Memorial Day 2021

When I was ten, my dad became the pastor of a little church that met in a VFW Hall in Portland, Oregon. This was 1957-58, so both WWII and Korea were not-so-distant memories for my parents and others of their generation.

I, on the other hand, did not live during any part of WWII, and Korea was something I didn’t really understand. I do now, although I have to admit that I have NEVER understood how eating the piece of disgusting liver on my plate would help some starving Korean orphan. What would my folks do? Send the liver to Korea?

This is not the Hall we used, but it had similar pictures lining every wall and empty space.

I didn’t even know what “VFW” meant until I asked my dad. Veterans of Foreign Wars. Oh. That explained all the different flags and banners, and photos and paintings that covered the walls.

I remember studying all those things from my chair during the services. If Dad noticed that my gaze was on the pictures and not on him, he never said anything. I was completely fascinated by all that I saw there, though it had nothing much to do with what we were doing.

Maybe that’s when my interest in history first ignited. I’m not sure. What I do know is that all of the banners and displays left a deep impression on my mind, and I started reading books that centered especially on WWII. As time passed, I started reading about the Civil War as well, and that war gave WWII some heavy competition in my interests.

What I came away with, once the church moved into a real church building, was that I was glad we met in that VFW long enough for me to begin to understand the importance of the people who fought, down through the years, for our freedom. Memorial Day is specifically to remember those who never made it home, except in a coffin. Some are still at the bottom of an ocean, or simply dissolved into the mists of overwhelming tank and canon fire. Some of them were so young.

They were, of course, not battle-hardened old-timers, and many of them died as their feet hit the sand at Normandy. Some of them probably hadn’t even started shaving. They were younger than some of my grandsons are.

It is these, and others who fought all around the world in the cause of democracy against totalitarian governments that wanted world domination.

Kamala Harris has said that veterans are NOT heroes, they were simply doing their jobs. She said that the best thing they could do, instead of being a drain on the economy, was to just get a job.

I worked with some soldiers in my counseling office. Some of them had wounds that no one could see. Those were the hardest ones to help, because they didn’t want to talk about what they had experienced.

My dad was like that. I’ve probably written before about how, in the late 50s, he wanted to watch the TV show Run Silent, Run Deep, starring Lloyd Bridges. He’d spent the war in a submarine, so the show had a particular appeal for him. But somewhere during the program, he’d get up and disappear until it was over. Whenever there were depth charges, or the order to Dive! Dive! Dive!, we could be pretty sure he had some other important business to deal with. He never said much about it, though. He was never wounded in enemy fire. The depth charges were as close as he came. Later, when his heart was giving out on him and he was put on morphine, he hallucinated about the war. Some of it we knew hadn’t happened to him, because he wasn’t in the areas where the action took place. But some of it was real, and so distressing that my mom asked that he not be put on morphine at all. Someone either didn’t see that on his chart, or ignored it. That was the time he “saw” some vets charging into the hospital ward and shooting up the place, grabbing medications from the pharmacy. I think that was the time he pulled out his IV’s and tried to stop those soldiers. It took some effort to get him back to bed and hooked up to his meds.

We’ll never know what went through the minds of so many thousands of soldiers as they faced death, capture, mutilation. I’m sure they had fears. Who wouldn’t?

I will tell you this, though. They were heroes then, and they’re still heroes today. Far more heroic than anyone sitting in a plushy office and exercising powers that those soldiers died to keep from coming to be part of our government.

It is rare that I go political on this blog, I won’t apologize for it. I’m only one generation away from the generation that fought WWII and the evil that the Axis powers represented. We need to think about that today as we honor those who died in the cause of freedom.

Sunday Morning Coffee: A Godly Husband

Once, I told him he was being a helicopter husband. That he needed to let me make my own decision and accept my own consequences.

I really was born on the Fourth of July. It’s totally appropriate for me to have been born on Independence Day.

The truth is, what I have is a godly husband.

He’s watched me struggle with a great deal of pain over the last four or five years. Even before my back went wonky, he watched me deal with two knee replacement surgeries, and that’s just the big stuff.

