Monday, September 16, 2019
The Mark of the Beast - Part 6
Enemies of the Cross
One of the most misunderstood phrases in the Bible is that found in the title of this chapter. The phrase “enemies of the cross” rolls off the lips of pastors and Bible teachers often enough in these days, but it is almost universally misapplied. If you have been long in the traditional Christian religious system of this day, when you hear the phrase “enemies of the cross” you most likely will envision evil despots who rule their nations with an iron hand and who persecute those who name the name of Christ. You may envision liberal organizations such as the ACLU who have been instrumental in attacking public expressions of Christ, removing prayer from schools, and other such actions that are viewed as antagonistic toward Christianity.
Once more we see that the church has set its vision outward toward an external enemy, and we observe preachers lambasting these villains outside the doors of the church while urging the saints to take action and to stand against them. The truth of the matter, however, is that those whom the Scriptures describe as enemies of the cross are much closer to home than the church has wanted to admit. They fill the pews of churches every Sunday and Wednesday, and they confess Jesus Christ, Yahshua the Messiah, as Lord. The apostle Paul had confessing Christians in mind when he spoke the words “enemies of the cross.”
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
Paul is writing to saints in this epistle to the Philippian church. He is declaring to them that he has set an example before them of how the saints in Christ should conduct themselves. His life of sacrifice and obedience is a pattern for others to follow. Yet, he also declares that there are many of those who have been called of God who are manifesting a different pattern. When Paul considered the carnality of these saints, the reproach they brought upon the name of Christ, and the judgment they would meet with, he was brought to tears.
Paul did not envision some outside entity that was antagonistic toward Christianity when he spoke of enemies of the cross. He defined an enemy of the cross as anyone who was focused upon earthly things and who lived to satisfy their fleshly appetites. In the book of Galatians Paul wrote of the purpose of the disciple’s cross.
Now those who belong to Christ Yahshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The cross is an instrument of destruction to the flesh. It is a place where we choose to lay aside our desires and passions and choose instead to live for the pleasure of God. We can understand then that an enemy of the cross is anyone who avoids the working of the cross in their life. It is all those who seek to protect the flesh, and who serve their natural appetites. These enemies of the cross are found everywhere in the church, and it was this fact that led Paul to weep.
Paul stated that he had often warned the church about those whose god is their belly. We can find these warnings in numerous places. One of the most carnal of churches was found in the city of Corinth. These saints were bringing a reproach upon Christ, even taking one another to court and suing one another over worldly possessions and earthly matters. These saints were vastly different from those found in Jerusalem in the early years who claimed no ownership of anything, but freely shared what they had with others. Instead they were warring with one another over possessions and material things. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers the following words of correction:
I Corinthians 6:7-10
Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren. Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
The church has given themselves so far over to the beast nature in this day that many see no error in appointing homosexuals to positions of church leadership. Paul declared that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God, so there is only one place that homosexual ministers can lead those who follow them, and that is away from the kingdom of God. But Christians should not congratulate themselves if they have turned away from the sins they consider more grievous in this list, for Paul states that those who practice any of the things listed will not inherit the kingdom of God.
A Christian may not give themselves over to homosexuality, and they may even abstain from fornication and adultery, they may not be a drunkard or a thief, but there are some things listed here that appear much more acceptable to the church today. The church does not place the same weight upon covetousness as it does on being a homosexual, an adulterer or a thief, but Paul lumps all of these things in the same list of those transgressions that will keep the saints from inheriting the kingdom of God. Another sin mentioned in this list is idolatry. Many saints think that idolatry is only something that ignorant pagans engage in. Paul reveals that this is not so.
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Paul reveals that a covetous man is actually an idolater. Covetousness is not seen as a great evil in the church today. In many cases covetousness is even presented as a virtue. There is an entire host of prosperity preachers today that are leading the church into covetousness, and some even depict the saint who is content with the things they have as being wicked and lacking in faith. Many pastors have encouraged their flock to take pictures of the things their soul desires and place them on their refrigerators, or in other places they frequently look, so that they might keep a vision of these things in their minds and be diligent to give themselves to the pursuit of that which they crave. This is a diabolical evil, and many are being turned away from the kingdom of God by preachers who are proclaiming the things that men’s ears want to hear.
How does a believer in Christ know whether he is acting covetously, and whether he is content with God’s will and provision for him? It is very easy to deceive oneself in this matter. We may claim that all we have came as a gift from God, and that He desires us to have an abundance of material things and to be satisfied with many earthly possessions. But how did we come to acquire the things we have? Did we submit every purchase to God in prayer? Have we surrendered to Him our spending habits?
I have found that financial debt is one indicator of a covetous heart. The apostle Paul admonished the saints with the following words:
Keep out of debt and owe no man anything, except to love one another...
Those who have heard my own testimony know that I once struggled greatly with covetousness and I had much debt. The person who desires many things will manifest a willingness to place himself in bondage to acquire the things today that his soul longs for. It was only through much pain that I was delivered from the covetousness that I was formerly given over to. I do not have nearly as many possessions today as I once had, but I am free of all debt.
Many people in the church today view their Christian faith as a means to acquire worldly goods. Paul warned Timothy of such men, and described them with the words that they “suppose godliness is a means to gain.” To answer the question of whether we are free from covetousness, or not, we should carefully consider the words of Paul to his son in the faith.
I Timothy 6:6-11
Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things...
Do we have the mindset of seeking the things above, rather than things on this earth? Do we live as if we understand that none of the possessions of this world will follow us when we depart this life? Are we content with food and covering, or have we pursued and accumulated much of the world’s goods? It might be illuminating to walk around your home some time and make a note of everything you possess that is not related to food and covering. Note all things that are related to entertainment, to creature comforts, to fulfilling some desire of your soul. What things fill the rooms of your home, your closets, your garage, your attic? Have you had to purchase a larger home just to contain all the “stuff” you have been acquiring? Are you like millions of Americans that have had to rent storage buildings just to have room to put the things that will no longer fit inside their homes?
In reading the biographies of men who have devoted themselves to God and who have been greatly used of Him, I have noted that they rarely had many of the world’s goods. Last year I read several books on the life of George Mueller, the minister who lived in the 1800's in England and who built orphanages to house thousands of children. He also supported a large number of missionaries and funded various day schools and paid for millions of tracts and Bibles to be printed and distributed. At the end of his life a vast sum of money had passed through his hands, yet he died owning no houses or lands, he lived in a room in one of the orphan houses he had built, and his furnishings were described as Spartan. At his death he had no personal savings, and all his money consisted of a few British pounds that were in his pocket.
When we are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and when our focus is upon satisfying Yahweh’s pleasure and performing His will, then we are not as prone to the attractions of this life. We will live our lives as servants to God and to others, rather than spending all of our time serving our own selves. Can it be said of us, even remotely, that we have been content with having food and covering? Are we fleeing from a love of money, or are we engaged in an endless pursuit of more of it? Do we deny ourselves the things we want, choosing instead to have only what God desires for us?
Our answers could determine whether we are enemies of the cross, or disciples who have embraced the cross of Christ. Would you describe your own accumulation of the things of this world, and the way in which you spend your money, as manifesting the cross and crucifying your flesh, or is there no discernible difference between your life and that of your lost neighbors who make no pretense of following Christ and being conformed to the image of God?
There is a reason I am spending so much time in this book in relating our accumulation of the goods of this world with the beast nature. What we spend our money on reveals where our heart is. The beast nature is earthly and it desires many things of this earth, while the divine nature is heavenly and seeks those things that are above. The beast nature is satisfied with earthly possessions, while the divine nature seeks righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The divine nature finds its satisfaction in doing the will of the Father.
