February 8, 2018

A Matter of the Heart

Romans 2:25–29

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25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded1 as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically2 uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code3 and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Footnotes

[1] 2:26 Or counted
[2] 2:27 Or is by nature
[3] 2:27 Or the letter

In Context:

20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

A Matter of the Heart



Bio | Sheetal Agrawal

Hey, friends! Since I work in finance with numbers all day, I thought I would give my make-up in percentages (percentages approved by community group):

15% aunt to two nieces

13% Texas Longhorn (Hook ‘Em)

10% Cowboys fan

8% GIF sender (if possible, I'd only communicate in GIFs) 

8% lover of quick-witted banter

8% competitive (GAME ON in everything)

7% Porch volunteer

7% runner

7% Excel ninja

7% TX Country music lover

7% IJM fighter

3% Birthday wizard

= 100% daughter of God who fell in love with Jesus, realizing the only % that matters is that I'm 100% forgiven by my Savior

Central Truth

Sometimes we're stuck doing things for so long that we forget the reason we started doing them. This can be especially true in our relationship with Jesus. Our obedience must come from an overflow of our love for God, and that only happens when we understand His love for us.

Devotional | Romans 2:25–29

Read Bible, go to church, tithe, serve, eat at Chick-fil-A, watch Fixer Upper.

Check.

Sometimes, it feels like we’ve figured out what it looks like to follow Jesus, right? Well, so did these Jews whom Paul was...

Read Bible, go to church, tithe, serve, eat at Chick-fil-A, watch Fixer Upper.

Check.

Sometimes, it feels like we’ve figured out what it looks like to follow Jesus, right? Well, so did these Jews whom Paul was addressing.

Add to my list: looking up circumcision references in the Bible.

Let’s start there—circumcision was given to the Jews as a way for God to mark His people. The Jews were caught up in this act. They were stuck in a tradition they'd been doing for so long that they completely forgot what the point was and why God gave them this command (Genesis 17:10-14). Circumcision was an external symbol God used to mark His people—it was meant to point to something much greater.

The Jews were in this mindset that if they externally “performed” and were physically circumcised, they would be accepted by God.

Paul explains in verses 28-29 that circumcision of the heart (internal transformation) is what matters to God. God cares about spiritual transformation (loving God with your heart). Out of spiritual transformation comes obedience. But these Jews boasted only in outward appearances.

Sometimes, we get caught up in our actions and making sure we are looking like Christians that we forget to love God. Last year, I really struggled with this idea. Over the last few years, I felt like I was just a player in God's game. I kept my head down, listened to my “Coach,” and performed work for Him. I felt like if I kept living that way, God would be pleased. But then my world turned upside down, and it felt like I tore my spiritual ACL. My Coach took me out of the game for some much-needed spiritual healing and training.

Sometimes, God has to knock us out of our “traditions” and “Christian-isms” to remind us that the point of our faith is to love Him first. I was stuck in a cycle of “working for God,” and I forgot God’s love and acceptance of me isn't dependent on my works (Isaiah 64:6) but His alone.

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Discussion Questions

1. Is there something you've been stuck doing for years that God might be calling you out of and into something else? This may not be a religious tradition, but could also be a job or a new opportunity to trust Him.

2. When was the last time you were uncomfortable because of your faith? The Jews were comfortable in how they were living; have you become comfortable in your faith?

3. Looking at the past seven days, how did you prioritize your time with Jesus? How much time did you spend talking to Him in prayer and abiding with Him in His Word, allowing for continual spiritual transformation?

15 Comments available

Christina "Chris" Gray 7 months ago

Thanks Sheetal for sharing this thought provoking, well-expressed reminder that we do whatever we do with a heart devoted to loving God.

Thanks!

greg jones 7 months ago

@Michael Scaman Re: “Hard to hear but true” I read Romans as a letter written to me, about me. I have a Jewish Brother in law, I would hope that no one would forward these devotionals to him without some serious editing. If we only read criticism of others into these scriptures are we hearing what we read with “uncircumcised” ears?

Elizabeth Lariscy 7 months ago

Sheetal, thank you for a great informative devo! GOD LOVES YOU 100%!

Lisa Olsen 7 months ago

Thank you, Sheetal! I believe this is an area of struggle for everyone in one way or another. It is so easy to believe the lie that what we do “for God” externally matters more then the motives of our heart. I believe it is part of our sinful nature and something we have to intentionally and consistently evaluate…a heart check on a regular basis.

greg jones 7 months ago

Sheetal, I grew up in a church culture where we had this thing called a re-dedication. I don’t think we considered the value “rehab” vs. “dedication” the way you have explained it. Thank you for your new insight, it makes a whole lot of sense to me.

