See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.
For us Jesus followers, circumcision isn’t as much of an issue now as it was ‘back in the day.’ Our fleshy showings look different. Is your church the right brand? Stunning worship band playing the ‘new sound from heaven’ pitch perfect? Serve the best coffee and cakes? Saved souls this week? How many healings? Number of people helped? Inclusive? How many justice campaigns are you fighting for? Give much to charity? How big is your building? How young is your congregation?
In the right spirit – these are valid concerns. In the wrong spirit – these concerns are fleshy shows that weigh us down.
In his BC life, Paul (then Saul) knew all about what it meant to be seen doing the righteous thing. If anyone was qualified to write in big letters about the perils of making “a good showing in the flesh”, Paul was. Instead of pointing to himself, Paul points to Jesus Christ crucified – the only one who truly made a righteously good showing in the flesh.
When you are renewed by Christ’s spirit – when made into a “new creation” – everything changes. I don’t know what that looks like for you. But for me, there’s a desperation in knowing that all my hopes, dreams and aspirations rely on a man who hangs bleeding on a cross. There’s a humility in knowing that the same man is God’s son – raised from the dead – who prays for us right now in Heaven. There’s a longing in my spirit for the Holy Spirit of God, and a prayer that His hopes and dreams become reality – “on earth as it is in heaven”.
“A new creation is everything” – it’s what Jesus lived, taught, died and was reborn for. Renewed, our motivations are brought into alignment with God’s life-saving mission.
We’ve nothing without Christ renewing us.
Holy God, We simply pray as the Psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NRSV) For your glory, God. In Jesus’ name we pray Amen
The Rev’d Angela Rigby is Minister of Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks.