Thursday, June 21, 2018
Philippians 3:18 – 20a (NIV) 18For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven.
If we were to take a poll of a group of people and ask them about maturity, what do you think the number one response would be to the question, “How do you know someone is mature?” I think answers involving age would be numerous, but I think the number one response would involve behavior. The reason is that age cannot be regulated, but behavior can be. Age offers opportunity for maturity, but each individual has the freedom to choose whether or not to apply the principles being learned.
Paul describes the behavior of a spiritually mature person – behaving like a citizen of heaven. Paul does not say that citizenship itself is a mark of maturity. That would be like saying a newborn baby is mature, or that a 40-year old naturalized citizen of the United States who still lives with mommy, is unemployed, sits in a Lazy Boy all day watching television, and expects mommy to wait on him, is mature. Citizenship is a privilege primarily granted to those born in a particular country, and with it comes certain rights and responsibilities, which mature citizens take seriously.
Paul describes a contrast that should exist between citizens of the worldly kingdom and citizens of the heavenly kingdom. But that contrast will only be evident if the citizens of heaven are mature. In this case, maturity is clearly linked to behavior, and the spiritually mature citizen of heaven will not behave like a citizen of the world. Paul states five behaviors that are clearly NOT to be a part of a mature Christian’s life. We will deal with the first one today.
Living as an enemy of the cross. I don’t want to believe that any of you are being tempted right now to live as an enemy of Jesus. But then I also don’t have any reason to suspect my neighbors or co-workers of living as enemies of the United States either. Unfortunately, enemies of our country and our faith are living around us. We also, without realizing it, may be enemies of Jesus. We may not be standing on the corner condemning Christianity, but if we are not actively living our faith because we are ashamed or embarrassed to be identified as a follower of Jesus, are we not His enemy? Do you remember the words of Jesus about how we are to live in this world?
34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34 – 38
Mature Christians live as friends of Jesus, and are proud to be called His disciples. They are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The mature Christian does not live under a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of love that comes from a sound mind that knows the victory of the coming King and His kingdom. To the mature Christian, risk never overwhelms the coming rewards. Spiritual maturity corrects our focus from being culture-centered to Kingdom-centered. Risks and danger are minimized in the light of eternal glory. Living a public life for Christ to bring the Gospel to the world involves risk, but the risk never dictates behavior because we are not citizens of this world. Our spiritual citizenship dictates behavior.
Let’s all spend some time today evaluating our behavior, and ask these questions:
- “What do my choices declare about my citizenship?”
- “What do others see as the priorities of my life based on my behavior?”
- “What does my fear level tell me about the placement of my hope?”
Let us not live as enemies of the cross.