The thought of being baptized used to terrify me.
Actually, it was taking my stand to be baptized that scared me. The thought of shuffling up to the front of the church in front of three hundred people and their curious stares sent me into a panic. So I avoided it.
Until one day, at about thirteen years old, my stomach aflutter, I did it. I took my stand.
Why then? Well, because I wanted to. Or, at least, I knew I was supposed to. Maybe I thought I had to?
How’s that for a firm commitment to Christ?
Thankfully, I am not a man who lives in 3000 B.C., else I would have been even more scared to make a commitment to God. Circumcision does not sound like fun.
But that’s exactly what the male Israelites endured in this chapter of the Bible. All except for a few of them had been born not in Egypt, but on the journey to the Promised Land, which meant they hadn’t been circumcised. Now about to enjoy the blessings God had promised, the Israelites were asked to fulfill the covenant of circumcision that had been established years ago.
So they did. But why then?
This isn’t your grandmother’s religion
Everyone gets to know themselves at least twice.
The first time is when you are a child. You learn what your parents believe and you believe it too. You’re a Christian because your parents take you to church or you eat meat because they eat meat, too. You call yourself a Democrat or a Republican because that’s what your mom or dad is registered as.
The second time you get to know yourself is sometime in or after high school. Maybe a rebellion stage is what gets it going for you, or maybe someone asked you a question you’d never thought about before. Whatever the reason, you start to form your own opinions about things. For the first time, you realize that your parents aren’t right about everything. For the first time, you doubt, reanalyze, and rearrange the beliefs and values you were spoon-fed as a child.
I think a lot of the Israelites were stuck between these two stages by the time Joshua took over. These weren’t the same people who came out of Egypt. In fact, verse 4 explains that almost all of those people were dead. It was their children that were about to take possession of the Promised Land.
And those children weren’t circumcised. Circumcision meant so much more to the Israelites than it does today. Circumcision was a sign. It was a commitment. It was a permanent mark of a firm decision to follow God and only God.
But up until that day, most of the Israelites hadn’t made that commitment. They hadn’t fully gotten to know themselves for the second time around.
What about you and me? How many times have you gotten to know yourself? The answer to this question has nothing to do with your age, and everything to do with where you stand.
Have you ever asked yourself what you believe – about God or politics or marriage or morality? Can you defend what you believe? Or are you still recycling soundbites you’ve heard ever since you can remember?
Some of these questions don’t need ready answers. Every question about every value doesn’t have an answer that affects your life.
But questions about faith and God and the Bible? They do.
This is a hot topic for millennials and generation Z these days. Pastors and preachers and thinkpieces everywhere are huffing and puffing about why young people are leaving the church. Young people themselves are creating YouTube videos and Twitter threads and TikToks and even Facebook arguments about everything that’s wrong with the church.
But at the end of the day, what does it really accomplish to stay home from church and simultaneously snipe at it on Twitter?
What are we saying if we resist tradition but can’t explain what the Bible really says?
If our words complain about one thing, but our actions are doing nothing about it, what do we really believe?
It’s time to decide if we believe in God and why.
It’s time to decide what we believe church should look like.
It’s time to decide what we believe Christian living truly is.
It’s time to base those beliefs on not our intuition, but on truth. It’s time to let our behavior shout those beliefs out loud.
It’s time to get to know ourselves again.
“I would rather you be hot or cold, but never lukewarm.”
We stay attached to a spiritual umbilical cord for many reasons. Maybe we’re afraid of what God really asks of us. Maybe we’re too busy enjoying ourselves to get serious about God. Maybe we don’t know where to find the answers to our questions about God. Maybe we’re too lazy to search for truth.
Whatever the reason, staying attached means we stay in an awkward kind of limbo. We go to church, but we don’t pay attention. We’re technically Christian, but we’re not super religious. We don’t witness, because what would that even look like?
In other words, we’re lukewarm in our faith, because we don’t really know what we believe.
That’s exactly what God warned us against.
So this is your sign to get to know yourself again. Ask hard questions and look for the answers. Decide what those answers mean and how they should change the way you live. It doesn’t mean your beliefs will never change; but it does mean you know what they are.
We should follow God not because we think we’re supposed to or because it’s what we’ve always done. It won’t even always be because we want to.
But it should always, always be because we believe.
What do you think? Are there any beliefs you need to reexamine or talk over with God?