Friday, January 21, 2011

A New Heart?

I'm taking The Way of Agape class by Nancy Missler. On our lesson this week Nancy said once we accepted Jesus as our Savior, God gave us a new heart. This surprised me the most when I heard it for the first time. I have been thinking about it for a over a week and I'm still not sure I can wrap my head around this! She said that our new hearts "are totally pure, totally incorruptible, and completely holy because it is now God's life and not our own." Christ in us the hope of glory.

A new heart? Really? How come I can't tell the difference?

And how do we explain these scriptures?
Eccl 9:3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. How it says in Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (NIV)
And in Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Nancy said that the evil heart pertains to unbelievers. Looking at the context in the above verses seem to confirm that. Especially this one: Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees when He said this.

Unbelievers cannot do anything with the conditions of their hearts. No matter how hard they try. Before my husband became a believer, I remember him swearing to me that "I'm going to be a changed man!" But that would only last a day or so. After that, it would revert to the old ways or -- even get worse! (Lord, I assumed that when he said "changed man" that he meant for the better!) To be fair, I have a string of broken New Year's resolutions myself.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." David asked God in Psalm 51:10. I looked up the word "create" in Hebrew:
Strong's H1254 - bara'
1) to create, shape, form
a) (Qal) to shape, fashion, create (always with God as subject)
1) of heaven and earth
2) of individual man
3) of new conditions and circumstances
4) of transformations
Did you see that? Always with God as a subject. That means only God can do this.

This would then explain the verses found in:
Proverbs 27:19
As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man. (I know people who have that "glow" in their faces. They are Spirit-filled believers. I also know plenty of people whose face show the ravages not only of age but of the hardness of their spirits.)
Luke 6:45
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks
I learned another lesson today. It just dawned on me that those scriptures I read about the evilness of our hearts became a convenient excuse. If my heart is beyond cure and no one can understand it, then when the things spoken of in Matthew 15:19 come out (aka the "uglies"), I can't do anything about them, right? The message I was sending was, Hey, I know I'm a professing Christian but I really can't help the way I act at all. It's my heart! See, it's evil. Why bother trying if my heart is going to revert to its original evil nature. It absolves me of responsibility of exercising the new willpower that God gave me. How misguided I have been...

I started to feel condemned, but I realize where that condemnation is coming from. It's not from God, it's from same source of the lie about the condition of my heart. Now I come before our Lord with repentance and hope.

Ephesians 1:18
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. The phrase "flooded with light" reminds me the picture of a submitted life from whence God's love can flow. I pray that from this day on, I will remember that I carry a brand new, clean heart created just for me by God. Yet another gift from my Savior.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lost and Found

Luke 15 is about recovering what is lost and in varying degrees.

In the parable of the lost sheep, 1 out of 100 was lost (Luke 15:4)
In the parable of the coins, 1 our of 10. (Luke 15:8)
Then in the prodigal son, 1 out of 2.

What does this tell me? Well, it shows me that God wants to recover the lost whether he is part of a group of 2 or 100. No one is too small or insignificant in our Father's eyes. And when He finds the lost, He rejoices. He is neither angry nor bitter. No accusations, no "how could yous." Just unconditional love and restoration be it for the foolish sheep who wanders off, or a rebellious son.

When I read the story of the Prodigal Son, I always picture myself as the older son. In fact my own son told me this the other day. When his Dad comes home and he hears the garage, my son always jumps out of his chair and runs to meet him at the door with a very enthusiastic "HI, DAD!!!" I asked why he never does it with me. He said, "Mom, because you're always with me! Why are you being like the older brother in the Prodigal Son." Touché.
I now find myself switching places with my own father. I am now the parent, my Dad is the prodigal son who took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. (Luke 15:13b). I am praying that when my Dad finally comes to his senses home, that I would remember how the Father treated his son - with love and compassion. I imagine that father praying all the time during his son's absence that he would come to realize the error of his ways and return home. I imagine him looking over the horizon day after day awaiting his son's return - for how else could he have seen him from a distance if he was not looking for him? Luke 15:20 But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. I like that image of anticipation on the part of the father. I imagine God doing the same thing to those people who are lost or are not walking with Him, He looks out for a hint of repentance, a turning around. And when it happens, He doesn't even have to run.

He's already there.