For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21 ESV
….the inner essence of worship is cherishing Christ as gain – indeed as more gain than all that life can offer – family, career, retirement, fame, food, friends. The essence of worship is experiencing Christ as gain. Or to use words that we love to use around here: it is savoring Christ, treasuring Christ, being satisfied with Christ. This is the inner essence of worship. Because, Paul says, experiencing Christ as gain in death is the way he is exalted in death.
If you have ever wondered where I get the slogan: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” this is the place. Christ is magnified in my death, when in my death I am satisfied with him – when I experience death as gain because I gain him. Or another way to say it is that the essence of praising Christ is prizing Christ. Christ will be praised in my death, if in my death he is prized above life. The inner essence of worship is prizing Christ. Cherishing him, treasuring him, being satisfied with him.
Now to confirm this, focus with me on the other pair of words. Verse 20: “My expectation is that Christ be exalted in my life.” Verse 21: “For to me to live is Christ.” So the reason Paul gives for why Christ is exalted, or worshipped, in his life is that for him “to live is Christ.” What does that mean?
The Surpassing Value of Knowing Christ my Lord
Philippians 3:8 gives the answer. There Paul says, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”
“To live is Christ” means to count everything as loss now in this life in comparison to the value of gaining Christ. Do you see the word “gain” turning up here again in 3:8 just as it did in 1:21? “To live is Christ” means experiencing Christ as gain now, not just in death.
So Paul’s point is that life and death, for a Christian, are acts of worship – they exalt Christ, and magnify him and reveal and express his greatness – when they come from an inner experience of treasuring Christ as gain. Christ is praised in death by being prized above life. And Christ is most glorified in life when we are most satisfied in him even before death.
The authenticating, inner essence of worship is being satisfied with Christ, prizing Christ, cherishing Christ, treasuring Christ. When we say that what we do on Sunday morning is to go hard after God, this is what we mean: we are going hard after satisfaction in God, and going hard after God as our prize, and going hard after God as our treasure, our soul-food, our heart-delight, our spirit’s pleasure. Because we know from Philippians 1:20-21 that treasuring Christ as gain magnifies him, exalts him, worships him.