“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!”
Warning signs are all around us, cautioning us to beware of potential hazards. These signs warn the floor is slippery, the curve, sharp, the beam is low, or the dog is mean. As I sit here writing, my teacup reads, “Careful, the beverage you are about to enjoy is extremely hot.” Which seems obvious to me, since I did not order an iced drink. On the beaches in our community, there are signs warning of what to do in case of a tsunami; although we have never been hit by a tsunami, and experts tell us that the likelihood of such an event happening is almost zero. Because these warnings are so commonplace, we can become desensitized to them, and miss the ones that really matter.
Paul’s warnings are not to be taken lightly, as he tells us to be on guard against dogs, evil workers and the mutilation. He is using a common writing technique, where repetition is used for emphasis. He is not saying there are dogs, evil people, and mutilators to be aware of, but describing a certain group of people, using all three terms. He warned the Philippians to beware of those who would cause them to take their attention off of Jesus, and focus on works, as the measurement of their relationship with Jesus. Writing to the Corinthians, he put it like this,
2 Corinthians 11:3
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
When you came to Christ, you began a relationship with Him based upon His infinite love for you. You responded to that love by crying out to Him as Savior and Lord, and you began to follow Him. By reading your Bible, you learned of Him and were blessed by Him. You loved to be around others who loved Him like you did. Worship was amazing, as you expressed, in song, your gratitude and praise. People asked, “What happened to you? Why you were so different? Why you were not doing the things you used to do? Why you seemed so happy, even though circumstances might be quite difficult?” You were in love with Jesus, and enjoying the simplicity of Christ. But then, ever so subtly, you began to be lured away from the joy of salvation and simplicity of following Christ. Your relationship with Him began to be treated like a series of responsibilities; devotions, church attendance, service. Even sharing your faith, began to be treated like duty, rather than an expression of relationship.
If that has happened to you, allow me to use the words of Christ to the church in Ephesus, as a means of encouragement,
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works”
It is time to go back to those first works; that time when you simply loved Jesus and wanted to please Him. When you read the Bible, not to check off the reading card, but because you wanted to hear Him speak to your heart, and guide your life. When you told others about Jesus, and bragged about how He spoke to you every time you attend church. How He wants to do in others, what He is doing in you.
Be careful not to be drawn away from simply being in love with Jesus, and enjoying the relationship you have because of the Cross.