Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. Philippians 3:1-2 (EHV).
In verse 2, Paul subtly echoes Psalm 22, which was a prophecy about Christ and both His death and His glory. In this verse, Paul is not just calling out the Jews and Judaizers who were challenging the early church: he also calls us out to do the same in our lives.
Tell me: how hard is it to resist temptation? If you’re like nearly everybody else, it’s one of the toughest things you’ll do, especially since we do it every day. Especially since the evil one still attacks us the same way he did people in Paul’s time.
These days, people make fun of Mike Pence for his policy of not being in a room alone with a woman who isn’t his wife. Billy Graham lived by that same policy. So did President Harry Truman. It seems ludicrous and old-fashioned, and their enemies make hay about it, accusing Graham and Pence of not trusting women. But that’s not why they did / do it at all. It’s because they don’t trust themselves. It’s not that they wouldn’t have self-control. It’s that they don’t want to put themselves in any situation where their morality could be compromised or given the image of impropriety. They don’t want to bring dishonor or disrepute on God or their wives. By removing the possibility of being tempted to do anything at all, they safeguard that morality (as well as their images as upright and honorable men).
Good for them. What about you when your demons come calling? Are you tempted to lash out online? To insult back when someone insults you? Are you tempted by porn or sexual thoughts? Are you tempted to burst out in anger when you’re having a bad day? How do you resist that temptation?
Same way Paul did: first go to Jesus and ask for His help. Put our faith in Him before being tempted, or especially if we’ve given in. Let Him restore honor to your soul even if we have to face the physical consequences here. It is only through the lens of Christ that we can look at temptation and not buckle before it.
Paul excoriated those who were accusing the nascent church of abandoning God by abandoning Jewish customs and Mosaic law. He called out those who would put traditions over the Gospel of Christ. And he warned his friends to stay far away from anyone who would tempt them to backslide. Thousands of years later, that’s still Godly, excellent advice for any of us in any situation.
For further reading: Psalm 22:16-20, Revelation 22:15, Philippians 3:3.
My Lord, lead me not into temptation and deliver me from the evil one.