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. (Rom 2:28-29)
At one time in Israel’s history the practice of circumcision had been halted for one entire generation, obvious signs of the nation’s disobedience and apathy. In this age of grace, circumcision is not of the flesh but of the heart. When apathy creeps into our lives we need a second circumcision of the heart, so to speak.
Apathy is a vital sign of a lack of life in any church or Christian. It is one of the telltale symptoms of a dying church and a backslidden believer.
Are you ready for a serious heart check? Okay, take your defenses down. Apathy is setting in when:
- An hour in prayer seems so long, but so short when watching a good movie.
- It is laborious to read a chapter in the Bible, but easy to read 200 pages of a best-selling novel.
- Gossiping about someone is easier than sharing the gospel.
- We can’t fit a gospel meeting into our schedule with a yearly planner, but we can schedule other events at a moment’s notice.
- We scramble to get a front seat at a ball game, but are content to sit in the back row of a church meeting where God is moving.
- We get thrilled because a football game goes into overtime, but complain because a Spirit-inspired sermon is too long.
- A ten dollar bill looks big in the offering, but small at the market or mall.
Ouch! I know that hurts.
As spiritual physicians, ministers must not treat the symptoms, but the cause of apathy. Idolatry is the cause of apathy. Yes, idolatry!
Any motivation of the heart having to do with selfish gain is idolatry. Idolatry begins when you start giving your heart’s affections to someone or something else more than God. In this state, a second circumcision (of the heart) is necessary to restore the heart to its supremacy of loving God above all else.
The Bible tells us to “examine ourselves” to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). If we are growing in the love of God we are growing in Christlikeness and becoming less and less selfish.
Let’s compare some characteristics of selfishness that lead to apathy, proof of an uncircumcised heart in certain areas, with the characteristics of a circumcised heart. Again, let’s go through these with an open heart and with the hope that it will expose our blind spots, birth godly repentance, and then lasting change.
Check carefully the areas of your life that are manifesting selfishness:
• Selfish people desire to be served, but a circumcised heart is motivated to serve others.
• Selfish people desire to be a success, but a circumcised heart is motivated to make others a success.
• Selfish people desire personal advancement at the expense of others, while a circumcised heart desires to advance and promote others.
• Selfish people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated, but a circumcised heart has a sense of its own unworthiness outside of Christ and is just grateful that God would use it at all.
• Selfish people are wounded when others are promoted and they themselves are overlooked, but a circumcised heart is eager for others to get the credit and rejoices when others are lifted up.
• Selfish people think of how much they can do for God, but a circumcised heart knows they have nothing to offer outside of Christ and His life flowing through their broken lives.
• Selfish people feel confident in how much they know, but a circumcised heart is humbled by how much it doesn’t know and has yet to learn.
• Selfish people are self-conscious, while a circumcised heart is not concerned at all with self.
• Selfish people are self-righteous and look down at others, but a circumcised heart esteems others better than itself.
• Selfish people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit, but a circumcised heart has a dependent spirit and recognizes its need for others.
• Selfish people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation, while a circumcised heart is self-denying.
• Selfish people claim their rights and have a demanding spirit, but a circumcised heart yields its rights and has a meek spirit.
• Selfish people focus on the failure of others, but a circumcised heart is overwhelmed with a sense of its own need.
• Selfish people possess a critical, fault-finding spirit and are always trying to remove the speck out of someone else’s eye, while a circumcised heart is merciful and forgiving and is busy removing the beam from its own eye.
• Selfish people find it difficult to share their spiritual needs with others, but a circumcised heart is willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.
• Selfish people work to protect their reputation and self-image and are overly concerned with what others think, but a circumcised heart is willing to die to its own reputation and to what others think. Its only concern is being real with God.
• Selfish people are defensive when criticized, but a circumcised heart receives criticism with a humble and teachable spirit.
• Selfish people are quick to blame others and make excuses, while a circumcised heart accepts personal responsibility and can see where it is wrong.
• Selfish people do not wish to be vulnerable, but a circumcised heart is willing to get close to others and risk vulnerability.
• Selfish people are blind to their true condition and don’t think they have anything to repent of, while a circumcised heart walks in the light, and realizes its need for a continual attitude of repentance.
• Selfish people want to always cover up their sin and make sure no one finds out, but a circumcised heart doesn’t care who knows or who finds out as long as God is pleased.
• Selfish people have a hard time admitting wrong and asking for forgiveness, but a circumcised heart is quick to admit failure and seek forgiveness.
• Selfish people deal only with general confession of sin, but a circumcised heart is willing to acknowledge specifics when confessing its sin.
• Selfish people are concerned only about the consequences of their sin, while a circumcised heart is grieved over the root cause of their sin and of the hurt it brings to the heart of God.
• Selfish people are only sorry they got caught or found out in their sin, but a circumcised heart is genuinely sorry for its sin and proves it by forsaking it.
• Selfish people wait for the other person to come and ask forgiveness when there is a conflict or a misunderstanding in a relationship, but a circumcised heart runs to the cross no matter who is wrong, taking the initiative for reconciliation when there are conflicts or misunderstandings.
• Selfish people compare themselves to others and feel superior or inferior to them, but a circumcised heart compares itself to the holiness of God and feels a desperate need for His mercy and grace.
• Selfish people don’t think they need a second circumcision but are sure everyone else does, while a circumcised heart continually senses its need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Well, we all have some work to do, don’t we? Allow God’s grace to tender your heart and let the Lord be your all-sufficiency. You are complete in Him and He loves you right where you are and in the season of life and spiritual growth you are in. But He also wants you to grow as you learn to abide in Him and let His Word abide in you.
Abundant grace be multiplied to everyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.