He has never complained when I’m having a lot of pain. He just moves in and takes over jobs that he knows are hard for me when the pain is waging an all-out attack. He does laundry. He cleans. He shops, cooks, and takes care of the dishwasher. He’s never been afraid to change a smelly diaper on any of our four kids if I was sick, and even when I wasn’t.

It is not in my nature to be fussed over. I do better when I’m left alone with my misery. So is he. When he’s sick, he doesn’t want me to do a single thing for him, but he has a hard time leaving me on my own.

He took me by surprise a couple of hours ago when he said he wants me to wait another week before I go to church. I questioned that, and I suppose he’s right. I’m better, but he sees me walking and says I’m not ready yet. It’s a 40-minute drive, then sitting from 9:45 until 11:30 or so, and then the drive back home. He says my walk makes it clear to him that I’m still favoring the place where the pain hit, and he just thinks it’s too soon for me to try to take it to church.

I will admit that my initial reaction wasn’t very thankful. I got over that fairly quickly, though, and had a little talk with Jesus about helping me to be thankful for a husband who takes such good care of me, in spite of his own chronic pain.

He absolutely does treat me as Christ treats His bride. I know without doubt that he would lay down his life for me. Sometimes I get annoyed and push against his tendency to protect me, but you know what? That’s just stupid of me! Stupid, and not godly, not virtuous, not appreciative of a man who takes such good care of me. He cherishes me, as it says in Ephesians 5, as he does his own flesh. I have taught women, many times, that when a man treats you like that, it’s very easy to accept his God-given authority as the head of your home.

So there is my sermon to myself on this Sunday morning. If you have a husband who takes care of you, and you have an independent nature, ask God to show you the treasure you have.

Don’t take it lightly.

The Gnostic Heresy

I like to start a study of this nature by defining my terms. It’s the English teacher in me ūüôā

The Greek word gnostos means known. A Gnostic, then, is a  believer in a mystical religious doctrine of spiritual knowledge who is  knowing, able to discern, good at knowing. That in itself doesn’t seem so bad, right? But there were various early Christian sects that claimed direct personal knowledge beyond the Gospel or the Church hierarchy; they appeared in the first century A.D., flourished in the second, and have morphed into various other mystic beliefs over the centuries.

Gnosticism is ancient, and goes way back to the Babylonian studies of astrology. I did a quick overview of writings, and there are volumes written on this topic. It is by no means dead. Here’s what John Lennon had to say about it:

Mr. Lennon was clearly something of a mystic, who opted for the Transcendental notion that we can not only be better than God, but that we can BE gods, simply by revealing our inner light. He has taken Jesus’ statement in John 14:6, “”I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Light” and stretched it to mean something far different than Jesus meant.

So, what are the basic beliefs of the “Knowers”? Here is a simple but clear chart from J. Vernon McGee:

GNOSTICISMPAUL’S
ANSWER
(1)They had an exclusive spirit (were aristocratic in wisdom).Col. 1:28
(2)They held speculative tenets on creation ‚ÄĒ that God did not create the universe directly, but created a creature who in turn created another creature, until one finally created the physical universe. Christ was considered a creature in this long series of creations.Col. 1:15-192:18
(3)Their ethical practice was asceticism (influenced by Greek Stoicism) and unrestrained licentiousness (from Greek Epicureanism).Col. 2:1623

Col. 3:5-9
McGee, Blue Letter Bible

We’ll look at this chart more completely in a minute. First, though, I want to offer you an example of the convoluted thinking of the gnostics about something they stole from Greek philosophy called the demiurge:

“In the PlatonicNeopythagoreanMiddle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy, the demiurge(/ňąd…õmi.…úňźrd í/) is an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe. The Gnostics adopted the term demiurge. Although a fashioner, the demiurge is not necessarily the same as the creator figure in the monotheistic sense, because the demiurge itself and the material from which the demiurge fashions the universe are both considered consequences of something else. Depending on the system, they may be considered either uncreated and eternal or the product of some other entity.” (Wikipedia)

Are you confused yet? To me, it seems much more believable the “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

Back to Mr. McGee’s chart. The Gnostics considered themselves to have knowledge and discernment far above the common man, who simply was not equipped in any way to fully understand the twists and turns of their mysticism. Beware of any group or individual who tells you he has discovered knowledge that no one else has. In Colossians 1:28, Paul warns against such teaching, and makes it clear that the knowledge of Jesus Christ is available to each and every person.

