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To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain Paperback – August 1, 2014
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From the Publisher
An Excerpt on Discipleship
Throughout the New Testament we learn the important reminder that our faith, though personal, was never meant to be private. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But that personal relationship with Christ was never meant to play out in the privacy of my own mind and heart.
By living out my faith, I become an example to others in following Christ. And when others further along than me boldly live out their faith, they become examples to me. We talk a lot in the church about 'sharing our faith' and 'being a witness', usually as these practices apply to evangelism. But there is a very real need to continually share our faith with our brothers and sisters, to be witnesses day after day, even to the already converted. We keep evangelizing each other. Indeed, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in his book on Christian community, Life Together, we should meet each other as bringers of the gospel. We need the word of Christ in each other.
Paul puts himself out there as an example and urges the Philippians to look for other Christians to learn from. We are in no less need of discipleship today. Despite all the information we have in everything from books to blogs, we still need to be trained by living examples, mentors in the faith who will serve us by walking with us. It’s our responsibility to find people we can disciple, and it’s our responsibility to be discipled.
What people are saying...
Kyle Idleman, Author & Pastor
'The Church has been blessed by the book of Philippians ever since Paul wrote it, and this presentation of it is fresh and powerful. Matt mines the riches of this great Bible book to teach us to never be content with stagnant Christianity'.
Jennie Allen, Author
'Matt’s words will kick you in the tail in the best ways. We don’t want to live numb and we often need a kick to remember life isn’ta game and God is no myth. You will find yourself craving God again and cravingeverything else a little less'.
Louie Giglio, Author & Pastor
'To know Jesus is the essence of life, and I love how Matt Chandler stirs up our affections for Him in his book,To Live Is ChristTo Die Is Gain.Matt’s beautiful, practical, and straightforward unpacking of Philippians will nudge you on toward maturity...and a more robust walk with the Savior. Get it and dive in today'.
About the Author
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Disclaimer: I don't usually review books about Theology. While I am well acquainted with the Bible, I am not a theologian and do not care to debate people on the 'finer' points of what they believe and what I believe, especially from the Reformed stance.
That being said, I felt this book, which was well written by a favorite author, Matt Chandler, deserves the attention of our elders as a possible church-wide read on the book of Philippians. Matt did a extremely good job bringing Philippians alive for me. Looking at the notes I made, there was a lot pointed out that I had never noticed and connections that I have never considered. He contrasts Paul's teaching in the Philippians with the other books Paul wrote in the New Testament, especially Acts.
You will come away with a little more understanding. The book isn't 'high' Church and written so that your understanding is enhanced. Certainly not a waste of money and a decent addition to your Theological library.
I'd been a Christian for all of 30 seconds and I knew I wasn't going to be able to stay where I was, which is a good thing because I was a total mess (and not just in terms of the way I'd been living to that point).
Some assume the Christian faith is a one and done experience--Jesus saves you, then you coast through life on a get-out-of-hell free card, as though nothing you do matters from that moment forward. But the Bible says just the opposite: When you look at a letter like Philippians, you see an eager expectation for believers to grow and mature. To become more than they are at the moment of salvation.
"God wants us to grow from being infants in Christ to being mature in Christ," writes Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church and author (with Jared Wilson) of To Live is Christ to Die is Gain (11). Based on his teaching series on the book of Philippians, Chandler challenges readers see the picture of Christian maturity Paul paints and pursue it with vigor.
//Growth is about character//
If you had to summarize this book with one word it's this: character. Chandler stresses this point over and over again, explicitly and implicitly, thought out its pages. True growth only happens as our character is conformed to Christ. This is why we see the qualifications of leaders focused not on abilities, but on character. Who you are and what you're like matters far more than what you can do. Chandler summarizes it well, "If the gospel is true, your life should look like it's true" (51). And this all starts with your heart.
