"Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things."
"For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."
Preparatory Reading: Joshua 7; Philippians 3; Psalm 15; Psalm 101; Psalm 144.
- A great war is being fought, even as I speak … for your soul … to turn it against God and Christ.
- If you think it is impossible to be turned against God and Christ, then what does Heb 3:12-13 mean?
- The context is that only Caleb and Joseph made it from Egypt to Canaan out of the whole church.
- Most will lose this war … voluntarily … by succumbing to their fleshly love of the world's things.
- We first see this war in Genesis 3:1-6, where the devil offered earthly pleasures to the pride of Eve.
- We see it again in Luke 4:1-13, where the devil tried the same enticements on our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Paul warned clearly that Christians would become lovers of pleasures more than of God (II Tim 3:4).
- It is hard to imagine a more important topic, and we must eliminate belly worshippers, you or others.
- This should be a simple sermon; yet I must heap up scriptures to show the weight of the warning.
- While the expression belly worshippers may seem crass to you, it is appropriate for carnal living.
- It is here we find one of the strongest indictments of Christians falling for the world (3:18-19), where Paul not only identifies earthly minded Christians as belly worshippers but also as enemies of Christ.
- This may be the best descriptive passage in the Bible detailing the Christian life for mature saints.
- While we may think of our beloved brother Paul as the most spiritual man in the New Testament, he showed plain discontentment for his condition and fervent desire for additional growth and fruit.
- There are at a couple points in this passage reference to running a race, which is also used by Paul elsewhere to describe our Christian life (I Cor 9:24-27; Gal 5:7; II Tim 4:7-8; Heb 12:1-4).
- Athletes are generally not belly worshippers, for they are very temperate (disciplined) in all things.
- Paul told us how to follow him with human examples that we should be able to find and mark.
- He also defined the enemies of Jesus within the church in bold but simple terms we cannot avoid.
- He gave us perspective and direction for living, by pointing us to our Lord's return and glorification.
- PAUL'S AMBITION (3:8-11)
- "Yea doubtless" is equivalent to our "without a doubt." It is a strong affirmation of conviction and willingness. Paul had no reluctance or resentment toward giving up things for Jesus Christ.
- Paul counted the personal knowledge of Jesus Christ – a relationship with Him – as something "excellent." Do you count or value it this way? Would you sell all you have for it (Matt 13:44-46)?
- A theme of Paul's prayers was knowing Christ better (Ephesians 1:17-18; 3:8-9,18-19; I Peter 2:7).
- We ourselves must count and pay the full cost, or we cannot be Christ's disciples (Luke 14:25-33).
- And if we do not count Him an excellent object, then we are damned in plain terms (I Cor 16:22).
- We were saved to know God and His Son Jesus Christ above all else (John 17:3; I John 1:1-4; 5:20).
- Paul sacrificed "all things" for this spiritual goal. Do you read "all things"? There was nothing too dear to him to not give up to better pursue Jesus. What is distracting you? No person, no profession, no hobby, or anything else should compete with your ambition to know and please Jesus Christ.
- There may be "suffering" in giving things up for Christ, yet the exchange is good (Matt 10:39; 18:8-9), for the reward far outweighs the cost (Rom 8:18; II Cor 4:17-18).
- Paul's ambition to know Christ was so fervent and intense that he counted any distraction, no matter how noble or pleasant, to be but "dung." Whether this language is politically correct or pulpit correct is irrelevant. It is the Holy Spirit's language of Paul's heart – our holy and noble example.
- He wanted to "win Christ." What does it mean to win Christ? Is it to beat Him in some endeavor? Is it to receive Him as a prize? Is it to obtain a close walk of fellowship, affection, and approval with Him, as we might seek to win a lover? Indeed it is the last. Consider the importance of this ambition (Jer 9:23-24; Matt 11:27; 16:16-17; I Cor 2:2; II Cor 4:6; Eph 1:17-18; 3:17-19; II Pet 3:18; I John 1:1-4; Rev 3:20). Compare in this very passage these verses: 3:9,11,12,14,20-21.