The one whose focus is set upon things above will use the things of this world sparingly. Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth warning them against being attracted to all the material things that were around them in abundance.
I Corinthians 7:29-31
But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on... those who buy, [should be] as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.
The days are truly short, and the Lord is soon to return to recompense every man and woman according to their work. What will Christ say of us? Will He commend us for devoting such a large part of our lives to pleasing self and acquiring things which will perish? Will He be able to identify where we embraced the cross in the area of our desires, so that we could seek His will and desires?
Another reason that I am giving much emphasis to this matter is that the book of Revelation reveals that a majority of the church will fall short of the will of God in these things. We have read of the church in the last days being depicted as a harlot riding upon a beast. This harlot is described with words that indicate that she is materially focused when she should instead have a pure devotion to Christ in her heart. We read of this harlot:
The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality...
To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.”
Some of the outstanding things that mark this harlot are her sensuous living, her emphasis on self, and her great attention to the way she is adorned with the wealth of the world. She spares no effort or expense for self, choosing to lavish herself with everything she desires, and she abhors the suffering of the cross. She desires to avoid all mourning, all suffering, all pain, seeking to spend her days in comfort and ease.
James saw the danger of the church entering into harlotry with the world in his day, and he spoke strongly to admonish the saints.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
All it takes to qualify as an enemy of the cross is to be devoted to the pursuit of pleasure, comfort, or ease. Many are the saints who will be caught up in a pursuit of worldly things when Christ returns.
And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
There was much debauchery in Sodom, even as Paul listed the sins of homosexuality, stealing, adultery and fornication among the things that would keep men and women from the kingdom of heaven. Yet Luke quotes the Lord as saying that Sodom was focused upon eating and drinking and buying and selling and planting and building. Are these things evil? Doesn’t man need to eat? Is it wrong for man to live in a house or to plant crops to eat? No, but many people have the attitude of the man of which Christ spoke in His parable:
And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’” But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
The saints may reason that they do not have barns, nor have they built themselves bigger ones. The goods of the current age may not be placed in barns, but they are placed in homes. How many saints have purchased a larger home because they surveyed all their goods and decided they needed more room to store it all? The prophet Ezekiel further describes the transgression of Sodom with these words:
Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.
It is very easy to fall into a pattern of selfish living when we are surrounded by a self-focused society. The excesses of the world around us are everywhere. People are glutting themselves while turning a blind eye to those in need around them. This should not be true of the saint of God, for the child of God should have their eyes turned upon the Savior and a pursuit of Him alone. “The things of earth” should “grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
There is a cross for all saints to bear in the matter of spending, in their acquisitions and consumption. Our life will either be a manifestation of the beast nature that is focused upon acquisitions and consumption, or it will be an expression of the divine nature that is giving and where things of this earth do not have a hold. Consider for a moment what Paul’s words to the saints in Corinth actually mean. He said, “those who buy, [should be] as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it.”
Let us use a house as an example, for we see houses specifically named in the book of Acts as one of those things that the saints did not claim ownership of, but which they were in some cases selling to give the proceeds to the needs of the church, and in other cases opening up their homes for the benefit of the church and the needs of the saints. What would it mean to buy a home, but to live as though we do not possess it?
One clear meaning is given in the book of Acts where we are told that no one claimed that anything they possessed was their own. Such an idea is really foreign to the saints today. We may think, “I bought this house and it is mine. It is for my personal use and that of my family. Others do not have the same right to this house as I do.” Does such an attitude measure up to the example of the early saints and the example of Christ and the apostles? Does it reflect a mind that is set upon the will of God above all things?
