I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far… (NIV).
What kind of desire did Paul have?
He had a desire that was eminently spiritual. An old catechism question asked, “What is the chief end of man?” With some input from John Piper’s writings, I’ve modified the traditional answer to say, “The first goal of mankind is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. This includes everything we do in life, including the outlook we ought to have. The New Testament Scriptures direct us to be watching for Christ’s return in power and great glory. When Christ comes, all his people will be with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Then we will fully be able to fulfill God’s purpose for us.
True Christianity is personal. It involves a personal relationship with God in Christ. It is fellowship with the Lord! A Christian has the zeal of love to know his or her Lord! Since this is so, I think it is proper to consider the following questions. Are you really a Christian? Do you love the Lord? Do you really want to be with him forever? If you do, then why do we see so little zeal for the Lord from you right now? Do you think you will really like heaven? To be in heaven means that you will be with the Holy God forever! Does this really interest you?
He had a desire that grew from his present experience. Paul already considered the knowledge of Jesus Christ to surpass everything else. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith (Philippians 3:8-9 CSB). He had already evaluated all things in the light of Christ’s surpassing excellence. Yet he wanted to know more of Christ. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11 NIV). Could it be that a reason for a lack of heavenly-mindedness among professing Christians is a present lack of the knowledge of Christ? Should we seek to know him better? Are you seeking to know Christ better?
He had a desire that affected his whole life. He longed to bring every thought captive to Christ. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV). He lived in order to gain an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). How is the knowledge of Christ remaking your life? What is different today in you today compared with three months or one year ago?
How can we have the same godly desire that Paul had? Let us set our hearts on things above. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1 ESV). God has so ordered all things that people can only put treasure in one place at a time. See Matthew 6:19-24, 33. “There is no man’s soul comes into heaven, but his mind is there first” (Sibbes).
Let us cut our affections loose from the world. A soul that is crucified with Christ and raised with Christ should be living for the one who loves it. This is a core idea of our new life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-7:6).
Let us seek assurance of our salvation. Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you (2 Peter 1:10-11 CSB).
Grace and peace, David