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.
1. Is your mind set on this life, or the next?
Christians who are not truly Christians are fixated on the best things in this life, rather than on the best things in the universe: “with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians [3:19]). You might give your attention to a thousand different things on any given day — work, laundry, sports, children, shopping, whatever you spend time thinking about — but where does your mind default most? Which things in life not only get your attention, but your affection with it?
Many wander from Jesus because he never had first place in their hearts. He simply complemented or facilitated things they wanted more than him. Or perhaps he had been first, but the cares of this world eventually surpassed him (Mark [4:19]).
The kind of Christian who will live with Christ forever in the next life is joyfully preoccupied with him today in this life. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians [3:20]). We do not spend this life trying to experience as much pleasure as possible in this world. We spend this life waiting to experience the most pleasure conceivable (and more) there.