“A New Heart” – Matt Leko
In our current world Christianity in the culture is said to be just one of many ways to get to God. The world sees all religions as the same. That is, they see religion as a means to improve their standing before God, a tool for self-improvement by works of charity or ceremonial practices performed to humanity or a deity. In this train of thought man works to transform himself into something more acceptable and that by the merits of self-transformation is therefore in good standing before God. In other words, the false message is “clean yourself up and you will be justified in the sight of God”. There are more than a few problems with this sentiment. First it does not deal with our sin debt issue, that is if God is just how can he overlook Sin (He can’t), and the second is that thinking we are able to keep God’s commands in and of ourselves denies the reality of the human condition. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit that was forbidden in the garden, humanity has been plunged into spiritual and moral darkness. Having in us a deceitful and desperately wicked heart Jer. 17:9. A heart of stone. In fact, Jesus tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks Matt. 15:18 and those thoughts are “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” We do not need a whitewashed front (of good works) to be put up before God and man. We need a new heart.
In the book of Ezekiel chapter 36 God makes a promise of the new covenant. “I will take you from among the nations gather you out of all countries and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I’ll put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and you will keep my judgments and do them.”
No, the Pharisees and publicans of Jesus day (and ours) did not and do not need more outward obedience, they and all of humanity need a new heart. You will notice in the Ezekiel passage it doesn’t say you will seek me out, wash yourself, give yourself a new spirit, a new heart and then try really hard and keep my judgments. Instead, what is being said is mind blowing and yet the only possible answer. God himself intervenes by calling us out of the nation’s, cleansing us so that we would be clean, puts a new spirit in us, takes out our heart of stone, and in its place leaves a heart of flesh a living heart. You might say our very nature is changed. This change is so radical that by His spirit he is going to cause us to walk in his statutes and keep his judgments. You see it is the work of God already done in us at salvation and the continuation of that work in us thru His Spirit that transforms our external actions. Our external actions don’t change our nature, but our nature is revealed in our external actions and the attitudes produced. That is why Jesus can say to His disciples you shall know them by their fruits (in reference to false teachers) Matt. 7:15-23. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit. Why? They produce fruit after their own nature. Is Jesus telling His disciples to try really hard to produce good fruit so that they can be counted as a good tree? No, but rather Jesus is telling His disciples that the fruit they see is an accurate assessment of what kind of tree it is. And in the Matthew text the bad fruit indicated by Jesus is Lawlessness. That is to say an unchanged walk (in relation to sin) is evidence of an unchanged heart and the opposite is also true that a changed walk brought about by changed affections (IE a new heart) is evidence that God has been and is at work in you to shape you into the image of Christ.
And if God is at work in you. You may be confident that He will bring it to completion. Phil. 1:6. So let us fix our eyes on the author of our salvation, the only one who can bring it to completion. Jesus, the one who cleanses us from our filthiness by His own blood and gives us a new heart a new Spirit and in us bears much fruit.
Your brother in Christ,