27 April 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (3:17-3:19)

In our last installment, we ended by talking about those people who are enemies—not only of Christ, but also His cross. They go around saying that salvation is by Jesus AND—Jesus AND baptism; Jesus AND good works; Jesus AND the Book of Mormon; Jesus AND the Pope. And we saw, as we skimmed through Galatians 5 real quick, that if anybody adds anything to the cross of Christ, they have, as it says, separated themselves from Christ (Galatians 5:4). Listen to what that word “separated” (καταργέω, katargeo)—or “estranged” in the KJV—listen to what that means: “To cause a person or thing to have no further efficiency; to deprive of force, influence, power; to put an end to, do away with; to be severed from, separated from, discharged from, loosed from any one; to terminate all association with someone.” Those people who say that the cross of Christ was not enough to save us, and who say that we need to help God save us by doing anything--those who say we need Jesus AND anything--they have caused the cross to have no effect on them; they have separated themselves from Christ, they have terminated all association with Christ.

Now, at the other end, there are those who say, “Well, that’s OK, I'm saved, said my little prayer back in 2000, I can go ahead and do whatever I want because I'm saved and God loves me.” These people are also enemies of the cross because now they are saying that Jesus died on that cross so that a person can live a sinful life, full of all kinds of wickedness—and walk up to the gates and hand over their decision card that says “I, Pastor Smith, do hereby declare this person to be saved!” That’s not what the cross was about. The cross was about God the Son offering Himself as a perfect sacrifice for us, so that instead of living our lives as enemies of God, we could be set free from slavery to sin and now we can live the life that God wants us to live—we are now free to worship God and to love His Law. John 8:31-32“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Romans 8:1-2There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. Oh, and we go to Heaven when we die. In our old lives, when we were walking around this world, drinking and partying and so on—that’s how badly Satan has blinded us. Doing all kinds of wickedness, thinking we're free—that’s not freedom! That’s slavery! That is slavery to sin!

We are not free until the Son sets us free. Those of us who know Christ are truly free because we can do what they can't—and that is, worship God. Last week I read a little of Psalm 119—which is 176 verses of a man pouring out his heart in delight over the Law of God—because that Law shows how desperately wicked we are, and it points to the One who would come to save us. Now, whether the person is adding to the cross—or taking away from it—they are truly enemies of the cross. And we’re going to see FOUR ways of describing the wickedness of these people. Why would someone make themselves an enemy of God? We’re fixin’ to find out.

Philippians 3:17-1917 Bethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 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.

Four marks of the enemy of the cross of Christ:
--Their end is destruction
--Their god is their belly
--Their glory is in their shame
--They set their mind on earthly things.

Let’s start with the first part of verse 19. They are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction. When this body dies, is that it for me? My body may die, but my spirit will still exist, but in one of only two places—either in Heaven, or in Hell. Anyone who knows Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord will not spend one second in Hell. But there’s a flipside to that. If someone does NOT know Christ Jesus as Savior AND Lord, they will not spend one second in Heaven. Guess who is going to be among those who will not spend one second in Heaven? The enemies of the cross of Christ.

The word “end.” Does not mean what we usually think it means. We usually think of “end” as “END”—where something stops. But what it really means here is a goal or a fate. Their fate is destruction. It could best be described as being a “fulfillment” or “culmination.” Jesus Christ is mentioned as being the “end”—the fulfillment—of the Law. Romans 10:4 says that eternal life is an “end.” Romans 6:22--But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. Does eternal life ever stop? No. Eternal life is "the end"—the culmination, the fulfillment—of our life in Christ.

However, there are those people who are enemies of the cross. These either add to the cross with legalism and law-keeping, or they take away from the cross of Christ by their sinful lifestyle, all the while claiming to be saved, and turning the cross into some golden ticket that gets you in the front door. But what is going to happen to both of these groups? Their end is destruction. And by “destruction” I don’t mean they're **POOF** wiped out. It is eternal destruction because it is a destruction that lasts all eternity. It will be the most horrible, dreadful, ghastly—I don’t think there are even words that could describe it—it will be far more horrific than anything they could ever imagine.

So here is one group, who thinks that by adding to the cross they are somehow becoming more worthy of being saved. And another group thinking that just because they mouthed some prayer and went to church for a while that God would look past all the sin and wickedness in their lives. And both groups will stand outside the gates and bang on the door and scream for mercy. Matthew 7:21-23 (KJV)“Not every one that saith unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?’ And then will I profess unto them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’” These people are going to be standing there calling out, “Hey, now, wait a minute! We did stuff! We told people we loved You! After everything we've done for You, how about showing us a little gratitude?” Their end is destruction. 2nd Peter 2:1-3But…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction…By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

Now, why would someone add to or take away from the cross of Christ? Next phrase. They are the enemies of the cross of Christ…whose god is their belly. A fellow named Steven Cole once wrote,
“They live for selfish and sensual pleasures, rather than denying self in order to live for Christ. The Bible does not promote...self-imposed denial of all pleasure as a means of purifying oneself and getting right with God. Rather, it teaches that God has richly supplied us with all things to enjoy (1st Timothy 6:17). But if we remove God from the center as the chief object of our joy and replace it with some earthly pleasure, we are guilty of idolatry.”
Their god is their belly. They worship their appetite. They sacrifice everything in pursuing all those things which bring them pleasure—even if those things are sinful. Those enemies that add to the cross. Who is the only One who can save us with an eternal salvation? Christ Jesus, by the blood of His cross. So, if we say that we are saved by the cross AND our works or by the cross AND baptism or by the cross AND anything—then who are we really saying is the one who saves us? Yeah! We’re saying that we are responsible for our salvation. Taking a step back in time, we are buying into that very first lie ever told, which was? “Hath God indeed said?” (Genesis 3:1). "Hath God indeed said you're saved by faith apart from the Law? (Romans 3:28) No, you're saved by faith AND the works of the Law!" And basically, they are putting themselves in the place of God, declaring that whatever they add to the cross makes them worthy of salvation.

