Tag Archives: Paul

Why We Should Not Love the Things of the World–Except This


For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Those are Paul’s words to the Philippian church. It’s a simple statement with massive meaning: while we are still alive here on the earth, our single and solitary affection should be to live for Christ and Christ alone.

Our reward for such a life of devotion?

To finally experience the pleasure of being in the presence of the glory of Christ. And to experience that forever.

This hope of reward is what Paul says should give us courage to live on the earth in service to him:

We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

But how do we know we have this reward? What is God’s proof to us that what he says is true?

The answer is the Holy Spirit living inside of us. “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”

Think about it.

Before Christ, you did not love God or the things of God. But after conversion, your heart was softened and your eyes were opened and your ears made to hear.


By the Spirit who came to dwell in you.

Why We Should Desire to Remain

And if you have the Spirit dwelling in you has not God fulfilled one of his promises? Through the , “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

And is God not faithful to fulfill his other promises? Paul is convinced.

Don’t get me wrong: Paul treasures living here on this earth. “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”

But not for the things of the earth. He treasures being on the earth for the satisfying responsibility of sharing the gospel and growing believers. He treasures it because it pleases God.

But being here on the earth is not easy:

For in this tent [body] we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

Yet, Paul is still indecisive about which he prefers more: laboring here on the earth or being in the presence of God. “Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.” He says, “I am hard pressed between the two.”

But then he declares the superior choice: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

Why Is Departing and Being with Christ “Far Better”?

That’s almost a stupid question.

Unless we don’t believe in the reality of the promises, purpose or presence of God. If we don’t believe in the reality of the promises, purpose or presence of God–or our faith is so small as to be a nuisance to our carnal walk–then this world and what it has to offer will appeal to us and ultimately seduce us.

If that is the case, then we do not serve God. Nor do we truly love him.

John says:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

However, if we DO believe in the reality of the promises, purpose and presence of God, then we will naturally have an appetite for God, his presence and his people. His people are the only things worth loving in this world.

Paul says in :

But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

Sustaining their “progress and joy in the faith” is the labor Paul loves so much about this world. It’s the only thing that justifies his separation from Jesus Christ.

And it is the only thing worth loving in this world because it is the closest thing in this world we have to gaining Christ.

But it is not the ultimate thing. We don’t gain that until our death.

Who Is the Number One Atheist? (Does It Even Matter?)


Let’s pretend Time magazine published an issue called The Number One Atheist of All Time.

Who’s picture do you think would be on the cover?

Christoper Hitchens?

Dan Barker?

Richard Dawkins?

Sam Harris?

Maybe Thomas Huxley, Charles Darwin or David Hume…

Or 9th century A. D. religious critic …

Or even 5th century Athenian philosopher Socrates who was, for political reasons, accused of being ‘atheos’ (“refusing to acknowledge the gods recognized by the state”).

What Makes These Atheists Great?

They’ve all published and advocated substantial arguments against the existence of God (except perhaps Socrates who didn’t really publish anything).

But what other qualifications make them a good candidate for the number one atheist? What metrics would help you find that atheist?

IQ? Logic of arguments? Level of publicity? Strength of outside voice?

Maybe it’s who they’ve debated…and the number of debates they’ve won. Or the number of best-selling books they’ve written against the existence of God…or for the proof of evolution.

Perhaps we also measure the depth of their hatred or the  intensity of their bitterness. Calculate the number of times they can say the f-word in a sentence. Or count the number of theists they’ve tortured and murdered.

No doubt a person who excelled in all these areas would make a fine atheist. Maybe even the best.

But are these good indicators to measure the worth of the all-time greatest atheist? To be honest, I don’t think it really matters. Or that I even really care.

What’s important is this: Once God sets his sights on someone–whether a staunch, heavy-weight atheist or a lightweight, equivocating agnostic–that person is toast.

Take Saul of Tarsus, for example.

My Vote for Number One Anti-Christ

Before his conversion, Saul was a model opponent of Christianity. He had the pedigree:

Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee. 

