Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
The unfortunate truth that Paul saw in his day, and is an epidemic in ours, is that many believers live as enemies of the cross. Please understand. They’re not really enemies – they would never think to put it into those terms.
They actually think they’re followers of Christ. But in reality, enemies try to avoid one another at all costs. That’s how many treat the cross.
You can see it in a church service. When the sermon starts heading in that direction, eyes start to glaze over.
“Yes, Pastor, we know we need to take up our cross. But I’d rather hear something that will get me a better job.”
Paul describes these people in the next verse.
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
Actually, this verse isn’t as bad as it sounds. What’s translated as their destiny is destruction isn’t talking about spending eternity in hell. What it means is that the destination of the road they’re on is ruin and loss.
It’s talking about what happens in this life. So much of the church is wallowing in ruin and loss. We spend so much time trying to come up with teachings that merely put a Band-Aid on the problem.
He also describes the objects of their focus. It’s all about their stomach, their shame and earthly things. Christians are involved in so much these days – a lot of them are healthy pursuits. Restaurants, gym memberships, sports leagues, and hundreds of other things.
Many of us give great sounding reasons for what we do. We want to be well-rounded people. Our lives need to be in balance. We want the world to see that we’re regular people. Paul, however, sees it from a different perspective.
Through the eyes of Christ, the Apostle breaks through our excuses and zeroes in on what’s really going on. It’s all about us. Our god is our stomach. Our desire is to fulfill the lusts and desires of our flesh. We look at the world around us and get jealous of all that they experience. We want to partake of the same things.
We glory in our shame. This is a hallmark of our society. I’m ashamed that I don’t look like the actor on TV with those washboard abs. I have to start a program at the gym to try and work on it.
My heroes are the singers on American Idol, so I need to take voice lessons. I want to be like the athletes I watch at the stadium, so I join a basketball league. Now, I’m too busy to do very much for Christ.
It all boils down to the last statement Paul makes – their mind is on earthly things. It doesn’t matter how good you make it sound. The things that distract us from pursuing Christ will only pull us down to ruin and loss. It’s time for the church to wake up.
Question: How do we break free from the distractions of the world?
© Nick Zaccardi 2015