Second, the Gnostics believed that God was not the Creator. This is where the demiurge comes in. God was just a Being in a long line of others, which finally produced the creator of all things. This belief, of course, can take us to a wide variety of humanistic beliefs, including the idea that humanizes God and deifies man. It also allows for pantheism, with its plethora of gods, and the idea that these gods are in all things, including mankind. Paul’s response is in Col. 1:15-19 and Col. 2:18. These are passages that identify Jesus Christ AS GOD, not as a demiurge! All things were created by Him and for Him. We looked at Col. 2:18 yesterday, which says that those who teach other than the gospel are puffed up (conceited) in their own minds.

Third, they practiced both asceticism and epicurianism, a clear contradiction of terms and habits. The ascetic beliefs were those of extreme self-denial in an effort to purify the mind and purge out all wrong thinking. Epicurians went to the farthest extreme possible from the ascetics, indulging themselves in all manner of self-gratification, from food and wine to sexual orgies. Paul’s response in Col. 3:5-9 is a directive to live in moderation, and to take care of inner attitudes and deceit rather than to focus on outward behaviors. As a therapist, this makes a lot of sense to me. For years I’ve taught people that our behavior is motivated by our thinking. Think biblically, and you will not fall into the Devil’s traps, no matter how attractive they may seem.

There is a great deal more to be said about gnostic thinking and behavior. My advice to you? Stay away from it. What we have looked at here is really all we need to know about this heresy. The primary error is in thinking we can become gods, and that gnosticism goes beyond the boundaries of God’s Word. Those two things alone should keep us focused on what God says is truth, and not on what man has created as truth.

The same is true of any heresy. The word heresy, by the way, simply means to divide. Satan continues to come up with many ways to divide believers, and most of those way minimize Jesus Christ and deify man.

Beware!

Don’t be Fooled

Col. 2:18-19.

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,

And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.

Here’s another warning to be wise and discerning, knowing the scriptures, that we not be enchanted, fooled, cajoled, persuaded against the truth. The warning, a solemn one in Paul’s day, is just as valid today. In our information-glutted world, there is no end of fiction passing itself off as truth.

We are to be aware of false humility. I’m thinking of a popular televangelist who put on a humble front, but was happy to accept all financial gifts toward his ministry. He was corrupt, and landed in prison before it was all over. And he’s just one example of false humility.

This false humility is coupled with the worship of angels, which we are warned we must not do. The word angel is often translated as messenger, as well as the created beings we connect with heavenly hosts. Taken in the sense of being a messenger, and delighting in false humility, this can be taken as a warning not to be fooled by pastors and other so-called spiritual leaders who claim great humility and love to be worshipped.

I am blessed to have a pastor who is truly humble. He has a servant’s heart. He cares for his flock selflessly. He has no apparent desire to be held up as someone to be worshipped. In fact, I believe he’d be appalled to receive such adulation. That’s the kind of pastor you want.

Such hero worship, or worship of actual angels, can deprive you of your prize or reward, which in this verse is a metaphor for salvation. If we are diverted by those who are full of false humility but who love to tell lengthy stories of their spiritual experiences or visions, we can miss the whole point of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I know someone who believes she is saved because she felt the pressure of a warm hand on her head when she was going through a very difficult labor and delivery. That was not salvation. It was her own experience with what she was convinced was an angel. It’s a nice story, but it wasn’t a salvation story.

Intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind:
This person is replacing the truth of the gospel with his own so-called heavenly experiences, bringing glory to himself as one who has been chosen to have such experiences. I am reminded of the old joke about a book called Perfection and How I Obtained It, by I.M. Humble. A total contradiction of terms.

Christ is the Head. It is He Who ministers to all the joints and sinews of the body of Christ, the church; it is He through Whom the church grows, becomes strong; it is through Him that the church increases, both in numbers and in knowledge and understanding.

In closing, I want to point out that I have pulled from several different commentators today. I have used Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and a Bible dictionary that I trust. I’m sure there are other interpretations and possible meanings that I have overlooked. It isn’t easy to keep everything condensed into a post that people will not finish reading because it is too lengthy.

