The Dependence On Outward Signs Instead of Inward Commitment

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  GENESIS 17:9-13; Deuteronomy 10:16-17; Colossians 2:11-12

SIGNS ARE IMPORTANT –

Signs are one way that we communicate with one another and many times how we identify things.

A Salvation Army woman outside of a well-known store during the Christmas season was informed by a policeman that there was a local ordinance that prevented her from ringing her bells and inviting contributions.  She was contrite and apologized that she had “broken” the law.  But the next day she was back in front of the same store doing a brisker business than ever as she waved one sign and then another in the air.  One said “DING” and the other said “DONG”.

SIGNS are important in the lives of God’s people too.  They may not be printed signs but we, as Christians, do portrait who we are by the way we live.  People should be able to identify us by the way we are acting.  Our lives become SIGNS to the world.

In the referenced passage of Scripture in Genesis 17, it is telling us about a sign that identifies God’s people.

Genesis 17:1-2 (AMP)

[1]  WHEN ABRAM was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, I AM the Almighty God;  walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete).

[2]  And I will make My covenant (solemn pledge) between Me and you and will multiply you exceedingly.  [Amplified Bible]

The FIRST thing I noticed in the study, is this is where we are introduced to the name, El Shaddai–means God Almighty.  The all-powerful God.  It’s here where God tells Abram the name that He wants him to remember Him by.

God tells Abram to serve Him faithfully and in return, He will BLESS him.

Also here in chapter 17, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sari’s name to Sarah.

He gives them NEW NAMES when He gives them the sign of the covenant.

God has just informed Abraham that He was making a covenant (not a contract) with him.

CONTRACT VS. COVENANT – Why the difference matters.

With a contract, if one agreeing party does something in violation of the contract then it’s considered broken.  The whole contract becomes null and void.  Basically, the signs of a contract agree to hold up the ends as long as the other signatories hold up theirs.

With a covenant, both parties agree to hold up their ends, regardless of whether the other party keeps their part of the agreement.  A violation of a covenant by one party doesn’t matter as far as the other party’s responsibility is to continue to do what they agreed too.  [See footnote [i].]

So in God’s COVENANT with Abraham, He tells him and his descendants they would be God’s chosen people and God also promised him the entire land of Canaan forever!

Then God went on to say to them…(vs. 9-13)

[9] Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.  [10] This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are going to keep:  Every male among you shall be circumcised.  [11] You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.  [12] For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner–those who are not your offspring.  [13] Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised.  My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.”  [NIV Bible]

You will have a SIGN, a mark on you that will identify you as one of My Chosen People.  When you do this, you’re acknowledging who I AM and what I mean to you.  This will set you apart from the rest of the world.  Your old identity will be gone.  No longer are you who you used to be, now you are one of My chosen people.  This tells those around you who you worship and serve.

The SIGN of FAITH by CIRCUMCISION is just the beginning.

After this act, God expected Abraham and his descendants to be different from worldly people who live among them.

It was a SPIRITUAL SIGN to be dedicated to Almighty God.

As you read and study God’s word, you’ll see that the Jewish people became prideful of this.  The SIGN became a national pride, not a submission to God and a promise to follow Him.  They started depending on an outward sign instead of an inward commitment to God.  The problem with this was the SIGN, not the actual covenant.

Have we as Christians become so prideful in outward signs in today’s society we’ve forgotten God’s covenant?


Again, VERSE ONE: 

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.”

SERVE ME FAITHFULLY, that was the covenant.

Circumcision was the SIGN and not the actual covenant.  God had gotten tired of only token commitment from His people.  They were being circumcised but they were NOT being the people God had intended them to be.

Look at Deuteronomy 10:16-17


SERVE ME FAITHFULLY, that was the covenant.

CIRCUMCISION, a separation from the world.  A separation from SIN; cutaway, circumcise the old ways and, the old sinful heart and serve with a new heart.

What does this mean to us today?  We do have circumcision but it’s just a health-related issue, not a religious issue for Christians today.  While we don’t have the circumcision as a SIGN of our commitment to God, we do have BAPTISM.

The Great Commission – Matthew 28:19, 20 (AMP)

“Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age.”

This is a SIGN that they have accepted what Jesus did for them.  It doesn’t SAVE them, the acceptance of Christ does that and along with that commitment comes a CIRCUMCISION of the HEART.  A change of heart.  A new creation in Christ Jesus.

The apostle Paul gives the best definition I’ve found for Christian Circumcision in his letter to the church at Colossi:

Colossians 2:11, 12 (NIV)

[11] In Him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with the circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,  [12] having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.

We are BAPTIZED because we have trusted in the mighty POWER of God.  Our SIN is cut away and we tell the world that we are one of God’s children.

I’ve had conversations with many people over the years whose only testimony is that they were “baptized.”  I heard people say they walked the aisle at so and so’s church and was baptized.

If you claim to be a Christian, then you must have a testimony!

There must be a time that you knew and remembered that you BELIEVED and ACCEPTED what Jesus did for you.

