The Christian Agenda

Text: Philippians 3:2-3

1. Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith. 2. Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, 4. though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

INTRODUCTION

As we have stated multiple times, the theme of Philippians is to “Rejoice In The LORD”. The Philippians joy and even assurance was been tested by false teachers that Paul refers to as ‘dogs’ due to their impure nature and disregard for truth. The false teachers, known as Judaizers, were teaching circumcision as a requirement for salvation.

Wherever Paul went, the Judaizers followed and basically tried to undermine everything that the great Apostle had taught. The conflict between the true gospel which Paul teaches and preaches and the pseudo gospel which the Judaizers were peddling comes into focus here in Philippians.

In Paul’s gospel, salvation is by grace alone, it is a free gift received by faith in the atoning work of Christ. It can never be earned or deserved and can only be received by a broken and contrite heart; by repentance toward God and faith toward the LORD Jesus Christ. Secondly, the gospel is offered to all men which is what makes it the gospel. Paul did not exclude anyone: he carried the good news to every nation and tribe. Thirdly, the gospel was God’s truth and grace in the person of Christ and once received, the gospel has a transforming effect on a person’s life. This new birth was inward and spiritual and resulted in outward transformation.

The Jews refuted all three tenants of Paul’s gospel. [1] Salvation must be earned and it begins with circumcision, the mark of the covenant. [2] Salvation is for the Jews only and the first step of becoming a Jew is circumcision. [3] Salvation is what we do for God in terms of keeping the law of Moses: it cannot be a gift. It must be earned.

So what it boils down to is the real gospel verses the false gospel that the Judaizers were teaching and real Christianity verses this blended religion. Paul premise was that a real Christian has been circumcised inwardly and of the heart and he or she does not need the outward as a proof or assurance. Circumcision was an outward ceremony and a rite that men could see; there was physical evidence but the true meaning was inward and spiritual and the Jews missed it completely.

This leads us to verse 3 which is our text for tonight..for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…[NASB]. I really like the NCV here..We are the ones who are truly circumcised. We worship God through his Spirit, and our pride is in Christ Jesus. We do not put trust in ourselves or anything we can do.

I. TRUE CIRCUMCISION

Before we get into the heart of the message, lets talk about Circumcision for a moment. The foreskin is a shelter for germs which lead to infections. I insist that all my grand sons be circumcised just as we did with our son. It has nothing to do with earning brownie points from God. It is based on hygiene and good health. I will not go into detail but I was circumcised after the age of 40 and it took care of problem I’d had for years. I think it is the best route but I did not do it to become a Jew.

Abraham began the practice in obedience to God’s command. It became the O.T. equivalent to N.T. baptism. It was an outward sign of an inward commitment. No one will be judged by circumcision, it was a spiritual rite signifying faith and obedience. I practice baptism and insist that all who confess Christ publicly follow the LORD obediently in believers baptism. If a person refuses baptism, it is a clear indication to me that they were not serious about their commitment. BUT I do not believe that Baptism saves a person. If I did, I would use every means available to get everyone I could to be baptized. I have dealt with people who were willing to be baptized but not willing to surrender to the LORDship of Jesus Christ. One of my greatest regrets is baptizing a man at his insistence. I have no assurance that this man was saved. So neither circumcision or baptism is going to save anyone and by that I mean, regenerate spiritual life within and transform their lives. Moses said to the Israelites– “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart and be no more stiff-necked.” Moses understood and so did all the prophets that circumcision must be spiritual to be real. It was the Jews who got things twisted, not their fathers in the faith.

So what it boils down to is the real gospel verses the false gospel that the Judaizers were teaching and real Christianity verses this blended religion. Paul premise was that a real Christian has been circumcised inwardly and of the heart and he or she does not need the outward as a proof or assurance.

II. WE WORSHIP IN THE SPIRIT OF GOD [NRSV]

Christian worship is unique. We don’t get into rituals or the details of doing the same thing over and over without thought. Actually, we don’t have to have a tabernacle, a temple, an altar, a communion table or any of these things. There is nothing wrong with these things but the heart of Christian worship is inward and spiritual. It is possible that a man can be in a worship center, be under the direction of a worship leader and go through and imposing liturgy and yet never be moved or stirred in his heart. We do it all the time: we sing songs and do not pay attention to the words.