With that in mind I’m going to step to one side tomorrow to talk about the heresy that was infecting the Colossian church. Gnosticism was not just in that church, but also in Ephesus and other surrounding areas. It is still infecting churches today, under different names and disguises.

If you are a regular reader, please pray that God will take me exactly where I need to be in terms of information and resources as I prepare to talk about the Gnostic heresy.

Free from the Law

Col. 2:16-17.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Because of Jesus’ victory at Calvary, we don’t have to let anyone force us to observe the legalisms of Judaic law, or any other form of coercion and control.

Legalism, by the pure definition, is simply the ideology that surrounds religions that promote working one’s way to heaven. “Follow this rule; wear these clothes; do these rituals; don’t do this or that, and you will be rewarded with salvation.”

All of that is a lie. If it were true, then Jesus Christ’s death was useless. If we can earn heaven through our own merit, then His sacrifice was in vain.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5-7.

No man, or organization, or member of the clergy, is able to give us forgiveness of our sin and entry into heaven. It is the shed blood of Jesus Christ, His victory over sin and death and the grave, that make entrance into the presence of our holy God a reality.

What about the Old Testament law?

Verse 17 tells us that the law was “a shadow of things to come.” The church is not mentioned in the Old Testament. The system of sacrifices was a picture of what Jesus would do at the cross, completing God’s plan that blood must be shed for the remission of sin. Once Jesus came, we no longer needed the shadow, or picture, or representation of the remission of sins. He was the substance that gave us permanent forgiveness for the sin nature with which we are all born.

He is the One Who established the great mystery, the church, which is the body of Christ. Instead of being concerned with following every little piece of the Law, we can instead rejoice that He has fulfilled all the Law for us. The only thing we can do is to believe and accept that which He offered at Calvary.


Handwriting of Ordinances

Colossians 2:14-15.

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross;

And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

What is the handwriting of ordinances that was against us? The previous verse says that, upon our acceptance of Him, He has forgiven us all our trespasses. That is, He has erased our sin through His shed blood, nailing the list of our offenses to His cross.

The word handwriting here is seen in two different ways. Some see it as a legal document, a list of all the ways we have offended Him. It is the charges against a prisoner, or a confession made by him and recorded by a scribe. It could also be seen as a banking term, a debt record of all our offenses, balanced and removed by His nailing it to His cross.

Remember the sign that was nailed to the cross above Jesus’ head? It stated His “crime.” He claimed to be the King of the Jews, the Messiah. We are identified with Jesus in His death on the cross (Romans 6:3-8). The list of offenses, or charges against us, could also be seen as being nailed to His cross, and canceled through His death and resurrection.

When we could not balance our own books, He did it for us. No one else could have done so. Only the perfect, sinless Lamb of God could eliminate the record of our guilt before God.

Having destroyed principalities and powers: The word principalities here is descriptive of the rebellious angels that have been, by Jesus’ sacrifice, disarmed against believers. They no longer have the weapons to use against us that they can use against unbelievers.

The powers are the earthly authorities that put Jesus on the cross: Rome, and Judaism. They tried to humiliate Him. They tortured Him, and ultimately raised Him up on a cross of shame for everyone to see.

I’ve seen paintings that portray demons celebrating His suffering, gleefully rejoicing in His “defeat.” What they didn’t understand was that His death was NOT a defeat, but a part of God’s plan for the salvation of sinners. He brought them all to shame when He rose from the tomb, victorious over sin and death.

I Corinthians 2:8 says, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” If they had understood, both the earthly powers and the spiritual powers, that they were condemning themselves in their unbelief, they would not have done it. They would not have crucified the Lord of Glory!

Quickened

Col. 2:13. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

And you hath He quickened: Before a person comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and redemption, he is already dead! This is something we need to consider with care, because today’s religionists don’t say much about it. What we hear instead is that there is good in all mankind, and we just need to encourage that goodness in order to attain heaven. That is a lie.

The Bible says, “There is NONE righteous, no not one! (Romans 3:10).” Isaiah 64:6 tells us that ALL our righteousnesses are like filthy rags in the eyes of God. Good works are wonderful, and as children of God we need to be doing good works. But those works do not give us salvation.

