Finally, my brother, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh
Philippians 3:1-3 ESV
In this passage, Paul is quick and concise as he outlines three characteristics of what it looks like to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. Paul begins this portion of his letter to Philippi with a simple and straightforward command – rejoice in the Lord. Paul doesn’t add much fluff here because he means exactly what he is saying. He then has a very abrupt shift of tone with a warning to look out for the dogs, those evil doers, those mutilators of flesh. Here, Paul is talking about false teachers, the people who claimed to be Christians yet were living lives that were less than what God commands and calls believers to be. In The Message translation, the term “religious busybodies” is used to describe the group that Paul is talking about. Paul then tells the reader what it means to actually live a life of following Jesus. Though this passage is short and to the point, it’s message can be easily translated to our lives today.
Before Paul gets into the details of the passage, he tells the reader to rejoice in the Lord. He says it first and plainly because it is foundational. Before anything else, it’s important that the followers of Jesus know that their joy comes from Jesus. Our life flows from Him and only Him – nothing that we do on our own can help with that. When this truth resonates, the pressure comes off. We don’t have to drum up enough love or do enough good works anymore. We can simply rejoice in Him!
When Paul refers to “dogs” and “evildoers”, he is talking about those who proclaim to be followers of Jesus, but are concerned more with appearance and works rather than following Jesus. Paul doesn’t want following Jesus to become an act or a competition.
the pressure is off
I think the main point of this passage as it applies to us is that the pressure is off! That our joy doesn’t come from the things that we do, the things that we try to consume our lives with, or the people that we try to impress – our joy comes from Jesus and that’s how we fill ourselves with true joy, the only joy that truly satisfies us.
God, thank you for being a source of joy. I pray that today I will focus on finding my joy in your instead of the things that I am a part of, the things I am doing, or the person that I am trying to be.