Easter Five, Sunday May 19, 2019 — Philippians 3:18-21 — Friends and Enemies of the Cross
SERMON FOR EASTER FIVE – ORIGINAL 3,13,05 – 5/19/2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins,
that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Philippians 3:18-21 (NKJV)
18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame— who set their mind on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
Whose cross divides humanity,
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus –
Who would you say are the greatest enemies of Christianity and the Message of the Cross?
Is it those who blatantly oppose and speak maliciously against Christianity, who seek to put to death anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ?
Is it those who give lip service to Christianity, but who by their words and actions, give Christ and His Word a black eye and lead others away from Him by their hypocrisy?
Now it may seem to us that the greater enemy is the former, not the latter, who speaks like the Koran (8:37; 2:191; 9:123):
“Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme…Kill the disbelievers wherever we find them…Murder them and treat them harshly…”
The so-called religion of peace known as Islam calls upon its true believers to do bodily harm to Christians, and all those who do not believe in Islam and the false god, Allah.
We would be right in calling such enemies of the Cross of Christ.
When the Apostle Paul speaks of the enemies of the cross this morning, he does not speak of blatant unbelievers, but of hypocrites, those who may even call themselves Christian, but by their words and actions prove that they are satisfied with a home here on earth, and do not seek earnestly a home in heaven.
These are also, properly, enemies of the cross. While the former may seek to take the earthly lives of those who believe in Christ Jesus, in doing so they only speed them to their heavenly home. The latter may lead some to depart from Christ, and be counted among those who are condemned at the Judgment.
May God the Holy Spirit impress on our hearts this morning that Christ is our master and His word and will and ways are our priority and our focus. Amen.
We really have to face it; we live sheltered lives here in the United States. The laws of the land protect our faith and its free exercise. The prospect of death because of our faith in Christ Jesus -- is very remote. We might be tempted to think that there really are not that many enemies of the cross – people who live as opponents of the Salvation accomplished by our Lord Jesus.
We might think that way – except that the God breathed words before us this morning tell us that there were and are many enemies of the cross.
18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
Shall we hand out weapons after church? No. We aren’t told about the enemies of the cross so that we go on the offensive, and seek (like Islam) to do bodily harm to those who oppose the cross and what it means.
In point of fact, the truth that there are enemies of the cross should affect us like it did the Apostle Paul -- it should fill us with sorrow, not anger.
After all, our God, the One True God, would have all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We are not called upon to be judge and jury or to end the lives of those who oppose the Gospel of Christ. Our God will do the judging of hearts, it is only laid before us to judge among us those actions that are in opposition to his stated word and will.
It is important that we recognize the enemy. In order that we learn to recognize the attitudes and agenda of those who are enemies of the cross, the Holy Spirit has directed Paul to reveal them to us.
He also helps us to compare those attitudes with those that we, as those who belong to Christ, are to possess and foster in our children.
How do we recognize the enemies of the cross? We are told the following about them:
“…whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame— who set their mind on earthly things.”
Now it’s easy to think of a man like Osama Bin Laden as an enemy, because he sought to kill us -- Americans. It’s not so easy to think that some of our fellow Americans, as likeable as they may be, are really enemies of the cross.
The Word of God tells us that the enemies of the cross serve – not the Lord Jesus – but their own bellies, their own earthly desires. While these enemies may claim to believe in Jesus Christ – they do not think they are obligated to really follow His Word and Will – but excuse themselves and think they can live for themselves and still be with Christ!
The enemies of the cross are self-centered, not Christ-centered. In placing themselves before Christ and God, they make themselves the center of the universe, and essentially their god.
The enemies of the cross are not only self-centered, they are proud of it! They see their selfish attitudes as something of which to be proud. On the outside they may appear to be Christian, but their sole object in life, the sum and substance of their thinking and planning – is satisfying their own desires.
Self-gratification is their glory, their greatest prize, their daily goal.
The Apostle Paul doesn’t say that these enemies are slaves of all the vices – they may be perfectly likeable people. They may be generous, entertaining, and funny – but their commitment is first to themselves. They have an outward coat of kindness and goodness – but at the same time they enjoy all the amusements and pastimes of this sinful world. Their focus is earthy, not heavenly and from dawn to dusk they seek their own and the things of this earth.
Their end is destruction.
Does such a description scare you? It scares me, because I see in myself the inward desire to be first, to be the center of my own little universe.
I am most satisfied when I have what I want, and feel good about me. I find in my own heart the desire to earnestly seek after earthly things – not that Christ be glorified, or others served – but for me.
God forgive me -- forgive us -- for being self-centered and proud of it; earthly minded and quick to excuse it. God grant me your grace in Christ so that I trust fully in YOU and exhibit the attitudes of warriors FOR the cross and not enemies against it.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
What a tremendous contrast!
Enemies of the cross – have set their priorities and interests here below on earth.
Friends of the cross – allies joined to Him – have their thoughts directed heavenward, because they are citizens above. The friends of the cross say with the Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:7-11; 13-14):
“…what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Now, having been made citizens of heaven by Christ Jesus, our business is our Heavenly Father’s business. Instead of eagerly waiting the next day for our own self-enjoyment, we eagerly wait for the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are passersby in this world, and subscribe whole-heartedly to the admonitions of our Lord, like this one (1 Peter 2:11-12):
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
We take care of the present, without making it primary or taking our eyes off our eternal future in Christ. We take care of the present without forgetting our eternal futures. While the enemies of the cross will find destruction, we look forward to a bodily transformation.
We know that our earthly bodies, subject to weakness, decay and death will be one day made like His glorious body, as it is written (1 Corinthians 15:51-52):
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
God forbid that we should ever lose our focus and forget that we are strangers here and that heaven is our home. God forbid that we should be turned aside from Christ and become enemies of the cross.
On my heart imprint Thine image, blessed Jesus, King of Grace, that life’s riches, cares and pleasures have no pow’r Thee too efface.
This the superscription be: Jesus crucified for me, Is my life my hope’s foundation, and my glory and salvation!
May God grant that you and I always remain children of God
and friends of the cross.