Thursday, May 17, 2018
Philippians 3:2 – 3 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—
Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Many years ago, I was on a two-day canoe trip with a friend. We packed all the necessary supplies – food, tent, sleeping bags, etc. – and headed for the destination to drop off one of the cars before taking the other one to our launch site. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so we had left a map with our wives that gave our approximate locations during the day and our camping site at night.
The first day went great as we enjoyed the scenery and the fellowship. But we woke up early the next morning to pouring rain. We packed up camp and got back on the river, but by 10:00 a.m. we were so drenched and cold and tired that we decided to end the trip. The problem was that we were miles from our car and had no phone to call anyone. We pulled the canoe up under an overpass and I walked up to the farmhouse that was near the road. That’s when trouble started.
As I walked up onto the porch of the house and knocked on the door, two things happened. First, a loud growl came from the doghouse on the porch. I had noticed it was there but had not seen the large Blue Heeler dog inside. Then I heard vicious barking and turned to see a very large Boxer coming racing across the farmyard towards me, with his short hair standing straight up down the middle of his back. I quickly checked the door of the house and found it locked – no one was home. I squeezed between the screen door and the door and pulled it as tight as I could for protection. I was much thinner then.
The Blue Heeler remained in his doghouse, but the Boxer came up onto the porch and stood at the top of the steps, blocking my escape. He growled and snarled loudly. What was I going to do? I was immediately calmed by the Holy Spirit and He reminded me of God’s power through the Name of Jesus and that we have been given dominion over all of creation. Now I don’t carry that to any extreme of believing that we can intentionally put ourselves in harm’s way and then claim the authority to not get hurt. But in emergency situations I know that God provides for our every need. So, I prayed, and asked Jesus to give me authority over the dogs at that moment. I slowly opened the screen door and stepped out from behind it. The Boxer growled louder and took a step towards me. I firmly shouted, “Sit!”, and the Boxer sat down. I then shouted, “Stay!”, and took another step toward the dog. The dog stayed. I walked right past him and down the steps, made my way around the corner of the house, and then ran as fast as I could back to the river where my friend was waiting. We paddled to the next bridge and found a house where people were at home and had no dogs, and we made our phone call.
Not only has God given us authority over dogs, but He has given us spiritual authority over unspiritual dogs as well. Paul reminds the people of God at Philippi to beware of the vicious dogs that teach false doctrine. The false doctrine he is specifically referring to is the teaching of certain Jews that the Greek Christians had to be circumcised according to Jewish law or they could not be saved. We can apply the principle of Paul’s warning to any religious activity that the church or a preacher requires in addition to faith to bring a person to salvation. The church or preacher may even try to disguise their false teaching by saying the activity is simply an expression of your faith, but if it is required for you to be considered saved, then it is the teaching of unspiritual dogs.
Paul says that as true believers in Christ, saved by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone, we have two responses to such false teachers:
- We must recognize them. The Holy Spirit within us gives us the ability to discern truth from error. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into the downward spiraling whirlpool of false teaching by giving in to popular trends or emotional highs. Recognize false teaching by thoroughly studying the truth of God’s Word.
- We must resist them. We remain true to God’s truth by remembering the effects of the truth on us. Paul says that no matter what the false teachers were requiring, we who have been truly saved have experienced a spiritual circumcision of our hearts, and that’s all that is necessary. When false teachers are discovered, remind them of God’s truth: we are the true circumcision and we have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Put no confidence in the flesh, and resist them.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must take authority over the dogs and not stand in fear of them. We are the true followers of Jesus. Get out from behind your closed doors, tell the dogs to sit down, and walk right past them into the fellowship of your true family of believers.