You probably know someone who once lived passionately for Christ but has now abandoned him altogether. Your heart sinks and twists even to hear his or her name.
Perhaps even more painful than loved ones who have consistently rejected Christ for years are loved ones who seemed to have been saved at one time, only to fall away from the faith. You saw their eyes light up with love for Jesus, and then watched a dark cloud slowly roll in and cover them again. You prayed, and watched, maybe even wept, feeling powerless to reverse their course.
The apostle Paul wrote about that kind of pain in Philippians 3:17–21. Many, especially recently, have used these verses to remind us that we are citizens of heaven, and not first and foremost Republicans, Democrats, Americans, or any other kind of earthly citizen. That is a good, relevant, and needed application, especially today. But Paul was not writing here simply to warn people in love with politics, but people in love with themselves and this world. He wants us to be citizens and servants of heaven, not citizens and servants of self — to see the world as purchased, but unconquered real estate for Christ and his kingdom, not as a playground for our selfish desires.
A certain kind of Christian lives for God, dies to self, and lives forever. Another kind of “Christian” ultimately lives for self, enjoys this world for a few decades, and then dies forever.
Who Are the Enemies of Christ?
Paul exhorts the believers in Philippi, “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” (Philippians 3:17–18). Who are these enemies of Christ?
I doubt that they are just worldly people who hate Christianity and do whatever they can to belittle Jesus and stifle his influence. The familiarity (“of whom I have often told you”) and tenderness (“and now tell you even with tears”) suggests another explanation. These enemies of Christ likely have professed faith in him at some point in their lives. Maybe they’re even professing faith in him now. Either way, they are suicidally rejecting him by how they live (they “walk as enemies”). Paul’s tender, broken heart bears the aching aroma of love lost, not sustained indifference or disdain.
So, if these enemies previously had been beloved “brothers” and “sisters,” what could have led them away from the stunning beauty and captivating grace they once loved? And are we in danger of following in those same drunken and destructive footsteps? Here are four questions to ask yourself about your Christianity.