I have no doubt that Worship, true worship is directed by the Holy Spirit. I don’t think we are capable of worship if left to ourselves; we desperately need the moving of the Spirit to worship. When we hear people use the term “Worship Wars” we think of worship styles and types of music but none of this is the problem. The LORD commands us again and again to sing a new song. He wants us to be creative and fresh. The real worship war is within you. You must overcome a lot of things in order to worship.

[1] First, you have to get beyond your self-consciousness. Hey this is easier said than done. If I am not careful and prayerful, I will enter a worship service thinking about myself. Let’s suppose everyone has this problem and we have 300 people gathered in the name of worship but we are all thinking about ourselves. How can we get beyond this self-centerness that is such a hindrance to worship. We must bow our heads and pray for the Spirit to interrupt us and have His will and way. I guarantee you that the average Baptist is worried about what the people next to them are thinking about them. There is much more freedom to sing when others are singing but when no one is singing we all clam up. Why, because we are self-sciousness. We are worried about what others think.

[2] Self-consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg, there are distractions galore. I am a front pew dweller. I came in late the other night because I was unable to sit and I stood in the back and tried to worship but that is all but impossible for me. I like being on the front: it is easier for me to keep my focus on Jesus in there is no one in front of me. During the last revival, I could hear people talking out loud during the praise time. I closed my eyes and prayed but I needed ear plugs. It does not take a lot to distract me. Most of the time, if I am to get into the spirit of worship, I have to close my eyes and visualize the presence of Jesus. Worship has to be inward and spiritual to be real.

[3] The third thing is our spiritual impotence. We ought to begin every worship service with and acknowledgement that the HOLY SPIRIT alone can inspire and generate worship. We are at God’s mercy, even in worship.

[4] A fourth hindrance is our attitude toward others. The Jews were professional worshippers but they had contempt and hatred for others. They despised the Samaritans who were their closes neighbors and distant kin folk. They hated Gentiles and referred to them as dogs. It doesn’t stop there, they didn’t love each other. The Jewish Religious establishment, the leaders of worship, thought more of their live stock than they did for fellow Jews. Jesus healed a man with a cripple arm on the Sabbath and this incident is what initiated the conspiracy to murder the Son of God. Jesus confronted them point blank: If you had an animal that needed water on the Sabbath, you would lead it from the stall to the water but when a fellow Jew is suffering, you cannot help because it is the sabbath. They cared more about their livestock and their worth than they did their neighbors. We come in here, with hatred for half of the community and expect to worship. It will not happen. Our attitude toward others is a huge hindrance to worship.

[5] One more hindrance and I will move on: Our Insincerity hinders our worship. We are prone to put on, to fake, to pretend and all this goes against the heart of worship. We need to get real.

III. THE THIRD DISTINGUISHING TRAIT OF A REAL CHRISTIAN IS: WE BOAST IN CHRIST ALONE.

This last point as an A and B part: First, we glory in Jesus Christ. Again, I like the NCV here, We worship God through his Spirit, and our pride is in Christ Jesus. The word Paul uses is a favorite to him; it is the Greek word kauchaomai. Paul uses this word 35 times in his epistles and it is translated a lot of different ways…Most of the time ‘boast’, ‘Exult, 3 times, ‘Take pride in’ a couple of times and also to ‘glory in’. This word can be used to describe the two extremes we face in sharing Christ: [1] One being proud self-confidence and the other [2] humble submission to God’s grace. Paul uses the word in the positive way. When he says, “We glory in…take pride in”, he is referring to Christ accomplishments. Our boasting cannot be in ourselves, that would be sin but we are free to boast in the accomplishments of Jesus.

Have you ever attempted to list the accomplishments of Jesus? We are approaching Christmas and just in light of this one day, think about what Jesus accomplished.

  1. He brought life and light into a dead and dark world.
  2. He became the center of history.
  3. He revolutionized the world’s view toward women and children.
  4. He inaugurated a movement, the church, that has lead to the founding of orphanages, hospitals, schools, ministries of mercy like the SALVATION ARMY and SAMARITAN PURSE.
  5. What does Christmas do for you and your children? Jesus brought us Christmas.
  6. Christmas alone transforms the month of December.
  7. Jesus demonstrated to us that it is more fun to give than to receive.

This list is just about Christmas.

  1. He lived a perfect life.
  2. He gave up the glory of heaven to become a man.
  3. He took our sin, shame and sorrow upon Himself.
  4. He loved everyone including His enemies, those who abused Him.
  5. He conferred Peace on all who believed.
  6. He calm seas and hearts with the power of His word.
  7. He healed the sick and raised the dead.
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