PERSECUTED OR THE PERSECUTOR
Persecuted or the persecutorI just want to start in Philippians chapter three because Paul is sort of engaging in small talk about the different people that were tentatively going to visit the church or in some cases he talks about past tense issues.(1) "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.(2) Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision." 3:1-2. The Philippian church was for the most part strong but Paul had to step in because the church was being bothered by Judaizing teachers.It is interesting that he tells them to rejoice in the Lord right away because Paul desires them to be grounded in their faith. He wanted them to cleave to Jesus Christ and suffer if they had to but the one thing he did not want was for them to get discouraged and walk away from the Lord. Did you ever just lose hope in your soul? I have because life can be very disheartening.Paul mentions ... " The same thing to you" ... but he was not concerned with this because it is the same principle as reading a Bible passage twice. We know it but our spirit needs the words again so we can be nourished.He tells them to beware of dogs because these people are against faithful professors for Jesus Christ. They had hatred in their hearts. They may not openly show their malice but that is why Paul used the word "Beware." These people put much stock that they were part of the circumcision and if they were open with their opinions they were called dogs. They were figuratively barking at good people of God especially ministers. If they took it one step further they would bite (inflict some kind of injury) at certain Christians. I see this all the time today and it is usually very blunt, mean and downright vindictive. Even if I am in a simple conversation I get all kinds of objections regarding Jesus Christ and the Bible.Paul specifically addresses the situation. (3) "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. (4) Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more. (5) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee." 3:3-5.Paul also goes on to say, (5) "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee. (6) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is the law, blameless." 3:5-6. Before you get bored with this résumé because Paul does go on and on but he does it with a point. I can fully understand as we read verses 4 to 6 we might say, "O.K Paul could you please stop bragging." He only does this to prove his theme and what the Holy Spirit showed me was very revealing.Apparently some people were not only depending on the fact that they were circumcised for their salvation but they were prideful. Paul in laymen's terms says, "You are small time. I am the one that was born under the strictest circumstances and I put absolutely no stock in any of these duties I already engaged in so let me make my point."If they were depending on their circumcision they were "Not" putting their trust in Jesus Christ. If they had an ego because they did one little thing that is absurd. Do I really have to elaborate on how ridiculous this pride is if you know what I mean? Based on this small thing they actually decided to put the Philippian church through a persecution. When people rely on our their strengththey have the potential of putting a group of believers through a persecution.Well this is what happened but notice the Philippian church was depending on Jesus Christ Himself. It would have been unthinkable for this body of believers to put anybody through a persecution because they were humble and relying on the strength of Jesus Christ.When a group of people are looking at a group of Christians relying on their own strength with an ego then the next step is a possible persecution. Starting at Philippians 3:7 Paul gets into the real substance of everything I just wrote about but he throws his resume out and embraces what his love for Jesus Christ really means from the backdrop of gains and loses in life. For example if you were to go to your accountant and listen to him or her we may here "You gained here" ... "Oh good" ... "You lost here" ... " Oh no really. This is the way the world thinks but Paul had a completely different response on gains and loses but he does it from the perspective of His relationship with Jesus Christ.The moral of what I am trying to convey is these people were putting the Philippian church through a bad trial but Paul is trying to explain how he sees his relationship with Jesus Christ from the backdrop of gains and loses in life. They were depending on the wrong thing for their salvation, they became prideful and they went to the final step of hurting the church. Paul is now interceding and explaining to the Philippians and their persecutors the proper view of true salvation and what we are to do with our gains and loses in life in our fellowship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle puts this whole thing in perspective for life and eternity.(7) "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." 3:7-8.We have to remember in verse six Paul just confessed that he was a very busy man in his faith "Before" he got saved ... " Concerning zeal persecuting the church" ... so he had zeal without any kind of wisdom from God through His Son Jesus Christ. Paul was the persecutor but he became the persecuted. He understood this situation from both sides so now he is able to speak with incredible sustenance on the whole issue on how we are to approach our experience with Jesus Christ.When Paul says, "But what things were gain to me those have I counted loss for Christ" he was saying that if I held on to those gains in this world he would have been a loser for Jesus Christ.If we win one million dollars the idea and reality of being intimate with that money in our heart replaces our Savior and Lord so the material becomes first and Jesus Christ is second at best.I am writing to some very sincere readers so if this is where you are the best thing you can do is just talk to the Lord about the situation. Just be honest and ask Him in prayer to help get your priorities right through confession in your heart. Tell God that you are struggling with holding onto this world to tight and let Him gently work through you.We lose so many things in life so additions in our journey down here are something that we just so easily hold on to very strong. We are fearful that we will have another loss in life because after all we have been through so many defeats and of course nobody cares about anybody in this dog eat dog world so it is mine. No God owns everything so we are just managers in what He entrusted in our possession. The question is are we stewards for Jesus Christ or for ourselves?Paul progress deeper into this subject by saying, ... "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ" ... because he was "Striving" for the knowledge of Jesus Christ and refers to Him as Lord. I can always notice a group of people that are trying to get right with God. It turns me off when I hear someone say, "Oh yea I trusted Jesus Christ into my heart in 1982" but I see absolutely no "Striving" for the knowledge of Jesus Christ.True Christians want to get to know our Savior and Lord, it is not easy and it is about as practical as we can get as opposed to the example I gave in winning one million dollars. By the way I am not advocating gambling because it is wrong but I was and still am trying to make a point in context to this subject. We can lose money but our relationship with Jesus Christ is more precious than gold. Our monetary system is speculative but our fellowship with Jesus Christ is not because it is the excellency of knowledge as opposed to the unknown of knowledge (our earthy gains and loses). We can lose our gains tomorrow but our intimacy in Jesus Christ will last forever. No wonder Jesus said, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." Matthew 6:20.Paul counted all things as loss because he knew it was like water in his hand. He could not hold on to it because it is based on the uncontrollable circumstances of life which are constantly changing because in this world the only thing constant in life is change. He counted all things, not most things or some things as loss in relation to his fellowship with Jesus Christ. We need to pray on this because if anything is in the way or in front of God it is an idol. We are worshipping the wrong God.Paul then goes deeper into the subject by saying, ... " I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I might win Christ." Dung is another word for rubbish. What is more valuable (1) the gains or losses in this world or (2) Jesus Christ Himself? The answer should be obvious.For those of you who do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord remember Paul saw anything that got in the way of his relationship to God as contempt because it was in competition with his fellowship to the Son of God. The Father desires you to repent of all your sins and come to know His Son. If you have just made that all important eternal decision invite Jesus Christ into your life by reading the Bible and praying to God to get to know Him. He loves you and nothing in this world can compare to your relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ. This is intimate and goes straight to our hearts but the world is fragile and can cut our soul in pieces.God bless you,Bob D.