The only view God has of me is through the blood of Jesus. No good thing that I do will be rewarded with eternity in heaven. It is ONLY the blood of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection, that can atone for my sin and put me in right relationship with God.

Without salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ, we are already dead, condemned by our nature to sin against a holy God. Until we accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, we are already condemned to eternal damnation.

Why am I making such an issue of this? Well, partly because it isn’t preached as often and as clearly as it should be. Also, I know people who say, “I’m a good person! I help others; I attend church; I give money to help the poor. A loving God will not send me to hell!” What that person fails to understand is that God doesn’t “send us to hell.” It is our failure to recognize our own sinful nature, and to come to Jesus for salvation, that sends us to hell. We are “condemned already” (John 3:18) until we recognize that our own goodness is not enough.

Here’s the good news: You hath He quickened. We were already dead in our sins and offenses against God, but when we humble ourselves and come to Him for salvation, He forgives all our sin and quickens us together with Jesus Christ.

Two more things to note. The word quicken means to give life. I remember reading The Secret Garden many years ago, and reading that the young boy, Dickon, in the story, said that a plant that looked quite miserable was “wick,” and that it just needed some care in order to green up and produce flowers. Wick was a slang expression, meaning alive, or lively. It’s not a big leap to recognize the connection between wick and quicken.

We are given new life in Jesus; we are quickened in Him.

Second, the word forgives in this verse is from the Greek word charizomai, from which we derive charis (charity), meaning grace. We are forgiven ALL of our sins and trespasses, not because we deserve it, but only by the grace of God.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Friends and Family

Many years ago, I believe the year was 1974, Terry and I made a huge decision that would change the course of our lives. We wanted to do something with our lives that would have more impact, more meaning. Earlier in our marriage, Terry had wondered if the Lord was calling him into the ministry. He decided to enroll in seminary, to gain more knowledge of the Bible and to see if that was the direction he was supposed to take.

It wasn’t. He still values the time he spent studying, but he knew it wasn’t the path God wanted for him, and so did I. Looking back, it is very clear how God was leading, one step at a time.

We moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Terry was born, to take a job he’d been offered in his home town. We settled in, but there was a restlessness that we didn’t understand, and we kept seeking to know what God had for us.

Terry wrote a letter to the editor of the Christian newspaper, The Sword of the Lord. In that letter, he stated his desire to be in some kind of service, ministry, that would use his natural gifts and talents. He’s amazingly gifted in mechanical things, and he could fix anything that was broken. He had been working as a mechanical engineer for 3M when we met, but that restlessness was there even back then.

Anyway, the letter was published in The Sword, and way out in the foreign land called Pennsylvania, a woman saw the letter and pointed it out to her husband. He was serving as the youth and music minister at Bethel Baptist Church in Sellersville, PA. They told the pastor, Dr. Richard Harris, about the letter. He called our home. Terry wasn’t there, but Pastor Harris told me they were looking for someone to come and work for the church. They were in need of a man who would work full time repairing and maintaining the buses they used for the Sunday Bus Ministry, as well as for their Christian school.

Terry returned the call, and we arranged to meet in Flint, Michigan. It was about halfway between our home and a conference that Pastor Harris was attending in Ohio. He said he would be bringing a young man with him who was still in Bible college, training to go to the mission field in which he had been born to his missionary parents. Our daughter is now married to his son.

God specializes in planning ahead ūüôā

In any event, Pastor Harris offered Terry the job, and we made the long trek from Upper Michigan to the foreign land of Pennsylvania. Terry had always deplored the idea of living in the concrete jungle of the east coast, but there we were, and we were happy to be there. We still are. It is home, and we do NOT live in the concrete jungle ūüôā

We met the woman who had seen Terry’s letter. She and I quickly recognized a kindred spirit between us. We laugh at the same things, have a mutual wry sense of humor. We also share a love for the Bible. We’ve had some of those deep, personal conversations that you don’t share with just anybody. Our friendship now spans 47years, which seems impossible to me until I look at our grandchildren, some of whom are adults and ready to start families of their own.

They live in South Carolina now, as do many dear friends, but they came up to minister in a church here this weekend. Last night we were with them at our daughter’s place, catching up and enjoying fellowship together.

