Reaching for the Prize #3

 

"Reaching for the Prize--Part 3"
Philippians 3:18-19
 
Let's open our Bibles then to Philippians chapter 3:18-19. You know from this particular text that the heart of the section is found in verse 14. Paul says, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Paul says I pursue the prize, I press toward the goal.
 
We have already noted that the prize and the goal is the same thing, it is to be like Jesus Christ. That was the single focus of Paul's life. Back in verse 8 he says, "I count everything else to be loss, I have one great quest, to know Christ Jesus my Lord." He says down in verse 13, "One thing I do, and that one thing is forgetting the other things, I press on toward the goal."
 
That is the goal of every Christian's life. And let me remind you that in all of the myriad of options and complexity of Christianity, everything in our Christian experience can be boiled down to this one great truth: the goal of my life is to be like Christ.
 
Everything else spins off of that. All my service, all my relationships, all my worship, everything spins off of being like Christ. This is the goal of my life.
 
So that's what we're talking about. We all are called to pursue the goal. And again, the goal is to be conformed to the image of God's Son.
 
Now as I pointed out to you last week, there are three elements necessary for us to be successful in reaching the goal that Paul mentions here. 
First, we must follow after examples.
 
That’s found in verse 17.
 
Paul says, "Look, you've got to have somebody to show you the path." Christ is the perfect model. Christ is the pattern of perfection. But Paul and others are the patterns of the pursuit of that perfection.
 
I see in Christ what I want to be, but I cannot see in Christ how to get there. Why? Because Christ didn't follow some path to perfection, He was always perfect. So if I look at Christ I see what I am to be, and if I look at Paul and other believers, I can see how to move that direction.
 
So Paul says you need an example, you need someone to follow, you need a model, so follow me and those who walk according to the pattern that you have seen in us.
 
Now as we continue reading, we discover there is a flip side to that. Not only are we to follow our examples, but
 
2. We are to flee from our enemies.
 
verse 18
 
Now what's he saying? He's simply saying watch out that you don't follow the wrong examples. In the pursuit of Christ's likeness, there are some to be followed and there are many to be avoided. He narrows it down. He says follow me, verse 17, and those who follow the pattern that I have set.
And then he says, "Many are the enemies of Christ." The word "many," do you see it at the beginning of verse 18? Many...not a few, many, they're everywhere.
 
Why is that so important? Did you ever think about the exposure that bad examples get today? Let some preacher mess up and every news outlet in the area will be all over it. 
 
Do you realize the exposure that enemies of the cross of Christ find for themselves today through radio, television, books, and so forth? You have to be very careful and very discerning not to follow someone who is masquerading as a friend and is really an enemy of the cross.
 
So in verses 18 and 19, and I want us to focus on this because there Paul introduces us to the enemies of the cross of Christ.
 
Now let me suggest to you here that the implication of the text is that it is not obvious that these people are enemies. They don't come down the road saying, "We're against the cross, we're against Christ, we deny His work on the cross, we deny salvation by grace through faith." They don't do that.
 
After all, anybody who does that is not a threat to begin with. That kind of a person you can spot immediately, someone who denies Christ, denies His work on the cross, that's not subtle enough to threaten the church. But these are people who say they are the friends of Christ and the cross of Christ, who advocate Christ, who identify with Christ, yet are the enemies of the cross of Christ. They're very subtle. It takes discernment to recognize them.
The New Testament is full of warnings about such: 
 
Jesus said, "Beware of those who come to you in sheep's clothing and inwardly they are wolves." Later on in Matthew 23 He described them again. He was concerned about the false teachers, the false leaders, the antichrists in chapter 24.
 
You find it all through the book of Acts. The false as against the true...Simon the Sorcerer, claiming to cast out demons in the name of God;
 
You find it in Paul's epistles as he warns, for example, stay away from endless genealogies, stay away from speculations, stay away from false teachers, know sound doctrine, pure doctrine, avoid the smoke and mirrors of those who are not true teachers. P
 
eter gives an entire epistle, 2 Peter, to the unmasking of false teachers.
 
Jude is concerned about it.
 
John is concerned about it in his three epistles. It is all through the Scripture. We must beware of the enemies who masquerade as friends. That's the idea here. He has to tell the Philippians that they are enemies of the cross of Christ because they're very subtle.
 
And the reason we need so many warnings is because the church is so dumb about it. I continue to be absolutely astounded at the stuff and at the people that Christians will follow because they're so undiscerning.
If you have a lack of precise biblical teaching, as we do today, if you have a lack of precise clear doctrine, as we do today, you have a lack of precise clear thinking. And if you have a lack of precise clear thinking, you cannot have discernment. And so people are victimized by the widespread exposure of those who in truth are enemies of the cross of Christ.
 
So let's go back to verse 18 and look a little more closely at what he says.  Notice first of all
 
1. Their Description
 
"Now many walk". Let’s stop right there. “Walk” carries the idea of daily conduct, manner of life, course of living, this is their pattern.
 
