Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Circumcised Heart

A picture carried over from the Old Testament and into the New is the sign of circumcision. Understanding circumcision of the heart is central to understanding our freedom in Christ.

In the Old Testament, the physical sign of the conditional covenant with Moses was circumcision of male children on the 8th day of life. Circumcision was a sign that a person had agreed to this covenant and had entered into relationship with God. The physical descendants of Abraham were circumcised in the physical flesh of the male to show the seal of righteousness, a sign of God’s covenant with them.  God chose the most intimate part of a man that unites as one with his wife, after the two join together in the unconditional covenant called marriage.
 Speaking of Abraham, Paul writes:

   11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. 13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.  (Romans 4:11-13)

Abraham received the covenant promise before He was physically circumcised.  This showed that the promise of blessing was for all nations; it was for those circumcised under the law of Moses and for those who were uncircumcised apart from the law.  God had Abraham physically live out the picture of this covenant promise, making circumcision a sign that this promise was for all people, for the Jew and the Gentile alike.

In the New Testament, circumcision is still the sign of God’s people, the New Israel, but it is now a circumcision made without hands.  It is the circumcision of the heart. 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 2:28-29).  God circumcised us in the death of Jesus Christ, crucifying our old selves, and making us completely new and righteous in Him. He gave us a new spirit and heart, sealing us in His Spirit and cutting us away from sin, or independence, that still resides in our soul and body.
God fulfilled in us what He promised through Ezekiel, and the other prophets, fulfilling the promise He made with Himself in the presence of Abraham. We are this new creation, the new Israel, born of the seed of Christ by grace through faith alone.
The physical descendants of Abraham are not the children of the promise and they are no longer the true Israel of God, God’s chosen people. Now, those who trust in God through faith in the Son have entered into Israel, the children of the promise through faith.

  But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.  That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. Romans 9:6-8

So, Christian, you are in Israel. You are the people of God. Because of His covenant, which He promised within Himself, He will fully save you through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:25-28). To not do so, would mean He would have to break covenant with Himself.  You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that He prepared in advance for you to walk in. You will do good works, but you will not be the one doing, but rather God’s doing in and through you. God is working in and through you, and us together as His body, so His Kingdom will be established on earth as it is in heaven, that all the nations of earth might be blessed and come into relationship with their Creator, the Almighty God.
         All of this amazing plan, this mystery of God, the gospel of our salvation, predetermined since before the beginning of time and unveiled to us in Christ, had one purpose alone, and that was the glorification of God the Father, magnifying His Holy Name, reconciling all things back to Himself, for the praise of His glory and grace.
Circumcision of the heart has profound implications for us as believers. Read both of thes passages below, looking any similarities you see.  

Colossians 2:11-15
 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 

Romans 6:4-7
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 

Something incredibly profound happened to us when we repented and surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ. All our sins were removed and thrown away.  This event is described as circumcision or, as Romans 6 describes, being crucified with Christ, or buried with Christ in baptism into His death.  Our old man was crucified with Christ, immersed into His death that the body of sins of the flesh might be taken away. All our sin has been thrown away, like a foreskin that is cut away from a male after circumcision. The foreskin is a picture of our sin, cut off from us, and removed and gone forever. We are now holy and clean beings, sealed by God and holy and blameless.
There is no sin in you, believer, no independence.  As John says, it’s impossible for you to sin now because you have been born of God. You cannot sin. It’s impossible (1 John 3:9).  God has circumcised you from your sin and thrown that sin away.  He will now deliver you to Himself without spot or blemish.
Nothing can change this reality for you because you did not receive this gift because of you. You received it because God called you and made you His child when you turned to Him in faith.  You did not receive this through your works, but by His work. You are completely forgiven of all your sin and you have been made completely new.
You were circumcised with the circumcision of Christ, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.  God cut your spirit away from the body of sins of the flesh. Independence still dwells in your body and soul (this independence is called flesh and is not you, but still dwells with you), but your spirit is connected and dependent upon God. We are introducing the reality of being circumcised in Christ here in Key 4, but will talk about this reality more in depth Key 5 Transform as we see how to walk out our victory in Christ.
We are in relationship with God because of what God did when we believed in His Son.  God created within us a vessel called our spirit which is holy enough for God Himself to dwell within.  Our spirit is always seated in the spiritual realm in Christ Jesus and is pure and desires to fellowship with God forever. There is no impurity or sin in our spirit. “12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12).   Our spirit has been cut away from all sin that still dwells in your soul and body.
The power of heart circumcision is that in dying with Christ, you have been set free from the power of sin and death.  You no longer have to sin.  In fact, you cannot sin, meaning you can never go independent of God. Your identity is sealed.  This is the amazing reality of the gospel, the power of God to save all those who believe in Him. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Your spirit is sealed by God and set apart from the sin of the flesh. That’s what it means to be made holy. You are free now to live a righteous life, experiencing the full fellowship of God your Father.
Yet sin still has the opportunity to reign in your soul and body. The independence that dwells in your soul and body the Bible calls flesh. The flesh is not you any longer, but it still dwells with you. Your soul and body have been trained by the system of the world, and tend toward self-centredness and independence from God. Now you must not let sin reign, but bring your soul and body into obedience and submission to God’s word.
Think of your soul as a connector between your body and your spirit.  Your soul must now be taught the truth of God’s word, so it will agree to walk in the newness of who you really are.  You will now focus your soul (your mind) to the truth of God’s word.  God will reveal His truth to you, and as you believe this truth, you will be set free to fully express who you truly are as a new creation in Christ.
 Flesh means the soul and body empowered by sin.  Your soul and body are amoral in and of themselves. They can be used to carry out the will of God or the will of sin.  When empowered by the independence in sin, the Bible calls this flesh.  Paul uses the word flesh or sarx to remind us to keep this battle on the outside of us, not on the internal workings of the Christian.  That battle against sin has already been fought by Christ, where He has purified the spirit forever.  We are told to not let sin reign in our mortal body and soul, but to walk in the spirit, believing God.  
 You are separate from your soul and body when its empowered by sin, though you still live in your body and need to use your soul. Sin is no longer your master. It seeks to glorify itself not God.  So you do not have to obey its lusts.  Key 5 Transform focuses on the soul and body connection and how to walk out the Christian life in the victory and freedom of the spirit.
         The simplicity of this message, and the truth for you to believe, is that you, Believer, have a new heart that loves God, totally and completely. Your new heart and spirit is the very essence of God. You are a new creation in Christ. God calls you to be who you now are and He empowers you to do so.  There is no sin in you and you are free from its power. You do not have to obey sin’s lusting anymore. You are free from sin’s power because of the circumcision of Christ, which He did through His death and resurrection to fulfill within Himself the covenant promise to Abraham.
You have a new identity. You were a sinner saved by the grace of God, but you are now a saint. You have received mercy. You have been saved, not because of your behaviour, but because of His grace which you received through faith. You are now intimately and eternally connected to your King. Nothing can separate you from Him. Even if you don’t sometimes feel this connection it is still true. Your walk with God is not based on your feelings. It is based on the truth of His Word. As you believe His Word, feelings will follow as a by-product of your faith. You are now a Saint, set apart to be a slave of righteousness, in whom He dwells, living for His glory. 

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