Written by Melissa Spoelstra (First 5 Ministries)
“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
My mind often feels like a mental hamster wheel, spinning with thoughts about emails to answer, groceries to buy, worries over people I love, toilets to clean and chocolate I desire to eat. Your earthly concerns may look much different than mine, but we can all likely relate to becoming consumed with earthly things. As believers, we have responsibilities and thoughts about our lives here on earth, but the apostle Paul warned the church at Philippi not to think only about this life. (Philippians 3:19-20)
Making eternal evaluations means considering how our day-to-day thoughts and decisions will matter in the next life. Paul first instructed the believers to follow his example. (Philippians 3:17). He wasn’t claiming to be perfect; (Philippians 3:12) he simply wanted to help the church know what following Jesus looked like. Because the Gospels were not yet in circulation, Paul couldn’t encourage them to read the teachings of Christ. They would need to look to mature believers to know how to live.
Paul didn’t want the church to use their Christian freedom to live selfish, ungodly lives. When Paul mentioned those who walked as enemies of Christ, some commentators believe he referred to the Judaizers, mentioned in Philippians 3:2, whose legalism would have undermined the message of the cross. (Philippians 3:18) However, most theologians see these “enemies” as professing Christians who viewed their freedom in Christ as license to throw off restraint and live for their own pleasure.
Through tears, Paul spoke of them making gods out of their appetites and bragging about shameful decisions. They were sensualists who camped their minds on the things of earth rather than the things of heaven. Paul used strong language to point out the seriousness of worshiping pleasure and comfort. He called believers to make eternal evaluations and encouraged them to:
- Keep their eyes on those who walk in obedience. (Philippians 3:17)
- Cling to their heavenly citizenship more than their earthly one. (Philippians 3:20)
- Eagerly expect Christ’s return. (Philippians 3:20)
- Recognize the current weakness of their bodies and know they will be transformed by God’s power in the future. (Philippians 3:21)
Paul’s admonitions to the early church resonate in our lives today. We live in an entertainment culture that encourages us to feed our earthly appetites with food, media and pleasure. Our minds can easily be captivated by temporal things, so we need reminders to evaluate our activities with eternity in mind.
When we find ourselves consumed with the affairs of this life, we can ask questions like:
- Will this matter in one year, in 10 years or in eternity?
- Could we recommend our entertainment, media or food habits to a younger believer as good patterns to follow?
Thinking more about eternity can protect believers from making daily decisions based on earthly enticements. Let’s ask the Lord to show us when too much of our time is spent on efforts that won’t endure, so that we can repent and set our minds on the things that will.