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. Ezekiel 36:26
For the New Covenant Christian to live by faith is to live from your new heart. Learning to trust it. To trust the life of Jesus inside of you. His love for you. His ever present grace. These things change you. And you must learn to trust this change. The new heart brings with it a new impulse. A new response. A new response to sin, to temptation, to friends and enemies, to those in need, to trials, to success, to failure, to each situation of life.
Growing up I was taught to never trust your heart- it is wicked. In my small group last night one of the guys recalled being told to ignore Jiminy Cricket as a child because you should never “let your conscience be your guide” because your heart is “deceitful above all things.”
But these are Old Covenant realities. The New Covenant promises you a new heart. And you have it. Without it everything (including the Bible) is an outside-in approach to sanctification.
So how do we cultivate the new heart and learn to live from Christ’s life inside of us? Let me briefly suggest three ways:
Dependency, Desire, Devotion.
The Christian life is a life of total dependency. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus lived his life on earth in complete dependency on the Father. His pure heart drove him to his knees in desperation. The new heart recognizes this neediness. The Flesh resists it. The Flesh fights for its own way through selfish ambition and vain glory. Recognizing your complete dependency on Christ will drive you to the deepest levels of your new heart- His heart. His love. His grace for others. His acceptance of all. His open arms. When you are desperate you have no other choice but to trust in someone else. The someone else you should be trusting is inside of you changing your motivations and mindsets. Realize your dependence upon those new motivations and mindsets, without which you would be lost in the flesh and the law which only bring death.
You are desire. You were made by God to desire. To worship. We all desire and we all worship. Many religions in the East teach that the key to happiness is to eliminate desire. “If I have no desires or expectations I will never be disappointed,” they say. But Christ says the opposite to you and he has given you his heart to show you that desire is everything.
You do everything, choose everything, say everything, and feel everything from your desire. The new heart has given you new desires. Desire for God, for His word, for His people, for growth in holiness. But the new heart has also met all of your desires. Desire for God is now fully met- He lives in you. Desire for connection is now met- you are saved into the family of God. Desire for love is now met- You are loved infinitely and fully. Desire for holiness is now met- you are completely holy and righteous. I could go on and on. Every desire is fulfilled and realized within the new heart, the life of Christ in you.
Cultivating the new heart (or “mind renewal”) comes when we let our lesser desires push us deeper toward our desire for God and His love and holiness. For example: I want a new job, but I fail to get it. This unmet desire can push me deeper into my desire for God and for His acceptance, comfort, and security. Or it can make me desire something to numb my discouragement. Or it can drive me in my own self effort without dependence upon Christ to “try harder” and trust in myself alone. The Flesh rules and seeks its own way.
Every good desire, bad desire, unmet desire, and over desire is meant to reveal your new heart’s greatest desire- For God and His grace. And the good news is that this desire is met in Christ.
As we recognize and live from dependency, and recognize and redirect our desires, we then can move forward in each moment in devotion for God. Beholding Christ in the Word of God and in the Gospel of grace, and in prayer and meditation, allows me to let my new heart guide me into a devoted life for God. The new heart has made us “dead to sin but alive to God.”
This devotion is rooted in resting in Christ. Only rest can cause me to trust my new heart. My acceptance in the beloved. My forgiveness of every trespass. My holiness in Jesus’ indwelling life. But this devotion also looks like a life of love and holiness. We are called to progress spiritually. We must live lives devoted to this process. But this process must be rooted in resting in our new identity, our new heart, our new Christ-life. Sanctification is not your work it is God’s. My devotion therefore flows from Desperation and Desire allowing me to submit to God’s process in me. That is to say to yield myself as an instrument of righteousness to God. Devotion is rooted in rest. And resting in faith results in love and service for others (good works).
I pray that as a church we can learn to live from our new hearts in desperation, desire, and devotion.