Philippians 3:17-21 ESV
“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. 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.”
Following Godly Examples
Paul set the example for godly living to the point to where he believed he could invite other Christians to join in imitating him and his walk of faith. So, when you hear some people taking (or teaching) Romans chapter seven out of context, to try to say that Paul “struggled” with sin, meaning he somewhat regularly gave into sinful practices, please do not believe them.
The Scriptures do not bear that out. Paul could not have taught what he taught and still have given into the flesh on a somewhat consistent basis. He wasn’t perfect, but he was holy in his conduct, and he walked in obedience to the Lord. And he wasn’t a hypocrite, teaching one thing while living another. He was a man of God who loved and who served the Lord Jesus.
Now the encouragement here is not only to follow Paul’s example of what the Christian life should look like, but he encouraged the believers in Jesus to also keep their eyes on others who walk according to that same godly and righteous example. And these would be people who are walking the walk that Paul walked and whose lives are fully surrendered to Jesus Christ.
So, this is not talking about “nice” people who do “nice things” for other people and who say all the right things to all the right people so that people will like them. This is not talking about “good deed doers,” either. If everyone loves you, that is not a sign necessarily that you are living a godly life. In fact, the Scriptures teach that if we are living holy lives, we will be hated and persecuted and spoken of as evil, not usually praised of men.
So, our measure for the kind of person we should follow, with regard to following their example of holy living, should be what the Scriptures teach on holy living, and the life that Paul lived (though not perfectly) in practice, and most of all the example of Jesus Christ. We should not measure what a good Christian looks like by the thinking and philosophies of the world and the worldly messages that they put out on social media and other places.
Enemies of the Cross
So, who are these who walk (in conduct, in practice) as enemies of the cross of Christ? Many of them are those who profess faith in Jesus Christ but who are following after a lie and not after the truth. They are people of influence, usually within the Christian community, and so many professing Christians follow them. But they are thieves and liars, charlatans and wolves in sheep’s clothing who give off a pretense of faith in Jesus while they are still following after their own flesh. And their object is to deceive naïve minds.
These are people who have no conscience about sinning against God and against their fellow humans. They have no heart. They are unconcerned over what they are doing to other people. Their god is their belly, i.e. their god is their own sensual and fleshly appetites, and that is what they care about. And they do glory in their shame because they have no conscience about the evil that they do to others. For their minds are not set on things above but on the things of the earth, things which are praiseworthy to them.
But the thing of it is, many of them are such good liars that they have many professing Christians believing that they are godly, and that they should follow them, and that they should believe what they are teaching them even if it is all lies (including twisted truth). And the other thing of it is that so many professing Christians are not even willing to test what they are hearing from these liars against the Scriptures, to see whether or not what they are teaching is the truth or lies. They just put their hands over their ears.
Now this should bring us to tears. We should weep over the fact that so many people are being led astray by these liars and thieves, and that so many of them refuse to hear the truth, and that they just want to embrace the lies because the lies make them feel good, or they give them “wiggle room” where they feel as though they can keep on in their sin and not be concerned at all that anything bad will happen to them. We should be brought to literal tears just thinking about all the people on their way to hell on the false promise of heaven when they die, and who will not listen.
Our Citizenship in Heaven
Now, our citizenship being in heaven is not based on some words we once said in a prayer inviting Jesus into our hearts. It is not based on a one-time decision we made to “believe” in Jesus Christ, as we understood “believe.” Yes, we must believe in Jesus, but it must be with God-given faith. For we can’t even come to faith in Jesus unless God the Father first persuades us as to his holiness and righteousness, and as to our sinfulness, and as to our need to turn from our lives of sin to follow our Lord Jesus in obedience.
Also, Jesus is the author and the perfecter of our faith, so he is the one who determines what that faith looks like. And if he is the one authoring it, that faith is going to be submissive to him as Lord, repentant, and obedient to him and to his commands (New Covenant). If it isn’t, it is not genuine faith. Also, genuine faith is gifted to us by God, and it is not of our own doing, so we can’t decide what that faith should look like. The Scriptures should describe faith for us in all the teachings on salvation and eternal life.
So, what we learn from the Scriptures, in context, is that faith in Jesus Christ results in us being crucified with Christ in death to sin, and us being raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We learn that our old self was crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin, and so we would no longer let sin reign in our mortal bodies, to make us obey its passions (Rom 6; Eph 4:17-24).
For if we obey sin, it ends in death, not in life everlasting. If sin is what we practice (deliberately and habitually), and if righteousness and obedience to our Lord are not what we practice, and if we do not continue in walks of obedience and in holy living until the very end, we do not have eternal life with God regardless of what we profess with our lips or are convinced that we have believed in our hearts (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14; 1 Jn 3:4-10).
For not everyone who says to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one DOING the will of God the Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).
So, please take this to heart. Please open your ears and hearts to hear what the Scriptures teach in their fulness on the subjects of salvation from sin and eternal life with God and on what it means to be a Christian (a follower of Jesus Christ). And stop believing “feel good messages” which coddle you in your sin, and which tell you that your sins will not keep you from heaven. For, if you walk as an enemy of the cross, because your god is your flesh and not God, then your end is destruction, not eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8).
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-32; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2; Jn 6:44; 2 Pet 1:1; 1 Co 15:58; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; 1 Co 10:1-22; Heb 3:1-19; Heb 4:1-13; Heb 10:26-27; Rom 2:6-8; Gal 5:16-21; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 5:3-6; Col 3:5-17; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]
He Keeps Me Singing
by Luther B. Bridgers, 1910
There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
“Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,”
In all of life’s ebb and flow.
All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain;
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.
Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ‘neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face –
That is why I shout and sing.
Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep
See His footprints all the way.
Soon He’s coming back to welcome me
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to world’s unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus –
Sweetest name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
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