The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” (2 Samuel 18:5) Please open your Bible at 2 Samuel 18. This is the last message in our series on the life of David—for now. Clearly, we have not reached the end of...
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27, NIV)
We’re continuing our series on regeneration—the miracle of grace by which God makes us new creations in Jesus Christ. Creation means that God brings into being something that did not exist before. We looked last week at a new mind that sees the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and today we are going to look at the new heart.
The danger of separating mind, heart & will
The danger with a series dealing with mind, heart, and will on different weekends is that it would be very easy to think of these as separate departments of your life that operate independently. I want you to understand that when we talk about the mind, the heart, and the will; we are talking about your inner life viewed from different angles.
The Bible uses the words “heart” and “mind” in different ways, and it is not always easy to tell them apart. When we talk about God changing the mind, the heart, and the will; we are talking about one miracle, not three separate ones. It’s like a diamond with different facets.
The mind, heart, and will are one as the Father, Son, and Spirit are one. They may be distinguished but never separated. They fulfill different functions, but they never act independently.
A person’s mind, heart, and will are always in the same spiritual condition. When Christ brings light to the mind, he brings life to the heart and strength to the will. He does these things together. That’s what makes the Christian life possible. If your mind has been regenerated, so has your heart and your will. God deals with you as a person. He saves you, not just a part of you. There is no such thing as a person who has been half regenerated.
Heart, mind & will are inseparably interconnected
This is very important for understanding yourself. What you think, what you feel, what you want, and what you do are all bound up together. Your mind, heart, and will are wrapped around each other—interwoven—distinguishable but inseparable. I want you to see this in the Bible:
- 2 Corinthians 4:4,6: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God… God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
The blindness is in the mind, and God cures that by shining his light into the heart! God’s light in the heart brings sight to the mind.
- Ephesians 4:18-19: “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”
Behind the darkness in the mind lies a hardness in the heart. The two are wrapped up together.
- Mark 12:30: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” he answered by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5. Here’s the interesting thing, if you check Deuteronomy 6:5, it doesn’t mention the mind: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” So why did our Lord say heart and mind?
The range of meaning of the Hebrew word translated “heart,” had narrowed so much that Greek needed two words: “heart” and “mind” to say what was covered in the Old Testament by the one word “heart.”
There is more of the heart in the mind and more of the mind in the heart than is commonly supposed. You cannot change the one without the other.
The confusion of the 18 inches.
That discovery has been profoundly important for me. I was brought up with teaching that said, “The longest journey is the 18 inches from your head to your heart.” Think about what that is saying: What you think and what you feel are totally different. They are disconnected, a long way apart.
That leads many people to say strange things like, “The Gospel is in my head, but it isn’t in my heart.” My head is converted, but I’m not sure my heart is. Many Christians feel that the Gospel hasn’t really changed them, so they are running around looking for emotional experiences that will!
If someone said to you, “Christianity is in my head, but it’s not in my heart,” how would you try to help them? What would you say to that person? At one time, I would have said, “Well let’s pray together that it will get into your heart.” Now I say, “Tell me about the Christianity that’s in your head.”
Here’s what I have found: The problem isn’t that the truth needs to make a long journey from the head to the heart; the problem is that the truth in the mind isn’t big enough or real enough to capture the heart. The person moves on with a few general truths about God that make little difference to life.
Two kinds of knowing
Jonathan Edwards has a great picture that has helped me to grasp this. You can know that honey is sweet by reading about it in a book, but you don’t really know that honey is sweet until you have tasted it.
There two different kinds of knowing. James reminds us that the devil knows there is one God. He also knows that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. Knowing God must be more than that.
There is a difference between having the rational judgment that honey is sweet and having a sense of its sweetness… When the heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension… which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that it is excellent.
The Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Tasting his goodness involves the mind and the heart together.
I heard Tim Keller make this point recently: Suppose someone says, “I know God loves me, but I hate myself.” If Edwards were counseling her, he would say, “You don’t know that God loves you. You think you do, but you really don’t. If you were savoring God’s love for you right now, you would not say that you hate yourself.” The interpenetration of the mind and the heart is so deep that it is hard to tell them apart.
God Changes Us Through the Gospel
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
It is not that he changes our minds through the Gospel, and then we have to figure out some other way to get it into our hearts. The Gospel changes your life because Christ imparts life by the Spirit to the whole of your being.
1. What is the heart?
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Prov. 4:23)
Many people associate the heart purely with feelings and emotions. The heart includes our feelings, but it is much more. The heart is the control center of your life.
Woody Allen said on one occasion, “The heart wants what it wants.” He was right. The prevailing desire of your heart will govern the direction of your life. So it is important to know your own heart.
2. Why does the heart need changing?
I will remove from you your heart of stone. (Eze. 36:26)
Stones come in many varieties. Some stones are common and worthless. Others are beautiful. I love granite. Some stones are cherished: sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds! They become highly valued symbols of our lives. I want us to understand how stones in the human heart keep many people from following Jesus Christ.
