This week I started a new series with a group of men–it includes three separate but related topics all connected by the concept of “The Heart.”Â And since it is a series particularly for men, The Heart of a Man.
John Calvin said, “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
Understanding Who God is is critical.Â But we must also know ourselves.Â And that is not as easy as it seems.Â Read these words, from Jeremiahs 17:9-10.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (ESV)
Our hearts are corrupt and we can’t fully understand the core of who we are.Â I am convinced this is why we tend to rationalize so much.Â Or why we seek to pass off our weaknesses rather than owning them.Â But more than that, in our culture that so values image–at least the projection of image–we don’t take close enough inventory of our hearts to truly understand what is going on.Â And as the passage says, the core (heart) is naturally corrupt, so unchecked–really, without being transformed–the heart will eventually spill over when the pressure rises.
That is exactly what Jesus taught.
43Â “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.Â 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (ESV)
And what the Saga put succinctly.
Proverbs 27:19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. (ESV)
So, the real us is what is within the core–the Heart.Â Which is a mystery to us, but not to God (Jeremiah 17:10; Psalm 139).
Therefore, for real transformation–not behavioral modification or cultural sanitation of our behavior–to occur it must take place in our hearts.Â Our motivations and beliefs must be transformed.
What are the elements that are needed for heart transformation?
1. A better image of God
The deepest kind of transformation takes place in us when we become so deeply impressed with God and His purposes in and through our lives that our will, our volition, becomes engaged in the process of change and growth. Richard Averbeck
May we gaze at His glory.
2. A process of removal and replacement
2 Timothy 2:22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (ESV)
Or as Paul states it in Colossians 3 “put off” and “put on”. (See also Ephesians 4:17-24)
The process of removal and replacement is not just related to sin, for that could easily lead to behavior modification.Â The removal and replacement often relates first and foremost to our way of thinking.Â So there are things we need to unlearn in order to learn correctly.Â In this process we will need to ask the questions, “What are the beliefs, behaviors or practices you observe (or others show you) that need to be removed so that biblical beliefs, behaviors and practices can be learned and applied?”
This process of fleeing and pursuing is the life of the gospel lived every day. The gospel, the good news that in Jesus Christ there is the availability of a relationship with a holy God. A relationship made possible by the provision of Jesus as a substitution for all our sins–sins we could not remove for ourselves, but which must be dealt with in order to have a relationship with God.Â This all sufficient provision in Christ is received through the process of repentance and faith.Â This process of transferring our trust from ourselves to Christ through the acknowledgment of our sin and the provision of salvation is to be the model of our lives.Â Yes, there is a point at which we enter into this eternal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.Â But also, our lives lived with and for Him are to be gospel driven–knowing the inexhaustible grace He bestows, knowing our inability to change ourselves, requires us to continually live in surrender, confessing our inability and sin and accepting His continual unconditional forgiveness.
But this process is not a process of defeat or discouragement–even in the face of besetting sins.Â There is great hope in the gospel.Â The hope is a new heart.
Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (ESV)
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)