BAPTISM IS NOT THE SALVATION EXPERIENCE.

The FAITH that we place in God through Jesus Christ is how God makes a COVENANT with us and we solidify that and show the world through our BAPTISM.

BAPTISM IS OUR CIRCUMCISION.

It symbolizes the removal of the old skin in our lives and identifies us as a child of God.  My heart just aches for those who think that just because they were baptized in front of a church altar, they were SAVED.  They have become like the children of Israel who thought that just because they had the SIGN OF CIRCUMCISION, they were HEIRS to eternal life with God.

God says no, your HEART must be circumcised.

There’s a change if there is true SALVATION.  We are not the same person we were before we met Jesus.

The are OTHER SIGNS that Christians should be showing in their lives.

God told Abraham that he must serve Him faithfully.  Not occasionally, but ALWAYS!

Our TESTIMONY must always be that we were SAVED through the death of Jesus Christ for the punishment for our SIN.

The Israelites carried the SIGN of the Covenant through CIRCUMCISION, but there must be more.

Just like Abraham and everybody else that is a true child of God, we must wear A SIGN of the heart that has been changed; the SIN has been changed, the SIN has been cut away and a life that is living faithfully for God.

Neither CIRCUMCISION nor BAPTISM can save you, only FAITH in God and what Jesus did on the cross.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog-study in the Bible.  I’m always looking for feedback in my study so I can continue to grow in the proclamation of God’s Word.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  Contract Vs. Covenant.  Why the Diffeence Matters; New Creations.org

PHOTOS/IMAGES:  Google Image Search; Settings, advanced search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

 

A CALL TO HOLINESS IN A HOSTILE LAND

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Last week I participated in a political discussion group on social media where the attacks got pretty hot and heavy.  And, I have to confess, my “flesh” got in the way of my heart and I had to repent from my reciprocal reactions.  

Was I right in making a “political” point? Perhaps, but my thought process and reaction to unbelievers wasn’t.  I’ve since disconnected with the group.

The Holy Spirit directed my repentance, to a study in 1 Peter–and so here I am: A CALL TO HOLINESS IN A HOSTILE LAND–“But as the One Who called you [MEL] is holy, you [MEL] also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living” (1 Peter 1:15 AMP). Now that’s…personal!

A BIBLE STUDY IN 1 PETER 1:13-21 –

PETER begins his letter to the churches, in the northern part of Asia Minor in the first twelve verses to the future of the Christian.

[13] “THEREFORE, prepare your minds for action…” and this is a good place to start from.

I capitalized the word “THEREFORE” for emphasis.  When reading the bible, it can become a tired old saying, but true–and it’s there for a reason.

In the Amplified bible, verse 13 reads “So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert)…”

PETER is about to make a transition from the FUTURE HOPE of the Christian, to the PRESENT HOPE…Peter wants Christians to understand, since God has given us a living HOPE, our incorruptible Inheritance and His promised of PRAISE, HONOR and GLORY, and there is a certain way He expects believers–that’s us–to conduct ourselves publicly, in our homes privately, or anywhere we travel in this life.

This takes us to 1 Peter 1:15, “as the One Who called you holy…be holy in all of your conduct and manner of living.”

So Peter in essence is saying–no, what Jesus said in Luke 12:48,  “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required; and of him to whom men entrust much, they will require and demand all the more.”

WOW!  Living a holy life in the expectations of a HOLY GOD, can that be a reality in today’s world?  It’s a hostile land out there!

THE CALL TO HOLINESS –

God calls His people today to HOLINESS.  A “HOLY PERSON” isn’t an odd person but a distinct person.

A holy person has a quality about their life that is separate; and their present lifestyle is not only different from the past way of living, but is different from the way of living of unbelievers around them.  They are real, genuine, authentic people and they should be representing the likeness of Christ Jesus to the watching world.

We have been commanded to live a holy life–energetic and blazing with holiness.  

Someone once said, “We may choose a married life or a single life, but it is not left to us to choose whether, or not, we live a holy life.”  It’s what marks us as God’s followers.

Why don’t we then, want to heed the call?

“Wait just a minute,” someone might say, “This holiness thing is just a little bit too much for me!”

The problem becomes, we don’t want to be different–to stand out of the crowd.  We have become an assembly line society…and YES, churches today are part of society in case you forgot.  We’re terrified of being set apart.

We visualize a caricature of “holiness”; we think the whole idea of holiness communicates an attitude and displays actions that become known as “holier-than-thou”.

We discredit spirituality and behavior that puts one on a pedestal of being better than the rest.  Jesus despised this type of mentality and morality that the Pharisees displayed and we agree with Him.

We often misunderstand what it means to be HOLY!

After READING AND STUDYING this passage of Scripture, I found that Peter gives some answers, or KEYS to a holy living that should help us to be what God wants us to be. HOLY.

