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Gaining Christ (1): Who Let the Dogs Out?

McNeff, Dave
Gaining Christ  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Sermon on false teachers adding to the gospel by laws, rituals and traditions

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Gaining Christ (1): Who Let the Dogs Out? (Phil. 3:1-3) September 9, 2018 Gal 1; Acts 11; Rom 2 Read Phil 3:1-3 – “Finally” sounds like Paul’s ending the letter, but it’s more like “Continuing on.” So, let’s do a quick review. The theme of Philippians could be termed “rejoicing with the mind of Christ.” Believers are also thinkers. We are to think like Christ. And as we do, we will find a lot of joy. Phil 1 was “The Single Mind” – where Paul is single-minded in his devotion to the gospel. That drives his existence. Phil 2 -- the Submissive Mind – unity through humility as in Jesus, Paul, Tim and Epaphroditus – us as well? In chapter 3 we have the Spiritual Mind which is aimed at 1 thing – gaining Christ. So many claim, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual!” We don’t become spiritual by contemplating our navel for 1,000 years or meditation on nothingness. True spirituality is knowing Christ. Paul’s the example. He tells us his past (1-11), using the illustration of an accountant – his present (12-16), illustrated by an athlete – and his future (17-21), illustrated by an alien -- stranger. In the past he came to Christ. In the present he is becoming like Christ. In the future he will be with Christ. So, our series is gaining Christ – by coming to Him, becoming like Him and being forever with Him. Paul starts with a warning against those who mess up the gospel. Dogs, he calls them. He doesn’t tell us who let them out, but he is determined to rein them in. Paul preached salvation by grace alone, thru faith alone in Christ alone. Nothing added. But almost everywhere he went, he was followed by false teachers -- Judaizers – fellow Jews who followed him and told his converts, “Look, what Paul taught you is fine. But it doesn’t go far enough. Faith in God is good, but to be truly saved, you must be circumcised, keep the law and submit to all the regulations of the Jewish faith.” They caused untold confusion – teaching salvation by faith plus works. They had followed Paul to Antioch, to Galatia and to other places. And now they’re in Philippi. So, Paul has a twofold message to the Philippians – I. Eliminate Religion by Excising Judaizers. II. Embrace Relationship by Exalting Christ. I. Eliminate Religion by Excising Judaizers The Judaizers were religionists – like the Pharisees. It’s all about externals. Proper religion centers in Christ. But most religion is Satan’s tool to lead people away. It emphasizes works and ritual to gain God as opposed to repentance and faith in Christ. Paul uses 3 terms to describe such people and they are not complimentary. A. They are Dogs – To us dogs are pets. But in Bible times they were homeless, ravenous, dangerous creatures – scrounging for food anywhere they could find it. They were filthy and unclean. So, it’s not surprising that the Jews, who prided themselves on being God’s chosen people, referred to Gentile people as dogs. The rabbis had a saying: “The nations of the world are dogs” – not a compliment! So Paul is saying of the self-righteous Jewish do-gooders, “They call other people dogs, but it is they who are dogs. They are the ones who are unclean and dangerous and to be avoided. They are the ones who are on the outside looking in. So whatever you do, don’t go after them. They are as dangerous as a rabid dog.” Remember how awful it was in Old Yeller when that faithful old dog got rabbis and suddenly not even a family member could go near it? The older boy had to put it down. That’s Paul’s point here: “Those guys coming through may be very personable. Their manner is ingratiating and their message enticing. They talk about God; and they are so persuasive. But they are like rabid dogs. Their false message is the way of death. Look out for the dogs!” B. They are Evildoers – Literally Paul says, “Look out for evil workers.” Paul is not talking about reprobates. He’s talking about itinerant Jewish ministers who have followed him into town preaching a gospel of goodness. They are fine people. They genuinely care about others. They are sincere in saying that people must keep the Jewish traditions. Okay, so they are adding to the gospel. But is that so bad? Aren’t they at worst neutral. Paul says, “No, not just neutral, workers of evil.” Sound harsh? Try Gal 1:8: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” These were teaching salvation