What is the greatest influence that draws believers away from the Christian church? What is it that causes people to even avoid church altogether?
There are people who profess a faith in Christianity but exhibit a life that is not Christ-like in their words and actions. They are referred to as hypocrites. But, the Apostle Paul had a much strong word for them —
They are “enemies of the cross”.
The Apostle Paul was very concerned about the influences young Christians were exposed to in the city of Philippi. There was a group called the Judaizers who were trying to teach that the requirement of following ceremonial laws to be acceptable to Christ. But, there was another group of Christians who were taking their Christian freedom to the other extreme. They were confessing their faith in Jesus, but living immoral lifestyles.
Paul is warning against these so-called “Christians” because he can see how appealing this philosophy would be to new, young Christians.
“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.Their mind is on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19)
Paul never backs off from using strong, in-your-face language for those who were putting up barriers to the cross. There are many people who live immoral lifestyles, but Paul condemns these particular “Christians” because their lifestyle is contrary to the message of the cross. They have given in to their own selfishness and self-indulgences in order to satisfy their sinful flesh. Their poor choices in life were severely damaging the testimony of the young Philippian church and its attempt to win souls for Christ. As a result, instead of members or friends of the church, they have become enemies of Christ and his message.
Professing Christians who continue to divulge in the flesh without reproach or repentance are in severe danger of eternal destruction in hell. Their fruit certainly does not give evidence of a sincere faith. Paul even tells us that they are worshipping another god, a god of their stomach. Our sinful nature hungers for sin like an empty stomach or a craving for huge slice of triple chocolate cake. They revel in their freedom, yet not realizing the shame they are not only placing on themselves, but also on fellow believers. They are leaving an unmistakable mark on the church, not the marks of sacrificial living. They are rubbing salt into the wounds Christ bore on his hands and feet for our sake.
With a face streaked with tears, we can feel Paul’s passion and concern for the young church facing obstacles from both within and around the church. It is the same warning given to us today. Hypocrites can have a devastating and far-reaching impact on today’s church. At the same time, we can find forgiveness and a renewed life in Christ. By the power of His Spirit in us, we can live the life of love and peace – giving evidence to the world that Christ lives and reigns today.