- Paul also wanted to confirm his standing in Christ's righteousness alone, which is our only hope of eternal life and salvation from everlasting torment. And it is the diligent pursuit of Christ and godliness that proves our righteousness (James 2:14-26; II Pet 1:1-11; Matt 7:21-23; 22:11-14).
- Paul wanted to "know Christ." He had met Him, heard Him, knew more about Him than any man, and preached Him; but he yet wanted to know Him. What did Paul seek? This must refer to an intimate, personal, experimental relationship of walking with Him and living by Him and for Him.
- And he wanted to "know the power of His resurrection," which is the mighty Spirit power of a resurrected life from death in sins to life in righteousness (Eph 1:19-20; II Cor 5:17; Rom 6:3-6). If a man has been resurrected once, he shall be resurrected again (John 5:25-29; Rev 20:6).
- And he wanted to "know the fellowship of His sufferings," which is to suffer for Him as He suffered for us (John 15:18-25; Rom 8:17-18; Heb 12:1-4; I Pet 2:21-25; 4:1-2,13-14).
- And he wanted to be "conformed unto His death," which is to crucify self and have that ultimate willingness for obedience our Lord had in Gethsemane (Acts 20:24; Col 3:1-8).
- Though Paul knew Whom he had believed and was confident of his salvation (II Tim 1:12), he yet sought for greater assurance and confidence and evidence of being in the resurrection of the just (II Pet 1:5-11; Acts 24:15). There is only one resurrection (Acts 24:15; John 5:28-29).
- Though Paul knew there are no means to redeem himself or others from the grave (Ps 49:7), yet he did know he could assure his own heart of the matter (I John 3:18-24).
- Though Paul knew Whom he had believed and was confident of his salvation (II Tim 1:12), he still knew the danger of his flesh to cause him to be a castaway (I Cor 9:27; I Thess 3:5).
- PAUL'S FRUSTRATION (3:12-14)
- Our brother Paul, though we esteem him highly and rightfully so as the greatest saint of the New Testament, did not relax in his ambition to win Christ, please God, and prove his salvation. He did not consider himself to have attained the prize or a satisfactory level of spiritual success yet.
- He plainly denied his perfection or absolute confidence in himself, as he still felt great conviction and intensity to drive for yet further conformity to his Lord.
- Apprehend. I. Physical. 1. To lay hold upon, seize, with hands, teeth, etc. 2. To seize (a person) in name of law, to arrest.
- Jesus Christ had apprehended Paul in the full sense of the word on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-22; 22:1-21; 26:9-23; I Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:11-24; I Timothy 1:12-17).
- And now Paul sought with all his might and zeal to apprehend that prize Christ had set before him.
- No man has ever sought Jesus Christ, but that Jesus Christ first sought him (Gal 4:9; I John 4:19).
- But in this life we can never reach the place of restful complacency, for the warfare continues.
- A man cannot look back and please Christ (Luke 9:62). Remember Lot's wife (Luke 17:32).
- We have a clear picture of running a race in this text, as runners press hard to finish to win prizes.
- We must forget – self-pitying and discouraging thoughts of past failures, complacency-creating and slothful thoughts of past successes, and the resent-producing and envious thoughts of past sacrifices.
- The kingdom of heaven is taken by violent pressing into it (Luke 16:16; Matt 11:12) – we have a spiritual race and struggle to truly please and win Jesus Christ and guarantee our eventual crown.
- I press . . . can you see the runner straining for the finish line . . . every nerve taut with focused energy to allow no other result but a victory.
- Is there one ambition in your life that exceeds all others (Psalm 27:4; Luke 11:34-36)?
- PAUL'S SUGGESTION (3:15-17)
- Paul then told us to have his same ambition and frustration – discontentment with our spiritual condition and intense drive for much greater success as defined by God and Jesus Christ.
