Good morning and welcome to Friday’s podcast. This is my final offering for the week. I have really enjoyed looking at the book of Philippians with you. Next week Helen takes over and she always has something to share that is worth listening to.
Today we have reached Philippians 3. Our reading is verses 1-6. Yesterday’s passage concerned the comings and goings of Epaphroditus and Paul’s travel plans. Today there is a shift in Paul’s thinking… let’s look at verses 2-3
Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.
All of us at one time or another have had a complete change in our lives. A transition moment. There is starting primary school, moving house, leaving home, becoming a Christian, starting a new job or making a new life after the death of a loved one. The moments when we transition from one way of life or way of being in the world and we have to take on a completely new set of norms.
New phases of our life can be tough, they always require a period of readjustment where the way life once worked can no longer be taken for granted and as much as we might want to go back… we cannot. We have to push forward and figure out how life works now, in this new season with a new set of circumstances.
These transition moments are all on a personal level but there are the same transitions at national or international levels. Think Brexit… Think 9/11… Think the technological revolution… Moments when our thinking, our practices and our place in the world are all shaken and redefined.
Paul lived and wrote in one of these transition moments … and as Christians we believe that this was THE moment in history when everything shifted and changed throughout the world, whether the world recognised it or not. And for Paul, a devout Jewish man, the entire knowledge and understanding of how the world worked, the Jews place in the world and their relationship with God… wasn’t just being tweaked a little… it was totally turned upside-down, inside-out, back to front, head over heels, round and round until no-one knew which way was up.
Circumcision, sacrifice, offerings, temple, priests, festivals, religion, salvation, redemption… all of it totally and forever changed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
Those that clung to the old ways, the familiar ways, the tried and tested ways… Paul brands them dogs and evil-doers – particularly poignant as this was the way that Jews could be heard referring to non-Jews! Those who were on the outside were now on the inside and those who were convinced they were on the inside were being told they were out.
Paul goes on to say, it is we who are the circumcision… not that the Christians had undergone this religious practice but that the crucifixion of Jesus had opened up relationship with God to the whole world and what’s more it wasn’t something that they had done or was done by human hands… God himself, made relationship possible.
So in this crazy new world… who is in? Well Paul is quite clear… it’s those who serve God through the Spirit.
So how about us, what does this mean today?
Well, the old currency of earning God’s favour… that’s gone!
But Lord, we have to pray lots, read the Bible every day, and go to church every Sunday, right? Otherwise you won’t bless us… Er… no! But Lord we must do great things for you? Jesus answers in Matthew 7:22:
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Paul writes that what is important is “serving God through his Spirit.” Or to put it another way… Hearing God… doing what he asks of us.
At STC we have a couple of questions that help us focus on serving God through his Spirit… “What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it?”
If together we can confidently and consistently answer these two questions and follow through by taking action then all of heaven will break loose, our lives will radically change and the kingdom will come. The problem is that we don’t often listen… and if we do then we can easily be distracted or talk ourselves out of following God’s voice.
So whether life is ticking along as normal, we are familiar with the pattern and routine of our days, weeks, months and years, or whether we find ourselves in one of those transition moments… two questions… What is God saying to you? and what are you going to do about it? Armed with these two questions and the Spirit of the living God we will not go far wrong!
Father, thank you that we do not have to earn our relationship with you. Instead, help us to hear your voice, help us to ‘know’ what you want us to do today, who you want us to speak to and when we need to stand and allow you to act rather than trying to fix it on our own. Help us father to people who hear your word and do it, all for the glory of Jesus Christ, your son, Amen.
BIBLE READING: Philippians 3:1-6
Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh – though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put 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; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.