Romans 2:29 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. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
The Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 2, makes the point that a true response to God comes from the heart, not from keeping an external checklist of rules, or of giving the “appearance” of obedience. Sometimes it is easy to casually read through this 2nd chapter of Romans making the quick (and incorrect!) assumption that Paul is talking about alot “Jewish” stuff (circumcision, law, etc.) that really doesn’t have anything to do with us today. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are several parallels that apply to us today:
- The Jews believed that simply because they were Jews, they were “in good” with God no matter how they acted
- It is common in the Church today to believe that simply calling yourself “Christian” regardless of how you act, gets you “in good” with God
- The Jews believed that complying with certain external acts and regulations (circumcision, giving, Sabbath, etc) automatically made them righteous before God regardless of their internal condition
- Much of Christianity today has a “checklist” mentality believing that certain external compliance constitutes holiness (church attendance, Baptism, church membership, prayer, Bible study, certain clothing standards, giving, etc.)
- The Jews had an “us vs. them” mentality based solely on external pride; they were God’s chosen people by birth and they claimed righteousness based on that fact rather than based on inward holiness and obedience
- Christians often claim God’s favor and allegiance simply because they are “Christians” or go to church when their lifestyle and level of holiness is hardly recognizable from that of the world
Paul blasted the idea of claiming Godliness based on external conditions that did not match internal realities. We have a word for this: HYPOCRISY. People see your “outside” and it’s easy to fool people. But God sees the inside… the heart, the motives, the attitudes. External compliance and “checklist” Godliness has been around since Cain brought his offering before God, and God rejected it because his heart (internal) was not right.
Wherever man has existed, he has attempted to claim favor with God for external reasons…
- I was born in the right family
- I go to the “right” or “true” church
- I said a prayer
- I give money
- I’m a good person
- I read the right Bible translation
- I was baptized
- I’m an American
- My parents raised me in church
- …. and on and on.
It’s not a question of whether or not these external things are right or wrong, good or bad, or approved by God. This issue is that true righteousness starts on the inside, and manifests itself on the outside. That is why Jesus didn’t pursue a mission of civil or political change. His mission was to change hearts.
When the internals are right, the externals will follow.
This is the central theme in Scripture concerning man’s heart. When it’s bad, everything we do is bad. When it’s good (through regeneration), only then can we be truly holy in the things we say and do, and how we live. The heart (internal) can only be good after it is supernaturally recreated (born again; Titus 3.5) by a genuine, obedient, repentant, believing response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the answer, the cure, the solution to the “bad” internal condition of man, and external hypocrisy.
Genuine Christians are certainly capable of hypocrisy (being Godly outwardly but not inwardly). Any time our secret life or internal attitudes don’t match what is manifested externally in our life, we are just as culpable as any Jew who claimed automatic “Godliness” simply because they were a Jew. Notice what Paul says starting in verse 28 and apply it to Christians today (my paraphrase):
“A person is not a Christian who is only one by outward appearance, nor does going to Church or doing good works make you righteous. A true Christian is one who is Godly from the inside out; who, from the heart, obeys the SPIRIT of what God says, not just the “letter of the law”. The true Christian seeks God’s approval, not man’s.”
There are two lessons I want to leave you to ponder:
- Be careful that your claim to be a Christian is not hypocritical; your outward behavior and demeanor should reflect the genuine inward presence of a Holy God. To the degree that your secret, known-only-to-you (and God) private life does not match your public claims of Christianity… you are guilt of religious hypocrisy. Men may be fooled; but God is not.
- Always be alert to religious pride and an “I have arrived” attitude. As you grow in Christ, it is a common trap of Satan to try and get you to become puffed up and dependent on your “spiritual maturity”, or your “godly discernment” or Bible knowledge or good works or whatever…. We are very good at becoming prideful over just about anything and looking down our long religious noses at those who have NOT attained our superior level of spiritualness.
If you think this doesn’t apply to you, or think it can’t happen to you, or have no clue what I’m talking about… then you are in the REAL danger of being guilty of what Paul is saying in these verses (Rom 2:25-29). Read Romans 2. It’s a great chapter that will challenge you to evaluate your walk with God, which is ALWAYS a good thing!
Lord, Help us to never be hypocrites. Help us to be Christians “on the inside” knowing that what is on the inside will show itself on the outside. Help us to never be trapped by religious pride but to always evaluate our walk with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Have you ever measured your “Christianity” by what you do (church attendance, Bible reading, good works)? Have you become complacent about your internal condition because you have all the externals right? Do you have any spiritual pride because you belong to the “right” church, or read the “right” Bible translation, or do the “right” things that “prove” you’re a good Christian?
Application: Don’t misunderstand… we should have standards of holiness and righteous conduct. But should always be motivated by inward holiness and humility. Whenever these standards turn into “checklist” Christianity, hypocrisy always follows.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?
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