KEY #1 – VERSE 13 “GIRD UP”:

The King James Version (KJV) reads, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind” and I thought, “Huh?”

gird-up-your-loins-2

In biblical times robes were usually worn–and robes tend to get in the way if you’re doing certain kinds of work or you need to get from POINT A to POINT B, in a hurry.  So “girding up your loins of your mind” is a metaphor for being prepared in your mind…being alert.

Being ALERT mentally–

Is when we see and process the information in the world around us in a different way because of the understanding we should have through the Holy Spirit.

How many times in my life as a Christian, I’ve fallen down by not adhering to this aspect of “holiness.”  Things that others see as the normal way of doing things, or at least the acceptable way of doing things, are not so acceptable when you have a PREPARED MIND–seeing things through the POWER of the Spirit of God.

1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV):

[14] The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.  [15] The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment;  [16] “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” (Isaiah 40:13)  But we have the mind of Christ.

“GIRDING UP OUR MINDS” means being ready and able to recognize and reject the worldly influences around us.  My unspiritual banter in a political forum became foolish, just as their argumentative ‘banter’ was foolish.

The 2nd Key to holy living I happened to notice is to LIVE A CHANGED LIFE!

KEY #2 is found in VERSE 14, where Peter tells us to be “obedient children…”

[14]  [Live] as children of obedience  [to God];  do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].

The word OBEDIENCE seems to raise the hair on the back of one’s arms.

Colossians 3:20:  “Children, OBEY your parents in everything”…

Or, this gets to the ladies sometimes…“SUBMIT to your husbands…Colossians 3:18.

Some of us become rebellious when we hear those words in conversation.  But as those verses in Colossians are brought to mind, the apostle Paul is saying wives, husbands, children…ADAPT to your role in life because it is your service in obedience to not your husband, your wife, your parents BUT…THE LORD!

Peter is telling us that, even though before we knew the LORD, we considered it alright to do certain things, and now, it is no longer acceptable to use our “ignorance” concerning spiritual things.

The apostle Paul gives us a whole list of things that ought not be found in the life of a Christian.  READ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

DON’T BE DECEIVED; NEITHER THE…

  • impure and immoral,
  • NOR idolaters,
  • NOR adulterers,
  • NOR those who participate in homosexuality,
  • NOR cheats,
  • NOR greedy graspers,
  • NOR drunkards,
  • NOR foul-mouthed…

The list GOES ON!

What I found interesting in reading this passage was, if your LIFESTYLE is a LIFESTYLE that is displeasing to God, and you have no desire or intent to change it, you are probably kidding yourself if you call yourself a CHRISTIAN.

As a student of the Bible, I’m not making up the rules for your living, or my living, neither do the church leaders in place, nor any particular church member.

BUT…if you don’t feel the call of God to change from your former way of life to the life of an “obedient child of God,” then you need to see if that once “confession of Christ as savior” in your life is a genuine one.

KEY #3 – KEEPING YOUR HEART, MIND AND SOUL, FIXED ON JESUS TO BE HOLY 

1 PETER 1:17-19 (The MESSAGE):

[17] You call out to God for help and he helps–he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.  [18] It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in.  [19] He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know.  

[Bible Study Tools-the Message bible, 1 Peter 1:17-19]

Keeping your heart, mind and soul, fixed on JESUS–to be HOLY, not only do we need a PREPARED mind and a CHANGED LIFE, what Peter is saying here, as Christians, we are to claim Almighty God as our Father–not simply as our Creator but as our Father.  And, to understand this, it is through the precious BLOOD of Christ Jesus that allows us to call Him, FATHER!

The BLOOD of JESUS
The BLOOD of JESUS

So Peter is telling us, that if we are going to make that claim of God, we better focus on the SACRIFICE of God’s one and only Son, Jesus, and, that knowledge needs to be reflected in everything we do and say.  Even as we share our comments, or others’ comments, on Social Media, “as is right and fitting and your proper duty to the Lord” (Col. 3:18 (b) AMP).

As Christian witnesses, we often misunderstand what it means to be HOLY.

Today, the WORLD has a desperate need for people who are different.  As in Genesis 17, Abraham was to circumcise himself, his household and his slaves as a mark in the flesh of an everlasting COVENANT between God and His people–His children.

Like CIRCUMCISION was a mark of the flesh in the Old Covenant, Christians should have the spiritual mark of HOLINESS.

Like circumcision, it won’t be easy, in fact, at times it will be painful.  But it will make a difference!

We need people who will be JESUS at the office, in Congress, in Society, in the Classroom…ALL in a HOSTILE LAND.

People who live their FAITH in boldness, even though the rest of society thinks we are different.

Will you make a commitment as I have made, to be serious about truly being repentant when we sin, not to take SIN lightly…after all, our SIN is what caused Christ’s death, after all.

THINK ABOUT LIVING A “HOLY LIFE” THIS WEEK, IN CHRIST’S NAME!!!

 


 CREDITS:

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations, as noted in the text:  King James Version (KJV); The MESSAGE Bible (MSG); The Amplified Bible (AMP).