Book Reviews

Book Review: To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain (Matt Chandler)

Chandler, To Live is Christ

I like Matt Chandler. He’s the pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, TX. I’ve only heard a few of his teachings (Homosexuality and the Church and God and Sex to name a few) but I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve heard so far. He’s a smart guy with common sense and a good mix of sarcasm (which always bodes well with me).

Chandler wrote this book “to invite readers into authentic Christian maturity.” In his book, Chandler looks at some of Paul’s themes in Philippians, a letter written to help grow one to maturity, to unity, to contentment in Christ, to learn and walk in humility, and to persevere through Christ in all circumstances. “Our lives should be lived to Him, through Him, for Him, with Him, about Him—everything should be about Jesus.”

The Chocolate Milk

The first three chapters were fine, but the book really started to open up for me on chapter 4.

Chapter 4 (What the Humble Seek) speaks right to the heart of being humble. It’s about showing humility to a world that wants to show off. We don’t want to be like Paul and boast in our weaknesses. The world points them out to us enough. But Chandler asks the pointed question: “Why do we follow God?” (42). Do we follow Him because we’re hoping for a nice mansion on earth, or because of who He is and what He’s done despite what the world does to us?

The life of humility is based on the cross of Christ. We have the mind of Christ, given as a gift at salvation. We don’t have to try to think hard like Jesus. We have His Spirit, we have access to God, and we should use His mind to humble ourselves, love God, and love others.

Chapter 5 (The Passionate Pursuit)  was about yearning for a relationship with Christ over trying to be good for Him. Chandler in no way discredits trying to live a righteous life. What he tries to do away with is living to be a better person over knowing God. David’s psalms ranged from being satisfied in God (Ps. 63:5to being a famished deer searching for a river from which he could drink and live (Ps. 42:1).

David never says, “God, I just wish I was a better guy who didn’t do such and such…” It’s not being a better man/woman that leads to abundant life (Jn. 10:10). It’s knowing God through Jesus Christ. “It’s the difference between obeying to be accepted and obeying because we are accepted” (78).

Chandler advocates for being content in Christ and discontent in ourselves. We are discontent with ourselves because we know we are not perfect. So we strive for that perfection, to get stronger in our weaknesses (prayer, studying, evangelism, serving, etc), though God will use us despite our weaknesses.

We are like Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:14: conquered slaves who are “led in triumph by the victorious Christ. Just as the triumphator would parade conquered enemies in a triumphal parade, so Christ, who conquered his enemy, Paul….is now leading Paul in triumph” (Jim Hamilton and Scott Hafemann).

In chapter 11 (Christ Is All), Chandler’s focus is Philippians 4:10-14. He goes through the life of Paul seen in the book of Acts, his beatings in 2 Corinthians 11, and his contentment in any situation. Paul has been whipped, beaten, and stoned nine times altogether, plus another three shipwrecks, and a 24-hour surf tour on a board on the sea. Paul’s life is an example of a real party-pooper for me when I want to complain. And it’s good for me. 

Chandler’s book is theologically sound. His points and arguments come from scripture, his examples are interesting and (take note, Judah Smith) to the point, and he’s level-headed and has good common sense. He doesn’t fall toward any extreme, weird views (that I know of). Even if you disagree with him, there’s nothing in this book that I saw as being ‘way out there.’

The Spoiled Milk

In chapter 1 (Odd Beginnings), Chandler talks about how the jailer was told to keep the missionaries safe, but instead he tortures them with the stocks (14). Chandler tells us that the jailer is probably a simple blue-collar worker “who wants to put in his time at work so he can go home, have a beer, and watch the game. He just wants to do his job well, honor his imperial employers, and get back to his well-ordered house” (15).So the first jailer doesn’t listen to his employer, the second wants to honor his employer. It sounds like these are two different people (though they are not). I’ll admit it’s nit-picky, but it’s a segue into my next point.

There are a few times where Chandler takes a passage or a scenario from the ancient Roman world and tries to convert it to our modern day culture. But he couldn’t build the cultural-bridge to make it really hit home. I’ll give two examples: 

In chapter 1, after talking about the ‘blue-collar’ jailer, Chandler says the guy probably just wanted to go home, “have a beer, and watch a game.” Romans didn’t “have a beer, and watch a game.” In fact, is that what the jailer would really want to do? Instead of telling the reader what a normal Roman citizen would do, unlocking the door to relate it to our culture, Chandler jumps the fence and brings it straight over to what we think is ‘normal.’ Even though I know what he’s getting at, I still couldn’t help but think, “But what would a Roman really want to do?”

In Chapter 5 (The Passionate Pursuit), Chandler says the dogs from Philippians 3 are those who say, “I’m not as bad as I was when I was in college. I’m not as bad as I was when I first got married. I’m not as bad as you” (53). They want to think and say those things for their superior spiritual/moral goodness. Again it would have been more helpful if Chandler would have said who the dogs were and then applied it to the reader’s life. Instead, he mentions the dogs and then jumps to applying it to the reader’s life. So the “dogs” are a bunch of pro-foreskin-cutting Judaizers. How does this relate to me? They think circumcision is met with God’s approval. Now I can relate them with the “I’m not as bad as I was when…” mentality.

These are only small examples, and I’m glad there are no major examples. I really didn’t find much of anything in this book that I had problems with. But this jumped out at me, so take it for what it’s worth. Remember, this is free information, so you’re getting what you paid for.


I’m not an avid reader of preacher’s application books like this and Judah Smith’s Jesus is… ? (review here). Yet I don’t know if there’s a Chandler book that could really go wrong. This book would be geared more toward any member of the church, especially youth and college age. While not as engaging as Judah Smith as a writer, Chandler’s book is more mature and has more depth to it.


  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: David C. Cook (September 1, 2013)

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Disclosure: I received this book free from DAvid C. Cook. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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