…they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is their destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. - Vs 18-19
Paul has just invited his readers to "join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us" (Vs 17). Now he warns them about a pattern or example NOT to follow. The example being set by those who are enemies of the cross of Christ. In other words, they refuse to accept the cross of Christ and the gift of salvation that it makes available. Instead, they have chosen to "walk" or live their lives pursuing a different agenda. They have chosen to worship another god. The NET Bible describes them this way:
Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, they exult in their shame, and they think about earthly things.
We live in a world that hates the cross of Christ. Because the cross requires us to admit our sin and acknowledge our shame. It demands that we confess our open rebellion against God and admit our need for a Savior. We must give up our independence and come to God in complete dependence. For many, that's just too much to ask. So they reject the cross of Christ and remain His enemies. And their lives are marked by the worship of their own appetites – physical, sensual, emotional, and psychological. The NIV says, "their god is their stomach." They are driven by sensual desires. They live to meet those desires and are completely controlled by them. Whether it's the desire for food, drink, satisfaction, success, or sex. These people actually glory in their own shame. They exult in their own shame. They find worth in what should embarrass them. They brag about what should humiliate them. They find their sense of self-worth in the very things that should bring them shame. Their world is turned upside down.
These people set their minds on earthly things. The New Living Translation says it this way: "all they think about is this life here on earth." These people are dominated by what Paul Tripp calls "earth-bound treasures." They were obsessed with the things of this world, instead of the next. Because this world is all they have. Paul reminds us that "our citizenship is in heaven" (Vs 20). We are not of this world. He told the Colossian believers, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2). Jesus said that, as believers, we were to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). But the people Paul is warning the Philippians believers about are seeking their own selfish kingdom of one and their own warped brand of righteousness. God is nowhere in the picture. And their future is one of destruction, not blessing.
So what's the point? Why does Paul take the time to even discuss these people? Because even as believers, it is easy for us to fall into their way of living and thinking. We can allow our appetites to control us to the point that we virtually worship them. One definition of worship is "adoring reverence or regard." So when we give our physical desires and cravings adoring reverence or regard by giving into their every wish, we are worshiping our appetites. We are allowing them to control us. It's the I've-got-to-have-it-and-I've-got-to-have-it-NOW syndrom. We begin to believe that fulfilling our desires is what will bring us true satisfaction. One more bite, one more purchase, one more indiscretion, one more flirtatious look, one more look at that image on the Internet. We begin to expect our sensual desires and appetites to meet our needs rather than God. That is misplaced worship and Paul warns us to stay away from it.
We can easily end up finding glory or value in the very things that should shame us. We find our sense of worth in our abundance and live selfishly while those around us suffer in want. We become prideful and even obsessed about the kind of physical shape we're in, while neglecting the health ofour spiritual lives. We laugh and joke about movies and TV programs that once would have been considered shameful. And slowly, we begin to set our minds on the things of this earth. We begin to forget that we are citizens of heaven. We neglect to remember, as the old hymn says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through, my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue." We stop eagerly waiting for the return of Christ and remembering that He is in the process of transforming us into His likeness. A job He will finish one day.
Father, I don't want to live like those whose end is destruction. I don't want to spend my life following their example. But it is so easy to do because they are all around me. Keep me focused on You and Your kingdom. Don't allow me to give in to my sensual appetites, the desires of the flesh. But let me learn to listen to You. Let me find my glory or sense of worth in serving You, not in doing things that should embarrass me. And help me set my sights on things above, not on the things of this earth. I want to live like a citizen of heaven, with my hopes and desires focused on the reality of Your Son's return. Amen