Here’s some practical(I hope) theology with a tiny splash of diet Calvinism…
Yesterday, I wrote about the aim of our charge as disciples. In short and simple terms, our aim is to be agents of God’s love. Not our tiny human understanding of love, but God’s love; His infinitely un-knowable grace and mercy.
Our only hope for conveying that kind of love comes from a combination of three sources.
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from (1.)a pure heart and (2.)a good conscience and a (3.)sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5
Today, we’re talking about that first source. Here’s what the Bible says about the journey of my heart in 3 stages. I won’t talk about your heart, lest I get absolutely destroyed in the comments section. I do hope, however, that you can relate somehow with my experience.
Apart from Christ, my heart was wicked and evil [Gen. 6:5], hard [Exod. 4:21], unyielding [Exod. 7:14], proud [Prov. 16:5], sad [Neh. 2:2], dull [Matt. 13:15], and just plain not right. [Acts 8:21]
I wanted absolutely nothing to do with God. Jesus was not my homeboy. In his divine mercy, however, God stirred my affections and turned me towards His Son.
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away… For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:37,40
Why does this matter?
On my own, I was absolutely lost with no hope of fixing my situation, but God intervened in my heart. It had everything to do with Him and nothing to do with me. We’ve been saved by grace through faith, not by works. It’s a pure gift. [Eph. 2:8]
How’s that for unconditional love?
The world would think of ours as a faith of self-righteous hypocrites and most of the time, they would be right. When we realize, however, that our salvation and righteousness is in Christ alone and not in our performance, all of our boasting is rendered worthless.
When I put my faith in Jesus, the new creation came and the old one passed away. [2 Cor. 5:17] In short, God gave me a new heart.
“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 36:26,27
Without that new heart and Spirit imparted by God’s grace, the whole pursuit of sanctification and desire to worship God would be absolute insanity to me.
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:14
Why does this matter?
There was nothing that I could do to earn a new heart. A much more attractive title for this post would have read something like ‘7 Steps to a New and Pure Heart,’ but it doesn’t work that way. The Christian pursuit of a new life is a response, not a pre-requisite, to the Gospel.
Some would have you believe that you have to clean yourself up or get yourself to some state of perceived righteousness before you can meet and follow Jesus. That’s not Biblical and those people are lying to you. [1 Tim 1:6,7]
I wrote a whole post on morality without Jesus on my friend Grant’s blog.
Our faith placed in Him, Jesus promised that God the Holy Spirit would come to dwell in us [John 14:17] as the seal of our salvation, guarantee of our inheritance [Eph. 1:13-14], Helper, Spirit of truth [John 14:16,17], and our Guide. [John 16:13]
The whole doctrine of renewal or regeneration is fascinating to say the least and worthy of much more discussion than I’m prepared to handle. For a better explanation than I could ever offer, John Piper wrote a beautiful book titled Finally Alive.
Why does this matter?
Boring theological terms placed aside, this simply means that we get some help. We’re not left to our own devices to try and live a holy life. God actually comes to dwell within us and change our hearts and affections towards Him and His ways.
Again, all of this is God’s work and not our own. It is possible for us to get in His way and grieve the Holy Spirit [Eph. 4:30], but we can never lose Him. How amazing is God that He would love, pursue, save, and continue to sanctify us despite our own short-comings? [Phil. 1:6]
The Gift of a Pure Heart
Long story short, a pure heart comes from saving faith in Jesus Christ. Out of that pure heart comes a desire for holiness [1 Peter 1:16], a passion for service [Eph. 2:10], and an overflow of joy [Phil. 4:4].For the believer, this is our great joy and cause for celebration.
For the non-believer, the door’s wide open. The beautiful, loving, patient, merciful, and gracious God of all creation is waiting on the other side.
All you have to do is walk through.