The Joy of Being a True Believer                                   click here for audio

Philippians 3:1-6

As we begin the 3rd chapter we are reminded again of the theme of Philippians –  Joy!    Verse 1 “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord.”    This JOY is found in Christ.   “rejoice in the Lord”.     It’s not related to our circumstances.   That would be “happiness”.  Happiness depends upon what happens.  Happiness is tied to the circumstances of life.      Christian Joy is a deep emotion that is unmoved by current events.   We may be grieving, experiencing heavy burdens and feeling sad about something, yet deep inside we have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that produces joy.   It’s what Jesus meant when he said in John 16:33:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Paul’s focus was on two Christian brothers in the closing part of chapter 2.   Timothy and Epaphroditus.  Timothy was going to be sent by Paul, if it was the leading of the Lord, to visit with the church at Philippi.   Paul said, there’s no one else like Timothy.  Timothy has the interest of the Lord in his heart and has genuine concern for the church at Philippi.   Epaphroditus was a good servant. He almost worked himself to death serving on behalf of the church at Philippi. He was so sick to the point of almost dying, but the Lord had mercy on him.

Now as we come to chapter 3 Paul turns his attention to an important matter that he has already dealt with before. He begins with  “Finally”.   He’s not wrapping the letter up.   That’s not the meaning.  It means  “furthermore”  or   “so then” or   “now then”.  It’s a transition word to some important issues.

Nothing is as important as to know where you stand with the Lord.  Do you really know Christ as your Lord and Savior?   Are you a true believer in Christ.     What actually is it that puts a person in a right relationship with God?   How can I know that I’m saved?

Why are we visiting this subject again?    We’ve been here time and time again.   Why do we talk about it so much?

 

REPETITION FOR SAFETY

Important things must be repeated.  If you’re traveling down a stretch of highway and there’s a bridge out,  it would be nice to have some warnings along the way.    Not just one sign, but several signs because we don’t catch it the first time.     It would be helpful to get repeated warnings about what might happen if I continue to take this, chew this, or smoke this over a period of time.  Regardless if you’re talking about traffic concerns, or health concerns, or matters that relate to life-threatening weather conditions, repeated warnings are essential.

The Apostle Paul is saying, “to write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.”     Listen, Paul says, “I have no problem going over the same thing again.  Actually, it’s no trouble for me, because I want you to be safe.  I want you to be clearly warned.”

Paul must have gone over this important issue when he was with them several years before he was imprisoned in Rome.  What do you think it was?   What was so important that he had to write again for their own safety?

It’s not hard to figure out.     Look at v.2

                          Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

 

Three times we see  “look out!”   BEWARE!      “look out!”     “look out!”   “look out!”

Three descriptive words   “dogs,  evildoers,  those who mutilate the flesh”.     The 3 descriptions speak of one group of people.

There is a group to “look out” for;     There are those we must  “beware of”.

 

The good group is found in v.3         “For we are the circumcision…”     NASB says  “we are the true circumcision”.  There are 3 descriptions for this group:  

For we are the circumcision,

  • who worship by the Spirit of God
  • and glory in Christ Jesus
  • and put no confidence in the flesh—

 

Here’s the issue –      There were those who falsely taught people  to be saved they must not only accept Christ as Lord and Savior, but they must also submit to Jewish customs and religious observances.  They insisted all Gentiles adopt the practice of circumcision.      Issue –  what makes a person right with God?

 

 

  1. Purpose of Circumcision
  2. Outward Physical Circumcision – A Covenant Sign to Abraham and his descendants

Genesis 17

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Abraham was obedient and carried out the Lord’s command.    But the outward physical surgery did not sufficiently produce a change in a person’s life. That’s why the Lord God said this in Deuteronomy 30:6:

  1. Inward Spiritual Circumcision

Deuteronomy 30:6

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

It’s only until the Lord changes a person on the inside that a true love for God can be seen.  Here we see God performing a sovereign act upon the sinner.   Yet,  God commands people to circumcise their own hearts as seen in Jeremiah 4:4.

Jeremiah 4:4.

Circumcise yourselves to the Lord;     remove the foreskin of your hearts,     O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire,     and burn with none to quench it,     because of the evil of your deeds.”

 

Putting ones trust in the outward physical procedure, along with the ceremonies, rituals of the Old Covenant is what Paul is speaking about when he says…

“we put no confidence in the flesh”.    No outward physical sign will compensate for the inside surgery of the Sprit.

Romans 2:25-29

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

 

  1. A Description of the False Believers who pervert the Gospel
  2. DOGS – This is not a house pet.  The word is for such dogs that roamed in packs and were dangerous because they carried disease and rabies. They were vicious scavengers.   It was a termed the Jews used for Gentiles.

Matthew 7:6     give not that which is holy to dogs…”

Matthew 15:21  It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”   (little dogs  house pets  )

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Isaiah 56:10-11 – God calls the prophets / shepherds of Israel /  those called to be watchman….warn people of spiritual danger …..dumb dogs

 10 His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.  11 Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.

Psalms 22:16     For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

DOGS:   The very term Jews called pagans and Gentiles,  Paul calls the Jews who insisted that circumcision was required to be saved.  They are called Judaizers.   They were vicious.  They twisted the gospel, and turned the pure grace of God into another gospel.