The reason that adding “good works” to the cross is a sin, is because it grows up from a root called “pride.” The person says, “I can do it! I can be good enough! I can do so much that when God looks at me He’ll have to save me!” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. If we say that we are saved by works, then we are boasting about our own sinful flesh.

Now, for the one who takes away from the cross, it’s easy to see that they worship their appetite. They want to go to Heaven when they die, but they don’t want to give up their old desires—they don’t want to stop drinking, they don’t want to stop doing drugs, they don’t want to stop sleeping around—so they say, “Yep, I'm saved! I love Jesus!” And all the while they're living a lifestyle that is as corrupt and depraved as it was before they claimed to “love Jesus.” But being saved does not give us the license to go and just do whatever, whenever. Galatians 5:13For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. In other words, don’t abuse the grace of God. If we are saved, we should a new person. We should have new thoughts and a new heart and above all a desire to stop sinning. 2nd Corinthians 5:17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. We are NOT that person that used to go out drinking and drugging and sleeping around. We are a person who looks at the Word of God and holds it in our heart and uses it to guide our thoughts and actions. Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. When someone says they “love God” but you look at their life and you kinda compare to the word of God, and the two just don’t seem to jive—it may just be that their god is their belly.

Next. They are the enemies of the cross of Christ…whose glory is in their shame. If we read through the gospels, whenever we read about the Pharisees, what was their attitude? They were very smug and very self-righteous. Luke 18:11“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.’” And what did they believe was their salvation? Right. They thought that because they were sons of Abraham that they were automatically entitled to Heaven. John the Baptist squashed that thought. Matthew 3:7-9But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.’” These men were not only glorying in their genealogy, they made sure that people knew “You must keep the whole Law—just like us!” They were very proud of their knowledge about what the Law of Moses said, and in the fact that they knew what the Scriptures said—but they didn’t know what those Scriptures meant.

Jesus tells the Pharisees in John 5:39-40“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” See, the Pharisees had a problem. They KNEW the Law, and they tried to keep that Law. But what problem did they have? Yeah, they couldn’t keep the Law! Matthew 23:1-5Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe that and do it, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men.” And these people that like to say we are saved by Jesus AND anything are exactly the same. They like to go around bragging about how they are saving themselves, and memorizing Scriptures that seem to say that a person needs to be baptized to be saved. Problem is, by adding those things to the cross, they are actually making themselves enemies of the cross. They glory in their shame.

Now, on the other side of the coin, people that glory in the shame of sin. It’s pretty safe to say that just about everybody involved in the entertainment industry hates God. And they're proud of it. In fact, if a celebrity’s career is in the tank or, as they say, circling the drain, what’s the easiest and quickest way for their career to get a boost? Go out and say something outrageous, something controversial, that will get your name in the headlines. Kathy Griffin is a no-talent hack—but she is more than happy to blaspheme the name of God. So, Hollywood loves her, and loves people who think and act like her, and Hollywood more than happy to give those people a high-paying job. They glory in their shame, because they have convinced themselves that God is not real.

Know what the children of Israel did when Moses didn’t come down from the mountain for 40 days? They made their golden calf, and they worshipped it. They made a god for themselves, just like Hollywood does. They throw off any restraint because they don’t think God exists. And if God doesn’t exist, then He doesn’t see, and there is nothing to be afraid of. Psalm 10:4, 11The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts…He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.” These people go around saying, “We’re gonna do whatever we want because even if there is a ‘God’, He doesn’t really care!” Psalm 2:2-5 (NASB)The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Christ, saying, “Let us tear their chains apart and cast away their cords from us!” He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury.

The celebrities that mock God. The actors who make movies and TV shows filled with sleaze and disgusting. The singers who make songs filled with filth and drugs and drinking. Who make it known that they don’t care what God thinks because “He doesn’t see”—right now God is laughing at their arrogance. And He is preparing death for them. Psalm 7:11-13God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts. I’d sure hate to be in their shoes and try to tell God to His face that He isn't real.

So, finally, They are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, and it all comes down to one overall reason, they set their mind on earthly things. Fame. Power. Money. Wealth. All these people care about is what they can get in this world. Because they have convinced themselves that after they die, there is nothing. Just go out and do whatever you want, whenever you want, every day if you want—because when you die that’s it! Or, if there is a Heaven, it must be the most boring thing ever created. Listen to the words of some famous people and what they thought about Heaven:

Isaac Asimov—“I don't believe in an afterlife, so I don't have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.”
Billy Joel—“They say there's a heaven for those who will wait. Some say it's better, but I say it ain't. I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. Sinners are much more fun.”

But now, listen to what some great men of God have said about Heaven:
Jonathan Edwards—“To pretend to describe the excellence, the greatness or duration of the happiness of heaven by the most artful composition of words would be but to darken and cloud it; to talk of raptures and ecstasies, joy and singing, is but to set forth very low shadows of the reality, and all we can by our best rhetoric is really and truly, vastly below what is but the bare and naked truth...To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.”
Matthew Henry—“He whose head is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave.”

Heaven isn't boring and Hell is not a party. The one who sets his mind on Christ will live eternally with Him. Revelation 21:3-4I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” But for those who set their minds on earthly things? They won’t even get a glimpse. And we’re gonna see next time that if we know Christ and love Him and worship Him, we can say with all gladness—“That’s MY King!”

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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