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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Rise up and Walk

“1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.

2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple.

3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.

4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”

5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up,

 and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God,

10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” – Acts3:1-10

Imagine the life of this man – he is being carried daily to be put at the temple to beg (v2) which has been his case ever since he was born. What do you think would this man’s response be if you ever dare ask him about his condition? Will there be a message of hopelessness or hope? Will there be a sign of discontent or acceptance?

I was studying this chapter, and there were so many beautiful thoughts that the Lord has revealed to me about Himself. Whether seeing the story in the beggar’s point of view, Peter /John’s, or the reader’s, there is one message, among many awesome others, which stood out: It’s all about God. 🙂

Let’s first focus on the healing of the lame man. What an awesome God we have to give the beggar more than what he asked for. The man extended his hands to receive alms in order to survive yet another day, but God gave him life instead when, through Peter and John, he was healed that he may walk, live, and praise the Lord (v9a).

What does this story speak to us today?  

1. On getting healed and moving forward – a reader’s point of view.

When the power of the Lord touches us, the change will be very visible (v9a).  This is not just on the physical aspect, but on the spiritual aspect most importantly. One of my favorite authors once wrote, that when one person encounters Jesus Christ, it will be very impossible for that person’s life to be left unchanged.  Just like how the people saw the lame man already walking and praising God (v9a), a person who has truly encountered Jesus Christ will have its fruits flourish before everyone’s eyes.

When the Lord pours His spiritual healing to His chosen ones, we will see the unbeliever believe in Him. The eyes of those who are spiritually blind will be opened. The rebellious people will acknowledge God.

It will not stop in knowing the truth, in the same way that the story about the lame man does not stop at just getting healed.  The Lord brought healing to the beggar so that he could stand up, live, and bless others – not sit at the temple and continue to live his old life.

Jesus Christ did not die just to save us from the fires of hell, but in order for us to be reconciled to Him. And this reconciliation means walking with Him daily, carrying up our cross, and joyfully following His footsteps.  A person touched by God will not remain stagnant but His power will definitely move His children – to stand up and rise from where we are paralyzed.

Is there an area in our lives that is holding us back and hindering us from moving forward? God does not want us to stay there and just strive to survive.  He wants to rescue us from it so that we can begin to live.  Just as how He rescued us from our sins so we can have eternal life.  Take note of the command.  It says, “Rise up and walk”.  When being able to “rise up” signifies healing from whatever, a command to “walk” speaks of moving forward and pressing on.

2. On pressing on in order to be used as God’s instrument to bless others – the beggar and Peter’s point of view.

Once upon a time, we were like this beggar, who could only be content to ask for alms that will enable us to survive on this earth.  For as long as we can eat, and drink, and have the things which we thought mattered in this life, whether big or small, then we can sleep at night and think we are safe.  If we don’t have much, it means more work for the discontented.

Once upon a time, we may or may not have wondered, is life only about daily survival? We get what we just need for a day, or a week, or a month. We keep ourselves away from danger so we can survive.  Just like the beggar in this chapter who gets his share from temple-goers, enough to keep him breathing for the day. But is life just about that?

Now this. Once upon a time, there were people like Peter and John, whom God used to heal our blindness which disabled us from being who God designed us to be. When the Lord healed us, we saw that there is so much more than this temporary life. It’s called eternal life.  Just like the beggar who has been healed and immediately stood up, lived, and leaped to praise God, we too as Christians, who have received God’s spiritual healing, should not be stagnant but should keep moving forward and pressing on to witness and make Jesus Christ known.  We have been healed, so apart from the natural response of rejoicing about getting healed, I think we owe the world the truth – that we have a God who came to the world to heal the sick (in other words, to forgive the sinners).

The lame man has blessed the world when he uncontrollably and joyfully praised God for being physically healed. Peter has blessed me, when he pointed the world not to himself but to Jesus Christ (v16) when the world did not understand that it was God who healed the man, and not Peter nor John.

One day, the Lord brought a “Peter” into our lives, so that we will know Jesus Christ. We can also be a Peter in someone else’s life by sharing Jesus Christ to them. Not silver nor gold, but Jesus Christ – the eternal life.

Unworthy but Unconditionally Loved

It amazes me how I never leave untouched by the Word of God every time I open to read my Bible. God speaks through people and circumstances, but the bible is God’s explicit revelation about Himself.

The more I come to His Word, the more I see how loved I am by a great God, and how unfit I am of that love. God loves because He is love. We are loved for no reason but we are loved because He is love. I couldn’t agree more with A.W. Tozer when he wrote about feeling a sense of weakness when a person experiences God. He said, “I don’t think you will ever be strong until you know how utterly weak you are.  And you will never know how utterly weak you are until you have stood in the presence of that great plenitude of strength, that great fullness of infinite power that we call God”.

It’s true. We read God’s Word and we see perfection that is too hard to grasp. We see His grace to forgive our sins and the power to make us overcome sin. We come to the realization of our helplessness, and because of that, we also see God’s holiness and incomprehensible beauty all magnified and exalted.

The Bible exposes how wicked and filthy humans are, but that same message leads us not to condemn ourselves, but instead points us to a just and loving God. If I could not tell myself about how much God loved me as revealed in His Word, I would have condemned myself over and over like how I felt the first time my eyes were opened to the truth. Personally speaking, if we are still in the stage of condemning ourselves for the wrong turns we made and deliberate act of sins, we have not yet gotten the whole point. Or, did we just forget?

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him”- John 3:17

The Bible doesn’t trap us into ourselves but it saves us from ourselves as it leads us to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His saving grace. Moreover, it doesn’t stop on the message of the cross but to the revelation of its purpose. God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross so that we may be reconciled to Him. He wants us to have a relationship with Him.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

When He died on the cross and conquered death for us, we have already been redeemed from the penalty of our sins, that now we can be called His Children. We have already been reconciled to Him.  But imperfect as we are, the Lord is so faithful to remind us through His Word that every time we stumble and fall again, all we have to do is run to Him for forgiveness like how a child runs to his Papa.

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One important thing about reading and keeping the Word of God in our hearts is that: it will point our eyes back to God. How are we doing with our personal quiet time with the Lord? 🙂 

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” -Psalm 19:7 🙂