The question for today is: Who do you listen to? The world or, the Spirit of God?
Before we continue on with Philippians, first things first, before I continue. I am not a Bible scholar. I don’t have a degree in theology. I am just a woman who desperately wants to understand the Bible and develop a deeper walk with Jesus. I try my best to state truth and understanding. I pray that anything I say here that is untrue or misunderstood will be forgotten and only the good stuff is remembered.
We continue in Philippians 3 today. Paul opens with “Rejoice in Him” but then quickly turns his attention to a stern warning to believers. Let’s unpack Chapter 3.
Scripture: Slowly read and color-code Philippians 3:1-3. Paul says in verse 1 he rejoices in writing to the people of Philippi. It doesn’t bother him to write the same thing over and over again. Again, this is where I want to be like Paul because I hate repeating myself. (I am a work in progress.)
Paul quickly turns his attention to the dogs of the faith. He is warning us not to listen to false teachers or prophets. He calls them dogs. This is a reference to Isaiah 56:10 where these false prophets are also called “dumb dogs”.
Flip to Isaiah 56:10 and color-code it as well. Paul says in verse 2 “…lookout for those who mutilate the flesh.” This could be interpreted in many different ways but reading on in verse 3 Paul explains “For we [Christians] are the true circumcision who worship God in Spirit…” Mutilating the flesh refers to actual circumcisions performed on males in the day, which was the Law during that time. It pronounced that you were a “proper and law-abiding” Hebrew who followed the Laws. It was one of many religious Laws of the day.
Please understand this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t perform circumcisions today. It means we are to be careful of all the rules put in place by religious leaders that demand we follow to prove we are the “perfect Christian.” If a church requires you to do something to prove you are church-worthy, they aren’t being very Christian. A modern example is demanding tithe of a certain amount. Again, tithing is good. The Church does much good such as community outreach, food drives, etc., but demanding an arbitrary amount to prove you belong to a church is wrong.
Scripture: Continue reading 3:4-7 Paul explains that he was circumcised at age eight. He was a good little Hebrew observing all the Laws. He had a zeal for persecuting followers of Christ and upheld the Law’s standard of righteousness. But admits he missed the point completely.
Observation: In verse 3, Paul instructs us as Christian what we should do: “…put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances.” Though we rely on our flesh to physically complete tasks, we are not to rely on only ourselves. God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to rely on Him alone, not false idols—and not on false doctrine! He wants us to depend on him like a vine attached to the branch. We are a vine bearing fruit to Jesus’ branch and God’s tree. (also see John 15:5)
Paul continues in verse 6 that “…I was proven blameless and no fault found in me” when he was upholding these Laws. But in verse 7 he admits he lost for Christ’s sake. He lost out by following the false Laws of the day. He followed the wrong path. He listened to false teaching and was suckered.
Are you following the wrong people, church, political affiliation? These are all important questions to ask in today’s climate.
Scripture: Explore and color code 3:8-21. Pay close attention to Paul comparing this life obsessing over the Law to his life following Jesus Christ.
I used teal color-coding for the hypocrisy and sin Paul showed by following false teachings, blue is for the wisdom he gained when he realized he was on the wrong path; and I used a lot of pink where Paul is proclaiming the relationship aspect God wants with us. That is very good news and pink is the color I chose for love, kindness, dreams, and joy.
Observation: Paul counts a loss for the good of “…knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him and understanding Him more clearly.”
Paul’s ultimate goal is to have a relationship with God! That should be our goal as well. We shouldn’t be so concerned with the rules. And I say that as a life-long rule follower! The relationship is where it is at. It’s where it all began in the Garden. It is why He chases us so.
Paul understands the importance of that relationship. He wants to be “in the right standing with God.” Don’t we all?
Paul made mistakes. Huge mistakes. At the end of his life, Paul’s ultimate desire is to be standing in God’s presence and say, “Here I am.” I made mistakes but I am yours.
What else do we learn Paul wants?
- “…possessing that which comes through faith in Christ” verse 9
- To know Him fully
- To know the power of Christ’s resurrection
- To attain being risen from the dead
- Forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead
- Have a fully matured and full-grown spirit and mind
- Hold true to what he has learned and fall forward following the examples
of those before him (us)
Observation: The takeaway is this: we are all sinners. We have made past mistakes and will continue to make more. As long as we press forward with a relationship with God, at the end of the day we can say, “I am yours, dear Lord.” Paul has a strong transformation and lust for God. He is passionate and ever-focused on what matters most. Relationship with God.
Are you living a relationship with God?
Application: In what areas of your life do you see a lack of a relationship with God? Do you turn to worldly advice before praying? Are you a rule-follower for the sake of your relationship with the One who made you? What steps can you take to move down a different path—to seek the One who seeks you?
Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for the word from Paul. The transformation You completed in him is inspiring. Lord I ask the strength to be more like Paul. I want desperately to have a relationship with You, O Lord. Renew in me a heart filled with faith and perseverance like Paul. In God’s name, I pray, Amen.
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