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Matters of the Heart

Words of Faith Final

Matters of the Heart
Words of Faith 7-22-2021
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2021
Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
www.faithfellowshipweb.com
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Romans 2
    [25] Circumcision has value if you observe the Law, but if you break the Law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. [26] If those who are not circumcised keep the Law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? [27] The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the Law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
    [28] A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. [29] 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.

        Jews at the time of Paul trusted in two things to set them apart: the Law and circumcision. Circumcision provided an outward sign for Jews of their special covenantal relationship with God.  Speaking to Jews, Paul sounds revolutionary as he suggests that circumcision is more a matter of the heart than of the flesh. He questions whether the central ritual of Jewish identity is valid if it is not accompanied by a change of heart.  
       This was nothing new. The intention of the Lord was always a change of heart.  Deuteronomy 30:6 declares, "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 knew what was like to have obeyed every detail of the Law including the ritual of circumcision and yet not have a heart changed by the grace of God.  Paul knew what it was like to have all of the Law right but have a heart filled with hate.  In a radical way, Paul goes so far as to suggest that a Gentile who is not circumcised but actually follows the way of God is, in fact, more "circumcised" than a Jew!  
        For the Christian reader, 20 centuries later, we would do well to examine our own reliance on rituals.  We might ask: Do we somehow depend upon the rituals of membership, confirmation, and baptism in a way similar to the religious Jews of Paul's day?  If so, Paul would be quick to point out that we have missed the real point if we look to the outward ritual of baptism for our identity and salvation.  
       To rephrase and apply this text today, Paul might suggest that the outward ritual of baptism has value if you live the Bible's teachings, but if you break that teaching, you have become as though you had not been baptized.  And if those who are not baptized keep the requirements of the Bible, will they not be regarded as though they were baptized?  The one who is not baptized physically and yet obeys the Bible will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and baptism, are a lawbreaker.  
       You see, a person is not a Christian if he is only one outwardly, nor is genuine baptism merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Christian if he is changed inwardly. Baptism is a baptism of the heart, by the Spirit, not by a written code. Such a person's praise is not from men but from God.
       Do you see how easy it is to fall back into the rituals of religion?  We must seek to be baptized by the Spirit as a matter of the heart.  We must seek membership in the Body of Christ as a matter of the Spirit.  We must seek the grace of God to change us inwardly rather than seek identity through outward rituals performed with human hands.  
        Paul's words cause us to wonder. Within the circles of the evangelical world, we must avoid ritualizing salvation and the works of God's grace.  It is easy to find ourselves ritualizing and depending upon a particular experience such as an "altar call" as a modern form of ritual "circumcision."  
        Some traditions might emphasize a particular manifestation or gift of the Spirit as a required ritual signifying conversion.  One might go through life depending upon such an experience for religious identity when, in fact, hearts are unchanged. In reality, we act just like the world. What we need is not rituals Catholic, protestant, evangelical, charismatic, or otherwise!  What we need is genuine grace and a daily walk with God!
       The point of Paul that we shall see unfold is that we are all lost without the grace of Jesus. There is no religious way to get to God.  There are no rituals in any church or synagogue that can justify us.  There is no religious rite that is capable of changing the human heart.  Only the grace of God can change a person from within.  Rituals can only celebrate such an inner transformation. Still, such rituals are a bit of a hazard to us because, as humans, we are so prone to depend upon our own actions and trust in our own works.
 
         Lord, I desire to be identified with You and Your grace alone.  I look to Your work upon the cross.  I claim Your free offer of grace alone. I choose to walk with You today, to listen and watch for Your leading in my life.  In Jesus' name.  

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© Jeffrey D. Hoy 2021
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy - Faith Fellowship Church (EFCA)        
2820 Business Center Blvd.
Melbourne, Florida 32940 (321)-259-7200
Jeff.Hoy@faithfellowshipweb.com
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The Words of Faith devotion is published five days a week by E-mail, excluding Federal holidays. Please feel free to forward this devotion to a friend who might be blessed by this devotion. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is quoted from the New International Version (R) of The Holy Bible. Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. Words of Faith (c) 1997, 2021 Jeffrey D. Hoy. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to forward this copyrighted material or use portions of it with appropriate notation of the source for non-profit purposes.