Reading the Word in the Light of the Gospel of Christ
A number of people I have talked to confess that they have never really gotten into this book. This is because it has been presented in a religious way. “This is how we should be. We should be unrealistically happy and if you are not, you are a problem! You’re probably complaining in the church and you’re and for your pastor and you probably haven’t tried!” It is good to be refreshed. The way to refresh yourself in the word is to put Christ back in it!
The enemy does everything he can do to try to keep our eyes off of the gospel as the source of everything. What is the Gospel? Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and on the third day rose according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15:1-4). Again, when we say, “according to the scriptures” we are talking about the full counsel of the word of God with all of the types and shadows, riches and attainments and accomplishments of Christ as an inheritance for you to explore. It is a whole realm of the riches of Christ for you to discover in God and it is all in the word! The Gospel is not just that “day when I went down to the altar”. People who have that view ask, “why do you keep preaching the gospel to the Church? That doesn’t make any sense we’re already saved!” This reveals that they do not know what the Gospel really is.
The Gospel unveils Christ and makes Him shine on me so that He becomes everything. The Gospel is my food for the entirety of my Christian life, not just the beginning. If the Bible is stale to you, chances are somehow you have disconnected the Bible from the Gospel and Christ is not shining in your reading of the word. You are reading the Bible because you think you need to. You are doing it because you think you “have to.” In a recent conversation with some people someone said, “my appetite for the word is not what it was. Should I pray for more appetite?” I have been there too. I said, “forget about it. Do not worry about your appetite. Preach the gospel to yourself and just thank the Lord for what you have. Do it for five minutes and you will be satisfied. Then, don’t worry about whether or not you are reading the word or not.” Yes, there is a time for getting the Bible into you, but the point is to get it in you! Once it is in you, it is the living word to stir up at your will and you can eat it all day long!
We think too much in terms of what we “need” to do or what we “should” be doing. That is why people do not read Phillippians, because they think that it is the “book of James” of the Pauline epistles, a book about having the right attitude. No, Phillippians is a present enjoyment of the Spirit of Jesus Christ as He is richly supplied to save me from myself and make me even so full of an enjoyment of him that I become a “Drink offering”!
The Rich Language of God’s Household
What kind of language is this? This is the language of God’s household. It is the language of Christ. We do not talk like that in our normal speaking but when we talk about Christ, we are elevated. When we speak in terms of what we have in Christ and use the Gospel Language that God has applied to it we are uplifted and made more noble.
I love period pieces and I love Dickens and one of the reasons is because he understood how language reflects class. The “vulgars and the peasants” spoke a low form of British but the gentlemen spoke a high form of British. He loved to exaggerate the differences. The kind of language you speak determines what class of people you will circulate with. If you want to circulate among the people who are fellowshipping as sons of God and heirs of Christ, members of God’s household, you want to be able to speak their language! That language is the gospel.
The Gospel gives us phrases like “the unsearchable riches of Christ” and His accomplishments for us and our inheritance in Him. We are not talking about “cheeseburgers and McDonald’s”. If you want to know the difference between a rich person and a poor person, ask them to read their menu for the evening. I remember I used to be poor and I had a friend who was rich in the 90s. I would go to his house and he had cable TV with channels dedicated to wealth and assets.. He had access to channels that were clearly targeted to rich people. One of the things I noticed was that all the food selections were different. On my TV the commercials were about McDonald’s. But the cable channels had commercials that focused on ingredients and foodstuffs that you would have your servant buy at the grocery store for your menu that night. They spoke a language I did not understand. It was a food language I had never been introduced to. I had never eaten like that.
We are talking about the riches of Christ versus the crumbs under the table. When my wife and I were poor we lived in the city and the grocery stores had a limited range of options. Then we got to be “almost middle class” after I got a certain job and we eventually moved to the county. When we went to the grocery store, we were amazed at the selections. They had 27 different kinds of flavors of the yogurt. The TV dinners were not “Tv dinners” they were called meals. It was a richer palette.
God’s language in His household is rich because it is describing a “menu” that those who are not in the household have no right to eat from (Heb 13:10). The feast in God’s household has rich ingredients that you have never heard of before and here we are describing the menu. Someone who is used to just McDonalds is going to say, “what are you talking about?” It should sound strange to their ears, but it should also whet their appetite. So, we want to use this language to describe Christ.
