Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 19, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 3:17-21. Today we will pick up where we left off last week and continue our discussion regarding our destiny. If you recall, last week we saw that we, as followers of Christ, are to press on, and strain forward, for the goal of becoming like Jesus Christ. This goal is the preeminent, the supreme, the primary goal for all disciples of Christ. We, the servants, are to become like our Master. This is our purpose, this is our calling, this is our destiny. The reason that I say it is our destiny is because of what is found in Romans 8:29-30.
In verse 17 we see Paul say, “Brothers, join in imitating me.” If you were to have read this verse in isolation, you could have mistakenly thought that what Paul is saying is that Christians should aspire to be Paul, that Paul is the goal in which we press on, or strain towards. However, as we have seen, this is not what Paul means by saying “join in imitating me.” For Paul tells us that our ultimate goal should be to become like Christ, not Paul. In fact, this was a point of contention in the Church in Corinth.
Therefore, the question each of us must ask ourselves is, does the pattern of our life match that of Pauls? Are we entirely oriented around the person of Jesus Christ. Are we his slave? Do we preach Jesus at all times? Is He our Greatest Treasure? Is He our greatest goal? Does our manner of life, match the gospel that we claim to have embraced? Or does our life, instead pattern the world?
Pattern of the World
In our text, we see Paul give two options. You can join in imitating me, and pick up your cross and follow Jesus, or you can walk as enemies of the Cross. Those are your choices. You have to pick one of the other. There is no fence sitting when it comes to Jesus.
So let us ask, who is an enemy of the Cross of Christ. First, we must realize that Paul is not talking about obvious enemies. He is not talking about people who hate Jesus, who deny God, who live radically sinful lives. Are these people enemies of Christ, yes, but that is not who Paul is talking about, because there is no need to warn Christians about those types of enemies.
The enemies that Paul is talking about are wolves in sheep's clothing. Those people who calim to be Christians, but are not. They are the ones, that are covert enemies, and they are ones that have a potential to lead true Christians in the wrong direction. They are enemies that have their own examples of how to follow Christ, and Paul is telling the Philippians not to follow their example. So what do theses enemies look like?
First, we are told their end is destruction. What does this mean? It means that they are not saved. This is important. In all local churches you will have the saved and unsaved. This is true for Philippi and for Cornerstone. Just because someone attends Church, it does not mean they are going to heaven. Here are some examples.
IN Matthew 7, Jesus tells us directly that there will be some people in the Church who have never been saved.
The point I want to make is this, don't assume that just because some claims to be a Christian, that they truly are a Christian. You must use discernment before you follow them on facebook, purchase their book, read their blogs. My guess is that on judgment day, many “Christian” authors are going to be saying, “but Jesus, we wrote many books, and made a lot of money in your name.” and Jesus is going to say, “depart from me, I never knew you.”
The second thing we see is Paul describing as enemy as someone whose God is their belly. Who are these people? Most likely these people are Judiazers. Remember them? These are the people who say they love Jesus, but tell everyone that you have to keep the Jewish traditions. One of those traditions were the dietary laws. These people said that unless you eat the right food, or unless you abstain from the right food, you will not be saved. Instead of serving Christ, they are serving their stomachs. They have placed their faith in tradition, not in Christ, and this is why their glory is their shame. They wrongly put confidence in the flesh to eat their way into God's presence, but in the end what that produces is nothing but the shame of their self-centered worship.
Lastly, we see Paul describe enemies of the cross as those who set their minds on earthly things. Now this is where some of you will start to get uncomfortable, for God is speaking directly to you. What does it mean to set your minds on earthly things? Let's use some text to understand this?
Walk Life a Citizen of Heaven
And Paul is telling us not to follow their lead, don't be lukewarm. Resist the temptation to purchase cheap grace. Refuse to be a friend of the world. Do not follow them into the pit of their destruction. Do not walk as an enemy of Christ, but instead walk as a citizen of Heaven.
Live your life as if this is not your home, as if you are a sojourner just passing through. Do not put your hope in the things of this world, put you hope in God. Live as if you truly believe. Live as if Jesus is your greatest treasures. Live a life that is worthy of the Gospel that you have received. Live as if you have no fear. Live radically for Jesus Christ. Live like Paul lived who said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” We must never forget what lies ahead of us and is spoken in verse 20 and 21, “the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is what we are moving towards, so imitate Paul's pattern of life and become what you already are.
The reality is this, every Church has a culture. What will be ours? Will we be lukewarm? Will we be friends with the world? Will be be enemies of the cross, or will be imitate the pattern of Paul and walk like citizens of heaven.