Then he says, "of whom I have told you often." Some see this as a reference back to chapter 1 verse 28 where he mentions not being alarmed by your enemies or your opponents.
 
That doesn't seem to be the best interpretation of that phrase. The fact that he says, "Of whom I often told you," probably refers to times when he was with the Philippians and he was repeatedly telling them about people who would come along outwardly identifying with Christ but who would be enemies of the true gospel. Paul was ever and always in a warning mode.
 
Paul was very concerned that the Philippians understand the threat of false teachers. He said, "I often told you and now...present tense...I tell you even weeping." By the way, that's the only time in the New Testament when Paul actually says he is presently crying.
In Romans he talked about having sorrow and continuous heaviness of heart over the lostness of Israel. And in Acts 20 he said I warned you night and day with tears.
 
But this is the only time he says as I write I cry, I weep. His heart is broken. He grieved over the lostness of people. He grieved over the encroachment of false teachers that disrupted the church and brought a reproach on the name of Christ and led people astray.
 
And here he is literally weeping as he recognizes that they will infiltrate Philippi and they will try to wreak havoc in the church. He is heartbroken. He says I now tell you even weeping. This is a passionate man. This is a tender-hearted man. This is a man with rich feelings. He loved genuinely. He ached over the lost.
 
Why is he so upset? Why is he driven to tears? Well, we aren’t specifically told, but allow me to speculate on that. 
 
He could have been weeping because these enemies of the cross were lost, for he did have sorrow over lost people, as Romans 9 indicates.
 
He could have been weeping because he could see the terrible impact that they would have on the weak in the church and it was those same kind of tears that we noted in Acts 20, tears for the church because it could be so easily led astray by false teachers.
 
So whether it was the damnation of the enemies or whether it was the destructive impact of their effort, it caused him to weep. He loved the church.
He loved the Philippians because he loved the Christ of the church and the Christ of the Philippians. And he could see these enemies trying to seduce them and it broke his heart. It was so important that they stay pure and not get messed up.
 
And now these enemies of the cross of Christ are threatening this church that he loves and cares for. 
Who is he talking about? 
 
Well we have two options. They're either Jews or Gentiles. That's fair enough. If they were Jews we could surmise that they were Jews who somehow identified with the church and yet were still enemies of the cross. What kind of Jews would those be? Those would be the Jews known as the Judaizers.
 
They didn't deny Christ and they didn't deny the gospel, they just said it was insufficient to save. It didn't go far enough. You had to be circumcised and you had to keep the Mosaic law. So they said Christ plus the law.
 
So that would be one possibility. It could fit the context because he's been talking about the Judaizers. Back in verse 2 he called them dogs, evil workers and false circumcision. And he definitely has the Judaizers in mind. They think they're doing what is right, they're actually doing evil. They think they've had a proper circumcision, all they've had is a mutilation...he uses the word mutilation. And they think they are sheep but the truth is they're dogs, curs, scroungy mongrels.
 
 
 
So he really has lambasted the Judaizers who come in and say Christ did what He did but it isn't enough, you have to add some other works. That is an enemy of the cross of Christ.
 
Does that sound familiar to you? That doctrine is still alive and well all over the world today. It is evident in Roman Catholicism, the Worldwide Church of God (Garner Ted Armstrong), the Seventh Day Adventists. None of them would deny the cross or the work of Christ, they simply want to add some definition of good works to the finished work of Christ in order to be right with God. By the way, a lot of Baptists believe that also. Not so much in doctrine, but in practice.
 
But however you shuck it down, if that’s what you believe or practice, then the cross is not sufficient. Therefore, they are not friends of the cross, they are enemies of the cross because anything that adds anything to the cross obliterates the cross. Where you bring law, says Paul, grace is no more grace. And where you have works, faith is no more faith.
 
So the enemies of the cross don't necessarily deny the cross, they add to it like the Judaizers did.
 
Now, on the other hand, he could be talking about Gentiles. Let's go at it a whole different way. He could be talking about Gentiles being the enemies of the cross.  Remember they're not stated as enemies, they're subtle.
 
 
 
 
There were in the church groups of people who said, "Yes, we believe in Christ, we believe in the gospel of Christ, we believe that He died for our sins and all of that," but they had a dualistic philosophy. They later became known as the Gnostics. T
 
They said the flesh is evil, can’t be anything but evil, always will be evil, and the Spirit is good. So we are Christians in the spirit only. The body doesn’t matter because the body is evil. What your body does is inconsequential. That's their basic philosophy. Spirit matters, matter doesn't.
 
So they would say if matter is essentially evil, then the body is essentially evil. If the body is evil in essence, it is going to be evil no matter what you do with it. Since it is going to be evil no matter what you do with it, glut it, satiate it, don't worry about it. Be a glutton, be a homosexual, be a fornicator, be an adulterer, be a drunkard, it doesn't matter, it only effects the body not the spirit.
 
