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.
Christianity is fundamentally different from every other religion. One of those differences is where we get the power to live out our faith. Other religions lay out a pathway or framework for knowing God and being accepted by him. But, the responsibility is on those people to find a way to follow that pathway with the hopes of doing enough to be accepted by God.
Christianity has a radically different message. The Bible teaches from beginning to end that the human heart is fatally flawed because of sin (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:23). We have a disease that no human can cure. According to Ezekiel, we all have a heart of stone. And like other religions, the God of the Bible also lays out a pathway for knowing God and being accepted by him. But, the difference is that the God of the Bible makes it clear we can never know him or be accepted by him through our own efforts. We need someone who can do what we could never do. We need heart surgery.
That’s exactly what Jesus came to do. He loved, honored, and obeyed God completely. He did not have a sin nature, allowing him to live the perfect life. And yet the greatest human to ever live experienced the greatest tragedy and injustice imaginable. He was crucified as the worst of criminals. But, it was through his death on the cross for our sins that he could remove our heart of stone and give us a new heart. And this exchange takes place not through our obedience, but through faith. It’s a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).
That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus, a pious and religious Pharisee, that in order to enter the kingdom of God he must be born again (John 3:3). This is a revolutionary claim to make. Nicodemus thought that his obedience to God’s law counted for something. And Jesus wasn’t discounting all his obedience as unimportant. But, it was entirely insufficient to be accepted into God’s kingdom. That required more than behavior modification, it required a heart transplant.
The good news is that anyone can experience the new birth that Jesus offers. No one is so good that they don’t need the new birth. And no one is so bad that they can’t receive the new birth. It is available to anyone who will receive the gift of Jesus by faith. That’s the beauty of Christianity. It’s core message is not what we must do in order for God to accept us, it’s what was already done for us for God to accept us.
The really exciting part is experiencing the transformation that comes from having a new heart. When someone becomes a Christian, God gives new desires, new priorities, new motivations, and a new power to live the Christian life. In other words, God gives us what he requires of us. That’s the miracle of a new heart. That’s the uniqueness of Christianity.
Maybe your experience as a Christian right now is not exciting. Maybe it’s discouraging or even frustrating. You might feel like you want to do what is right, but keep falling short. I want to encourage you to keep crying out to Jesus. Cast your cares on him for he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up (James 4:10). Meditate on the incredible change God has made in your heart. Persevere in believing the promises in God’s Word. Remember that God is faithful. Even when we fail him, he will never fail us (2 Timothy 2:13).