T-shirts and tattoos: Live Christ in this world; gain Him in eternity
Last week saw a revamp of the English part of the website, with the other languages to follow. As I said on the website, it is meant to align the focus of the John Chapter Three website more closely with that of the business site, as the are really one entity. The one does not function without the other. This is the nature of my business – I will proclaim Christ through my work and interaction with people. It is not an option, but a must. I must represent Christ in the marketplace.
The new website also got a new cover photo, and this photo is what this week’s lesson is about. It shows a man looking intently into the distance, as you can see above. We wears a black t-shirt with the words “Jesus is King”. What struck me about the photo was that here is clearly a person who gives external proof of what he believes. He appears to be the opposite of how we sometimes think a Christian should be – muscular, tattooed, and daring. Look a little bit closer on his left arm, and you see this, in German: Philipper 1:21.
21For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain – Philippians 1:21
Christians can often be very critical to others. We seem to have an idea of what we think Christians should be like, and look like, and leave little room for any other idea. This one single photo has changed my outlook on believers. Here is someone who does not only believe what he stands for but displays it publicly – he is never going to get rid of the tattoo and clearly had made his decision for Christ before deciding to have it imprinted on his arm. This piece does not address tattoos and whether they are acceptable or not. It is about the message this man gives to the world. There are two parts that we need to examine.
For me to live is Christ,
This must be the focus of every believer. We are often so focused on eternal life that we forget that this life is the one where we can reach others and lead them to heaven. What Paul describes here is a life that had has been so totally changed by the saving power of God that it is focused on Jesus only, and nothing else matters. We become who and what we believe in. Our lives are Christ. How is your life? Do you live like He would have expected you to live in a secular world, or do you just show it when you are in the circle of believers on a Sunday?
- I cannot live Christ and not tell others about Him – the gospel has to be proclaimed, not matter the cost. – Romans 10:14
- I cannot live Christ and not live like Him – I must be an example of Him on the Earth. – John 13:15
- I cannot live Christ and be ignorant about how He thinks – my mind must be constantly filled with how He wants me to think and operate. I must have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:16
- I cannot live Christ but at the same time be controlled by the world and the sick standards it sets – I must live Christ like Him, and His standards. – Romans 12:2
- I cannot live Christ but also accommodate the polar opposite of Christ, the world, at the same time – my life must only have space for Jesus the King. – Matthew 6:24
and to die is gain.
The second part seems to indicate that it is better to die that to live. This is mostly accepted on the basis of Philippians 1:22-24. Here Paul indicates that he wants to die and go to heaven as for him it is the obvious choice, but to remain alive is better for the sake of the gospel. However, we should also realise that there is something much deeper in this part. To die does not just mean physical death. It means to die (kill off) the old person in us while we are alive. Just as we accepted His life in us, we must also strive to see the old person dead. The gain we will have, is that when the old person has been killed off, there is only space for Christ. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes this:
20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20
Because I laid down my old life when I accepted the brutal truth of the cross and Christ’s crucifixion, I now live here on Earth, and He lives in me. The life I now live is lived in faith and obedience to Him who gave Himself for me. I have been crucified in the sense that my old identity, the person I used to be, no longer lives, but the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
By dying for the self in this life, I gain Christ. While I am in this life, He is my focus, and He is my life (Colossians 3:4). What do I gain? Probably not much when seen through the lens of the standards of the world. I would probably have lost a few things instead of gaining things – friends and family have turned their backs on me; (Matthew 10:34-36); I am definitely not rich compared to many around me because chasing wealth is not important (Matthew 6:28-33); and many people’s opinions of me have changed – in fact, they hate me (John 15:18-25). But I gained Christ, and this is all that matters. As I wrote in my personal testimony, the day I realised the truth of the gospel and was saved, everything prior to that day became irrelevant.
Ultimately, dying will be the last act that releases me from this temporary life, and takes me into His permanent presence in heaven. This is what Paul says is far better (Philippians 1:23).
One single photo has been an eye opener for me. We must understand that times change. We do not worship the way we did 20 or 30 years ago. As we get older, we see a new generation of believers coming through that are taking over positions we used to have. Instead of being quietly jealous about it, we should use our experience to mentor younger believers to take over our leadership roles and continue to let the Body of Christ grow. These younger people are as passionate about Christ as we are, probably just in a way we are not used to.
In the church I belong to, there is a fantastic vibe – most of us there have one purpose: to live for Christ and not ourselves. When I look around me on a Sunday morning, I see people that are so committed, they will be the same on Monday, and Tuesday, and the rest of the week. They live Christ. Christ is in them. He is their life. Despite the changes taking place in the world, nothing will prevent the gospel from being proclaimed, even with t-shirts and tattoos!