"For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-19 RSV).
Some words create such powerful images that they are hard to miss. Paul gives four qualities to those he calls enemies of the cross of Christ. What does an enemy of the cross look like?
ONE - Their end is destruction. The same original word Paul used here was also used by Jesus to describe where "the broad way" ends, at destruction (Mat. 7:13). Jesus also used it to describe Judas Iscarriot as "the son of destruction" (Jn. 17:12). It carries the meaning of ruin, total loss. The terrible end of those who live away from God is certain.
TWO - Their god is the belly. This does not mean they are "foodies" or gluttons but rather is used figuratively to describe those who "do what feels good." Their goal is to satisfying their own desires. That might bring to mind sexual predators or thieves, who would certainly qualify, but that is far too narrow. "I want to do what I want to do" is the rant of a three-year-old, but is the life choice of those who make their happiness and desires their greatest goal, i.e. their god. That's an easy trap for any of us to fall into when we want OUR way, not GOD's way. Jesus put Peter squarely in this category by saying, "you are not mindful of the things of God but the things of men," (Mat. 16:23).
THREE - They glory in what should be shameful. We see examples every day of people boasting through their words, through their looks or their lifestyle about things that should shame them. Regularly we hear news reports about how the police have apprehended criminals who boldly posted videos or wrote openly on social media about crimes they had committed! They should be ashamed but clearly they're not, because they're bragging!
FOUR - With minds set on earthly things. John's warning rings in our ears, "don't love the world, or worldly things... the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life.., these are of the world not the Father... and the world is passing away... but those who do the will of God will live forever" (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
So how does one keep from being such an enemy? Paul gave the answer to that question too. "Seek those things which above... Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth... When Christ who is our life appears, then you will also appear with Him in glory." (Col. 3 :1-4).
- Tim Orbison