Summary: Learn two key truths that will help you fall in love with Jesus Christ again
This morning’s passage calls us to return to the joy and the basics of our faith. Do you remember when you first received Christ into your life? For some of you, the heaviness and the guilt from your life before were lifted, and you felt clean, inside and out. For others of you, being in God’s care and plan meant that you were no longer without meaning and purpose.
Still for others, your anxiety about death was replaced with the assurance of eternal life with your Creator in Heaven. You were at peace with God. Some of you experience an unconditional love and acceptance that you only dreamt about, but you never received from your friends, co-workers or family. And that brought comfort to your heart and tears to your eyes.
But somehow, over the months or years, the joy of receiving Christ and having peace with God turned into a boring routine or even worse, you returned to experiences you had before you received Christ. You again feel that you alone have to carry your burdens in life. You again feel you have to work off your guilt with sacrifice and good deeds. Some of you are trying to earn God’s love and acceptance again, because as you look around at other Christians who appear free of sin, you simply can’t believe that God would love you and accept you after what you’ve done. As a result, the anxiety about death returns, because you aren’t so sure that God’s promise of eternal life in Heaven applies to you anymore, since you haven’t held up your end of the relationship.
If what I’ve described sounds anything like what you’re experiencing, Paul wants you to return to the basics of our faith, which is also the path to the joy of our faith. Let’s begin by looking at this morning’s passage, Philippians 3:1-6.
I’m going to focus our study on verses 1-3 and glance at verses 4-6. Paul points out that what he repeats is a safeguard to the Philippians. In chapter 1, verses 27-28, Paul encouraged the Philippians with these words, "Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you."
The safeguard was against false teaching that entered the Philippi Community Christian Church in the absence of their pastor. The false teachers were probably Judaizers, who were teaching that a right relationship with God through Christ has to first meet the requirements of the Jewish laws, including circumcision.
In Genesis 17, God made a covenant with Abraham to be his God, and Abraham and all his descendents and their households would be God’s chosen people to demonstrate God’s goodness to all the other nations. The sign of those who belong to this covenant is circumcision. All male descendents of Abraham and their households, who are eight days old, would be circumcised to indicate they are among God’s chosen people.
By the time of Paul, circumcision no longer was a sign of an intimate relationship between the Jews and God, but this practice became a requirement in order to have an intimate relationship with God. This was an abuse of God’s original intent. Paul called the Judaizers dogs, evildoers and mutilators of the flesh, because they had turned God’s circumcision into a requirement for a right relationship with God.
Someone tells about a wealthy man’s wife, who was dying. She was a very wise lady, and her last wish was to have a portrait of her painted. But she wanted the painter to paint a tremendously large diamond ring on her finger. The diamond on that ring, if it had been real, would have cost more than the husband’s entire fortune.
Soon after she died, her husband got engaged to a young girl half his age. Before she would marry him, she required that he give her the diamond ring she saw in the painting of his wife.
The diamond ring, in American culture, is a sign of an existing intimate relationship moving toward marriage. But when the ring becomes a requirement for a relationship to move toward marriage, wisdom would suggest you don’t have a right and healthy relationship.
In the same way, the Judaizers turned the sign into a requirement when they required the Christians at Philippi Community Christian Church to be circumcised in order to have a right relationship with God. Paul responds to the false teaching by returning circumcision to its proper place, as a sign of a right relationship with God and not a requirement for a right relationship with God. In fact, Paul points out how he possessed all the outward signs of a right relationship with God, but he warns the Philippians that outward signs are not guarantees for relational and inward realities.