Dog watching

Philippians 3:1-4

“Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.  Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved.  For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!”

Background:

  • While Paul remains in prison in Rome, the church is struggling to maintain unity between Jewish and Gentile converts.  Paul says that even in the midst of conflict – no matter what happens – they are to “rejoice in the Lord.”  He has said it before, but keeps reminding them in order to “safeguard” their faith.
  • Like the church at Philippi, we too can get down about things in our lives.  Whether its conflict with others, difficult circumstances, or just petty frustrations.  Our default in the face of these things will never be to rejoice.  Only through faith in Christ and intentionally choosing a perspective of joy can we obey Paul’s words.  Sometimes it helps to meditate on the truth about  Christ when life is pulling us toward depression, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness.
  • God sent His only Son to die a cruel death on a cross in order that the payment for sin would be satisfied.  When we believe this by faith – we begin a relationship with Him.  He indwells us with His Holy Spirit, never leaves us, seals our eternity in heaven, and walks with us – even through the dark days.  These reasons to rejoice never change.  Remember what we talked about in Philippians 1 – “Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ.”  Paul is reminding them halfway through his letter of this important truth that resonates with us today.
  • Paul refers to dogs who are stirring up trouble in the church.  “Dogs denotes the wild, vicious, homeless animals that roamed the streets and attacked passersby.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)  He wasn’t referring to a cute little puppy here.  He is calling the Judaizers who were trying to make new Gentile believers undergo physical circumcision when a council in Jerusalem had already decided circumcision was not necessary for them.
  • Paul got passionate because he wanted the church to understand that spiritual circumcision is what really mattered.  Circumcision was an outward physical change that God instituted with Abraham to point to a spiritual truth.  Our tendency is to focus on the external rather than the internal truth it illustrates.  Romans 2:29 says, “No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
  • Paul wants the church to focus on the change of heart produced by God’s spirit, not fight over the external reminder God used under the Old Covenant.  He reminds them not to rely on human effort (circumcision) but instead to rely on Christ.

Application questions:

  • How can you rejoice today in what Christ has done for you even in the midst of your trials?
  • Will you default to fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, shame or find joy in Christ?
  • What external things do you tend to cling to instead of Christ?  (Do you find confidence in your job, financial status, relationships, religious practices like church attendance, baptism, good works, etc.?)
  • Ask God to strip away your reliance on anything but Him today.  Its sometimes painful, but so worth the intimacy with Jesus that follows.

Jeremiah 17:5,7 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.'”  “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.”

Prayer

Adoration: Praise God for joy in Him today.

Confession:  Ask God to reveal any human strength you are relying on instead of Him.

Thanksgiving:  Thank Him for 3 good things in your life today.

Supplication:  Ask Him for joy in spite of difficulties today.

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