Revelation 22:14-15

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

 

When Paul says –   beware (look out) for the dogs –  he is referring to the Jewish teachers who perverted the gospel by insisting Gentile Christians be circumcised in order to be saved.           This was dealt with in ACTS 15… church council in Jerusalem…

  1. EVIL DOERS – 2Cor. 11:13  For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

Paul calls them “evil doers”.    It is doing evil when you attached anything else to the work of the cross of Christ.  Whenever you lift up anything else  ….or exalt anything else….  Above the work of Calvary…  it’s evil…   we are saved by Christ alone!      To attach anything to the cross  is to pervert the gospel of Christ.

Adding anything to the gospel is to have  NO GOSPEL.

To say – you must be saved by the blood of Christ,  and you must be baptized to be saved also… is ADDING to the Gospel

To say – you must be saved by the blood of Christ,  and you must be a member of this particular church group…. Is ADDING to the Gospel.

To say— you must be saved by the blood of Christ,  and you must live a good life that’s pleasing to God to be saved….is ADDING..

 

  1. Mutilate the flesh – some translations   “concision.”   Or  “false circumcision”.     Paul would not call them circumcision.  Nothing wrong with circumcision, but if you are insisting that  Christ alone is not sufficient for salvation…then your circumcision is just a concision,  you’re just mutilating the flesh, and it has no value toward God at all.

When Gentiles gave in to those Jewish teacher who insisted they too must be circumcised,  it was like following the customs of the pagans who believed by mutilating the flesh they were gaining acceptance with their false gods.

 

III.     Description of True Believers

WHO ARE THE TRUE BELIEVERS?       TRUE CHRISTIANS?      TRUE CIRCUMCISION?

 

V.3   For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

Matthew Mead – a puritan – wrote a book in 1661   The Almost Christian Discovered.[1]  He gives a list describing the person who is “almost a Christian”. Outwardly,  they give appearance of being a Christian, but it’s only an outward display.

“A man may have much knowledge about Christ and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may have a great and eminent gift, yet be but almost a Christian.” He means by that a speaking gift, a leadership gift.

“A man may have a high profession of religion. He may be much in external duties of goodness and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may go far in opposing his own sin and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may hate sin and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may make great vows and promises, strong purposes and resolutions against his sin and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may maintain a strife and a combat against sin and yet be but almost a Christian.

“A man may be a member of the church and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may have great hopes of heaven and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may under visible changes, altered life and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may be very zealous in matters of religion and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may be much in prayers and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may even suffer for Christ’s sake and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may outwardly obey the commandments and yet be but almost a Christian. A man may perform external worship yet be but almost a Christian. And a man may have faith and yet be but almost a Christian.”              THIS IS  QUITE A LIST!     You would think you’re describing a true Christian.

 

A person may go through all the externals….. all the outward expressions of religious activities ….  Go through all the motions  and YET NOT BE A CHRISTIAN.

 

V.3   For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

#1 –  Worship by the Spirit of God.

Worship is prompted by the Spirit of God.    It’s not generated by the FLESH.     Not produced by man.

Romans 8:8-9     Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

John 4 –  woman at the well….   Jesus told her –  they that worship God..  must worship in Spirit and in Truth

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

SAMARITANS — Mt Gerizim  (place)   only believed the Pentateuch   (1st five books of OT)     TRUTH   

Jesus –  not even in Jerusalem –  70 AD  temple destroyed..            NOT ABOUT a PLACE….     IN YOU…   Spirit of God in YOU.

1Cor. 6:19   19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

NOT LIMITED TO  SUNDAY MORNING  WORSHIP SERVICE…………..  IT’S YOUR WHOLE LIFE….

Romans 12:1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.    (your reasonable service)

Worship includes your day by day  SERVICE….   We serve the LORD  every DAY!      It’s not just a Sunday event.

HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE ARE WORSHIPING BY THE SPIRIT?

Galatians 5:22

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;

Is there love for God?         Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind

Is there joy?     Is there A joyful delight that goes up to Christ,  and to God our Father?

Is there peace?      An inner peace, confidence that we have in the Lord?

 

#2 – We Boast in Christ Jesus

and glory in Christ Jesus  (v.3)

We boast in Christ Jesus

Galatians 6:11-15

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

I Cor. 1:31

 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

 

There’s no boasting in our spiritual achievements;     our accomplishments…

We make much of Christ!      Our ministry is a Christ-exalting ministry!        Our life is a Christ-exalting life.

We spend our days  BRAGGING on Jesus!    It’s all about HIM !

Titus 3:5

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

 

Nothing in my hand I bring;  Simply to Thy Cross I cling

 

#3   PUT NO CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH

put no confidence in the flesh

This is WHY   we    boast in Christ,   because we have NO confidence in the flesh—  the unredeemed humanness…

 

vv.3d-6

……….. and put no confidence in the flesh—

though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people 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 righteousness under the law, blameless.

 

Don’t put confidence in…..

  1. Ritual
  2. Ethnicity
  3. Rank
  4. Tradition
  5. Rule keeping
  6. Zeal
  7. Obedience to the law

 

[1] https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/50-30/the-distinctive-qualities-of-the-true-christian-part-4