I think I can safely assume that not many people think very often about circumcision. And it's not often that God brings it up in my devotional life with Him. But it has happened. Picking up the apostle Paul in mid-sentence, I was reading, "...nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but... circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:28-29).
As I read that, it struck me that God cares so much more about our hearts than He does about outward things. Perhaps that's because He knows that outward conformity doesn't translate into heart-change the way a changed heart translates into a change in behaviour. Perhaps it's because He knows that outward conformity cannot produce intimacy with Him, but that only a true heart-change can bring about greater closeness between ourselves and God. That must be why God cares so much about our hearts.
What's encouraging about this focus on the heart is the fact that doing so not only results in God being pleased with us – "praise... from God" – but also releases us from having to earn God's praise. Can you imagine that? We typically only think of Biblical praise as being toward God, but Romans 2:29 speaks of God praising us! But the heart that God praises is a heart that has been given to us from God, and in which Jesus rules and reigns. He won't praise us for anything that's of our own making or done by our own efforts. When Jesus is invited to dwell in our hearts by His Spirit, God gives us new hearts so that we can live for Him, enjoy Him, and also be enjoyed by Him! And these new hearts have no interest in people's praise (which is often focused on what people see on the outside), but are instead, captivated by God's pleasure in us.
That is so freeing because the very thing that pleases God the most – a heart dedicated to Him – is the same thing that we can totally depend on God to create in us! He is the one who gives us a heart that pleases Him. Our part is to simply draw near to God and keep our hearts focused on Him (rather than on our outward performance), and God will then do His part of keeping our hearts soft and responsive to Him, thereby allowing us to find incomparable pleasure in His infinite pleasure in us.
© 2015 by Ken Peters