When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
Abram fell face down, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 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. 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. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Gen. 17)
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col. 2)
I have always thought that the cutting off of the flesh (in the OT) was a strange and bloody affair; quite offensive actually. Yet spiritual circumcision must go deeper than that. And the cutting instrument employed (the cross) is far sharper, far more penetrating; for more offensive (see Gal 5:11). And it is not so much what we lose but what is to be gained, what is to be increased. The image (life) of God is not something superimposed on our lives, but it must take its place at the very core of our being. It must become the very animating, energizing principle of everything that we are and represent. It must become our beginning, our genesis, our all.
A man emptied, cut off from all that he was in himself, in Adam, in the world that sprung from this – such that room is being made for something else, for someone else, something better.
Yes but how deep, how far do we really go? How much does this self-life penetrate and assume us? How much of our consciousness, our intelligence, our sensibility flows up from this self-life?
It is said that in Christ we live and move and have our being. Ah, so no longer are we to to live in ourselves to move in ourselves, to have our being in ourselves. What kind of cutting implement is capable if rendering such a thing? How can this be?
What kind of instrument is worthy of the task of cutting so deep, of penetrating all of the many layers of self that have assumed an identifying place in us? It is rather insightful that at the same time Abraham was to be circumcised his name was to be changed; this cutting off was associated with a new identity. Then from out of this new identity there springs bountiful life and fruitfulness (“I will make you very fruitful”). “Unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground, and be broken open…” says the Lord. It is also interesting that if any man refused to be cut off from all that he was before in himself, he would be cut off from “his people.” Can we truly ever become one with the Son of Man, in ever-increasing fullness and expression and life, if we refuse or resist in letting the cross do what it is intended to do, in each of our lives?
There is so much spiritual meaning here (meat) that I believe we would do well to approach the Lord, to ask Him what this means for each of us in this day of decision. As He lifts the sharpened blade over our lives, are we resisting, are we turning away, are we holding on to what remains, or are we letting it go, letting if fall, letting Him cut deeper and deeper until He has assumed His place.
This is the true mark of ownership and covenant identity. The bride releases all that she is in her husband, by releasing her life to He who loves her and has laid down His life for her. Her very life and identity is now associated in Him, and she becomes free, new, alive in a way she could never experience in herself, on her own.
Dear saints, it is the Father’s good purpose to make room for His Son, and then to fill it with Him. First in all those who say yes, to a remnant who deny themselves, take up their cross, and submit to the cutting off of everything in them that remains. Then to everything else.
We can never truly come out of this world until we come out of ourselves, and into Him fully and completely as one. This is a spiritual and metaphysical impossibility.
His dealings with us are always on this basis, always on the basis of the increase of His Son and the application of the cross to make this so. Only those not offended by the circumcision of the heart will submit to the Father in this regard. Oh how we need His grace to merely let go, to let it all go, to let it fall, to let it lie.
Note the following from T. Austin-Sparks –
The true Jew is one who belongs to God in heart, a man whose circumcision is not just an outward physical affair but is a God-made sign upon the heart and soul, and results in a life lived not for the approval of man, but for the approval of God. (Romans 2:29 Phillips)
The Cross, as the instrument of spiritual circumcision, has to be applied to this self-life deeper and ever more deeply, because there seems to be no end to it. But that is the painful side, the dark side. What is happening on the other side? Is it not that room is being made for Christ? The real seed, the seed of Christ, is growing, becoming more and more manifest. The opposite of the characteristics which we have been considering – strength of intellect or emotion or will – is meekness. He said: “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). Pursue this right through, and you cannot fail to recognize that there was something radically different in the very depths of His being.
I have said that we cannot calculate the whole range of this self-principle, in its myriad forms of self-expression and self-occupation and self-attention and self-pity and self-consciousness and self-satisfaction. Even in our Christian life, in our devotion to the Lord, we are so happy that other people see how devoted we are, and how humble we are! And it is the self, the wretched – may I use the word? – the stinking self, coming up all the time. For a true child of God is oblivious of himself, has lost consciousness of himself in every way. If other people point out something good about them, they had not realized it, they were not aware of it. They are surprised that anyone could say anything good about them; they are not conscious of that. And on the other side, should people be critical and point out failings, well, they only say, “Yes, I know: I had that out with the Lord,” or “I have got that before the Lord right now. I am not deceiving myself about that.” This is the true child of Heaven.