“Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”
Romans 2:26-29 NKJV
In the time of Abraham, God marked those who were His by the sign of circumcision, or the cutting away of the foreskin.
“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”
Genesis 17:10-11 NKJV
By that sign, the children of Israel knew who was one of them. In reality, it was simply an outward sign, and not one that reflected anything within. It did not in itself save. It is the transformation of the heart that indicates salvation. Something not easily seen.
When Jesus came in the scene, the God/Man came with truth, and a salvation that did not simply mark the outward flesh, but was written on the heart. It was reflected in how people treated on another, and in the character of the believer.
In His ministry, Jesus collided with the religious authorities, as He and His disciples did not do the things that were expected. The outward signs were not evident. They did not follow the rules, they are without washing.
““Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.””
Matthew 15:2 NKJV
The religious establishment had become so legalistic, that they had gotten hooked up on the little, meaningless things of the faith. Sadly, they had transgressed the spirit of the law. As a result the more meaningful things had been missed.
After the confrontation of Jesus on His disciples’ lack of ceremonial cleaning, Jesus addressed the deeper transgressions of their hearts.
“He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—”
Matthew 15:3-5 NKJV
In Romans chapter 2, Paul begins to deal with those in the church who were leaning on their Jewishness, to maintain some hierarchy in the church. The Roman church was full of gentiles, and Paul was answering those who doubted those of the “uncircumcision.”
He stressed the importance of circumcision of the heart, that internal marking, that marked the eternal transformation.
In the church today, we can find ourselves dealing with some of same issues in regard to how we practice our faith. It is not uncommon for modern day Pharisees to judge those they feel are not correct in their representation of what it is to be a Christian.
They judge on the little things: how people dress, the language they may use, the musical choices, politics and a myriad of other things. All the while, there are those with deep sin lying hidden in the shadows, the greatest of which may be spiritual pride. They are like white washed tombs.
““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Matthew 23:27-28 NKJV
I have found that the unbelieving world is fully aware of the rot within those who go profess faith in Christ, but show few signs in how they actually live. I often remind people that they are being watched, and those who do not believe can be experts on what they see.
The world wants to see genuine people, lost people who have been found, bound people who have been freed. They are not looking for the perfect people who seem like they have never sinned.
In a vibrant church that is actually doing the work of spreading the Gospel, there will be a wide variety of people from a vast array of life experiences. Some have been in the faith for generations, and have a more traditional appearance. Others are new in the faith, and rough on the outside.
But God is working on the inside, where we cannot see.
I believe that the Lord is doing a work in this world, as the Gospel message is spreading throughout humanity. He is saving souls. Let us receive those coming into the faith with love and patience.
Let us not be lost on appearances, but instead look for the work that God is doing through His Holy Spirit.
I remember the first day I walked into Grace Church, hurting, lost, and bound up in sin. It was a miracle that I was there at all. I was met by loving people, patient with me. I have the honor of praying for many of them to this day.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”
Romans 12:9-13 NKJV
Let us love, knowing that we were once in the same place as those new to the faith. Let us remember that God transforms us from the inside out, and His progress can take time to be seen.
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