We use the language that Paul and the Bible supplies to talk about the feast that has been prepared for us. It whets your appetite when you talk about different foods. Sometimes I have no appetite for Christ and I just “preach the gospel to myself” to describe the menu. When I look at a menu of certain foods, I can automatically start getting hungry for it. My body responds. If I decide that I want steak tonight you cannot get me to go to eat Mexican food because my body is already geared with the steak appetite.
Appetite follows thoughts and thoughts are fed by language. That’s why they give you a menu at the beginning of your meal so you can pick what you want and they try to describe the different things that are most expensive in the most tantalizing terms to make your mouth water and say “Oh I want that. I don’t care how much it costs!”
What we have is free yet we need a menu to describe it in a way that whets our appetite. That is what God has given us through the Holy Spirit. He is given us a menu called the word of God that beautifully describes Christ as our portion and our enjoyment. A mealtime could be a miserable or a happy time depending on how good the food is. Our food is the best food. So, if you are wanting to know where your appetite is, it comes down to language. What kind of language are you using to describe Christ to yourself? That is called preaching the Gospel to yourself. As you describe it, you are eating it!
Finding Those that Speak the Language
Php 3:15-21 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. (16) Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. (17) Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
Paul has been talking about the difference between dogs and evil workers versus the true circumcision that boasts in Christ Jesus, worships in the Spirit, and has no confidence in the flesh. We talked about what the flesh is with all its gains and attainments that it likes to boast in thinking that by these it can merit a position before God and be more qualified that someone else. As we come to know the cross, we see that our attainments and what were “gains” to us are loss. They are all counted as dung and they are all at the cross. I have no more qualification than the next guy to enjoy this great inheritance. The blood of Jesus is my way. He is my qualification.
Paul says as many as are “perfect” are to have this kind of mind. They are pursuing to be found in Christ not having their own righteousness. They need to be the “circumcision” and put off their own righteousness and seek to gain Him and know Him. If there is anything we are being perfected in, this is it. He tells them, “be followers of me.” And also, to mark those who walk in that same way. We want to take Paul as the pattern.
Lewis Sperry Chafer said that the genuine test of a ministry is whether or not it is Pauline. If you find someone that does not speak Paul’s language, even if they are talking about the Bible, they are not a New Testament Minister. This ministry was revealed to Paul, then to Peter and John. The doctrine is established in Paul. A teacher has to have this kind of language.
Paul says we are to mark the ones who walk like him. Find the ones that talk about how their righteousness was nothing and that everything that was “Gains” to them is counted as dung. Find the ones who assign everything to the cross and seek to be found in Christ, not having their own righteousness, but that which is out of God and based on faith. Find those people. Those are your friends. Those are the household. That is how you identify the ones who have the riches of Christ. That’s what is on their “menu” They are going to have a certain kind of verbiage and language that will distinguish them from the “Dogs” who just eat “Happy Meals” and even the cardboard box. These, he says, are the ones who walk as “enemies of the cross of Christ.”
Marking Enemies of the Cross
Phil 3 (18) (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: (19) Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
This is such a joyful letter, but he says he is crying right now as he speaks of these enemies of the cross. Their end is destruction. Their God is their appetite. Their glory is their shame. They set their mind on earthly things. They are minding their performance, their flesh, their boasts, their vain glory, their circumcision (by hands), their earthly attainments and all the things that Paul has counted as loss. They are still boasting in all these things and these things are their shame. They’re glorying in it like a dog rolling around in its own refuse, saying “look at me! Look at me! You should do this too!” He says they are enemies of the cross of Christ.
You can be a Gospel believer and still be an enemy of the cross. You can believe in Christ for justification but still think that you are good and that God wants to use your flesh to do something “Great” because of how good you are, you are opposed to the cross. You will be offended by it. I have seen this with many so-called grace believers. If you tell them sin is bad, they will say “amen. God saved me from sin. I don’t even smoke anymore.” But if you tell them that their righteousness is their problem they will get offended to the point where they will want to kill you! The “fangs” come out when you condemn their righteousness. Why? Because they do not understand the cross.
They do not believe they are crucified with Christ. They do not believe it was necessary. They think God wants to change their flesh. They think God wants to transform their flesh and use their virtues in His service. They think they were mostly good but a little “dirty” and now God cleaned them up and they are good to go. They do not understand the New Creation or Newness of Life or reckoning themselves dead. When you speak that language, they get angry. They say you are looking for a license to sin. It was obvious when the Lord shippers were saying grace believers were looking for a license to sin by believing the Gospel. But I have seen people that supposedly believe the Gospel eventually saying that people who believe Christ is our sanctification are looking for a license to sin. Then they started more subtly corrupting the Gospel. The problem is that they are enemies of the cross.
