A New Heart

According to Scripture, the center of the person is the heart. In our natural state, "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (Jer. 17:9). It is deceitful because it was born that way and has been conditioned from the time of birth by the deceitfulness of a fallen world, rather than by the truth of God’s Word. According to Proverbs 4:23, the heart is the "wellspring of life" in which wickedness must not be allowed to take root. For instance, that is why we are to forgive from the heart and not allow a root of bitterness to spring up by which many will be defiled (Heb. 12:15). You will not find a similar passage in the New Testament describing the believer’s heart in the same way as Jeremiah did, because we have been given a new spirit and a new heart (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26).

The believer is described as a new creation with a new life that has new desires and a new direction. The disposition of the heart of a true believer is oriented toward God. Although we still sin, this sin is related to a more surface level of our being. The flesh will act contrary to the real person of the heart. Even though we can still choose to live according to the flesh, doing so does not change the real nature of the heart nor our identity in Christ. H. Wheeler Robinson counted 822 uses of the word heart for some aspect of human personality. According to his categorization, 204 of the passages related to the mind, 195 to the will, and 166 to the emotion. Think of the heart as the center of our true self rather than the seat of our emotions. When the truth enters the heart, it immediately touches the affect and drives the will.

We can intellectually acknowledge the truth in such a way that it never touches the heart. Academia wants to enlarge the mind, but God wants to enlarge the heart. You can know theology and be arrogant, but you cannot know God and be arrogant! Knowledge makes arrogance, but love edifies (1 Cor. 8:1). Having knowledge as the goal is a major problem in Christian education. It will distort the very purpose for which it was intended. “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).

Lord willing, I’ll be back next Tuesday after a ministry trip.

Dr. Neil

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