Three Biblical Reminders to Safeguard Our Faith in Jesus

“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.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the [a]false circumcision; for we are the true [b]circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,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: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

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 [c]in view of the surpassing value of [d]knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, [e]for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and [f]the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;11 [g]in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:1-11

 

When writing an e-mail (electronic mail), we are always told that as a best practice, the first 1-3 sentences of your e-mail should contain the summary of your entire message. The purpose for that is for your readers to already be clear of your objective/intent of why you are writing.

For example:

If the e-mail is informative – the first two-three sentences should already answer – what is it that you want them to know?

If the e-mail requires an action from the recipient – the first two-three sentences should already answer – what is it that you want them to do?

The rest of the body of the e-mail, should only contain the details to support your main point.

This is how Paul outlined Chapter 3, verses 1 to 11. Paul’s main point/intent is to warn the church of Philippi against the Jews, specifically those who practice the religious rite of Judaism. Verses 3 to 11, on the other hand, are verses to show how Paul supports his main objective – the reason why he wanted the church to be careful with Judaizers, which is to protect the Gospel.

To explain this further, I’ll give an illustration of a somewhat similar scenario that occurred in the book of Galatians. Imagine two groups of people – the church and the Judaizers. As a background, there were Judaizers going around the church of Galatia, encouraging/requiring, to circumcise the non-Jewish believers because these Judaizers are saying that it is a requirement for salvation. In order to protect the true Gospel Paul says, “5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.” – 2:5 . If Paul agreed to their request, it was as if he agreed to the distorted Gospel of these Jews. This is a similar warning that Paul wrote to the church of Philippi which we find in the first part of Chapter 3. And that is my topic for tonight – three biblical reminders to safeguard our faith in Jesus Christ.

First point: (Verses 1-3) (the concept of substance over form) Jesus Christ should be our only glory

Verses 1-2:  (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, and beware of the [a] false circumcision; Verse 3 for we are the true [b]circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh

In accounting, there is this what we call the concept of “substance over form” which tells us that the value of something is not defined by how it looks or how it appears to be.  Example: In form, it looks like a ball. But in substance, it really is an egg. (I.e. golf ball)

Another example, not everything that you bought for 1 thousand pesos is really worth 1 thousand pesos. Sometimes it can be less. “Substance over form” tells us to consider of course what the substance is rather than the form.

This is what these verses are warning us about. Mag-ingat tayo sa mga tao who appear to be good outwardly and religiously correct, but inwardly, are like:

  • Dogs – usually this is used by the Jews to refer to the Gentiles being filthy and gala; these are not the cute dogs we hug today; but in this verse, it was used by Paul to refer to the Jews as like hypocrites, because in form, their mouths speak of righteousness but in substance they really have filthiness of attitudes
  • Evil workers – in form, their mouths speak of righteousness but in substance, they are rejecting Christ, therefore, anyone who rejects God can reasonably be called evil
  • And lastly, false circumcision. There are two Greek words for “circumcision”. One is Peritome, which meant “to cut around, or circumcise” and the other one is Katatome, which meant to “to cut-off”, the same word that the Bible uses to describe the cutting of the flesh that pagans do which God forbids in the Old Testament. In this verse, Paul used the word Katatome which means to cut-off; other bible versions, instead of using “false circumcision”, uses “mutilators of the flesh”; So, it’s as if Paul is referring to the Jews as people who in the first place, are not even circumcising (by definition of circumcision as the symbol of the unconditional covenant made by God to Abraham); but instead, people who are only performing a pagan ritual.

These three descriptions (i.e. dogs, evil workers, and mutilators of the flesh) in verse 2, gives us an illustration of people who – are hypocrites, not of God, saying and doing things they don’t even understand.

In verse 3, Paul then explains why the church needs to watch-out from them, by reminding the church of Philippi who they are in Christ. Example, tayo when we warn people from someone or something we have the tendencies to elaborate about the danger/warning because we want the people to understand what it can do to them). In this chapter, instead of robbing in the dangers/wrong doctrine of Judaism, Paul focuses on elaborating the TRUTH, including about where are confidence, reliance, and glory should be). (Side comment: so Paul went to the higher ground).

In verse 3, Paul says, we are:

  • True circumcision (remember in the book of Romans, it was explained that the true circumcision is that of the cleansing of the heart by the Spirit; spiritual cleansing)
  • Worshiper in the Spirit of God (not of evil)
  • Glory in Christ Jesus
  • No confidence in the flesh

In other words, as believers, the circumcision that we have is that of heart and by the Spirit of God. Not by our own works or of any man. Paul reminds us that outward/physical cleansing is meaningless if the heart is unclean. As Christians, our salvation is not dependent on any rituals; our circumcision is of the heart, and by the Spirit. With this, we can glory in Christ alone who cleansed us from all unrighteousness so that now we have nothing to boast.

