“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh—Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” Jeremiah 9:25-26

People sometimes mark their bodies with a tattoo to signify a particular achievement or a significant person. Circumcision signified a person’s commitment to God but the physical sign meant nothing if their lives were characterised by immoral living. Even in Jeremiah’s time, there was an understanding that circumcision needed to be more than physical.

Paul explains, “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised … A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code (Romans 2:25, 28-29).

It’s the state of our hearts that matters not the external things we do to our bodies or the activities we attend. God is more interested in our heart’s attitude than in what we do.

These days baptism has become the outward sign but the inward change still comes by the Spirit. As we allow God’s Spirit to work in our lives his promise is, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10). We’re inwardly motivated to pursue holiness by God’s Spirit working in us.

The written code wasn’t enough to change people in Jeremiah’s time and it’s not enough now. Change requires God’s Spirit to write on our hearts.