

Philippians 1:19-26  New International Version

19   for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.   20   I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.   21   For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.   22   If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!   23   I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;   24   but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.   25   Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,   26   so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

“To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Paul isn’t saying here that he wants to die, nor is he saying that he wants to live. What he is telling the Philippian church here is that he is content in whatever fate befalls him, because he knows that he has God’s presence and blessing either way. Paul is indifferent to anything but the will of God!

Again, Paul is at the point in his life where he is facing death, and is experiencing an incredible clarity in his relationship with God. He had made the choice long ago – the very day his eyesight was healed from his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus – and chose to follow Jesus above all else – through great successes and times of persecution; through periods of fellowship and imprisonment; through times of joy and times of suffering. And so, in this moment of crisis he was currently encountering, Paul was able to experience God’s peace, God’s shalom. And this peace ministered to his soul to the point where he could write: “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

That realization of Paul; that attitude of indifference changed how he faced death and the evil forces of this world, just as it has changed so many since; both martyrs and everyday Christians.


The attitude of indifference is absolutely critical to our own spiritual formation, but it is far from easy to attain, and we may even experience it as something that comes and goes; something that is elusive.

My encouragement today is this: go back to that reflection time earlier on and continue to ask God these two questions:

  1. What attachments am I unwilling to let go of?
  2. Which ones am I being called to release?

This is not easy at all. It will take time, and it will most likely require the help of others to come alongside you. This is something we resist so vigorously because those attachments have become a part of us, a part of our own identity. And yet, Spiritual formation calls us to place our identity in Jesus, and Him alone.

It may seem like being able to choose God above everything else is impossible, but it isn’t. As Jesus said in Matthew 19:23-24:

23    Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.    24    Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t end here. Even the disciples were left without hope when they responded, “Who then can be saved?”

Fortunately, Jesus had an answer for them, and an answer for us:

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

And so, we place our lives in the hands of the One who is the “All things are possible” God!


Dear Lord,

We affirm our desire to put you first in our lives, but we also acknowledge our failure to do it consistently. Forgive us Lord, when we fall short of your call to love you with all of our being, and in our failure to love others.

Meet us as we reach our hands feebly out to You. Give us the courage to choose You, even when we fail time and time again. And assure us of your love for us, and your invitation to live this life and the next with You.

Give us focus Lord, so we can see your face, even amongst all the distractions of this world.

We lift up those to You today who are struggling; those who are ill, alone, afraid, grieving, lost. May they know that you are with them, and may they know that we are with them too. Bring them to our minds so that we can reach out to them both in prayer and in the assurance of our love.

We pray for our country and leaders as they serve us during these times, and give thanks for their diligence and willingness to set aside rivalries. May they know your blessing.

And Lord, we think of our friends in Bolivia who are experiencing the difficulties of this pandemic so much more intensely than we are. We pray for them, and for those who live in places around the would where governments are not as able, or willing, to do what is needed to care for their people. Change their hearts Lord.

May we choose you, Lord. And may we live in a way that displays this to the world.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.



The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.