Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

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Feasting with God #41 – Feed Not the Earthly Belly

Feasting with God #41

Feed Not the Earthly Belly

Philippians 3:17-21

17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.  18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21Who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

There are two types of people in the world: those who are spiritual and religious, and those whose “god is their belly.”  The last might often repeat: “Out of sight, out of mind.”  Is that how you treat spiritual things?  In fact, only 2.5% of the world claimed to be atheist, completely disregarding spiritual things, in 2011.  The other 97.5% claimed to have some acknowledgment of spiritual things—but what do they really mean?

Paul in fact draws the line into much narrower focus when he says to the Philippians, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”  It’s not just the lack of spiritual things which constitutes the idolatry of the belly.  It’s the ignorance of this very objective—in fact, very material—thing: the cross of Christ.

That same survey revealed that 33% of the world claimed to be Christian in 2011.  Another study, a year later, in 2012, estimated that 31.5% of the world claimed to be Christian.  Yes, the numbers seem to be decreasing, but do those who claim Christianity as their religious affiliation really cling to the cross of Christ, or is it a meaningless label?  Are they Christian because they might upset their family if they left?  Are they Christian so they can get their kids into a good school?  Are they Christian out of convenience?

Thoughts like these are what led Paul to tears.  Many, even though they may not look it, are “enemies of the cross of Christ,” and for such as these, “Their end is destruction.”  A pitiful, sad end, and Paul weeps for them.  All such, whether they claim to be Christian or not, if they are Christian not in faith but in name only, worship their bellies—that is, their own earthly wants and needs.  The spiritual, even that cross of Christ, is out of sight and out of mind.  They are concerned with the here and now, with paychecks and food on the table and clothing and housing and luxuries and toys.  Some of these things are in fact necessary for this earthly life, but rather than see that the eyes of all look to God, and he alone gives food in due season, opening his hand to satisfy the desires of every living thing (Ps. 145:15-16), they focus on these things as an end in themselves.  The belly-worshipers may think of the spiritual as something to be concerned with years down the road, or when trouble strikes, but not right now.  Right now, I need to get that meal.  Right now, I need to work this job.  Necessary, but God also says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

Here’s the comfort that the Gospel brings: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That objective man who lived perfectly, yet died the death of sinners, is our Savior: he paid for our sin and gave us the prize he earned.  Because of him, we have our free ticket to get to heaven, and as the hymn says, “I’m but a stranger here; / Heav’n is my home” (ELH 474).

But he has already come.  Why does Paul say “we await” this Savior?  It’s because we await him to “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.”  We await his return.  When we die, our material bodies will lay in the ground, “for you are dust, / and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19), “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7).  If this material body dies and rots, then our hope must be in what lasts: the spiritual.  But even after this, there is hope for the material!  For when Jesus Christ returns in glory, “the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16).  We will rise, our spirits will rejoin our bodies, and our bodies will be glorified.

This is ours because we are not belly-worshipers, we are not enemies of the cross of Christ, but by faith we cling to that cross, and that Christ raises us out of the dust of our sin and makes us able to live our lives in him.

Dear Christ, we were born in sin, but you were born immaculate and pure.  We live our lives in constant sin, but you have kept every law in perfect obedience.  For our wickedness we deserve to suffer the pains of hell separated from our God, but you took that suffering on your own head on the cross.  We would be lost in our graves, but you rose and shattered the power of death, so that we are enabled to share our heavenly citizenship with you.  For this we thank you, and we look forward eagerly to your return when we are delivered from this wicked earth and brought into glory.  In your name, we ask that you come, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.