Lupine in Colorado- 2008 Debra Davis
Philippinas 3:4-7, NASB
4) although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more:
5) circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;
6) as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
7) But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
-Paul had much he could have boasted in about himself, much that could have been a source of pride.
-None of those things brought him salvation, our only hope is in Christ and His work on the cross.
As you recall from my post on Philippians 3:1-3 Paul was addressing the problem of false teachers saying that the Philippian believers needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. He is stating very emphatically here that it is not in flesh that we put our confidence. The flesh has no power to save, no matter what we do to it, no matter who we were born to, no matter how well we follow the rule of law. Paul recognizes that if anyone can boast in these things it is he, "You think you are good, I was better" is in essence what he is saying in these verses. Yet non of these things mattered, not that he was born a Hebrew, not that he was a Pharisee, not his zeal for God, not his circumcision, he let it all go for the sake of Christ.
I know without a doubt that it is Christ who has saved me, who has given me life everlasting, who has assured me of a place with Him in heaven. There is nothing I have done or can do beyond recognizing my sin and turning away from it by confessing Jesus as Lord. It is all about grace. And yet if I look deep within I find some troubling things. The thing that particularly strikes me is this passage is Paul's zeal. According to Webster's zeal means "eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something." That is a good thing for a Christian to have. But I wonder if it sometimes leads me down a road of replacing grace with works. That is not to say that works do not have their place, but I need to keep them in their proper place. Do I try to affect my standing before God by doing good things? That is a mindset that does creep into my life at times: I may have kept my quiet time this week, read through my Bible, helped feed the poor, served my neighbor; so I am deserving of being blessed by God, having my prayers answered the way I would like. None of those activities are bad, in fact I think they are a natural outflow of my life with Christ. But they are no substitute for grace. They are not what puts me in good standing with God. They are not some bargaining chips I can pull out to try and get my way.
I have such a great reward, not because of anything I have done, but because Christ has reconciled me to God. I love to read through the letter to the Ephesians and be reminded of all the riches I have in Christ. I need the reminder that they are all part of the gift so freely given to me. Now, I know the zeal Paul was talking about was misplaced. He thought he was zealous for God when in actuality he was an enemy fighting against God. I do not have that problem. I am a bond-servant of Christ. I know whose side I am on. Paul counted all those things which he held as vital to his faith prior to Christ as worth losing for Christ's sake. That too, I find interesting...for Christ's sake. Not for his own. Was there not a selfish bone in this man's body? I am still far too driven by self, I have to constantly question my motives. How often have I said yes to things, not because of my desire to be like Christ, but to be liked by others? Oh, Paul, he never ceases to challenge the way I think about myself and my relationship to God. These thoughts continue in the next few verses, so I think I will stop for now and godo some more contemplating.
Philippians 3:1-3, NASB
1) Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it
is a safeguard for you.
2) Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;
3) for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,
-I love that Paul says, "finally my brethren" when we are just beginning the 3rd of 4 chapters.
-It would seem that Paul has written a previous letter to the Philippians and covered a lot of the same material.
- Paul warns of "dogs," evil workers, and false circumcision.
-We put no confidence in flesh, but in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
Anytime Paul has warnings in his letters we need to take note. Are you familiar with the saying, "the more things change the more they stay the same?" I believe that is true in our churches today. Yes times are different and things have certainly changed, but there are those things which continue to take place because of the fallenness of man, because we are still fallible and "prone to wander." (a line from my favorite hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing) I don't believe that any of us purpose to wander from the truth, more likely it is something that happens gradually as we take in all the voices out there vying for our attention. Paul is warning us that there are some folks we should not be listening too. The question for us seems to be: are we satisfied with the sufficiency of Christ, with His death and resurrection to save us from all of our sin; past, present and future? It would seem the church in Philippi was being tempted to add circumcision on top of the work of Christ- they were being told they needed something more. This was not something unique to the Philippians, but an issue that had to be addressed by Paul on several occasions. In fact in Acts 15 it is recorded that Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to bring the issue before the apostles and elders where Peter made it clear that this was a burden not meant to be placed on people for we are all saved through grace not the act of circumcision.
Paul called those who promoted this idea "dogs," and "evil workers." I am always struck by such "name-calling" as today we would never dream of such a thing, in fact if we question the doctrine of anyone we have to be very careful not to say they are false teachers, even when they are, and that is so tame compared to what Paul wrote here or the things that Jesus Himself said at times. Jesus, Paul, Peter-- they all warn us about the dangers of listening to such people. It was very important then, and it is just as important today. Are there things being taught today that place a burden on us that the Apostles would warn us against?
This photo was taken on top of the Grand Mesa in Colorado. You feel like you can see the world from up there...the view goes on and on; so vast it is hard to take it all in. However the focus of this photo is my son in the midst of it all, for in this immense landscape he is what matters to me. Just like in my photo we must focus on what is important amid all that tries to grab our attention; to distract us from what really matters.
The big question that confronts me today then, is how to avoid being deceived by false teachers and thus distracted from what really matters. And once again I am struck by the importance of reading the Word; for if error is to be avoided one must be solidly grounded in the Bible. We must know what it says so that we are not confused by pleasant sounding teachers who think they have discovered something new that we should be doing, or try to bring us back under the law, earning our way to salvation through good works. Obeying rules and regulations, while there may be some merit to them in living our lives well here on earth, are not how we are saved. They are works of the flesh which Paul is about to address as we dig deeper into Philippians.
Grace and Peace,
I am a woman with a Mary heart and these are my musings as I read and study God's Word
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