21 May 2009

Transforation of the Heart


There's much to be said in the Bible about the heart. Prov 4:23 says "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life". When a person becomes a Christian, he or she is given a new heart. This brings a new nature that is pleasing to God, because without that new heart we are seen by God as filthy rags. Why must a person receive a new heart? Because scripture says in (Jer 17:9) "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?". This would be the center of what the heart is and what it's capable of; it is wicked to the core. The heart of man, like marble, is stone-cold and as we see in the next verse, the Lord knows this. "I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings". The Lord is called the Knower of the heart. To Him alone can this verse be applied; it is from Him alone that we can have the ability to understand the instruction by which we can in any way know ourselves because the heart is wicked. Charles H. Spurgeon says "The heart of man is compared in Scripture to the nether millstone, and in another place it is even compared to the adamant stone; it is harder than the diamond; it cannot be cut; it cannot be broken; it cannot be moved" (1). God sees our heart as wicked and unclean, but by His grace and long-suffering towards man, He tells us that He will teach us how we can obtain a heart that loves and wants to obey a holy and perfect God. Using passages in the books of Proverbs and Romans, we will examine what the Bible says about the natural state of Man's heart and how that can and must be changed in order to be acceptable in God's holy presence. Firstly, how does the world view the heart? The world sees the heart as the vital center and source of one's being, emotions, and sensibilities. It is the repository of one's deepest and sincerest feelings and beliefs; the seat of the intellect or imagination, emotional constitution, basic disposition, or character; one's prevailing mood or current inclination; capacity for sympathy or generosity; compassion; love; affection (2). The world also views the heart in that "It means to let our feelings, dreams, and gut-instincts lead us through our lives, from moment to moment, rather than simply becoming and being what our own mind and society has planned for us all along; as we renounce the understandings and activities of mankind we must find our compass within ourselves, if ever we are to continue forward, towards a life of wholeness and beauty" (3). I once heard a wise man say that there is a Greek word for this view, it sounds something like "baloney". Seriously, this makes a wonderful statement about 'self' and 'me' and what's in it for my self-righteousness. This statement is very similar to the view of the Pharisees and the Judiazers of biblical times. Proverbs says in 21:2 "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts". To truly answer the question of the heart, we must turn our thinking away from the disturbing and selfish understanding of the world's view. We can only do this by taking a deeper look into the matter of the heart using information from the greatest authority and sovereign King. We have the word of God, His holy scripture; what does the Bible say about the heart? There is much information about the heart we can glean from the book of Proverbs. Prov 21:1 says "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will". Even though the worldly kings seem to have all things at their command, they are not able to bring their own purposes to pass unless God has appointed them to do so. We tend to forget the reason we breathe today is because a holy and perfect God allows us to. Prov 16:9 says "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps". The word 'deviseth' means to strike out by thought; to plan; to scheme. Man is always trying to please self and to do things his own way and make grand plans about what he will do. There is nothing the Lord does not know about our life, and he has known what direction we would take since before the beginning of time. Already, in just these couple of verses, we are able to clearly see that the world's view of one being in control of one's own life and purposes of the heart, is contradictory to the scripture. We know this because the Bible clearly tells us "... the LORD directeth his step". Prov 3:5 says "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding". If we lean on our own understanding, we are destined to fall and we will be destined to face our end at the Great White Throne judgement. We must put all our trust in the LORD. God is the Fountain of all good. He has made us; we are His creation intended to be dependent upon Him. God requires us to be conscious of that dependence through both sensing a need and desire for Him. As we are shown in Rom 1:16-21, the just shall live by faith. When we look at Prov 14:30, "A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones", we are shown that a "sound heart" is a heart made so only by the grace of God. In this sound heart, we would find the principles of truth, righteousness, and holiness. It is a heart free from wrath, anger, and envy, and other similar passions and worries. This contributes much to the health of the body, and the comfort of life. Conversely, a heart full of envy and jealousy destroys the body through emotional and spiritual decay. What does the Bible say about the wickedness of the