At MAKE we're so excited to be celebrating Mother's Day!! What a great chance to honour those who have born and reared us. Right from the beginning a mother sees the challenges for her child as he or she seeks to grow to their full potential.
In a similar way, the scriptures tell us that we need to be born again, by the presence of the Holy Spirit invading our lives and granting us to believe Jesus and the words he speaks (John 3:3). The apostle Paul in his supporting role to those who were born again in Philippi in the 1st century, feels some of the pains of a mother as he sees the believers growing up in their faith. He wants them to be filled with joy in following Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, but he knows there are real threats to the believers progress.
The Danger of Submitting to Man-Made Rules
In Philippians 3:2, Paul writes some quite confronting words:
'Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.'
Who is he talking about? Who are these dogs?
Well from the things Paul goes on to talk about it seems that he's referring to Jews and maybe even Jewish Christians, who were forcing Gentile Christians to follow Jewish customs and rules, to prove that they were truely spiritual. Especially the rite of circumcision. But behind the rules and laws, Paul sees the real threat: an evil agenda of satan to keep people locked out from the fullness of joyful life that could be theirs in Christ. Whenever you have people animatedly telling you things you MUST do, or MUST NOT do, you can be pretty sure that an evil spiritual force is not far away. On the cross Jesus has DONE all that was required for us, so that we don't need to fall under rules that others place on us.
How to Cut Off Evil Restrictions to Growth and Progress
To continue with the slightly awkward phrases in this section (!), the way Paul counters the dangers he sees, is to affirm the Philippians identity. 'For it is we who are the circumcision...' (Philippians 3:3) Maybe not the identity that you thought was important! But this is actually quite deep. In another letter, Paul will explain that true circumcision is not something done by humans (cutting off the male foreskin), but that true 'circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit' (Romans 2:29). As we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to walk into freedom that Jesus won on the cross. We can cut off the bonds on our heart that restrict our growth. But we must begin by believing that we are the real deal. We have all that we need in Jesus alone, regardless of what we've done or not done. We are the circumcision because we follow Jesus.
How to Walk With the Spirit to Cut Off Hindrances to Our Joy
Paul will go on to say that everyone who has chosen to follow Christ, serves God by his Spirit. Notice that it's not by following rules, but by trusting the leading of God's Spirit. We are to depend on the Spirit, to keep us from being trapped by rules that others place on us. We are to also depend on the Spirit to lead us to the cross won freedom from rules we've already submitted to. The Spirit is able to lead us to truth, to help us understand the Scriptures, to guide us to the right books or the right people who will help us get out from bondage. The Spirit can prompt us with thoughts and ideas on how to counteract the things that hinder our growth.
Getting Free to Grow As A Child of God
I would encourage you to take a moment now to ask the Holy Spirit to point out to you any evil rules that you have either submitted to or that your are being tempted to submit to. See what the Spirit brings to mind and maybe write it down. Then ask the Spirit how you can walk forward with joy in Christ in the face of this threat. You might be directed to a verse in Scripture. Maybe you'll be guided to a Christian to talk to for help. Maybe the Spirit will bring to mind a simple pray you can pray to God. But whatever he brings to mind, make sure you do it, and watch for the joy that is birthed in your heart.
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
You might like to think a little bit more about your spiritual health, by taking the Spiritual Health Check Score Card here.