by grace plus circumcision and Jewish tradition. But God says, “For by grace you have been saved thru faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” Grace plus nothing. Good works matter afterward to show a genuine heart change, but they have no place in effecting salvation. To teach otherwise is to work evil. Work? Yes. They are in the church; even in the pulpit. They are working; but they are evil workers, preaching another gospel. I think of Henry Emerson Fosdick of Riverside Church in NY who rejected the idea of sin. He said, “Preaching should be personal counseling on a group scale.” Thus, he said, “All this is good sense and good psychology. Everybody else is using it, from first-class teachers to first-class advertisers. Why should so many preachers continue in such belated fashion to neglect it?" That’s what Paul would call an evil worker -- someone offering psychology – moralism! God offers cleansing and forgiveness. Huge difference. If church to you is pop psychology, you’re coming for the wrong reason. We come to hear a word from God, not to be inspired to do a little better. “Look out for evil workers.” C. They are Mutilators – “Look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” A little history. Circumcision was, of course, the sign to the Jews of their covenant with God starting from Abe on. It was a special Jewish rite. But after Jesus’ time, the gospel began to spread. Against his own first inclination, Peter himself was sent to the first Gentiles in Acts 10. When he reported back to the Jewish Xns in Jerusalem, there was an uproar. How could these unclean Gentiles be considered Xns without first becoming Jews which meant being circumcised and committing to Jewish temple traditions. Peter originally had the same objection but was told 3 times in Acts 11:9b, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Further, Acts 11:16, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” The issue of Gentiles coming to faith in Christ by grace alone thru faith alone was settled from the very beginning. But it didn’t stay settled. The Judaizers, who rejected that decision, followed Paul everywhere – so in Acts 15 Peter and Paul convened a church council in Jerusalem which affirmed the original decision. Salvation is by grace thru faith alone -- circumcision not required. Yet the Judaizers persisted. So Paul warns, “Look out for those who mutilate the flesh” (2c). “Mutilate” is a play on words. The non-negotiable “work” in the Judaizer’s bag was what? Circumcision -- the Jewish sign of the covenant with God. To be “in” you had to be circumcised – Greek word, περιτομη. Mutilation is a similar word – κατατομη. So Paul is saying, “These guys think they are περιτομη because they emphasize circumcision. But they’re really κατατομη! Not circumcised but mutiliated. Why? Because it was all outward. Outward circumcision without heart commitment was useless. So their circumcision was mutilation. He clarifies fully in Rom 2:28, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.” Even in the OT God often warned that the Israelites were to be circumcised in the heart. Now – to those who would add circumcision as a requirement for salvation he says, “They are just mutilators of the flesh. Don’t go there. Not necessary. In fact, trust in that outward sign and you’ve mutilated not just your body but the gospel itself.” Was circumcision good in OT times? Yes – but only as it reflected a changed heart. Same with baptism today. Is baptism good? Yes – but only as it reflects a changed heart. So when the Roman Catholic church, for example, says it is grace, yes, but grace plus baptism that saves – Look out. You’ve just changed the gospel. As an outward indication of an inward commitment, it’s great. As a means of salvation, it is anathema. To any gospel other than by grace alone through faith alone, Paul says, “Look out. Look out. Look out.” I remember pitching a ball one time when playing Am Legion. It was a fast ball, and I felt it slip as soon as I let it go. I hollered, “Look out,” but the batter didn’t have time to duck. It hit him in the batting helmet and knocked him out cold. He was rushed to the hospital still unconscious. Fortunately, next day, he was okay. But when you hear “Look out,” you assume danger is on the way, right? So Paul’s 3-fold warning is like saying, “These religionists who teach salvation by works and ritual are a fastball aimed straight at your head. Get out of the way. They look good, but they kill – eternally. Look out!” II. Embrace Relationship by Exalting Jesus The antidote to religion – relationship. It’s not what you are, but whose you are. You