by Eric C. Wheeler  eric@sharingtheway.com

Not long ago, as I was communing with the Lord in prayer regarding the current state of Christianity and how so many people sitting in the churches aren’t truly getting it, and how their pastors and teachers are continually leading them astray into a false sense of security and apathetic comfort, the Holy Spirit suddenly said to me: “Eric, they are enemies of the cross of Christ, just as the Apostle Paul said”. Clearly caught off guard, I was astonished at what I had just heard. But as I continued to listen to the Holy Spirit, He went on to explain that the Apostle Paul never called them “the enemies of Christ”. He called them “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). I had never noticed that before. And since the Holy Spirit is having me share this with you, as my reader, I am willing to bet that you have never seen that before either. These professing Christians in Paul’s day weren’t saying that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah – the Promised One, the Redeemer, and the Savior of the world. They weren’t denying that He had died for their sins or had risen again on the third day. They weren’t at odds with the fact that He had overcome death and was now sitting on the right hand of God Almighty. What they had a problem with, and were dead-set against, was (and is) having to live a crucified life!

Unbeknownst to me, until the Holy Spirit showed it to me during this conversation and revelation, is that Paul is urging the brethren to follow his example of self-denial and of “suffering the loss of all things” for the sake of Christ (verses 8-17). “For there are many who walk”, Paul says, “of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ – whose end is destruction, whose [true] god is their own belly [their sensual appetites], and who glory in their shame – setting their mind on earthly things! For our citizenship is in heaven” (verses 18-20). These so-called Christians of Paul’s day (as well as ours today) don’t like the true Gospel – the Gospel message that Jesus began with that says, “If anyone wants to come after [pursue] Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25; Luke 9:23-24). Many Christians today, just like in Paul’s day, don’t want to hear that part of the Gospel message. As the Holy Spirit said (through the pen of Paul), “They are enemies of the cross of Christ”. They don’t want to bear a cross for His sake. That part of the Gospel message is offensive to them. Just like in Paul’s day, they want the soft cushy gospel that tickles their ears and satisfies their bellies, and that speaks of prosperity, and gives them their “best lives now”. And sadly, that is exactly what they are going to have – their best lives NOW. Unfortunately, their futures are not going to be bright. As Paul wrote, “Their end is destruction” (verse 19); and again, he wrote, “Whosever sows to please the flesh will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction; but whosever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:8).

Paul continually preached the cross of Christ and Him crucified (I Cor. 1:23, 2:2). Paul knew that the message of the Cross (the crucified life) was going to be the part of the Gospel that spiritually-immature carnal Christians were going to want to do away with. He knew that they would be carnally-attracted to the benefits of Christ, to the promises and riches of Christ, and to the bountiful blessings and freedoms that are found in knowing Christ. However, finding and having and knowing these untold riches and blessings of Christ come only by knowing and experiencing the sufferings of Christ first! Notice Paul’s own words regarding this:

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him… that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead… forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are mature have this same mind and hold these convictions… 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 appetite, who glory in their shame – who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:7-19).

And again, Paul said, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Phil. 1:29).

Like in Paul’s day, Christians today too, don’t want to have to live a crucified life! They don’t want the cross of Christ! They willingly, and in many cases – willfully, reject this part of the Gospel. They, and their false teachers and pastors, try to wickedly teach and proclaim that “Jesus already did it all on His cross! You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to bear a cross yourself! Jesus already did that for you.” Brethren – and all who have spiritual ears to hear – this is NOT biblical! This is a false gospel and teaching. Jesus is the Way and He came to show us the Way. He came to demonstrate the Way of righteousness to us – and then told us to “follow Him” (that is, “to follow His example”). That is why Jesus got baptized. It was to show us the Way of righteousness – to follow His example (Matt. 3:15). Jesus had never sinned. He didn’t need to repent of His sins and to get baptized. He did that to demonstrate to us the Walk. And then from there He let the Holy Spirit drive Him out into the desert wilderness to be tempted and tested of the devil as He used the Word of God (the Bible) to refute Satan’s attacks and Satan’s appeals to his human nature (his fleshly appetites). Thus, demonstrating to us who would come after Him – partaking of the same spiritual Walk – how to overcome Satan and this world with all of its attractions, temptations, and lusts (fleshly desires) by clinging to what God says, instead of listening to and succumbing to our own fallen natures with its evil desires. Then, as we continue to traverse this desert wilderness walk – that is, our individual Walks in this fallen human world – we faithfully endure all the way to Golgotha (the place of crucifixion and death), saying too like Jesus, “Not my will, but Your will be done, Father”. And then, like Jesus, we are raised to eternal life! That is why the Scriptures say the following:

“Take up your cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34)

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven (Matt. 7:21).

“All this is but the beginning – the early pains of the birth pangs – of the intolerable anguish. Then they will hand you over to suffer affliction and tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended and repelled and begin to distrust and desert [Him Whom they ought to trust and obey] and will stumble and fall away, and betray one another and pursue one another with hatred. And many false prophets [pastors] will rise up and deceive and lead many into error. And the love of the great body of people will grow cold, because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity. But he who endures to the end will be saved (Matt. 24:8-13, Amplified).

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God; and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Rom. 8:16-17).

“This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (II Tim. 2:11-12).

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Cor. 12:9-10).

“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (II Cor. 4:8-11).

“For to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21).


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