Thursday, October 26, 2006

Circumcision of the Heart

Romans 2:25-27 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision are a lawbreaker.
You may have thought that the only time you really had to think about circumcision was that moment you found out you were having a boy and you agonized over whether or not to subject your baby boy to the knife. And yet, Paul is challenging all believers in this matter. First off, I will give you a way out, as Paul did, both for those circumcised already (Jews) and those who are not circumcised (non-Jews, or the Gentiles). If you have kept the law, then you will be regarded as one circumcised (as heirs to the promise of God).

"Oh, good!" you might be thinking, "I'll take the easy way out and claim those promises without pain." If that is the route that you are going to take, let me remind you of this law that you are going to try to uphold in your own power. The New Testament law is generally agreed to include the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17), and the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:34-38), as well as the Golden Rule (Matthew 29:39-40) So, to make it easy for you, I'll list the laws that you can follow perfectly in order to avoid going under the knife:

Have no other gods before Me (God).

Starting off with an easy one--I don't worship other gods. Popular culture, money, family members, work--those things aren't really gods.

Don't make for yourself an idol.

Right, good again. No golden calves here. The time and energy I spend making my home and myself beautiful for my family--those aren't real idols.

You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.

Well, I have to serve my family right? And work, I have to go to work to support them. That's not worship. I wonder if God is jealous of all the time I spend on things other than Him.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

I wonder if listening and accepting it when others do counts?

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

This is 2006. What does that one even mean anymore? I go to church. I think that's good enough.

Honor your father and your mother.

What about "leave and cleave?" I have to do that. I have my own family now. I think I'm probably okay here, too.

You shall not murder.

Finally! No doubt here. Never killed anyone. Wait, do I remember Jesus saying that if I am even angry with my brother or call someone a fool, I'm guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22)?

You shall not commit adultery.

Oh, I haven't, but I do think that Jesus also said here that if I even look upon someone with lust, that's considered adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). And what about all those times my mind wanders or wonders?

You shall not steal.

No, I'm not a thief, but I suppose that I have stolen something at some time--that time that I didn't give the extra change back, or wasn't charged for that coffee after dinner at the restaurant.

You shall not lie.


You shall not covet...anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Not anything? I mean, just because I'm a little jealous, doesn't mean I'm unhappy with what You've given me.

Love the Lord with all your heart, and soul and mind.

Hmmm, that really does require some pretty hefty commitment.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

I'm pretty selfish, so I guess that means that I should be pretty generous to my neighbor.

Romans 2:28-29 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.
So, yes, there probably are things that we should remove from our lives in order to have a heart that pleases God. And yet, at the same time, we can't simply focus on doing all those things that seem to be the right things to do, at the expense of truly turning our hearts towards God. In today's church culture, you can substitute any number of things for Paul's use of the word circumcision, such as baptism, church membership, attending organized Bible studies, or service in the ministry.

What I gathered in studying this particular piece of scripture is that the things I do might garner praise from men, but not God. I may care what others think of me, or how my walk of faith looks to others, but God doesn't care what others think of me one bit. He doesn't care if they think that I am the Christian of all Christians (because He knows), and He doesn't care if they think I'm not upholding the right image of a Christian (because He knows). It is freeing to actually move from doing what we think others expect us to do, and doing what we know pleases God. It's not easy. It's definitely a higher calling to be good instead of just looking good.

So now I think that the question is not whether or not to cut, but rather what it is that we must subject to the knife of the Holy Spirit. What is it in our lives that needs to be removed in order to help our hearts be fully obedient to Christ?

Index of Romans posts


Susanne said...

Very insightful post Jennifer. We do as a society and individually so make excuses for the breaking of those commandments, don't we? We do need to let the light of the Holy Spirit shed truth into our hearts and like you then said to let knife of the Holy Spirit cut it out of our lives.

Panda-Mom said...

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Kelly said...

God is showing me things in my life that need to be cut out. I tend to go kicking and screaming on these issues. Thank you for sharing your heart and allowing God to use you to challenge me.

Katrina said...

Good stuff, Jennifer. I am so good at convincing myself that "I'm good." But the truth is, I'm not...I can't come anywhere near God's standards and I need His spirit and His work in my life every day, every moment.

Blessed Beyond Measure said...

I think I found you from comments you left me, and I've subscribed to follow more of what you write. I'll love coming back, to see more of this type of writing. Great stuff.

Lindsey @ enjoythejourney said...

I've even heard some Christians say (this is scary..hold on to your hat....) that because the 10 Commandments are in the is considered "law" and we're no longer under the law now.

Um, I'm going to do my best to keep the 10 commandments, regardless!!!

Kathleen Marie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kathleen Marie said...

Jennifer, this is fabulous! An excellent reminder.

I like the idea that you incorporated out thought life. So many times we think out thoughts don't count because we did not act out what we were thinking. Wrong!

We need to take all our thought "captive".

Lindsay, I heard my hubby preach once (he did this for a year while the Pastors were on sabbatical) and he stated firmly and I think most Christians do know this that Jesus came to fullfil the law, not change it. We are certainly, as children of God, under God's law...all of them.

God Bless your day!

Panda-Mom said...

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Heather said...

As far as take the Lord's name in vain, I wonder how many times I do things in God's name, but it has nothing to do with glorifying Him. It has everything to do with glorifying me.

Anonymous said...

I think it's true, we compare our strong points to someone else's weakest, and our weaknesses to another's strength. Like Katrina said, we often get to feeling pretty good about ourselves, when what we should be doing is measuring up to the word of God. Loving these Romans studies Jennifer. I'm on Chapter 5-6 but enjoying reading yours in retrospect.

Katherine@Raising Five said...

"Make for yourself an idol" - interesting way to put it. I think it might be also be put, "Don't make YOURSELF an idol." I think that is the main issue I deal with. So many times I want my way, not His, and that really becomes idolatry (a very scary thought!). May He always sit on the throne of my heart!

Laura said...

The "make for yourself an idol" one - I've been thinking about that lately as I've been cleaning and organizing and generally freaking out over wanting to "bless my family" at home when in reality, I do a lot of it for me. I'm a clean/neat/organized freak and I hate clutter, dirt, etc. It's for me I do it, more than for my family a lot of times and I needed the "coincidental" reminder.