- Here is our goal; here is our plan; here is our objective. Those who are spiritually mature should have Paul's mindset regarding their Christian lives to advance yet further in knowing Him.
- For those who set the Lord as the goal and prize in their lives, He will reveal to them whatever things are hindering their pursuit and obtaining of the goal. What comfort! But run with conviction!
- Remember, the Preacher had taught . . . the path of the just is as the shining light (Prov 4:18).
- We strive diligently and ask God to reveal our errors (Ps 139:23-24; Luke 11:13; John 7:17; Jas 1:5).
- In spite of our great frustration and desire for greater spiritual success, let us make sure we are following the rules of Christ contained in the Scriptures with one accord with those of our brethren.
- This pursuit of Christ should not be by our rules (II Tim 2:5) or without joint teamwork (Ro 15:1-7).
- It is not wrong to have a human example. Paul exhorted Philippi to follow him and/or any of the brethren that walked accordingly, in order to have an example (Phil 4:9; I Cor 4:16; 11:1; Ps 37:37).
- There are still allusions to a race, for a pacesetter or rabbit is clearly essential to maximizing performance as modern runners and world records prove.
- PAUL'S WARNING (3:18-19)
- Here we have a parenthesis identifying the traits of some different from those just mentioned. His main thought continues on from 3:17 to 3:20, as the word "for" indicates at the beginning of 3:20.
- There were other "examples" in the church at Philippi, as in all churches of saints, of how not to walk, for they were the enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ.
- Paul moved from his great love and passion for Jesus Christ and exhortation for us to follow him to a sober and horrible warning of false brethren. Notice that he had given this warning frequently and passionately and about many. The crime was great, its possibility high, and there were many guilty.
- Can some such men be God's elect? Barely. We allow for fruitless and carnal saints (I Cor 9:27; 11:30; I Thes 3:5; II Pet 1:9; 2:7-9; Gal 4:11; Phil 2:16; I Kgs 11:1-12). If they include God's elect, then "whose end is destruction" means temporal judgment, as at Corinth (I Cor 11:30; Jas 5:19-20).
- Can we say Lot was destroyed? Staring out of the mouth of a cave with his two daughters carrying his children after suffering the loss of everything does not seem to be a successful life.
- Whose God is their belly! These are not polite words, but there is no use for politeness when we are dealing with carnal choices of blood-bought saints. He used this same language in Romans 16:18.
- Whose glory is in their shame! They value, prize, and boast about the very things for which they should be ashamed. It is a shame to see them glorying in vanity and lies.
- Who mind earthly things! O Christian, beware, for here is the principal cause of their ruin, they have too high an estimate of the things of this life. They have not set their affection on things above, but rather they are enamored with things here.
- What are these things? House? Education? Profession? Wealth? Family? Landscaping? Vehicles? Clothes? Appearance? Athletics? Hobbies? What are these things to you?
- The big three – education, wealth, and body – have been here forever (Jer 9:23-24). Yet the Greeks still seek them. You cannot take them with you, and they are worthless for the heavenly race.
- How do we mind earthly things? We think about them. We pursue them. We admire and desire them. We pay for them. We talk about them. We require them. We measure by them.
- It is a fact of our deceitful hearts that we exalt our earthly things as noble and despise the earthly things of others as carnal, base, and senseless. There is no difference. There is no earthly thing that has any virtue in the spiritual race.
- Our brother Paul warned us in Colossians 3:2 to set our affection on things above. We may observe three facts here. First, SET means you have a choice, it is your direction, and it is a decision. Second, YOUR AFFECTION is your interest, time, conversation, measure, money, priority, and so forth. Third, THINGS ABOVE esteems things that are in heaven, as godliness, heaven, and Christ.
- Where are your treasures? Are they on earth or in heaven (Mat 6:19)? Do not avoid the question.
- No man can serve two masters (Matt 6:24). Things of life and eternity are always, only opposites.
