We often put a fresh coat of paint on wood that looks good but has started to rot on the inside. The paint job looks fine, but it does not solve the problem. Ancient Israel had a similar dilemma. They were trying to deal with an internal problem with an external solution.
Israel practiced the circumcision of the flesh but without a corresponding change of heart. This practice is not just an Old Testament problem. The Sacrament of Baptism is an outer expression of an inner work of God’s Spirit. A genuinely repentant heart must precede baptism. You can go into the baptismal pool a dry sinner and come out a wet one. Without sincere contrition, we will practice a form of religion. We work on changing our outward behaviors, without dealing with heart attitudes and issues. This type of faith puts the cart before the horse. We make cosmetic changes to our conduct to win God’s acceptance, only to find that the issues of the heart continue to surface.
Spiritually speaking, are you trying to put a fresh coat of paint on your sinful nature. Are you endeavoring to circumcise the flesh by focusing on outer appearances rather than heart transformation? Christ is the only one who can change our hearts, and that reformation always comes from the inside out. Pride through self-sufficiency and self-righteousness leads us to try and change things that people can see. Humility leads us to change things that God only sees, resulting in pure religion.
Image used with permission by Microsoft.