Suppose God wants to send you and your family to another place to minister. Would you be free to go, or are you tied down to your possessions? Would you reason, “I cannot go for I have a nice home and a good job and a comfortable life where I am at?” If your thinking reflects such ideas then you are not living as though you possessed nothing. Neither are you living purely for the will of God. Your attitude reflects that you are living partly for God and partly for self, and when these two interests collide you will have to choose which one you will serve. This is why Christ said:
"Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
The phrase, “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” were words that the Spirit used to get my attention and call me to repentance. I understood from these words that if I could not act faithfully with that which the KJV Scriptures call “unrighteous mammon,” then how could God entrust to me true spiritual riches. If I would not obey Him by giving up coveting, and independent spending, and by fleeing from the bondage of financial debt, then how could God entrust me with any great anointing, or open to me the mysteries of His word? The principle found in Scripture is that those who are faithful in small things will be given greater things.
Have you ever complained that the Scriptures were not as open and revelatory to you as they are to some other people? Have you ever wondered why some people seem to have a greater anointing to minister the life of Christ to others than yourself? The reason could well be that you have not proven yourself faithful with small things in order that God might entrust greater things to you. It may be that you have not embraced the cross in the area of your money management and spending habits and in your acquisition of things of this world, and because you have not been faithful in things that are “unrighteous” God cannot entrust to you those things that are holy.
The Spirit convicted me that this was the case in my own life some years back, and for this reason I invited Him to bring me to a place of death to those areas of my life where I was not submitting to Him. This led to a painful process of delivery where my flesh was laid upon a cross and my selfish desires and willful spending habits were crucified. At the same time that I began entering into faithfulness in the use of money and in my attitude toward worldly goods, the Spirit began giving me insight into spiritual things that had formerly been hidden.
Saints, we must consider that in our coveting things of this world that we are trading away true spiritual riches. I would rather be a poor and wise man than a rich and foolish man. I would prefer to have riches that are eternal and unfading than to amass a vast fortune in those things that are corruptible and passing away.
The cross is an amazing instrument. On the cross we die to the lower nature with its affections and desires, but we enter into heavenly realms and become partakers of awesome spiritual treasures. Those who embrace the working of the cross the most will gain the most. Those who avoid the suffering of the cross will suffer the greatest loss. Within the church there are many enemies of the cross, and this fact should bring us great grief and lead us to weep. The spiritual life of the church is at ebb tide because so few have embraced the disciple’s cross. May God grant that many might have their eyes opened to discern the incalculable loss that lies before them.
There is a true story that recounts how some of the early settlers and traders of America purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians for some trinkets and beads. Manhattan now is one of the most highly valued pieces of real estate in the world and a news article a while back said that some Indians are suing to receive compensation for this disastrous trade.
There will be no opportunity to renegotiate with God when this life is over. The trade we made will stand. If we choose a few trinkets and baubles of this world over eternal spiritual treasures we will weep and wail and gnash our teeth in grief over our folly. As I look at the church of this hour I see a great heavenly poverty. The majority of Christians have chosen to pursue that which perishes, and like Esau whose natural appetite led him to trade his birthright for a pot of stew, so too are many saints trading away an immense and unfading inheritance in order to satisfy their appetite for earthly things. There is a warning in the words written of Esau:
For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
Esau did not find within himself the motivation to rule over his natural appetites and the desires of the flesh. His failure to embrace the cross and to put his flesh to death resulted in much loss that he later wept bitterly over. An appetite for things of this world is something that we are born with, and we can choose to either rule over and subdue these appetites in order to seek things above, or we can live to satisfy these earthly desires and trade away our birthright.
There is at this hour still room for repentance, but the hour is late and soon will be over. Seek God while He may be found and turn away from the allure of things of this world. Hold all things loosely and have the attitude that you do not possess anything here. Do not spend your strength seeking things which are destined to perish, but seek the true riches which are in Christ. The pleasures of this life are fleeting, but those who seek pleasure in the presence of God will enjoy it forever.
If you have viewed the disciple’s cross as an enemy to be avoided, then reconsider. The cross is the instrument upon which we slay the beast nature and release that which is divine. Satan despises the cross, but Christ embraced it. We will follow in the footsteps of one of them.
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