- Saints are different than Gentiles, who seek things of this life – food, drink, clothing (Matt 6:32).
- Instead seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness above all else for success (Matt 6:33).
- Remember the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17).
- If you can see it, then it is something of the earth (II Cor 4:18). Look instead for invisible things.
- Is a demotion or a negative change in job or career a good or bad thing (Heb 11:24-27)? Consider it.
- Are you glad when you have a business success? Read Psalm 4:6-7. Knowing the Lord can put greater gladness in your heart than any such vain thing as business success.
- The wicked of this world have their portion in this life (Psalm 17:14). It should not move you.
- Men after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; men after the Spirit the Spirit's things (Rom 8:5-9).
- You are debtors to live after the Spirit, because the Spirit is God your Saviour (Romans 8:12-14).
- Worldlings will think you strange for Spirit living, but hopefully not brethren (I Peter 4:1-5).
- A man dedicated to God will be accused of being beside himself, as was our Lord (Mark 3:21).
- PAUL'S PERSPECTIVE (3:20-21)
- Leaving the parenthesis and returning to his exhortation for them to follow him and other noble saints, Paul gave the perspective necessary to win the prize.
- Our manner of life is in heaven . . . the spiritual . . . the holy . . . the eternal . . . the unseen.
- He taught in II Cor 4:18 to look at unseen things, for they are eternal. We walk by faith, not sight.
- A sincere saint is always looking for something, or rather Someone; he is looking for the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven. Compare these two verses with the glorious passage of Colossians 3:1-4.
- The hope of the resurrection is a principal goal and thought of the sincere child of God. It is the most important matter of our lives. Will we attain to the resurrection of the dead?
- There are two minds here – the spiritual mind of Paul and the earthly mind of belly worshippers.
- If you are not passionately consumed to know Jesus Christ experimentally, you worship your belly.
- In this passage we have clearly summarized the spiritual perspective we ought to have for our lives.
I JOHN 2:15-17
- Can you understand a commandment to not love something? Well here is one for your obedience.
- We already listed a few earthly things to get your mind running in the right direct against the world.
- The world's things, goals, lifestyle, philosophy, character, and conduct are off-limits for Christians.
- We can use the world and its things, but not abuse them by allowing them to corrupt us (I Cor 7:31).
- If you love the world's things, you cannot and do not love God, for they are enemies (Matt 6:24).
- Jesus died to save us from the world and its things and you flirting with them is an offence to Him.
- What is in the world? The lust of the flesh … food, drink, music, sex, exercise, luxury, etc., etc.
- What is in the world? The lust of the eyes … women, houses, cars, clothes, furniture, etc., etc.
- What is in the world? The pride of life … titles, income, assets, accomplishments, success, etc., etc.
- These three things were presented by the devil to Eve in Eden and to Jesus Christ in the desert.
- These things are contrary to the Father: He is a Spirit and seeks spiritual worship in truth (Jn 4:24).
- The truly saved walking with Christ will be hated by the world as it hated Him (John 15:19; 17:14).
- It is impossible to serve both the Lord Jesus Christ and the mammon or the things of this world.
- If you love either one of them, then you must hate the other, for they are antithetical to each other.
- If you count either one of them dear, then you will despise the other, for they are direct opposites.
- This text accurately describes the conflict in a carnal Christian questioning the value of godliness.
- There is no middle ground of neutrality where you can try to serve both God and your worldly lusts.
- If you even flirt with the world by befriending its lifestyle or philosophy, then you are God's enemy.
- In case you miss how much of an enemy, you are guilty of spiritual adultery deserving jealous rage.
- God hates this world and its things, and the world hates God and His things, why do you befriend it?
- God has graciously chosen you out of the world, why would you turn and look back to flirt with it?
- Jesus died by the will of God to save you from the world, why do you use grace to play with it yet?
- It is easy to tell if a man is a child of God free from condemnation or not. What do they think about?
- Those who mind the things of the flesh and this world show that they are in the flesh and not saved.
