Summary: Imagine when Paul told his Jewish mother about his conversion. Imagine when his religious mother heard that her favorite son threw off all his religious accomplishments and call them “dung.” She would, no doubt, be crestfallen.
Today is Mother’s Day! Mothers need a big God. Any and every mother would have proud to have a son like Saul of Tarsus.
Find Philippians 3 with me as we are going read Saul/Paul’s profound story. Sons and daughters that are great achievers often make their parents proud. Yet, in Saul we have someone who is embarrassed by his life of achievement and success. This is highly personal moment from Paul where he tells some of the most intimate details of life. And watch later for a moment of irony where the successful son, Saul, makes his mother miserable with startling news.
Now, Mothers love to give warnings. I found some funny warnings that mother’s love to give. Listen to these. Sharon’s mother warned, “You’re not hungry. Your mouth is bored.” A grandmother said to her daughter, a new mother: “Having a toddler is like having a permanently drunk houseguest.” Melody’s mother told her, “Don’t be impressed by a man’s car – he may be living in it.”
“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 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—“ (Philippians 3:2-3).
We have all seen a sign warning us “Beware of Dog,” but this warning is a little different. Paul warns his spiritual children in verse two: “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh” (Philippians 3:2). There was a group in the church who were saying salvation is achieved by you rather than something you receive from God. Paul warns us about people who feel circumcision is the way to get right with God. So with this valuable warning in front of you, let’s see why he warns us.
1. Calculate The Change
The Apostle uses the word “count” three times in a matter of 2 verses.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).
He’s looking over the ledger of his life. A profound change has happened in Paul’s life – a transformation. And it has to do with finding something of great value: “of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8b). When the sun comes up in the morning, the beauties of the stars are no longer seen. Why is that? Because something has appeared in the sky that is a great glory.
Paul didn’t simply switch from one religion to another; instead, he came into direct contact with the Son of God Himself.
1.1 I’m Now Ashamed Where I Used to be Proud
Paul is taking stock of his life; he’s offering the insights to us of a wise man who has carefully evaluated his accomplishments: “…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: 5 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; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6)
He says in effect, “Everything that I thought was a profit I now consider loss.” Wherever Paul would go to plant churches and share Christ’s love, people followed after him like lampreys follow a shark in the ocean. No sooner than Paul leaves, they arrive to say, “Believing in Jesus is a good start but you need to add this other thing. Because it’s not until you add this other thing, that you can be certain you are safe and secure before God.” They were teaching that in addition to faith in Jesus you had to be circumcised and keep the law in order to be saved. We need this warning in our lives today. We are always in danger of attempting to save ourselves by our accomplishments and achievements. This goes to the very heart of how we see ourselves – our self worth. In contrast, Paul writes, “For we are the circumcision, who … put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). While his references are dated to a controversy in the first century, but the concept is very much alive.