How my success is a problem | Chapel Hill Online | Gig Harbor

How my success is a problem | Chapel Hill Online | Gig Harbor

As Christians, we find our identity in Christ, but what does that mean? Does it mean being a better Christian, giving more, spending more time at church, being a missionary? In this sermon, Julie Hawkins shares how being being a success can be a problem in spiritual life, and how to guard against that.

Study Questions:

Have you ever experienced identity theft? What happened? How did it feel?

Paul lists his spiritual accomplishments in Philippians 3. If you had to make a list what would be on it for you? What does Paul mean when he says these things are “liabilities?” How is this true for you also?

Our identity as Christians is found in Christ alone. Everything else is identity theft. What are some practical ways that you can stay focused on this truth as you go about your week this week?


I have always been proud of my Italian heritage: Sunday night family dinners, listening to my dad tell stories of Grandpa Mario crossing the Atlantic from Northern Italy… I love my bold and beautiful Italian family. It helps that my family is from one of the most beautiful parts of Italy. {Picture} Here we are on Lake Como with dozens of cousins. Being Italian is an important part of who I am. Or it was, until I took 23andMe. Guess how Italian I am according to that little spit test? 0! 0 percent! When I first looked at the results, I thought, “My older sister wasn’t lying to me all those years. I am adopted.” But here’s the real story. Let’s bring that picture back up. It turns out that while my family has lived in Italy for generations, do you see those mountains back there? That’s Switzerland… I spent my entire life thinking I was Italian, when I am actually Swiss. This thing that was such an important part of my personality, who I am, turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

Today we are going to talk about our identity as followers of Jesus. Just like I was mistaken about my Italian identity, there are many things that threaten to steal or confuse our identity as Christians. There are a lot of things in the world that compete with our identity as Christians, but there are also things within our own lives that compete with our identity, from our outward appearance, to our accomplishments, to our upbringing. That’s where we are going to concentrate our time today, in Philippians 3 looking at the things that compete for our identity. Our identity as Christians is found in Christ alone. Everything else is identity fraud. Now, this is a really rich, deep theological text. We are going to take it in bite size chunks and give ourselves some time to digest. Let’s just into Philippians 3:

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! To write this again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials —though mine too are significant.

I am sure many of you have experienced identity theft. An estimated 49 million Americans have experienced identity theft to the tune of $56 billion dollars lost. If you have experienced it, you know that it makes you feel completely exposed and completely furious. And in our text today, the Apostle Paul is furious! He’s so mad that he swears!

He begins with a warning about an external threat. He says, “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh!” These dogs were a specific group of people, the Judaizers. This group taught that in order to be saved, Gentile converts had to follow Jewish ceremonial law and that circumcision was necessary for salvation. In order to become a Christian, a convert should first go through the ritual of circumcision. And let’s just say, Paul was not a fan. A whole lot of the book of Galatians is about how Paul doesn’t like this crew. To call them dogs was a particularly well-placed insult. In 1st century Jewish culture, dogs were considered unclean, mangy, rabid, dangerous, and to call a person a dog was to call them all those things. It was a derisive term usually reserved for Gentiles. Here Paul applies it to Judaizers, the very ones who would point out how others were ceremonially unclean.

Ceremonial law and circumcision were visible signs of God’s Covenant relationship with Israel. They were two things that set Israel apart as God’s chosen people. But circumcision was an external symbol of an internal identity. Throughout the Old Testament, we see moments where Israel placed their confidence in these outward, physical signs.

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