Summary: If you want the joy of your relationship with Christ back, beware of the legalists and simply believe in Christ. Stop trying to live up to someone's performance standards and simply trust Christ with your life.
In our lawsuit-happy culture, American companies must go to great lengths to avoid lawsuits, and they do it by putting some of the strangest warning labels on their products. Every year, the Center for America sponsors the Wacky Warning Labels Contest, looking for what it calls “the most absurd and silly warning labels attached to everyday products.”
One of last year’s (2015) winners had this warning on a one-inch tall water-absorbent grow toy that looks like the Easter Bunny: “This toy is in no way intended to represent living people. Any resemblance is purely coincidental and not intended to harm anyone.”
In 2014, the Wacky Warning Label winner was found on a cellphone battery booster. It said: “Get Rid of Children”.
Previous year’s winners included the following warning labels: “Remove child before folding” – a warning found on a baby stroller; “Danger: Avoid Death” – a warning label on a small tractor; “Harmful if swallowed” – a warning found on a brass fishing lure with a three-pronged hook; A wood router included the following warning label: “This product is not intended for use as a dental drill”; and finally, “May cause drowsiness” – a warning label for Nytol One-a-Night sleeping pills. (www.centerforamerica.org/wwl_11/)
Sometimes, the rules and regulations some of us adopt for our own spiritual growth can sound as ridiculous as these wacky warning labels. As a result, many Christians don’t enjoy being a Christian anymore. In their quest for holiness, they have adopted so many rules, or they have tried to conform to so many performance demands, that they have lost the joy of their relationship with Christ.
Do you want the joy of your relationship with Christ back? Do you want to enjoy being a Christian again? Then I invite you to turn with me to Philippians 3, Philippians 3, where the Bible tells us how to find that joy again.
Philippians 3:1 Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! [Find your joy in Christ, not in rules and regulations. Find your joy in the Lord, not in the Law.] To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
In other words, what I am about to say is going to protect you from losing your joy.
Philippians 3:2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. (ESV)
Do you want to enjoy being a Christian again? Then, 1st of all…
BEWARE OF LEGALISTS.
Watch out for those who define Christianity in terms of keeping a list of do’s and don’ts. Guard yourself against those who insist on a performance based Christianity. Stay away from those who would steal your joy and replace it with judgment, because you don’t keep their rules.
The fact is we’ve had to watch out for these kind of people ever since the church began. When Gentiles first started believing in Jesus (Acts 10ff), some Jewish Christians didn’t like it. Oh, they thought it was fine that Gentiles were coming to faith in Christ. But they insisted that those Gentiles also had to keep the Jewish law in order to be accepted in the Church. They had to be circumcised; they had to keep the Sabbath – i.e., worship on Saturday; and they couldn’t eat pork; etc.
The early church called them Judaizers, because they insisted that Gentiles had to become Jews in order to become good Christians. In other words, they were saying that faith in Christ is not enough. You must believe, sure. But you must believe AND do something else.
These Judaizers would follow Paul around and teach his new converts, “You believe in Jesus – that’s nice, but that’s not enough. If you really want to be close to God, you must believe AND be circumcised; you must believe AND keep the Old Testament dietary laws; you must believe AND worship on Saturday; you must believe AND follow all the rules.” So Paul warns these new Philippian Believers, “Watch out for these kind of people.”
And we still need to watch out for these kind of people today. There are people, today, who will tell you that faith in Christ is not enough. “Oh, it’s fine as a start, but you must believe AND be baptized. You must believe AND speak in tongues in order to be really close to God. You must believe AND follow all of our rules.” Watch out for those who say, “You must believe AND do something else,” no matter what that something else is.
Why? Because they will destroy your joy. They will ruin you, spiritually. Paul calls them “dogs,” in verse 2, “evil workers,” and “mutilators of the flesh.” Now, Paul doesn’t have in mind the nice, pet golden retriever, who’s so nice and gentle with children. No. The dogs in Paul’s day were wild, scavengers, that tore up everything they could get a hold of. They were dangerous animals!