ďA 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.Ē Romans 2:28, 29.
The rights, duties and privileges of being a Jew in Paulís day seemed to be of utmost importance. The Jewish people took pride in their religious label and the Jewish leaders wielded their position and power like a sword. Paul takes them on when he says that being ďreligiousĒ (playing the game outwardly, e.g. being circumcised), does not make you near and dear to Godís heart. It is the growth and change that is happening inside the heart that matters. It is the inward renewal by the Spirit that gains praise from God, not the outward and stale movements of a disconnected heart. Religious actions can be healthy and meaningful, but it is the inside of a person, our connection with Jesus, that should take first position.
OUCH! It is easy to point the finger at those hypocritical Jewish people of Paulís day. However, I must ask myself, arenít I acting the same way? Arenít I the one who worships God and simultaneously thinks about football on TV? Arenít I the one who talks to others about trusting the Lord with everything and then worries about the pennies in my checking account? What makes me a Christ-follower isnít what I do, but who I am on the inside. Today (and everyday) I will check my heart and make sure it is giving praise to God and not to men.
Father, I know that too often I do as the writer in Isaiah says Ö I honor you with my lips but my heart is far from you (Is 29:13). By Your Spiritís power, help me to get my heart right with you so that my actions are founded on my relationship with Jesus and not on some relationship with religion. Help me to live from the inside out! Guard my thoughts today as I seek to do what You want. In Jesus, Amen