“…circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.”ROMANS 2:29b
What in the world does it mean to be circumcised in my heart? How terrifying. And how does that even happen? The story of God choosing a people began with a cutting covenant God made with Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation. Abraham, who had not born any children was being promised descendants as numerous as the stars. God instructed Abraham to cut the foreskin off of every male to mark them as God’s people. Strange request it seems. But what if this request reveals the deepest desire of God in a poetic way–for us to be seen before Him, to be known fully, and fully revealed, unveiled in our most sensitive parts? What if true circumcision, as Paul says, is supposed to take place in the heart?
We see God’s desire for a deeper circumcision as early as the exodus. Deuteronomy 10:16 says “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.”
CIRCUMCISION OF THE FLESH VS CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART
Circumcision of the flesh is an outward sign of covenant. Circumcision of the heart is an inward covenant of true belief, a true trust, not just as a possibility, but as my actual experienced reality.
Circumcision of the flesh is a “bringing into” from the outside– an inclusion, a “looking-like” you are loved. Circumcision of the heart is a deeper penetration of the outward covenant. It is an alignment to the will of the Father, a yielding to a new truth of being loved and desired, that I have been chosen and set apart, not just by birth or random good-will, but by the will of God, whose will it is that all men be saved. It is the gift of God through faith in Christ, both for Jew and non-Jew. It’s all freely given, because of Jesus. Now I freely receive it, which is maddening, because I could never repay Him. But His love does not demand repayment. I owe Him nothing because He loves having me as His own. And that’s enough.
Circumcision of the flesh is a forced relationship out of obligation because you are supposed to. Circumcision of the heart is a passionate pledge of love-driven loyalty. I am completely His at the expense of any competing loyalties or deities. Once done, I will never be able to go back to the way I used to feel or think about Him. Any false idea about who I thought he was is put to death. He alone will be my protection and shield. I intentionally demolish my concern for my own riches, reputation and renown. My kingdom is His kingdom. His kingdom is within me. He joyfully rules my heart with my joyful permission.
Circumcision of the flesh is an adoption–I am chosen to be His. Circumcision of the heart is “sonship”–I choose to be His. It is an act of love which sets firm my identity as an adopted child in alignment with who I truly am now and who I belong to. It is the humble, but astounding realization of being loved that results in an unreserved choosing-back of Him as my Father and my God. He will be tender towards me and I will be soft towards Him. I will hear His voice as a father, as a soul-lover, as a brother, and as a friend, not simply as a benefactor.
Circumcision of the flesh is done by man and can be done against the will of a person. Circumcision of the heart is done by the Spirit of God, and in accordance with the will of the person who has intentionally rejected stubbornness. Only I can choose it, no one else can choose it for me.
Circumcision of the flesh is obedience in behavior. Circumcision of the heart is a willing spirit, a shift in motivation based on repentance, humility, and softness, that makes it possible to actually love the Lord, not just obey Him.
Circumcision of the flesh is an unveiling–a surgical removal of excess flesh that can hide filth to reveal and make vulnerable the most sensitive part of a man’s human body. Circumcision of the heart is also an unveiling–an intentional cutting away of excess assumptions, resentments, misinterpretations, wavering doubts, and self-reliance that hides us from God. Now all is visible–the sin of our past, the sin that was done to us, our fears, our shame, our guilt. We are exposed to God. It is an unveiling and revealing of our most sensitive areas. While painful, it is the only thing that leads to a re-sensitizing of our emotions so that we can truly experience the love of God and love Him in return.
I WANT THIS BUT HOW CAN I HAVE IT?
It’s already yours. The offer is there. Ask Him to show you the deep hidden places of your heart. Is there stubbornness and resentment? Why is that there? If you aren’t sure, just ask Him to show you. What lies are you believing about God’s character based on your own observations or life experience that have kept you in that place? How does “your truth” align with the truth of His word?
This kind of covenant is where you repent of your stubbornness and misperceptions of Him. You yield to the fact that His love and goodness are truth. He is the definition of love, no matter what. He is the definition of goodness, no matter what. Not just the possible truth for you, but an actual I’ve-made-my-decision, final-answer, stake-in-the-ground, set-in-stone covenant truth.
Do those statements fall flat for you or you are really feeling the desire to add a caveat or footnote to them? Could it be that you are not actually circumcised in your heart. Maybe you look like a Christian and you have prayed a prayer with your lips, but you have serious doubts about God’s character or about the Bible actually being an accurate account of Him. Your solution is to remain distant, but that’s not actual faith.
That’s false religion.
You have to let childlike trust go all the way to your core so it changes you. All you have to do is turn your heart toward your Father and confess your stubbornness and pride. Be soft toward Him. Don’t be afraid. If you feel the guilt of your sin, let it just drive you to His mercy. Jesus paid for all that already. It is finished. Receive the gift Jesus gave on the cross for you to be in God’s presence. It’s ok to be cut to the heart.
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”Acts 2:36-39
The promise is yours for the taking. It is God’s will that all people be saved. He is calling you. Don’t doubt it for a minute. This is it. Ask Him for His Holy Spirit, who will speak to you and start to teach you. He will teach you God’s word, which never lies, always accomplishes what it intends, and always bears fruit.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.Deuteronomy 10:12