Sunday, August 1, 2021

Dear Believer, Your Heart Isn’t the Problem

“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed…” (Romans 6:17, NASB95)

What if I told you, Christian, that your heart is good? What if I told you that it is not full of sin like you have been told? They might call me a blasphemer, but then I would simply open the Bible and show them that the narrative most of us have been fed is nothing other than a lie, a misconception, a work of the Devil, himself.

Read the verse above again, and read it closely. Isn’t it interesting that in his address to all the Christians in Rome, Paul boldly presumes that every one of themhas become… obedient… from the heart. Yes, that’s right. He assumes an obedient heart on the sole basis that they were Christians, and he sees it necessary to remind them of this wonderful truth. For if they do not know it, they cannot live according to it. In other words, what good is a pure heart if you do not know that you have it? What good are holy desires if, when temptations arise, you’re convinced that you want sin instead. But if you know your heart is pure — that you desire nothing but that which is good and true and beautiful — then you will not be deceived by the temptations of the flesh which cause you to momentarily feel otherwise. A pure heart is the beginning of true freedom, and the beginning (not the end) of the Christian life.

There is hardly a better way for Satan to thwart the work of Christ than to make Christians believe that God did not actually do what he did. Paul says we have been recreated “after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24, ESV), yet we have collectively bought into the idea that, even after our conversion, we remain unrighteous and unholy. Peter says that “in obedience to the truth [we have] purified [our] souls” (1 Peter 1:22, NASB95, my italics), yet everyone seems to assume that a Christian remains constantly defiled by impure motives. John says, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9, NASB95, my italics) Yes, that is the most plain and literal translation of the Greek text, though you’d be hard pressed to find a Christian that believes this, let alone teaches it. On the contrary, most believe they cannot not sin. Hmmm… The writer of Hebrews says, “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience…” (Hebrews 10:22, NASB95) Would you dare to believe that your heart could be (or even is) clean, or pure, in the truest sense?

But I thought the heart was deceitful above all things…

Perhaps you have been told that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV) Well, that was true of all of us, and remains true for every unbeliever. But as it turns out, this is the very thing that God promised to fix long ago.

“’Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.'” (Ezekiel 36:26–27, NASB95; cf. Ezekiel 11:19-20)

“’Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.'” (Deuteronomy 30:6, NASB95)

Now, when we speak of our hearts being circumcised by the Holy Spirit (see, for example, Romans 2:26), this is what that refers to. The Holy Spirit does not simply dwell in our old wicked hearts. No. We have been given new hearts entirely, which are clean and free from the evil desires we once had. We now share the desires of God’s Spirit within us. Need more biblical proof? You got it!

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit… to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Galatians 5:16–17, ESV, my italics)

Did you notice those words I italicized at the end? Do you see what Paul is saying here? When we sin, as believers, it is not because we wanted to, but because the desires of the flesh kept us from doing what we actually wanted to do. It is very similar to Paul’s iconic statement in Romans 7:20: “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:20, ESV) In the context of this passage, it is clear that the sin which he speaks of does not dwell in his inner being, but in his flesh, or his members. Interesting, isn’t it?

The majority of my Christian life, I believed that the primary problem with me was my heart. If I disobeyed, it must have been because I wanted to disobey, I thought. My default was that I simply did not love God enough. The result? Rather than learning to walk in what God had already given me (by faith), I was constantly praying and waiting for him to do something that he had already done — fix my heart, purify my desires, make me love him more, etc. The truth is that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5, ESV, my italics). So I was blindly searching for something that had been within me all along. I just hadn’t been able to see it because I was identifying with the flesh and its desires, rather than the Spirit. But we are not of the flesh (see Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 5:16; Colossians 2:11).

It is time to walk by faith.

By faith alone in Jesus Christ, our hearts are made pure — not gradually over time, but at the moment of belief. By faith alone, Jesus’ blood “cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7, ESV). Abide in this truth by believing it, and your heart will remain pure. Disbelieve it and your heart will be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

By faith alone, we walk by the Spirit, abiding in his love and his desires as if they are ours, because they are. You do not need to do it, but believe it. If Christ is in you, then any desire that is not of him is not really your desire, but a desire of your flesh. It is not truth, but deception. Quit falling for the lie and identify with him alone.

Perhaps there is something on your mind right now, something in your life that does not align with the will of God. I encourage you, bring it before the Lord and simply have a conversation. “God, are you telling me that I do not actually want this thing, even though I feel like I do? Jesus, how can this be that my heart is pure, despite that I am feeling pulled in two different directions? Lord, why did I sin if I did not actually want to?” Then confess your sin and know that your heart is clean.

Most importantly, thank him for his Spirit with whom you have been joined. Thank him for his love that he put in your heart. Thank him for his blood by which you are not only forgiven, but cleansed. To be clear, I do not mean that you should simply be thankful. I mean, literally, thank him, and do it until you mean it. There is nothing that builds faith like giving thanks for what we cannot readily see or feel. And it is by faith that the kingdom is manifest in our lives.

This subject is vast, as are its implications. And I have but scratched the surface. I hope you can sense how much of a gamechanger this really is. I am well aware that it may lead to more questions than answers. But I am telling you that this is the beginning of the life that God promised you. Put it on in prayer, hold it up to the test of Scripture, and ask the Lord to teach you. He is faithful to do it.

P.S. I do plan to write more, and I welcome your questions if you’d like to send me an email or leave a comment. My book, No Longer I, should be available on Amazon by the end of the month, and I believe it will be a very helpful tool in this regard. My desire is for the Church to learn the gospel the way that it was originally taught. If you would, please share this post, and help my desire become a reality.

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