Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 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 3:17–19 ESV)
We are in a series this year where we are considering the cross of Jesus. The New Testament teaches us about the importance of the cross of Jesus and what the meaning of the cross is to be for us. Philippians 3 is another place where we see the importance of the cross. I want us to focus our attention on the fact that Paul does not say that these people are enemies of Christ. These are people who would claim to be Christians. Paul is not talking about the people of the world because it is not a surprise that they are enemies of Christ. Paul is speaking about those among them who claim to be Christians. But Paul does not call them enemies of Christ, though ultimately they certainly are. Rather, they are enemies of the cross of Christ.
Think about how true this is. All kinds of people are fine with Jesus. People like to use Jesus in all kinds of ways today and in doing so they are fine with Jesus. They make Jesus validate all kinds of worldview that they possess. There all kinds of people who claim to be Christians who use Jesus to validate what they want to believe. People use Jesus to say that there should not be a death penalty or to say that there should be a death penalty. People use Jesus to say that we should be eco-friendly and love animals and people use Jesus to say that earth will be burned up so who cares. People use Jesus to vindicate why they are a Democrat or why they are a Republican. People use Jesus to say we should love everyone no matter what or that we should judge everyone no matter what is in their hearts. People use Jesus to show why all kinds of sins are acceptable, whether it be anger or malice, or whether it be sexual immorality or divorce. My point is that everyone like to use Jesus to prove why they are right. We are fine with Jesus because we like to mold Jesus into what we want him to be.
But what we are not fine with is the cross of Jesus. Many love Christ but do not love the cross. It is the cross of Jesus that people who claim to be Christians resist. The problem is that the cross equals sacrifice. The cross means death to our desires. The cross means the death of our will. The cross means the death of our passions. The cross means the giving up of ourselves. The cross represents death and that is what we stand as an enemy against. Now is this a big problem? Look again at Philippians 3:18. “For many…walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” There are not a few who walk as enemies of the cross, but many. It is so easy for those who claim to be followers of Christ to follow him until it comes to the cross and then resist the cross. We like Jesus but we do not like the cross.
What An Enemy of the Cross Looks Like
So what does it look like to be an enemy of the cross of Christ? How do we know if that is what we are doing? Paul gives a great description on verse 19 to picture what they look like. The apostle Paul says that those who are enemies of the cross of Christ have their own god and it is their belly. Their god is their appetite and their desires. Do you know what it means to have your stomach as your god? It means you do what sounds good to you. It means you do what feels good to you. It means you obey the passions of your body. It means that you do what you want. You listen to you. You do not listen to God. You do not listen to others. You listen to you. You are your own god. You do what you like. People who does this, though they claim to be Christians, are actually enemies of the cross of Christ. One of the reason Jesus died on a cross was so that we would understand that this is what is required of us to be his disciple.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27 ESV)
The cross is not optional. We are not followers of Jesus if we are following our own personal, worldly, and bodily desires.
The second picture is also given in verse 19. They glory and boast in the shameful things that they do. This is worse than the last picture. It is shocking how often we can brag about having our god be our desires. We openly proclaim that we are doing what we want to do, without regard for the ways and wisdom of the Lord. We do not even hear how our actions or our words are contrary to the attitudes and ways of Jesus. Someone did something to me and I told them off. Is that really the response that Christ would want us to have? My spouse did this to me so I did this back. Is that really the response that Christ would want us to have? My parents said this to me, so you know I fired back like this. Is that really the response that Christ would want us to have? If we are talking about our friends, family, acquaintances, or any other situation we might think about, are we glorying in our own desires or are we carrying the cross of Christ in our words and actions? The cross means that we do not glory in ourselves and the shameful things we choose to do but we glory in the Lord and what he has done for us.
The third picture is also given in verse 19. Enemies of the cross have their minds set on earthly things. Life is about right here and right now. We are not thinking about how are decisions are affecting our eternity. We forget to lay up our treasures in heaven and instead make our focus about life on earth. As we focus on life on earth we are making ourselves enemies of the cross. The cross shows us that life is not about appeasing our physical bodies. The cross shows that we forfeit this life for the life to come. This is what we see Jesus doing.
How To Embrace The Cross of Christ
Rather than being enemies of the cross of Christ we must embrace the cross. Paul gives us two ways for us to do this. First, look at verse 19 and consider the destiny of those who are enemies of the cross. Their end is destruction. We look like Christians and proclaim that we are Christians. But if our god is our desires and appetites, if we glory in things that are shameful, or if we put our focus and hope on earthly things, then destruction is our outcome. To state this simply, we are not going to make it if we choose to be enemies of the cross. If our goal is to do what we want and we do not listen but do what is right in our own eyes, God declares to us that our outcome is determined and certain. Destruction is the certain outcome. We are dooming ourselves. Like the apostle Paul, I also say to you, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (3:18). If what we have talked about in this lesson remotely sounds like something you are doing or have done, please hear the apostle Paul that your destiny is destruction.
The second way for us to embrace the cross rather than being enemies of the cross of Christ is found in verse 20. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ….” We have a different citizenship. We have a different allegiance. Our hope and our allegiance is not this world but heaven. We cannot become entangled with the affairs of this life. Listen to what Paul told Timothy.
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. (2 Timothy 2:4 NIV)
We have a different citizenship and a different drummer to which we march. We are not to be entangled with the affairs of this world. It is disappointing to see many who claim to be Christians show themselves to be enemies of the cross because they are entangle with the concerns of this world. We live for the kingdom of heaven, not for the nations, countries, or kingdoms of this world.
But I want to end by closely examining another word in Philippians 3:20. We await a Savior from heaven. The word I want us to focus on is “await.” We are waiting. We are not waiting and hoping for this life. We are waiting for the Savior to return from heaven. We live in a time that makes us not very good at waiting. We are used to not waiting and do not want to wait. But there are times in our lives when we are willing to wait. The reason why is because we evaluate that the wait is worth it. Restaurants are worth the wait over microwaved food. Amusement park rides are deemed worth the wait to some extent. Heinz used to have a ketchup commercial because ketchup used to come only in glass bottles. You would turn the bottle over and wait as the ketchup slowly made its way out. So the commercial said, “Good things come to those who wait.” There may be no true motto when it comes to spiritual things.
Sin is to not wait but take what you want now. Do not wait for God to fulfill your desires. Do not wait for God to fulfill his promises to you. You go and get it now. Do not wait for God. The outcome is worth the waiting for our Savior. Listen to what we are waiting for in verse 20.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20–21 ESV)
The enemies of the cross of Jesus do not wait for this. The enemies of cross of Jesus do not put their hope in this. Destruction awaits those whose god is their bellies, who glory in shameful things, and set their minds on earthly things. But we do not do this. We are awaiting a Savior from heaven who will transform our present bodies to be spiritual, glorious bodies. Our hope will come from heaven. We live in that hope and that reality. Do not become entangled with the concerns of this life. Concern yourself with God’s concerns and the kingdom of heaven.