This week I merged onto a highway and noticed a motorhome was behind me. For a brief moment something seemed out of place. The front tire from the distance and through my rear and side mirrors appeared to be wobbling badly. It looked like a new motorhome. Slowing down I noticed something that could have been disastrous for the elderly driver and spouse. Thinking about this situation I was wondering how many people never noticed or even worse did nothing about it. It reminded me of the need to be alert.
It is easy to let down our guard. It could be that we want something so badly that we ignore the obvious issues. It could be that we don’t have the time and just ignore something. Or it could be that we are so wrapped up in our agenda that we are missing what be obvious to others. I was reminded from our time in Philippians this past week of our need to “Stay Alert.” The apostle Paul reminded these followers of Jesus and us, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” (Philippians 3:2). He was reminding believers of the dangers that lurk around every corner. His admonition was not to live in fear, but to be alert. The danger here was professing “Christian” teachers that were mixing the truth from the Bible with error.
The best we can understand is that the church was under attack from those who were supposed “Jewish” followers of Jesus. Now let us not forget that almost all of the original followers of Jesus were Jewish. What made these individuals dangerous was they attempted to make works, obeying the Old Testament commands a part of the message of salvation. The heresy was that they were actually destroying the good news message of Jesus that salvation comes by faith alone. I am reminded of one of many teachings from Jesus, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47) These individuals became known a “Judaizers” because of their emphasis on obedience to the Mosaic law. There is only one problem, Jesus’ work on the cross had fulfilled the Old Testaments requirements. Paul reminds us of this great truth when he wrote to the believers in Rome, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6).
I want you to notice in Philippians 3:2 how seriously Paul takes this false teaching. First, he refers to them as “dogs.” This was a racial slur that was frequently used by Jews of gentiles. Paul uses it to speak of how despicable these false teachers are. Second, he calls what they are doing for what it is, evil (evildoers). These individuals were not innocent, they were guilty of promoting a false Gospel. You and I have become too soft at times and compromising with evil. We need to be alert and understand that any message that comprises the message of Jesus is evil. And third, he goes to another level and refers to them as mutilators of the flesh. One of the practices of the Judaizers was a requirement for men to be circumcised. Paul was not being sacrilegious he was pointing out the evil. Dealing with this situation in the Galatian church Paul responded this way, “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” Galatians 5:12) This is a blunt statement that they would castrate themselves!
The best protection for followers of Jesus is to be in the Word each day. We also need to call evil as evil. Paul reminded the Ephesian church, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)
The situation on the motorhome was very serious. The wobbling was a bulge on the front tire the size of half a baskeball. I was able to get the drivers attention and he was able to get it taken care of….. I wonder how many times we are unaware of the danger we are in.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson