Reaching Forward

Friday, July 28, 2017, 7:22 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 3 (NASB).

Beware of Dogs (vv. 1-6)

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 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, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

So, what is meant here by “dogs”? The term “dog” is used of humans who are contemptible and spiritually unclean, and/or who are false teachers and persecutors of Jesus’ followers. It is used as a term of reproach. These are those who may profess faith in Jesus Christ, but it is profession only. They do not have the promise of eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of hell’s fires. Yet, since they often disguise themselves as apostles of Christ, and as servants of righteousness, we must be very discerning so as not to get trapped in their snare, for they can be very charming and convincing.

Some of these dogs will add human rules on to the gospel message, and others will remove critical components from the gospel message. Whether adding or subtracting, still what they teach is based in human philosophy and not in the Word of Truth. They will include much of the truth, though, but will twist it to their advantage. But, truth mixed with lies is still lies. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. No amount of external works of the flesh can add anything to our salvation. Yet, our salvation is not absent of works, but they are the works of God’s Spirit in our lives, which he prepared in advance for us to do (See: Eph. 2:8-10).

So, if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness (sin), we are liars who do not live by the truth. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. His grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt or remorse. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await his return (1 Jn. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:11-14).

Counted as Loss (vv. 7-11)

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

It doesn’t matter how smart we are, or how gifted and talented, or how much Bible knowledge we have, or our social or financial status in life. What matters to God is that we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin so we might live with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). For, this is why Jesus gave his life up for us on the cross. He did not die merely to give us the hope of heaven when we die or to deliver us out of the pit of hell. His purpose in saving us from our sins was that we would no longer be slaves to sin, so that we could now become bond-slaves of his righteousness.

Press On (vv. 12-16)

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives we do not become instantly perfect so that we never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2). Yet, lack of perfection should never be used as an excuse for continued and willful sin against God, for if we walk according to our sinful flesh, we will not have the hope of eternal life, but we will die in our sins. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (Ro. 8:1-14).

Our salvation is not a one-time experience where we live however we want, and then one day we go to heaven when we die. We are saved (past), we are being saved (present), and we will be saved (future) when Jesus Christ returns to take us to be with him forever. We are being sanctified and made holy. We are being conformed into the likeness of Christ. Daily we die to sin and self and we follow (obey) Jesus Christ with our lives. By the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh. And, we walk, not according to our sinful flesh, but we walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit. It is a process, yet if we keep practicing sin, we are not part of that process, for we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6).

How we Walk (vv. 17-21)

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

It is a sad reality here in America that we don’t have many preachers of the Word we can emulate today. So many professing Christians, or those who are in positions of spiritual authority within the church, have fallen prey to deceiving spirits and are themselves teaching what is false, i.e. a diluted gospel and a false grace which gives free license to continued sin against God. So many of the “greats” of the faith here in America have died off, and there has been such a rise in the number of “dogs” now serving in positions as pastors (shepherds) of church congregations. So, we must be careful that we don’t follow the wrong examples, thinking we are doing what is right.

Those we want to follow are those who are walking (living) according to the teachings of Christ and of his NT apostles. I am certainly not saying that they must be absolutely perfect, but that their lifestyles should be evidence of a walk of holiness and righteousness, i.e. that they should be above reproach. They should not be those who are caught up in the world or who are, themselves, captives (addicted) to sinful practices. And, they should not be those who are teaching people they don’t have to repent of their sins or that they don’t have to obey God, and that God is pleased with them no matter what they do.

Yet, more importantly than finding human beings we can follow, and who will most likely let us down at some time or another, is that we need to be those who emulate Christ, who desire to be like him, to walk in his ways.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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