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What Must Go When God Comes

June 11th, 2014

No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you … Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

Genesis 17:5-6,9-10

“Abram” means “exalted father,” and we can imagine that through his childless years the name was a source of irony and perhaps even ridicule – certainly personal pain. God gave him a new name, “Abraham” which means “Father of a multitude” and God committed Himself to then fulfill the promise He had made so many years before. A new name signifies a new beginning, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to us is always on a scale that we cannot fully envision. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9), and though the next verse affirms for us, “God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10), we are often surprised and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the revelation of our election in Him.

As with Abraham, our calling was not our idea, nor imagined by our own hearts. All of the grace of God in Christ to us originated in the mind and heart of God, in the counsels of His will. Consider the many names He has given us in Christ – new names that signify new blessings: Saints, beloved, the Church of the First Born, those sanctified in Christ Jesus, new creations, God’s family, the temple of the Holy Spirit, brothers, the chosen in Christ, a spiritual priesthood, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God, the brotherhood of believers, those who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ. These titles describe our true condition and we do well to think of ourselves not merely in terms of our forgiveness in Christ – forgiven sinners, which, of course, we are – but also as God thinks of us in light of what we are as new creations in Christ.

God gave the rite of circumcision to Abraham’s family as a sign of their separation from the world and to God. A new blessing requires that some things in our life must go – God’s calling is costly, not just to ourselves but also to our families and children. But the blessings more than compensate for whatever we give up.

The Bible made much of the need for our hearts to be circumcised, and not just our bodies. Moses, Deuteronomy 10:16, wrote, “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.” So circumcision was a picture of humility before God, of our hearts being tender toward Him and our wills being bent to His will. We cannot achieve this by ourselves but need the work of God in our hearts to convict us and to develop His character in us. In Deuteronomy 30:6 we read, “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”

Paul wrote that circumcision by itself had no spiritual benefit unless the heart was also circumcised. “A 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” (Rom. 2:28-29). Paul pointed out in Romans 3-4 that it was not physical circumcision that was the means of Abraham’s justification before God, but it was his faith. So circumsion served as a reminder to the Jewish Nation of their calling, of their uniqueness due to God’s calling, and as a symbol of what must happen in their hearts.

For us, what must go in our lives as God’s people? Frequently we read of such lists in the epistles, “You must rid yourselvs of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is beiong renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:8-10). We need to let God change us by His Spirit, and become soft and tender to Him, moldable into His image.

Prayer:

God, circumcise our hearts from all that is impure, that is beneath us as your children. Take our anger, our pride, our filthy habits, our impure speech, our lies, our carnal imaginations, and whatever is worldly within us, and cut this out of our hearts. Let the love for the things of the world die within us, and let us love You, and cherish our new identity in Christ. Let us be tender before You, moldable, teachable, leadable. Fulfill Your plan in us for Your sake. Amen.

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