are the true circumcision – circumcised in the heart – by grace through faith. Paul gives three ways to embrace that truth – to live it out. A. Worship by the Spirit – You are those who worship by the Spirit. It’s not about outward ritual; it’s about the heart. Ritual that reflects a changed heart is great. Otherwise, it’s useless. So worship in spirit – from inside out! Jesus said in Jn 5:23b: “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” That’s true believers. They are not about religion by doing; they are in a relationship by faith. So no good works? Of course, good works. Believers are doers – but their good flows naturally from a heart of love for a God who has saved them – not used a means to win God’s favor. They are motivated by the indwelling HS and are themselves an act of worship. Legal worship is outward acts restricted to certain times and places. True worship happens all the time in a lifestyle of obedience prompted by love. Heb 13:16: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” That’s worship in the Spirit – a lifestyle that reflects a new heart and the indwelling HS. B. Glory in Christ – Who are the true circumcision? Those who glory in Christ. “Glory” could also be translated “boast.” Their relationship with God is thru Him, not something they do! Paul loves to boast in Christ. I Cor 1:29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” It’s all of Him and none of us. We must not let someone put the burden of religion on us. Religion is a dead-end street. It will always leave you wondering, “Have I done enough.” King Louis XIV of France was on his deathbed. He was conscious-stricken as he thought back on his dissolute life. He asked his priest, Pere Tellier, to give him absolution. Tellier asked, “Do you suffer much?” Louis replied, “No. That is what troubles me. I should like to suffer more for the expiation of my sins.” That is a man seeking to boast in the wrong place. He wants to do rather than accept what Jesus has done. Boast in Him for forgiveness, not yourself. All glory goes to Him. No human effort allowed. “My hope is built on nothing less / Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; / I dare not trust the sweetest frame, / But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. / On Christ the solid rock I stand; / All other ground is sinking sand. / All other ground is sinking sand.” That’s who we are – in Christ. C. Deny the Flesh – Paul’s final reminder who we are – those who “put no confidence in the flesh.” The flesh is who we are outside of Christ. And Paul is saying we dare not put any confidence at all in anything it does. In Rom 7:18 he says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” It’s obvious that the things that I do that are wrong are not going to help me get right with God. But until I realize that all the good things I do also fall short, I will never repent as required by God. Believers put no confidence in anything the flesh can do. Good intentions are not good enough. Only the righteousness of Christ will do – because it’s the only perfect righteousness. That alone will suffice. So rejoice in the Lord – the new name for Christ. Rejoice in Him. Glory in Him. Boast in Him. Gain Him. Jesus said in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” It’s not a matter of doing; it’s a matter of knowing. Conc – Paul’s message has a sense of urgency – “Look out. Look out. Look out.” False teacher are coming, if not already there, who will appeal to your desire to do something – to earn it – to merit salvation. They’ll make you feel good about doing good. But it will be a false sense of security. In Rotterdam, Holland, there was for many years a corner house known as “The House of a Thousand Terrors.” In the 16th century when the Dutch revolted against Philip II of Spain, Philip sent a great army to suppress the revolt. Brutality ensued as the soldiers went from house to house, searching out rebels and killing them on the spot. One group of men, women and children were hiding in the corner house when they heard the soldiers approaching. Terror gripped all of them. But one young man had an idea. He took a goat in the house, killed it, and with a broom swept the blood under the doorway into the street. The soldiers reached the home and began to batter down the door. But then they noticed the blood coming from underneath. One soldier said, “Let’s go. Look at the blood beneath the door. The work is already done here.” And that’s the gospel, Beloved. Jesus’ blood shows, the work is already done. It only remains to embrace His suffering as ours. Let’s pray.
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