Devotion: Philippians 3:18-19In our devotion last week the Apostle Paul put himself forward as an example to be imitated (and others who followed in the faith he proclaimed). A positive example, one we may seek to imitate, is vital to the life of a maturing disciple of Jesus. On the other hand, we also need to heed the warning the Apostle gives of those who are enemies of Christ.
"For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things." -Philippians 3:18-19The Apostle grieves the news he must report to the Philippians, but truth is truth. The truth is that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. To be an enemy of Christ's cross is to be an enemy of salvation itself. It is to arrogate life and purpose as one's own choice. The cross of Jesus Christ tells us two things at all times. First, sin is worthy of destruction. When Jesus became sin itself on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21) he took to himself the just wrath of God over sin. Sin is corrosive, self-centering and deplorable. The cross is what sin deserves and what I deserve as a sinner. Yet, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ tells us something else, namely and secondly, grace is more wonderful than we could dare to dream. The cross is the place where God reconciles man to himself (see, for example, Colossians 1:20) and makes peace. As sin meets the destruction it deserves in Christ Jesus, peace is made between the believer and God through the grace-filled blood of Christ Jesus. When the horror of sin is truly grasped, the wonder of grace is revealed. That sin is forgiven instead of punished should lead us to a life of thankful obedience to the one who saved us by his own blood.
To be an enemy of the cross of Christ, then, is to reject the atoning work of Christ and to remain at war (rebellion!) with God. Now this rebellion continues until we surrender in faith to Christ Jesus as our king (prompted and led by the Holy Spirit to do so). Yet, should rebellion persist, the Apostle assures the reader that it will end in destruction, as it must. Imagine for a moment that a man has decided to do battle with an entire army on his own. To be sure Hollywood or the video game industry could craft a story of victory, but in reality it would be a fiction that would perpetuate the very lie the Apostle warns of here. The man would lose the battle and that would be that. Now, expand the mental exercise to a man doing battle not with a large group of other men, but with the omnipotent Creator of all things. Not even Hollywood could craft a convincing story of victory for the man, at least not without weakening the Divine to be a pathetic version of the God revealed in Holy Scripture.
No, rebellion against the Triune God ends necessarily in destruction of the rebel. The only question is if that destruction will come in the final judgment and lead to damnation (eternal destruction) or if it will come in faith and a new man will arise in place of the old (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
So how is the life of eternal destruction recognized? The Apostle gives three warning signs. First, the belly is god. When personal desires and appetites trump the Word of God, the life of destruction is being lived. All of life, all of one's purpose, all of one's desires are God's to create, form and direct. When the belly, the seat of appetite and passion (to be led by the passions is dangerous from a biblical perspective--here is a sample, but not an exhaustive list of New Testament warnings: Ephesians 2:3, Colossians 3:5, 2 Timothy 2:22; 3:6; 4:3, James 4:1-3, 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11; 4:2-3) is god, destruction will follow as constant consumption is needed. When what is desired drives the man, he will be focused on the self to the detriment of God and others. Such a man cannot and will not fulfill the command of God to love Him and to love the neighbor (Mark 12:29-31).
The second warning sign is to glory in shame. While the Gospel is a call to leave behind the idea of earthly honor and shame, it is also a call to find honorable what God calls honorable and to despise what God calls shameful. The life led by the passions will glory in having its desire, whatever that may be, met. Over and again, sexual immorality is listed as a warning when connected to the passions (as in Romans 1:27 or 1 Thessalonians 4:5) and one that would bring dishonor to the life supposedly dedicated in faith to Christ. To glory in shame is not merely falling to temptation and engaging in sin. No, this is a celebration of sin (sexual immorality or otherwise) and such celebrations are a sign of the rebellion.
The final warning is a mind set on earthly things. In contrast to this, the Apostle will call the Philippians to set their mind on higher things (Philippians 4:8, but also Colossians 3:2). When earthly matters occupy all of one's time and no time is given for justice, honor, purity and love (as defined by God, not man) then the life of destruction is at hand.
So what is to be done? If you are living the live of destruction, trust Jesus, surrender to him in faith and repent. Heed the warning of the Apostle and run to Jesus in faith.
News for You:
- Holy Week services are as follows:
- Maundy Thursday (4/13): A service of confession and communion at CPC 7 p.m.
- Good Friday (4/14): Community worship service at Cornerstone at 7 p.m.
- Resurrection Sunday (4/16): A service of celebration at CPC 10 a.m
- Our next Small Group session is coming soon. We will be engaging 6-week study, convening at the end of April, on Hearing God's Word from the Gospel Project. Please plan to join a group!