Furthermore, he was bred in the proper intellectual environment: the Mediterranean sea town Tarsus [modern day Turkey], a city well-known for it’s emphasis on knowledge.

He sustained a drive to advance up the Jerusalem temple leadership chain.

He even violently persecuted the followers of Jesus. In fact, the first time Saul makes an appearance in the Bible he is standing over the stoning of Stephen.

And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 

So while Saul of Tarsus might not of been an atheist, he was by all standards a critic of Christianity. An anti-Christ if you will, who was systematically picking off the early church one-by-one.

And he looked unstoppable, which terrified first century Christians.

My Knees Would Buckle in the Face of This Anti-Christ

I have to confess: I would cower, too. And I have something else to confess: I sometimes waver when I think of contemporary opponents of Christianity.

People like Dawkins or Hitchens or Barker.

But there need be no alarm. Even the fiercest opponent of first century Christianity was no match for God:

And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” 

After this menacing meeting with Jesus on the Damascus road the same Saul who breathed threats and murder eventually wrote [after his name was changed to Paul] this:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Don’t Take Saul’s Conversion Lightly

This former Pharisee and Jew went from unconditional disgust for Gentiles [a disgust all Jews held] to a relentless drive to bring them the gospel

A gospel he found prior to his conversion to be a ridiculous corruption of the messianic truth in the Old Testament canon…

A gospel that opposed everything he’d been taught to believe.

Yet, not only did he affirm the truth of this gospel…but he surrendered his life to this gospel and went on to spread it through the Mediterranean region, planting churches and growing believers.

What makes someone do that? Simple: Paul’s conversion is a testament to the irresistible call of God upon a believer’s life.

That’s Why They Call It Irresistible

The same kind of call former atheists like A. N. Wilson, Anthony Flew,  and  experienced.

No matter the amount of intellectual backbone an atheist has…no amount of vicious threats or personal conviction or danger to a person’s life can resist the gracious sovereignty of God when he chooses to open the eyes and soften the heart and apply the work of Christ to an unbeliever’s soul.

In the end, the number one atheist of all time doesn’t stand a chance against the spirit of God–whether in this life or the next.

Heaven: My Most Speculative Post to Date


How do you think you’ll respond when you realize you’ve made it to heaven? My answer surprised me.

Not long ago, on a small hillside east of St. Louis, MO, I was cutting grass.

Naturally, my mind was a million miles away from that small hillside…

Somewhere between a lump of books in a library and a white-sand beach watching the sun set with my sweetie by my side.

Eventually my mind wandered to more weightier matters, though, like heaven…

More specifically, how I would respond when I got there.

My Likely Reaction to Heaven

I think I know how I would WANT to react: Happy, but eager to hunt down anyone who could tell me, from the beginning, the history of mankind.

But then it struck me: That’s not how I would respond at all.

Something more profound would occur in that tiny moment: When I blink my eyes after death and the reality of where I am settles in, I would probably curl into a ball and weep.

All I can think of is, “I’m home. I made it. It’s real.”

Why Heaven?

In  Paul announces the devastating loss it would be if he spent his life always on the edge of death, starvation and abuse if in fact the dead were not raised to life. If in fact Christ was not raised from the dead.

Pointless. That’s what it would amount to. His vigorous defense and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would have been an exercise in futility.

Why not just eat and drink and die?

Truth is, , “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” because he knew we would wrestle with doubt.

He knew we would struggle. And more.

Speculating on Paul’s Trip to Heaven

But in the end, though, Paul wrote “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” a letter he wrote towards the end of his life. A letter he wrote while in prison. A letter who’s dominant tone is joy, a joy grounded in the .

I can only speculate that Paul, after death and in heaven, blinked, and when the weight of where he was sunk in, he sighed and wept on his hands and knees.

What about you, saint: How do you think you’ll respond when you realize you’ve made it to heaven? Share your thoughts.