Today, as Christians, where is Jesus Christ in our pursuit for righteousness? Are we like the hypocrites who glory in themselves, thinking they are right, but actually blinded? Are we just relying on our own strength and understanding? Doing things because it is religiously correct, traditionally accepted, even biblically sound? Or are we walking in joyful obedience to the Lord knowing that it is Jesus Christ who has cleansed our hearts from sin and is the only One who will enable us to walk holy lives?

Second Point: (verses 4 to 9) Jesus Christ is sufficient for our justification (His blood was sufficient for our salvation)

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.

Kung good works lang ang basehan, based on how the Judaizers define it, “I far more” have more things to boast. Then he talks about who he was prior to his conversion:

  • Circumcised the eight day, which was the requirement in Genesis
  • A Pharasee as to the zeal, (legalist)

Then he says in verse 7, “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss”. In accounting, when your gains/losses are being accounted for, you need to add the two, plus/minus, because at the end of the day, the entity/company needs to be defined as either gaining/losing; hindi pwede na dalawa; For example: if you put it in the context of your own resources, your own assets – meron kang lupa and meron kang sasakyan – (you sold etc.)

Grammatically, to say “for the sake of” means: “because of”. What Paul is saying is that everything he mentioned in prior the prior verses, he know has counted it as a loss –something he will never recover anymore. It considered as something that has already diminished.

This gives us the picture of Paul – turning away from his past life (e.g. a persecutor of the church, a legalist, etc.), and now turning to Jesus Christ.

8 More than that, I count all things to be loss [c]in view of the surpassing value of [d]knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, [e]for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

Paul considers all his good works, that is, his righteousness derived from the law, as “rubbish”; because this can really not be used to attain salvation; it is only by the grace of Jesus Christ. As opposed to what the Judaizers promote, which is the salvation that includes good works, Paul illustrates throwing all his good works as a credential of attaining salvation because he says that only through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross are we truly justified.

In application, what have we counted as loss for the sake of Christ? And have we really counted it as loss that we may gain Christ? Like Paul, do we also find the value of knowing Jesus Christ as something that surpasses any other thing we may be holding on to right now?

Third point: Jesus Christ should be our ultimate reward

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and [f]the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 [g]in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

  1. “Knowing” – not the head knowledge but the “personal and constant encounter/experience”
  2. Paul’s sufferings.

In Philippians 1:21, Paul says “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”. For Paul, it is all about Jesus Christ. And Christ has always been enough for Him after his conversion.

When Paul was writing this letter, we all know that he was in prison. He could only think of two things – he gets released or dies in jail. But in all of these, Paul continues to rejoice in the Lord and encourages the church to the same. In this book of Philippians, he mentions “rejoice” and “be joyful” many times. And that’s because for Paul, he knows and he is confident that, whether on earth or in heaven, Jesus already is his portion forever. If he lives, Christ will continue to be exalted in his life. If he dies, Christ is still exalted in his life.

In application: As Christians, is Christ exalted in our lives? When persecution comes, how do we react? Do we continue with our faith, knowing that Jesus already is our reward?

To end this long note, I would like to share with you a quote from the book the Radical Cross, by A.W. Tozer which speaks that a follower of Jesus Christ is one who knows he is nothing but has everything if he has Jesus.

I quote:

“The Christian believes that in Christ he has died, yet he is more alive than before and he fully expects to live forever. He walks on earth while seated in heaven and though born on earth he finds that after his conversion he is not at home here. The Christian soon learns that if he would be victorious as a son of heaven among men on earth he must not follow the common pattern of mankind, but rather the contrary. That he may be safe, he puts himself in jeopardy; he loses his life to save it and is in danger of losing it if he attempts to preserve it. He may be and often is highest when he feels lowest and most sinless when he is conscious of sin. He is wisest when he knows that he knows not and knows least when he has acquired the greatest amount of knowledge. He sometimes does most by doing nothing and goes furthest when standing still. In heaviness he manages to rejoice and keeps his heart glad even in sorrow. He believes that he is saved now, nevertheless he expects to be saved later and looks forward joyfully to future salvation. He fears God but is not afraid of Him. In God’s presence he feels overwhelmed and undone, yet there is nowhere he would rather be than in that presence. He knows that he has been cleansed from his sin, yet he is painfully conscious that in his flesh dwells no good thing.
He loves supremely One whom he has never seen, and though himself poor and lowly he talks familiarly with One who is King of all kings and Lord of all Lords, and is aware of no incongruity in so doing. He feels that he is in his own right altogether less than nothing, yet he believes without question that he is the apple of God’s eye and that for him the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of shame. He cheerfully expects before long to enter that bright world above, but he is in no hurry to leave this world and is quite willing to await the summons of his heavenly Father. And he is unable to understand why the critical unbeliever should condemn him for this; it all seems so natural and right in the circumstances that he sees nothing inconsistent about it.” – from the Radical Cross by Aiden Wilson Tozer
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Work-in-Progress: Sometimes, all you need to do is say “yes”!