heart and the results of that wickedness? Rom 1:21 says "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened". This means the whole inner man became worthless and senseless. The heart of man is easily darkened by wrong thinking and selfish behavior, which we know as sin. As a result of the wickedness of their hearts, their conduct was evil and even their imaginations (thoughts) were nothing but evil continually. Darkness is natural to the hearts and understanding of all humankind, which is enlarged by personal sin. Satan is very concerned with ensuring people continue in darkness, and even God, in His perfect judgement, sometimes gives up the hearts of men to judicial blindness. This was precisely the case of the people referred to in Rom 1:21. "The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth". (Prov 10:20) There is little worth to a heart that is wicked and evil. There is nothing good that can come from the heart when it is in bondage to sin. Rom 2:5 says "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God". Hardness of the heart leads to total destruction and separation from a holy God; it only leads to the final judgement at the Great White Throne (2 Pet 2:9), (Job 21:30). If a person thinks that his or her heart is not wicked, they are only fooling themselves. They need to read Prov 28:26, which tells us "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool...". It is foolishness on the part of men to trust in the wisdom and counsel of their own hearts, to lean to their own understanding, in things both natural and civil. A person who trusts in his own understanding is destined for destruction because, as we have already established through scripture, a person is incapable of doing what is honest and good in the eyes of a sovereign God. Prov 17:20 says "He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief". Someone who is habitually obstinate or crooked will fall into misery. He will not obtain the favor of God, nor a good name, good credit, or good reputation among men. A 'perverse tongue' literally means "a fork of flame, evil speaker". Again, this behavior will only lead to destruction and wrath from God. We see in Prov 6:18 that "An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief" is the beginning of all forms of wickedness. Similarly, Prov 1:16 guarantees that men with an evil heart will naturally "... run to evil, and make haste to shed blood". Nothing good comes from the heart of man. This is the reason why Jesus had to come to this earth to be our propitiation for sin. The heart is evil and wicked and God requires judgement. The only possible way to receive a new heart has been made available to us through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. This leads us to the fact that man cannot change his own heart. Because Romans 10:9-10 says "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation", we know that it must be an act of God through Christ Jesus our savior. We can only get a new heart through confession that He is Lord, and to believe in our heart and follow. We must have faith in our heart that Jesus died for our offenses, and has been raised for our justification, and depend solely on Him for that justification, in order to be saved. Rom 2:29 says "But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God". We need to realize that everything we do should show praise and honor to the God who created us in His own image. The fall of man brought sin into His creation and we must first be reconciled to Him in order to have eternal life. We must praise Him for His righteousness. We must be a worshipper of God in Spirit and in truth. As Deut 10:16 says, "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked". We must submit and not be disobedient to God; we need to cut off all the evil affections of our heart. Rom 6:17-18 says "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness". In order to have a changed heart, it first must come from God who is the giver and sustainer of life. We are products of His greatness; in order to be a part of His righteousness, we must receive a new heart. Sin brought all men under a sentence of condemnation, and Christ bore the execution of this sentence in himself for His people. As a result, we as Christians are free from the bondage of sin, have passed from death to life, and will never enter into condemnation. We can have this assurance because of the end of Prov 28:26: "....but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered". A wise person will be delivered, which means released, rescued, and most importantly, preserved by the loving and caring hands of God. What are we delivered from? We are delivered from eternal death and destruction and His righteous judgement. Every unwilling person who thinks they are good enough to face a holy God in their own strength will face that eternal condemnation. The Bible views the heart of the self-righteous as an abomination and wicked. "They that are of a froward heart are an abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight". (Prov 11:20) The Lord takes delight in the upright in heart, those with integrity, one who walks in the truth of God and His righteousness. Prov 3:5 says "Trust in the LORD (we must put all our trust in the Lord), with all thine heart; (your whole heart must trust in the Lord, you must have faith in the Lord) and lean not unto thine own understanding". God is the