All of these memories have led me to reflect on how God has led us, step by step, through our nearly 52 years of marriage. Sometimes we have struggled with submitting our own will to the clear leading of His will, but we have been blessed beyond measure as we’ve followed where He has directed.

And, of course, there’s a song playing in my head. Let me see if I can find it:

Buried with Him

Col. 2:12. “Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with¬†Him¬†through the faith of the operation of God, Who hath raised Him from the dead.”

Just as circumcision was symbolic of the covenant relationship between God and the Hebrew nation, so baptism is symbolic of the relationship between God and all who have accepted the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as God’s plan for salvation. Paul wrote essentially the same words in Romans 6:4. Circumcision had become a point of debate between judaizers and and Gentile believers. Paul mentioned it frequently in his epistles because it was a matter of contention, separating Jewish and non-Jewish believers and occupying way too much time in debate and discussion.

I’m a student and teacher of history. As such, I can tell you that Satan uses all sorts of similar arguments to divide believers, and has done so down through the centuries. His plan is simple, really. If he can get believers arguing and debating among themselves over such issues, then he keeps us from what we’re really supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be “walking in the newness of life,” showing our faith in our behavior, sharing the gospel and being examples of Christ wherever we go.

Some issues have existed for centuries and have still not been resolved. We’ve wasted a lot of time and energy trying to convince each other that the position we have taken is THE position. I remember hearing about all-night-long debates in the men’s dormitories at my Bible college. The debates were about such things as Calvinism v. Armenianism, a divisive issue that has never been resolved. Today, we fight about versions and translations. We fight about styles of music. We fight about how a person should/should not dress for church. It’s an endless list of things about which we bicker. Churches have divided and divided again over such things.

I have opinions about all of it, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me ūüôā However, I think I’m learning, in my advancing years, that none of it is the hill I want to die on. What would I be willing to fight and even die for?

*Jesus Christ is the Son of God, wholly God and wholly Man.

*Salvation by grace through faith.

*Baptism, voluntary and by immersion, as a sign of obedience to and relationship with God.

*The absolute authority and inspiration of the Word of God.

There are probably other things, but those four are at the top of the list.

It is interesting to me that in Romans 1, in a list of behaviors that indicate a spirit of rebellion against God, the word debate appears in the KJV in verse 29. It is translated as contention or discord, and Paul uses the same word in several other passages :

Romans1:29; 13:13

1 Corinthians1:11; 1:11; 3:3

2 Corinthians12:20; 12:20

Galatians5:20; 5:20

Philippians1:15; 1:15

1 Timothy6:4

Titus3:9; 3:9

Yet, in spite of the clear admonition against contention and discord, we always seem to be able to find that over which we don’t agree, and to make it a primary feature of division among believers.

Too bad we don’t spend the same amount of time discussing the things about which we DO agree!

Victory over Sins of the Flesh

Col. 2:11. “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”

God established circumcision (Genesis 17:10-13) as a sign of God’s covenant with the Hebrew people. The purpose of this post is not to discuss circumcision itself, but rather to consider the circumcision not made with hands. It is not a physical act in God’s economy in this age; it is, instead, an inner act of submission, repentance, and determination to consecrate one’s life to Him.

More important, it is a voluntary act. In the Old Testament, circumcision was performed on a male child at eight days after his birth, and was a physical sign of God’s covenant. The baby had no choice in what was done to him.

In Colosse, most of the believers were Gentiles, who had never been circumcised. Contrary to what some Judaizers believed and taught, it was not a necessary part of salvation for new believers. It was part of the Old Testament law, not applicable after Jesus died and rose again to provide salvation for all.

It was, and still is, a “circumcision” of the heart. It is an understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin and our need of salvation that can come only through His death and resurrection.

It is a decision each new believer makes about putting off the old sins of the flesh, turning around and walking the other way (the definition of repentance) and choosing to allow oneself to be consumed with love and service to the Redeemer.

Paul used a strong metaphor in the words putting off the sins of the flesh. The phrase pictures a deliberate removal, casting off and discarding a filthy garment, never to be used again. That choice is the spiritual circumcision of the heart through Jesus Christ.

More on this topic in tomorrow’s study.