SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Enemies of the Cross
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 1:00 AM
"For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth." (Philippians 3: 18-19)
"Who goes there -- Friend or Foe?" You may have heard something like this in an old war movie as a sentry gave warning to some approaching party that hostile intentions would be assumed if he did not identify himself properly as a friend. In the Old Testament, you may recall how, on one occasion, Joshua issued a similar challenge to the Captain of the Lord's Host beside the River Jordan - wanting to know if the figure standing before him was on his side or not. But the Apostle is not thinking of military enemies or even personal enemies here, but rather, individuals who have proven themselves to be enemies of Christ, and, therefore, enemies of His Church. Of these individuals we should beware. But what do they look like?
First of all, we are told "there are many" whose conduct revealed themselves to be "enemies of the cross of Christ". Not just a few - but MANY! Of course, we can easily point to a great number of enemies the church has faced in the past such as: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, etc... but there have been many others. In Paul's day the church faced the threats of the Gnostics and the Judaisers, both of whom were groups that sought to twist the gospel and destroy the faith of believers. In verse 2 of this chapter the Apostle referred to these 'enemies of the cross' as "dogs" and "evil workers". They were individuals who sought to disrupt the peace of the church and corrupt the teachings of the Apostles handed down by God. Their glory and confidence, as individuals, rested in self and not in Christ (vv. 3-4). Everything they represented, therefore, stood in opposition to the gospel of grace taught by Paul. They were "enemies of the cross of Christ".
The second thing we're told of these "enemies of the cross of Christ" is that "their god is their appetite". There was no genuine desire within them to conduct lives flavored by grace so as to be a blessing to others around them. In Titus 2:14 we read that Christ died on the cross "to purify unto Himself a peculiar people." Thusly we are taught that the purpose of the cross was not only for our salvation, but our sanctification as well. But these individuals were not interested in this. They did not desire the inner transformation which God sought to produce. They possessed no true hunger or thirst for righteousness. Their only concern was self -- their own ambitions -- their own dreams -- their own selfish desires. They wanted the best of what life had to offer. They want it all, and they want it right then. One who lives like this, Paul taught, is to be seen as an "enemy of the cross of Christ".
Then we're told that "their glory is in their shame" or "they brag about shameful things". These "enemies of the cross of Christ" were not ashamed of their behavior, no matter how vile it may have been. In fact, they were rather proud of what they did. My mind turns easily to our own society today where so much debauchery and despicable behavior is so proudly and publicly perpetrated before us. The sacrificial slaughter of the innocent unborn is no longer viewed by the masses as the disgraceful and subhuman practice it truly is. Dishonesty and corruption at the highest levels of government is routinely accepted and tolerated by a culture that seems incapable of shame. The most degrading elements of homosexual behavior now are flaunted openly, boisterously celebrated by modern-day "enemies of the cross of Christ" because "their glory is in their shame."
Finally, we also read that "all they think about is this life here on earth." That their thoughts are focused solely on the things of this world belies the fact that they remain in an unregenerate state where their lives are dominated by their sinful natures (Rom 8:5). Every day and in all their doings they prove themselves to be "lovers of this world" and not lovers of God. Their minds are not "set on things above" (Col 3:2), nor do they seek "to put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within" them (Col 3:5), or "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Mt 6:33). Instead, they adopt the old attitude: "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!" believing that this life is all there is and no day of accountability follows. Ignoring God's warnings, then, they prove themselves to be "enemies of the cross of Christ".
It is important that we notice how Paul wept for these people - and so should we. With tenderness and persistence we should strive to bear witness to all these individuals of our love for the cross of Christ, telling them why the cross has become for us a place of refuge and why it is that we cling to it with all the strength God provides. These blinded and lost individuals need to hear (and hear it often) why it is beneath the cross of Jesus that we gladly take our stand - why its shadow we so joyfully adopt as our abiding place. In other words, these "enemies of the cross of Christ" must be challenged, directly and lovingly, by those of us who have become 'friends of the cross of Christ'. They must hear our testimony of faith. But perhaps even more importantly, they must also SEE our faith lived out before them - showing them what a 'friend of the cross' really looks like.