- Those who mind the things of the Spirit and heaven show that they are in the Spirit and truly saved.
- Notice the similarity in language by Paul to belly worshippers minding earthly things (Phil 3:18-19).
- The end of the carnally minded person is eternal death in the lake of fire with their worldly friends.
- The end of the spiritually minded person is eternal life and peace in heaven with their godly friends.
- The contrast, gulf, and enmity between the carnal mind and God cannot be reconciled or covered.
- A person in the flesh, minding earthly things, cannot please God, no matter what they think or say.
II TIMOTHY 4:10
- Here is a man, a gifted and instructed man, who would not heed the warnings against the world.
- How could he desert Paul? How? In the same way Lot left Abraham! Compromising with the world!
- Sin is a deceiver; it can entice you farther and farther into its clutches for destruction (Heb 3:12-13).
- It is called this present world for the contrast to that world where we will spend eternity with Christ.
- Lot's first mistake was to use his eyes instead of faith and look for earthly prosperity (Gen 13:8-11).
- Lot's second mistake was to continue his compromise by pitching his tent toward wicked Sodom.
- Lot's third mistake was merely the continuation of his compromise to choose the city's lifestyle, as he joined city council and married three of his daughters to the men of the city.
- As Demas forsook Paul, Lot forsook Abraham, though his uncle and obviously blessed by Jehovah.
- Lot ruined his entire family and ended up ruined in every sense possible, while Abraham prospered.
- We cannot be like Lot, so we avoid the world's politics, schools, marriages, etc., as we are able.
I PETER 2:11
- Do you grasp it? You are only a stranger (this is not your home) and pilgrim (you are on a journey).
- Reject anything this world offers to entice your flesh, your eyes, or the pride of life. Do not give in!
- The war against you is for your soul – lusts for things you think sweet will seduce you to destruction.
- Remember what happened to Eve in Eden – remember what the devil tried to do to our Lord Christ.
- Keep remembering Samson and a woman, Ahab and a vineyard, David and a woman, etc., etc., etc.
- Here is the resurrected life of a baptized believer, for that is resurrection with Christ (see Col 2:12).
- If a person sincerely understands baptism, then he has died to self and is alive to Christ in heaven.
- They will be seeking those things which are above, where their resurrected Saviour is now living.
- They will set their affection on the things above, which shows it is a choice that you make daily.
- A truly baptized believer is dead to this world, and has no further interest in the things of the world.
- The life of a saint is hid with Christ in God, for it is only the eye of faith that can see into heaven.
- The future for these true saints of God is to be glorified with Jesus Christ and be like Jesus Christ.
- Paul's great object of glory and delight was the cross of the Lord Jesus for his salvation (I Cor 2:2).
- But notice the effect of properly valuing the death of Jesus Christ – it put the world to death for Paul.
- And notice another effect of properly living for Jesus Christ – it put Paul to death toward the world.
- The world does not know or understand true believers – they think us strange (I Cor 2:16; I Pet 4:4).
- It may be hard for you to connect covetousness (dissatisfied lust) to idolatry, but scripture does it.
- This is not the only place in the Bible with the connection, for Ephesians 5:5 connects them as well.
- For you to sinfully desire things that God has not given or authorized, you make a god out of them.
II PETER 2:13
- Peter warned of church members, in church feasts, that count it pleasure to riot without discipline
- These carnally minded members were spots and blemishes on the bride of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- It was a sport to them, for there was not a spiritual or sober bone in their deceived bodies or minds.
- Peter had already identified them as rebel natural brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed.
- And he promised by inspiration that they would utterly perish and be rewarded appropriately.
I TIMOTHY 5:6
- These are widows that kept not their first commitment to Christ but began to serve self (5:11-12).
- Their living in pleasure is waxing wanton to satisfy their lusts rather than their profession of faith.
- Though they may be alive physically, they are dead spiritually and practically to Jesus Christ.