Chandler rails along with Paul against the dangers of conceit, of thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. The danger of being consumed by selfish gain and and the kind of discontentment that doesn't draw you closer to Christ but deeper into yourself. Where it's most evident, he argues is in how you view and treat people:
"Here's a good litmus test: In your world, do people have souls? I know that sounds like a simple question. Let me put it into context. When you sit down at a restaurant, as a believer in Christ, and a young woman or young man waits on you, do you think of him or her as having a soul? As being a spiritual creature? Or are you thinking, Just give me my drink and take my order and hurry up? Or do you recognize the image of God in that person? Are you able to encourage, love, and serve your servers, even in a situation as simple as that?" (81)
This is critical for us to understand, not only as we read this book, but as we pursue maturity in Christ. This is why Jesus connects loving our neighbors with loving the Lord, because our love for Jesus will necessarily change how we view others. The clerk at our neighborhood convenience store, the barista at our local Starbucks, the server at our favorite restaurants...
When we see them not as coffee-dispensing automatons, but as people made in the image and likeness of God, it's going to change how we interact with them, especially those we see on a day-to-day basis (if you make a habit of frequenting the same coffee shops each day). It doesn't matter how much you serve in your church, what gifts you have, how much money you give--your character and how you treat others reveals what's really going on in your heart.
Along these same lines is the issue of anxiety. So many of us are anxious about so many things, and yet Paul tells us to be anxious over nothing. I remember when we were younger in our faith, we were told to make an "anxiety box," write down whatever was worrying us, put it in the box and "commit it to the Lord." We tried that for a while, but I think the box got binned before our anxieties did.
Too often, our advice comes across as little more than saying, "stop being anxious, dummy!" While it's true that Paul says be anxious over nothing, he doesn't just say "quit it" and leave us alone. Instead, he commands us to replace anxiety with the discipline of thanksgiving. "Thanksgiving and worry can't occupy the same space," Chandler writes. "Thanksgiving is worry's kryptonite. You can't worry if you're giving thanks" (176).
Developing thankfulness is the challenge, though, and one Chandler doesn't suggest is easy. After all, it wouldn't be a discipline if it were simple. It takes work to be thankful in all circumstances--it doesn't come without the "sweat of faith" (173). We strive to replace our anxiety with "humbly, lowly 'help me' prayers that are full of thanksgiving for God's goodness, God's gifts, and the ultimate good gift, the gospel" (176).
//Geared for new believers, challenging for maturing ones//
To Live is Christ to Die is Gain is Chandler's second collaboration with Wilson, and the results are much stronger than their previous effort. The difference, I believe, is due to the source material.
Where The Explicit Gospel read like a compilation of topical messages reshaped to form a cohesive whole, To Live is Christ to Die is Gain benefits from Philippians' fairly orderly structure and Chandler's gifts as an expository preacher. Rarely does the book run down a rabbit trail; instead, it is highly focused in its goal of presenting a readable, faithful, and application-oriented exposition of the text.
And that in itself may be the book's greatest strength. While it certainly seems geared toward the new believer--it's the kind of book I wish someone had given me when I was first saved-- it has enough weight to it to press on the maturing one.
Top international reviews
The book's title, of course, comes from a famous verse in Philippians. And its theme, in a nutshell, is that Christians are made for maturity; and that maturity comes from having a gospel-centred perspective on life.
Matt Chandler doesn't so much expound Philippians as explore some of its key threads: joy, humility, passion, perseverance, contentment, etc. He starts in Acts 16 with the founding of the Philippian church, and wonders how the three converts mentioned there (the wealthy Lydia, the demon-possessed slave girl, and the 'blue-collar' jailer) are doing 10-15 years later when Paul writes to them. That's an interesting perspective.
Overall the style is informal to the point of being slangy at times...and sometimes (for me) to the point of being irritating! The authors are listed on the cover as 'Matt Chandler with Jared C Wilson'; the book doesn't give any clues as to what their respective roles were, and it may be that a certain amount of Chandler's spoken material has been adapted for the book.
The book could, for me, profitably have been fifty pages shorter by being written in a less chatty way and being tightened up a little more. Nevertheless, it presents a solid and challenging picture of what it might mean for us to say, as Paul did, "To live is Christ and to die is gain".