Jonathan Pokluda 7 months ago

I love learning from one of my heroes this morning! Thank you for playing on our team, and playing with all your heart!

Michael Scaman 7 months ago

Moses said in Deut 30:6 that God would someday circumcise hearts and ears in the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy but in the book of Acts, Peter told them it was not yet done for the unbelieving in Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.”

That would be hard to hear, but still true.

The word ‘Jew’ is from Judah which is a play on the word praise. Having praise from God not man, one would be a God pleaser not a man pleaser and with God’s help get past the offense.

Lindsey Juarez 7 months ago

Thank you for your devotional, Sheetal! The longer I follow Jesus, the more tempted I am to go through the motions. This was a good reminder for me to always go back to the root of my faith to see why I go to church, share the gospel and love others. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Autumn VerHoef 7 months ago

Sheetal, great devo! How often do try to we turn our relationship with God into a checklist! Hugh Stephenson I can 100% relate! I tend to reject praise of those who truly know and love me (my husband) and idolize others’ opinions. I always become unhappy and depressed until brought back to center that God alone is my source of worth and comfort, and He has blessed me beyond measure with family who love and value me. Philippians 1:20 is one of my life verses: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Discussion Question 3: My time with the Lord is easily displaced to a lesser priority by busyness and an irregular schedule. This needs to take priority every day.

Thomas Ellsworth 7 months ago

Great devotional. The sub-headline touches on “checklist Christianity,” which is what we are doing when our hearts have slipped but we keep plugging along “doing” things. Everything looks good but inside we may be a spiritual wreck - we look healthy outwardly (including having pride) but are on the verge of a heart attack internally (including having denial).

Having perspective is vital and it usually comes from a circle of believers who we allow and encourage to KNOW us and boldly speak truth to us - not allowing us to spin, gloss or avoid the topics.

Michael Scaman 7 months ago

Circumcision was an outward sign. I can have some sympathy in understanding what a stumbling block this might be for the Jews. Jesus did say he was a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.

God gave Abraham the mark of circumcision the year before Isaac was born. God almost killed Moses because Moses didn’t circumcise his own son, so his wife did it to save them.

A serious mark but some things can be stumbled over. Here’s a song from the 80’s called “Scandelon” by Michael Card

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5fl1Jd5Kds

Hope Harris 8 months ago

Paul clarifies his point here “I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.” (Galatians 5:4-6 MSG)

Faith expressed in love!

“The men who have abandoned all confidence in themselves, the men who have come to rely upon Christ alone, the men who “rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” those who care not for outward rites and ceremonies, but who worship God in the spirit, — these are the true circumcision.” (Spurgeon)

CHRISTOPHER LANDRY 8 months ago

Words of a wise woman! Thanks Sheetal. Circumcision of the heart is something we’d all be smart to stick fast to. What needs to be carved out of my heart so I’m more easily identified with Christ? Lord please carve out pride so folks can see humility, greed so they can see generosity, control so they can see faith…on and on I could go. Paul had a good way of reforming theology and I am sure glad he did. Thanks for the reminder, also, that it is essential for my obedience to be an overflow of my heart…not a rigid discipline. Reminds me of Isaiah 58:1-11 and how I so easily can get caught up in activity for God trying to “earn” what is freely given (His love). Anyways, thanks for the journey Devo today my friend.

Sue Bohlin 8 months ago

Sheetal, as one of the JTJ editors privileged to serve on your devo, this is the place where I can divulge that I loved your original title: “EVERYBODY NEEDS TO BE CIRCUMCISED.” But since female circumcision is now being revealed as the abuse that it is, and it’s quite a potential trigger, we decided not to use it.

But that doesn’t make it any less true!

I appreciate the fact that physical (male) circumcision, a sign invented by God to mark His people, points to the spiritual truth that God wants ALL of us to submit our hearts to Him, giving Him access to our most sensitive and private places in our souls. That takes trust. We may need to start with the prayer, “Lord, show me why I can believe You are a good good Father who can be trusted.”

Hugh Stephenson 8 months ago

I love praise. I need praise. At times it seems like praise is right up there with water, sleep and food. Words of Affirmation is a key Love Language for me. Yet, it is never enough. Praise poured out on me is like water on desert sand - it sates for the moment then is bone dry again very quickly.

Paul’s final verse reminds me how to get the praise that never ends from the only one who matters. The only one who can give it. He calls me to know God so well that I joyfully surrender my heart to Him. In this, I will never thirst for praise again.

I am thankful that my sanctification brings me closer daily, even though my completion will come only in Heaven.

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