Read Philippians 3:1 (ESV)
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
How is Paul trying to keep the Philippians safe?
As a parent, I often get tired of repeating myself. Constantly reminding my kids to shut the door, pick up after themselves, or stop running in the house drives me crazy. But there are other reminders that I don’t get tired of saying because they are important. These reminders are the ones that I am hoping will keep my kids safe. “Buckle your seatbelts,” “always tell me where you are going,” “don’t catch a ride from strangers,” “stay away from drugs and alcohol,” etc. It is no trouble for me to continually remind my kids about these things. In fact, I’ll keep reminding them no matter how many times they roll their eyes at me. I just want to protect them.
In today’s verse, Paul gave a command to the Philippians and then said that what he is repeatedly writing to them is for their own safety. But it may seem like the two ideas don’t really go together. Let’s look at it more closely and see if we can catch his train of thought.
First, Paul said to “rejoice in the Lord.” Now, Paul has used the word “rejoice” in his letters over and over again. Usually, Paul is making the point that no matter what his earthly circumstances are, he can rejoice. His joy does not depend on whether he is in need or plenty, whether he is free or bound, whether he is being praised or criticized, whether he is experiencing comfort or torture. His joy is rooted deeply in the Lord. Once again, Paul is urging the Philippians to find their joy in Jesus Christ.
But what does that have to do with keeping the Philippians safe? Well, reminding them to rejoice in the Lord is not the only advice that Paul kept reiterating. Throughout his letters, Paul repeatedly warned the early church to be aware of false teachers. Tomorrow, we will study Philippians 3:2 but I’ll share it with you today because that context will help you understand how rejoicing in the Lord kept the Philippians safe. “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision…” (Philippians 3:2).
Who are these dogs? They are false teachers. So Paul’s thinking for today’s verse goes something like this: root your joy deeply in the Lord so that you will not fall prey to false teaching.
Friends, rejoicing in the Lord can keep us safe from the “dogs” of today. For example, if I find my joy in the Lord, I won’t be vulnerable to the idea that my identity is wrapped up in my career, my gender, my race, or my sexuality. I won’t fall into the trap of thinking I’d be happier if only I could do everything I wanted and be whoever I wanted to be. I’d find my joy in following Jesus Christ in all my ways and seeking His will for my life. If I am rejoicing in the Lord, I won’t find my value or my worth in legalism or my own works. I will find it in the salvation Jesus won for me on the cross and offered to me by His grace. Our joy is not found in legalism or license. It is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and when we understand that, it acts as a safeguard to protect our hearts and minds from being conformed to the world’s false ideas. So today and always, rejoice in the Lord and beware of the dogs! Paul didn’t get tired of saying it and neither do I. It's for your own safety!
Lord, this world offers a lot of options that claim to bring me joy but they always come up empty. My joy is rooted firmly in You and Your Word. Safeguard my heart and mind from false teachers so that I will not stumble. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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