Captured by other stories1
Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh …
- Philippians 3:2-3
Paul warned his friends in Philippi to be vigilant in their watch, describing the threat with "those mutilators of the flesh" ... a graphic reference to the practice of circumcision.
In Paul's day, people believed that God would return to Israel and rescue his persecuted people: those who belonged to God's covenant community.
Membership in God's covenant community came through birth or conversion (which involved circumcision). "Staying in" God's covenant community required strict observance of Jewish religious customs.
But Paul declared that God had already returned to Israel in Jesus Christ. And he had done the expected work of rescuing his people in an unexpected way: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
And all of this had the unexpected outworking of Jesus beginning a new covenant community, available to everyone, centered on Him, filled with God's Spirit and entered by faith alone. No other "badges of belonging" were required other than faith.
Paul knew that his friends were in danger of being captured by other stories, stories that would drag them away from light and life and joy.
We all face this danger every day. Our world offers us plenty of other stories that all make big promises of joy but consistenly fail to deliver: wealth, power, position, stuff, social standing, approval, applause, even the 'perfect family' or being the good Christian and obeying all the right rules.
What is it for you? Which stories are promising you joy today? Which ones do you believe?
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