Six Rocks that Resist Christ
- Peer pressure “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)
If your heart is set on the approval of others, it will keep you from following Christ: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another?”
It is always difficult to stand out from a crowd. That’s true in high school. It’s true among academics in university. It’s true in public life and wherever political correctness reigns. It’s true in business, and it’s true on building sites. The desire for others to think well of you keeps many from following Jesus Christ.
- Money “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)
If your heart is set on money and what it can buy, you will not be able to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said this after speaking with a young man who had great wealth. Christ said to him, “Sell what you have, give to the poor and come follow me.” The man didn’t like that.
Being a wealthy man had captured his heart, so he did not follow Jesus. If your heart is set on becoming wealthy, or on staying wealthy, that will keep you from following the Christ.
- Loved ones “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37)
There are folks who will not come to Christ because of loyalty to a loved one who is not a Christian. A husband or wife has died, and they did not follow Christ. You feel you would be disloyal to them if you did. You have a husband or wife who is not a Christian, and you know that following Christ would bring tension into the relationship.
Or if you have given your heart to a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even a group of friends who do not love Christ, it can keep you from following him. It can be really hard to be the first one in your family to step out and follow Christ.
If another person keeps you from following Christ, they are controlling you. That person has become, in effect, your god.
- Comfort “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
If your heart is set on maintaining a comfortable life, that will keep you from following Jesus Christ. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that there will be a cost, there will be pain, in following him. So if your heart is set on choosing the easiest path, you will not follow Christ far. The broad road will suit the inclinations of your heart much better.
- Cherished Sin “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)
How many people have been kept from following Christ because their heart is set on pursuing their sexual impulse—whatever that may be?
Jesus was a single man. He was never intimate with anyone. Yet he loved more deeply and lived more fully than any other person.
We live in the age when gratification of the sexual appetite has become a god for many people. If that’s what matters to you most, it will keep you from following Christ.
- Self “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
At the beginning of the Bible, we read about how Satan lured Eve and then Adam into the first sin: “When you eat… your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
Do you see what Satan was saying: “Eve, why should God be God and not you? You can be your own god! You can decide for yourself what is good and what is evil.”
You cannot be a worshipper of God so long as you are set on being your own god. The desire to be your own god is a stone in the heart that resists Jesus Christ.
What keeps you from following Christ? Peer pressure, money, loved ones, comfort, a cherished sin, or being your own God? God says, “The human heart is a heart of stone.”
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist seminary says:
The culture says that the problem is ‘out there’ (outside of us) and the answer is ‘in here’ (inside of us). The Bible says that the problem is ‘in here’ (sin in the heart) and the answer is ‘out there’ (in Jesus Christ).
3. How can your heart be changed?
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Eze. 36:26-27)
God tells us that he can change our hearts, and he promises that he will. There is marvelous hope here! Think about what Christ offers you in the Gospel. Go to Christ and tell him the problem. Ask him to change your heart. Hold him to his promise. Tell him, “I need you to change my heart. I cannot follow you, unless you do.”
What are the rocks in your heart?
Peer pressure? “Release me from the fear of what other people think, and let me live for the praise that comes from you alone.”
Money? “Sever in me the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil. Set me free to be a wise and generous steward of whatever you trust to me in this world.”
Loved ones? “Break the power of other people controlling my life, and let me live for you alone.”
Comfort? “Redeem me from the constant compromise of a life that is always geared to my own comfort, and make me ready to take up my cross to follow you.”
Cherished sin? “Deliver me from gratifying my own lusts and desires, and lead me with joy on the path of purity.”
Self? “Save me from the idolatry of trying to be my own God and bring my life under your sovereign rule.”
God says, “I will remove from you your heart of stone.”
4. What does the new heart look like?
I will give you a new heart… and give you a heart of flesh. (Eze. 36:26)
The heart has four chambers. Look at the chambers of the new heart…
a. A humble heart
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17)
The Gospel excludes all boasting. What do you have that you did not receive?
b. A believing heart
“If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Rom. 10:9-10)
c. A loving heart
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” (1 Peter 1:8)
d. An obedient heart
“I will give you a new heart… I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Eze. 36:26-27)
Aslan breathed on them
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Eze. 36:26-27
C.S. Lewis has given us a marvelous picture in his book, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. A group of children discover the cold world of Narnia, where “it is always winter and never Christmas.”
Then Aslan the lion comes to Narnia. He goes to the stone table, where his life is laid down, and then, in a marvelous picture that speaks to us of Jesus, he rises again.
After that the children go with him to the palace of the white witch. When they reach the courtyard, they find that the witch has turned the animals into stone. There they stand lifeless, powerless. But Aslan breathes on them, and they come to life.
 Oliver Barclay, Developing a Christian Mind, Revised version, edited by Geoffrey Stonier, (Fearn: Christian Focus Publications),16
 John Piper, God is the Gospel, citing A Divine and Supernatural Light by Jonathan Edwards, (Wheaton, Crossway Publishing, 2011), p.64
© Colin S. Smith
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