This is why God puts baptism first. Some people argue is it necessary to be saved. It is not. Believing is a requirement for salvation. However, it should be accompanied with a teaching that shows you that God is finished with the flesh and has consigned it to death all the way back at the flood (Gen 6:3; 1 Peter 3:21). The judgment is still there. We are corrupt, unprofitable, and useless. We can do nothing. We had to go to death. But Christ died in our place. People do not want to believe this. They believe Christ died to forgive their “mistakes” because they couldn’t keep the law “perfectly” because they were mostly good but had some “mistakes”. However, the same people that believe Jesus died for their “mistakes” do not necessarily want to hear that Christ died and they died with Him. They are enemies of the cross. They seem to believe the Gospel but eventually they reject it. There are people who seem to believe it. But watch the ones that are enemies of the cross.
Paul said he tells us even weeping that they are all over the place. They are enemies of the cross. Their God is their appetite. They glory in their shame. They set their mind on earthly things. The lord shippers will say that these are the “Nicolaitans” having orgies at commissions and make up many blasphemous lies. No, these are legalists. The dogs, the evil workers, the concision are those who boast in the flesh and in is identity. They believe they are exceedingly righteous. They are hanging on to their righteousness and will not consign it to the cross.
A friend of the cross says, “I’m seeking to be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is out of the law but that which is out of God and based on faith. I am counting all my gains to be loss”. Those are your friends. Those who do not speak like this ultimately are enemies of the cross. If they reject this truth, they are enemies of it. It is one thing to not be familiar. It is another thing to reject it, double down, harden and attack those who preach this way. Their end is destruction. Unless they turn and embrace the cross, they have no sacrifice (Heb 10:26).
You have to be crucified with Christ and you were if you believe. You are baptized into His death, but you will be in conflict if you do not recognize this. You will not enjoy your salvation. You will be a “dog” if you do not reconcile yourself to the cross and say, “I had to go to the cross.” You will not have peace until you do that. You will be at odds with everybody, picking fights everywhere you go. There is no fellowship. You are not speaking the language of God’s household. Maybe you are a member, but you only know “Happy Meals” and you are eating cardboard boxes with the “dogs.” I cannot tell you are supposed to be in the house. Your language needs to show it eventually because we know each other by the profession.
Phil 3(20) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: (21) Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Our conversation is in heaven. This is in contrast to those that “set their minds on earthly things and their end is destruction.” The power by which He is able to subject everything to Himself and by which He will change our bodies is the resurrection power. Some translations say “Transfigure”. Everything we traffic in on this heavenly “menu” is heavenly. Our conversation is from heaven. That is the way we walk, but I like the fact that the word is “Conversation” because we have been talking about the language. The menu came from “heaven” and the food is only available for those seated in the heavenlies and have right to the feast. That is our conversation. It is from there that we look for the reality of the Christian life. Those who boast in their flesh and attainments in the flesh, he calls it “vile”. He is going to transfigure our vile body. That is the rapture.
The rapture is the transfiguration of the church. Christ was transfigured on the mount (Mt 17:2). The glory that was in Him permeated His being from the inside so that they could see that glory shining out. We are going to be transfigured in the same way. The glory that is in our spirit is going to saturate and transform our body permanently and we will be manifested as the sons of God (Rom 8:19). A lot of people have rapture dreams where angels are picking them up. That is actually not the rapture. Angels will gather the elect at the end of the tribulation, but that is speaking of the Jews and the mortals that will inherit the kingdom (Mt 24:31). We will be transfigured. On the one hand, we will be “caught up” (1 th 4:17). On the other hand, we will be clothed with life (2 Cor 5:4). This is one event. This is the revelation of Jesus Christ in His church (1 Peter 1:13). I do not think the angels are going to have to “pick us up.” Jesus did not ascend in angels. He ascended in the cloud, the glory (Acts 1:9). So, will we. We will do it much faster. It will be a sudden shining of Christ, the day star rising in our heart (2 Peter 1:19) and radiating out from within us, transfiguring our body and changing it to the likeness of the body of His glory. We will be different forever and no longer have our vile body. So, there is no reason our mind on earthly things now and glory in our shame. We look for something from heaven. Yes, we have a foretaste of it as we talk about the “menu” and our conversation is from heaven. Then we will have a full taste!