Cuteness overload, spontaneous minds, and energy-level unsurpassed: these words are not enough to describe what happens inside a classroom of ages 2-6. After two Sundays of assisting at Sunday School, I finally got to teach at pre-school yesterday.

The kids were pretty responsive and behaved, not quite the kind of pretty-chaos which I imagined. I have observed for two meet ups, and I encountered different kinds of behavior and personalities. The lady-likes, the hyper and energetic, the super competitive, the gentle ones, and the shy types — all cute and lovable.

I used to sit at the back with my newly found 2-year-old-best-friend named Jeune. She is seated at the back, waits until the praise and worship songs start to play. Her favorite song is “One Way Jesus” which has cowboys/cowgirls singing and dancing at the video’s background. As much as I could notice, she just sits at class and gets her eyes fixed at the monitor, until the favorite songs begin to play. She could not talk yet (I guess), so she communicates by pointing at things. For example, when she wants to dance, she points at her left fingers like doing a counting gesture, and from there I figured that pertains to the countdown which Sunday School does before kids praise begins. When I was attending to the other kids, I glanced at her and asked if she wanted to come near me. She smiles and points at me, so I guess that meant she wanted to sit at my lap. She did. When I asked for her name the first time I talked to her, oh well, guess what? She pointed at her name tag. (Face-palm teacher! In-your-face!)

These things made teaching at Sunday School quite challenging. Attention and Communication. Getting their ears and your message get across. How do you get the kids attention, while literally maintaining the peace and order around? How do you get the kids to bear their teacher’s best effort to explain what “honor”, or “idolatry”, or “peace offering in the old testament” means in a way that a 3-year-old-kid can understand? So yes, I had to be emotionally, spiritually, and physically ready. Spiritually ready to have the lesson first ministered to me, before I could share it with children. Emotionally ready in case I get softly snubbed at and toddler-zoned by the adorable kids who have attention span that can only last for the next three minutes. And, physically ready to sing and dance the morning off with children who seem to never ran out of energy in the body.

So I have imagined myself standing at the middle of the classroom, surrounded by little boys and girls, running around, too carefree to care, and too energetic to give some quite seat time with a first-timer Sunday School teacher. But I was, somehow at some point, proven wrong. Behind the angelic smiles and strong personalities of the bully-looking, are hearts so pure and so innocent. Hearts who recognize that they do (and need to) love Jesus above all else. I was talking with one of the girls. She was showing me all that her mom has bought for her. I asked, “Your mom loves you so much. Is she your best friend?” She said “No”. I asked, “Who then?”. She answered “Jesus. I talk to Him”. I was surprised and humbled. “What did Jesus tell you?”. She answered, “that He died for our sins”. I could not be more blessed with this 4-year old girl. I asked if she considers her mom her best friend because of the material things provided to her, but her answer reflected the most important thing which the world should be grateful for: Jesus Christ, who gave us the gift of eternal life, which no human being can ever give you. Wow! Teacher learned from baby girl!

Praise God for that day! It was a privilege to have served my Master by serving His dearly loved children. It’s a joy for an unworthy servant like me, who has only been qualified by His grace alone. I did not only teach, but I also learned! 

A beloved sister of mine once said, “Sometimes, all you need to do is ‘say yes’”. And so, I realized. The only thing I did was to say “yes”! Regardless of the forecast busy schedule at work and the fact that I am not a pre-school teacher. I said “yes” out of my desire to enjoy the company of little kids. I said “yes” even though I think I was not prepared enough. I said “yes” because I know it’s God’s work, and I was just an instrument to fulfill His purpose. I said “yes” even if it means saying “no” to reading a favorite book, or watching an episode of a favorite soap opera because I had to study the lesson plan instead. I said “yes” even if at that moment, I did not yet see that saying “yes” to teaching those kids also meant saying “yes” to the overflowing joy brought about from an incomprehensible 1 hour and 30 minutes pre-school teaching experience; when I did not know that saying “yes” to first time experience, meant saying “yes” for more things to learn and look forward to from that one-baby-step I took.

This is God’s Word to the people whom He has called to rebuild the temple in the book of Haggai:

“But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the LORD. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” – Haggai 2:4