That is the roots of modern liberalism today that says, "Sure, I'm a Christian, I received Jesus, He changed my spirit but it's inconsequential how I live, I live any way I want to live."
 
 
 
So you've got them infiltrating the church and they say it doesn't matter how you live, you're saved anyway. We just believe in Jesus at one point, we get fire insurance out of hell, we live any way we want, after all, it's only the body, who cares?
 
Now there’s a fine line because of the precious doctrine of the eternal security of the believer. 
One writer, a prominent churchman wrote an open letter and this is what he said, he was defending this view. He said, "I am persuaded that as God did not set His love on me at first for anything in me, so that love which is not at all dependent on anything in me can never vary on account of my sins. And for this reason when I sin, suppose by adultery or murder, God ever considers me as one with His own Son who has fulfilled all righteousness for me." end quote.
 
Now there's truth in that, isn't there? When I sin, am I not still one with Christ and God's imputed His righteousness to me? Yes.
 
But look where he takes it. "There are no lengths then I may not run, nor depths I may not fall into without displeasing Him." In other words, I can't displease God no matter what I do. "I may murder with David, "I may worship Ashtoreth with Solomon, I may deny Christ with Peter, I may rob with Onesimus, I may commit incest with the Corinthian without forfeiting either the divine favor or the Kingdom of glory."
 
Now, see he's gone so far to say it doesn't matter how I live, it doesn't matter what I do, it's just my flesh, it doesn't matter. God didn't choose me on the basis of what I was so it doesn't matter what I am.
Is that true? "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." But I'll tell you, there are going to come people like this and they're going to say, "Oh, we love Christ, we love the cross, we believe all of that. Now it doesn't necessarily effect our lives, we may be drunks, alcoholics, homosexuals, fornicators, adulterers, group sex participants.
 
 
We may be in to pornography, we may be in to stealing large sums of money, but when we get on TV and smile at you, we preach Christ." You seen them? You've seen them exposed, haven't you?
 
Now what kind of theology allows for that kind of living? It's not consistent with the cross of Christ, therefore, Paul says, they are enemies of the Cross of Christ. 
 
Watch out for the people who come along and are the legalists who add all the stuff. Watch out for the people who come along and are the libertines who subtract the virtue.
 
Then notice
 
2. Their Doom
 
verse 19
 
Whether it is Jews or Gentiles, it is the same fate. 
Their end is destruction because they're not really saved. He’s talking about their ultimate destiny. That's a very important New Testament word. It means their ultimate destiny is destruction. Why?
 
Because to believe everything about Christ and to believe that it's all true and also believe you have to do something to be saved is to be damned forever. Or to neglect the life-changing power of God and the instruction to be salt and light as a new creation is to deny the power of God. 
 
Did you get that? Anything beyond Christ or apart from Christ will send you to hell. 
 
3. Their Deity
 
The word "appetite" has to do with the mid-section, particularly the stomach. It simply means their sensual desires, they're driven by their desires, their drives, they're sensual. They live off of unrestrained sensual pleasure. When it says "Whose God is their appetite," it means that they really worship their flesh, they worship their fleshly accomplishments, they worship all of the fleshly religious works that they do.  It could even be that that could include their appetite in the sense that they're into dietary laws and the Jews had a whole series of dietary laws which they prescribed as part of the observance of the law necessary for salvation.
 
From a Gnostic point of view, the flesh is more important than the Spirit. There is no self-control; no evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit
 
4. Their Disgrace
 
And then when he says in verse 19 "Their glory is in their shame," it means they boast in the very works of which they should be ashamed. For the Judaizer, the best of their works are nothing but filthy rags. And for the Gnostic, their works were a reminder of their unchanged heart.
 
And then finally,
 
5. The Disposition
 
 "They set their minds on earthly things." In the case of the Judaizers, they're into the earthly ceremonies, rituals, and stuff that is nothing more than earthly symbol.
And on the other end of the spectrum, there are those who just love the world. They are what Paul Reese calls "thing minded. Their mind is on earthly things to fulfill earthly lusts and explain it away as merely being the flesh that didn’t matter. 
 
If you’ve ever read Pilgrim’s Progree, you’ll remember the man with the rake who was raking the muck, the manure? John Bunyan in his incredible way shows this guy who is totally unconscious that there's a heavenly messenger right above him with a crown, a golden crown, because his eyes are constantly on the ground where he's raking up the manure.
 
Well that's these people. The gospel offers them a golden crown and they're raking the muck, obsessed with stuff in the world...houses and cars and money and bank accounts and trips and self aggrandizement and wardrobes and accumulating stuff.
 
You ought to be able to tell the enemies of the cross. Don't listen to what they say, look closely. Do they add to the gospel and say it's not enough, you need this to be saved? Do they take away and say it's too much, all you have to do is believe? It doesn't matter how you live, it's only the flesh? Beware because many of God’s people are running after all kinds of people who are enemies of the cross.
 
Well, if you're going to pursue the goal, you've got to follow the right example and avoid the wrong example. 
 
Let's pray.
 
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