- Jude wrote to saints to warn them about certain men creeping in unawares into churches of Christ.
- These men were reprobates God had ordained from the foundation of the world to condemnation.
- They were ungodly men in that their ambitions, lifestyles, and spirit were contrary to godliness.
- They profanely used the grace of God to justify their lascivious and lust-filled approach to living.
- While their talk would not necessarily deny God and Jesus Christ, their lifestyle most certainly did.
- Again, another apostle warns by apostolic teaching there would be mockers among Christian saints.
- These belly worshippers would walk – their lifestyle – according to their own depraved lusts.
- Their wicked lusts and depraved minds would cause them to separate from the lifestyle of saints.
- They are sensual – operating by feelings and lusts; they have not the Spirit of God to redirect them.
II PETER 2:17-22
- Here is another picture of reprobates that get into the churches of Jesus Christ to spoil the saints.
- Their great swelling words of vanity allure through the lusts of the flesh those that were saved.
- They promise them liberty and freedom to live loosely, but they are bondslaves to corrupting sin.
- It is better not to have known the way of righteousness than to know it and turn from it toward sin.
- They fulfill Solomon's graphic proverb about dogs eating their vomit and pigs returning to the mud.
- What is another name for this turnabout for a Christian – backsliding – from glory to sin (Pr 14:14).
II PETER 1:9
- God in merciful kindness gave a list of those things that ought to fill our lives for proof of election.
- However, some will be lacking these things – and they may be either reprobates or carnal believers.
- They are blind – they do not see heaven, the goal, the future, or the consequences of their lifestyle.
- They are spiritually nearsighted – able only to see the things of this world right in front of them.
- They cannot see the things afar off – the future for all true believers to be glorified with Jesus Christ.
- Their lifestyle does not show appreciation or obligation to Jesus Christ for salvation (II Cor 5:14-15).
- They fulfill the parable of the fruitless tree in the vineyard that needed to be cut down (Luke 13:6-9).
- Contrary to the just indictment of some in II Peter 1:9, we cannot and must not forget God's mercy.
- It should make a great change in our lives to form us new in all things to public view (II Cor 5:17).
- It is our sacred and solemn duty to be transformed rather than to be conformed. Copy Christ instead!
- It is a wide gate and broad way filled with many that leads to destruction. Reject the majority!
- It is a strait gate and narrow way with only a few that leads to life. Choose to suffer with God's few.
- Look into the mirror of God's word and let it expose any worldliness spotting your life (Jas 1:21-25).
- Are there any thorns in your life that are growing to choke out godly fruitbearing (Matthew 13:22).
- Repent today for any belly worship of minding earthly things and set your mind and heart on Christ.
- For Further Study:
- The sermon outline, Where Is Your Tent?
- The sermon outline, Sojourning Here in Fear.
- The sermon outline, Spiritual Adultery.
- The sermon outline, Remember Lot's Wife.
- The sermon outline, Holiness to the LORD.
- The sermon outline, Perfecting Holiness.
- The sermon outline, Perilous Times.
- The sermon outline, What Is a Christian? .
- The sermon outline, Are You a Bible Christian? .
- The sermon outline, Contemporary Christianity.
- The sermon outline, Forgotten Sins.
- The sermon outline, An Angel with an Inkhorn.
- The sermon outline, Is Jesus Lord? .
- The sermon outline, Take Up Your Cross Daily.
- The sermon outline, Sermon Spiritually Minded.
- The sermon outline, A Heavenly Lifestyle.
- The sermon outline, Promise Them Liberty.
- The sermon outline, Evil Communications.
- The sermon outline, Backsliding.
- The sermon outline, Housecleaning Godliness.
- The sermon outline, Cut It Down.
- The sermon outline, Hot, Cold, or Lukewarm.
- The sermon outline, Lip Service.
- The sermon outline, God Hates Compromise.
- The sermon outline, Playing with Sin.
- The sermon outline, Keepers of the Kingdom.