Fountain of all good. He has made His intelligent creatures dependent upon Himself and He requires us to be conscious of that dependence. He has promised to supply what we need and He commands us to believe by faith in His promise, looking to its future fulfillment. We are to do this without doubt, or fear - a willing and whole heart, as this verse indicates ("with all thine heart"). We cannot rely on our ourselves for salvation because, as we have already examined, our heart is deceitful and wicked. We are counted as fools if we think we can achieve salvation on our own merits. The Bible speaks of a rich young man who built bigger and better barns to make himself feel better about his soul, as seen in Luke 12:19. "And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry". We cannot have this thinking when it comes to our souls and the heart issue, because Jesus has something very important to say about this in verse 20. "But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?" Without a new heart we are as good as spiritually dead and cast into hell. "this night thy soul shall be required of thee" What the rich man should have said, if he had a renewed heart, is found in Rom 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek". Salvation, the one overwhelming necessity of perishing men, is revealed in the word of God. Salvation is by grace through faith, it is a free gift from God. That is the only way to obtain a new heart to replace the wicked heart with which every person is born. This is further proven in Prov 20:9 which tells us "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" John Bunyan said "One leak will sink a ship; and one sin will destroy a sinner." No man is innocent of sin. The only possible way a person could be declared clean would be to testify that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed them from all unrighteousness. He is pure from his sin, who is justified freely through the redemption that is in Jesus. A man can never say "...I made my heart clean, or "... I am pure from sin" as a result of his own righteousness. To make that kind of statement, he or she would be claiming that they are a good and decent human being who has no sin, and that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was insufficient for them. The Word of God has something to say about such a statement in 1 John 1:8 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us". Verse 10 further shows us "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us". The Bible clearly tells us that if one claims never to have sinned, that one is calling God a liar. In the Greek, it means a "falsifier", and that is blasphemous of a holy and infinite God. If we think that we can make ourselves better people, as some would like to think (as seen from the previous statements about how the world views the heart), "....we must find our compass within ourselves, if ever we are to continue forward, towards a life of wholeness and beauty" (3), we are making God a liar. We are only able to receive the heart of righteousness though Christ Jesus our LORD, not through ourselves or our 'inner being'. The bible is very clear on this issue, and as we see in John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me", there is NO other way. The bible is very clear and direct - no person will ever see the Kingdom of God unless they deny self and follow the Lord by faith. It's the gift from God and no one else. We cannot make it on our own. We cannot obtain eternal security by our own merit because, again, Eph 2:9 warns us that it is "Not of works, lest any man should boast". Eze 11:19 says "And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh". We need to look carefully at the word "I". God declares it is to be the free gift of His Spirit; not of man but only by God's sovereign plan. 2 Cor 5:17 says "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new". In the Greek, 'new' implies a new nature; the old nature passes away, it is gone or perishes. It is a wonderful comfort to realize all things become "new" when you receive a new heart. Previously, we were full of pride and wrath, now we receive meekness and humbleness. Formerly, we had our heart concerned with this life and lived for this world alone, without God. But upon salvation, God now becomes our treasure, our desire, and we don't concentrate only on the things which are seen anymore (material), but at the things which are eternal (spiritual) in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore, "old things (my old and wicked heart) are passed away", and the void in our life is filled with Christ Jesus. What happens when we receive a new heart, and what are the results of becoming this new creature? As seen in Rom 10:10, there is an instant transformation. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation". We must believe in our heart, which is an act of the will and not just the emotions. Rom 10:13 says "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved". It is not solely with the intellectual understanding, but with a faith that is sincere. No other faith can be genuine than that which influences the whole mind and heart. All sinners are able to be saved ("for whoever shall call upon.."); all will have their guilt pardoned and receive a new heart that is purified, ONLY if their desire is genuine. Matt 5:8 says "blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God". This is referring to those whose minds, motives, and principles are pure. They are those who seek not only to have their external actions correct, but also desire to be holy in heart. Man looks at the outward appearance (actions), but God looks at the heart (motives). We can only receive a new heart when we recognize the depravity of our own heart because it is so easy to be blinded by our self-righteousness and pride. Matt 6:21 says "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". When we become a child of the Living God, our affections will of course be fixed on the treasure - the Lord in all His splendor and majesty. To possess treasure in heaven is to possess evidence that its purity and joys will be ours in the future. 1 Peter 1:4 tells us we are called "To an inheritance (a gift that belongs to the children of God) incorruptible (no principles of immoral living or decay in it) and undefiled (nothing impure can enter it), and that fadeth not away (will never fade away), reserved in heaven for you (inheritance appointed for us, and kept by the One who will certainly grant it to us)" This wonderful verse is reserved for us as Christians. This is what our new heart brings - everlasting life with a holy and gracious Father who loved us first; One who desired that we should spend eternity with Him (Col 1:5) (Matt 25:34) (John 14:2). A renewed heart also brings other results such as a desire to worship God and to put Him as the center of one's life. Prov 2:2 says "So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding" We need to listen to His wisdom (Christ's), and to the instruction of wisdom (which is the Gospel), because it is the product of divine wisdom. This wisdom only comes from God. When you are a child of the living God, you will desire to know more about and more from the blessed LORD. What is the focus of our wisdom when we have a new heart in Christ Jesus? As Prov 2:2 states, we should "apply thine heart to understanding". We need to develop a spiritual and attentive understanding of the Gospel and the truths of it through exercise of the heart. This will signify the intensity of the mind and an earnest, hearty desire after knowledge. We see this demonstrated in the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, in Luke 2:19. "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart". Ignatius of Antioch said "My dear Jesus, my Savior, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces, the name of Jesus would be found written on every piece." We must ponder all things that the Lord teaches or shows us through the help of the Holy Spirit, and meditate on His wonderful truth. We must keep all these things in the only place where they will never leave - our "hearts". Ps 119:112 says "I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end". What exactly does "Inclined mine heart" mean? In Hebrew, this means 'to stretch out, to extend, as the hand; to incline, to bow, to depress'. All Christians should be bowing down in reverence to a holy God. In this verse, the idea is that he had consciously given that direction to the inclinations (desires) of his heart. This is referring to an act of choice or the will, meaning he had made it a serious intention to obey the will of God over the will of self. We have been purchased from the slave market and we now belong to Him. 1 Cor 6:19-20 says "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's". As a Christian, we have been purchased, ransomed and redeemed. We are bound to give ourselves to God only, flee from an immoral life, and to keep His commands. Even though we are counted righteous in God's eyes, we will still sin. However, as seen in Romans 6:1-2 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?", we should always strive to abstain from any form of evil. The results of a victorious Christian life will be continual service to the Lord in joy and excitement. Jim Elliot said "Always seek peace between your heart and God, but in this world, always be careful to remain ever-restless, never satisfied, and always abounding in the work of the Lord." We must remain faithful and growing, as the Psalmist says, "... even unto the end". Through examining a few of the verses in the books of Proverbs and Romans, we can see that the human heart is naturally full of sin and wickedness. We can know that God sees all hearts and desires that they return to fellowship with Him. The only possible way to be reconciled to God is if we have a new heart and therefore a new nature. This new heart can only be received through acknowledging our sin, and the atoning work of Christ through His death and resurrection. Because of the wonderful grace of God, Jesus was the propitiation for all the world's sin. Johnathan Edwards said "Grace is but Glory begun, and Glory is but Grace perfected." This grace will be bestowed on every person who denies self. This is in direct conflict with the world's view and the New Age philosophies of today. According to the Word of Truth, the Bible, we must repent of our sin and follow Christ Jesus. It is the free gift He offers everyone; it is up to each individual to receive it into our hearts with gladness. If we foolishly believe that our hearts are 'good' and we can save ourselves, our decision will lead only to total darkness and separation forever from a holy and sovereign LORD.

By Mike Andrews

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