Heart Detox

Text: Ephesians 4:31-5:2

The human heart, deceitful above all things, is also capable of unbridled malice and bitterness with the resultant bad fruit of rage, anger, slander and vengeance. This should not be the case, especially for those who have received such great mercy from God. But how exactly are we to rid ourselves of this simmering, poisonous venom inside? Here’s how…

How Can I Soften My Own Heart?

john-piperJohn Piper – Q & A – Original source here: http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-can-i-soften-my-own-heart

“Hello Pastor John. Many sins harden our hearts, so what activities will unharden, or soften, our hearts?”

That is a wonderful question to me, because I don’t think I have ever put it to myself that way.

Yes . . . I suppose that’s the point of this podcast.

Right. Yes. And the first thing that happened as I began to think about it was that I realized there are two kinds of mistakes that I could make in trying to answer the question. One would be to assume that hardness of heart implies I can do nothing because a hard, dead heart can’t do anything of spiritual value. And the other mistake would be to assume that hardness of heart and the deadness that goes with it really haven’t ruined me morally and that I can be the decisive cause of unhardening my heart. I think both of those positions would be profound, unbiblical mistakes. The biblical truth lies in the gospel paradox — we could call it the new covenant paradox — in which God causes the miracle of unhardening. God causes it, and I act the miracle of unhardening. God is the decisive cause, but my acting is a real, essential part of the miracle taking place.

“God is the decisive cause of unhardening my heart, but my acting is a real, essential part of the miracle taking place.” Tweet Share on Facebook
Here is the promise God made for all of us who experience the power of the new covenant promise that was purchased by the blood of Jesus according to Luke 22:20. Here is what he promises in Ezekiel 11:19–20: “I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Here it is again in Ezekiel 36:26–27: “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. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

So, the point in those passages is that God must do the decisive, miraculous heart transplant, heart replacement. If we are going to escape the hardness and deadness of that heart, the old heart has to be taken out, a new heart has to be put in — and we can’t do that surgery on ourselves. That is the point. This is God’s sovereign, gracious, saving work, and the effect of it is new, tender, obedient love toward God. And Deuteronomy puts it a little differently: “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6). So, if we are going to ever turn around, stop hating God and start loving God, he has to do that heart transplant and that heart circumcision.

But now, having made that point, we have to also say that God commands us to do the very thing he promises to do in the new covenant. For example, alongside the promise of Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart,” there is Ezekiel 18:31, “Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” And right alongside the promise — the Lord will circumcise your heart — there is the command in Deuteronomy 10:16, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” And the command in Jeremiah 4:1, 4, “If you return, O Israel, . . . to me you should return. . . . Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts.” We see the same thing in the New Testament. There is the command of 1 Peter 3:8, “All of you, have . . . a tender heart, and a humble mind.” Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.” In other words, we are commanded to be tender — commanded not to be hard. Tenderheartedness is the opposite of hardness of heart, and we are commanded to pursue it and to have it.

The biblical picture is that God does the decisive work of heart transplant and heart circumcision and heart unhardening, and we are immediately participants in this miracle as conscious, intentional, willing actors renouncing the old heart, cutting away with all of the opposition we can muster the old life, and embracing the new and feeding the new tenderness of heart on God’s word and by God’s Spirit.

So, very specifically in answer to the question that was asked: What activities will unharden our heart? I would say besides the divine activity which is decisive and essential, there are at least three things we are called to do as we participate in acting this miracle that God is performing: 1) beholding or seeing, 2) hearing, and 3) trusting — just a verse for each of those. Continue reading

Seven Marks of a Right Heart Before God

heart037 Marks of a Right Heart Before God – J.C. Ryle – Old Paths, “The Heart”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1999], 348-351.

1) A right heart is a NEW heart (Ezek. 36:26). It is not the heart with which a person is born—but another heart put in them by the Holy Spirit. It is a heart which has new tastes, new joys, new sorrows, new desires, new hopes, new fears, new likes, new dislikes. It has new views about the soul, sin, God, Christ, salvation, the Bible, prayer, heaven, hell, the world, and holiness. It is like a farm with a new and good tenant. “Old things are passed away. Behold all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

2) A right heart is a BROKEN and CONTRITE heart (Psalm 51:17). It is broken off from pride, self-conceit, and self-righteousness. Its former high thoughts of self are cracked, shattered, and shivered to atoms. It thinks itself guilty, unworthy, and corrupt. Its former stubbornness, heaviness, and insensibility have thawed, disappeared, and passed away. It no longer thinks lightly of offending God. It is tender, sensitive, and jealously fearful of running into sin (2 Kings 22:19). It is humble, lowly, and self-abased, and sees in itself no good thing.

3) A right heart is a heart which BELIEVES ON CHRIST ALONE for salvation, and in which Christ dwells by faith (Rom. 10:10; Eph. 3:17). It rests all its hopes of pardon and eternal life on Christ’s atonement, Christ’s mediation, and Christ’s intercession. It is sprinkled in Christ’s blood from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22). It turns to Christ as the compass-needle turns to the north. It looks to Christ for daily peace, mercy, and grace—as the sun-flower looks to the sun. It feeds on Christ for its daily sustenance, as Israel fed on the manna in the wilderness. It sees in Christ a special fitness to supply all its needs and requirements. It leans on Him, hangs on Him, builds on Him, cleaves to Him, as its physician, guardian, husband, and friend.

4) A right heart is a PURIFIED heart (Acts 15:9; Matt. 5:8). It loves holiness, and hates sin. It strives daily to cleanse itself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1). It abhors that which is evil, and cleaves to that which is good. It delights in the law of God, and has that law engraved on it, that it may not forget it (Psalm 119:11). It longs to keep the law more perfectly, and takes pleasure in those who love the law. It loves God and people. Its affections are set on things above. It never feels so light and happy as when it is most holy; and it looks forward to heaven with joy, as the place where perfect holiness will at length be attained.

5) A right heart is a PRAYING heart. It has within it “the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba Father” (Rom. 8:15). Its daily feeling is, “Your face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8). It is drawn by an habitual inclination to speak to God about spiritual things—weakly, feebly, and imperfectly perhaps—but speak it must. It finds it necessary to pour out itself before God, as before a friend, and to spread before Him all its needs and desires. It tells Him all its secrets. It keeps back nothing from Him. You might as well try to persuade a person to live without breathing, as to persuade the possessor of a right heart to live without praying.

6) A right heart is a heart that FEELS CONFLICT within it (Gal. 5:17). It finds within itself two opposing principles contending for the mastery—the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. It knows by experience what Paul means when he says, “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind” (Rom. 7:23). The wrong heart knows nothing of this strife. The strong man keeps the wrong heart as their palace, and their goods are at peace (Luke 11:21). But when the rightful King takes possession of the heart, a struggle begins which never ends until death. The right heart may be known by its warfare, quite as much as by its peace.

7) A right heart is HONEST, UNDIVIDED and TRUE (Luke 8:15; 1 Chron. 12:33; Heb. 10:22). There is nothing about it of falsehood, hypocrisy, or image-acting. It is not double or divided. It really is what it professes to be, feels what it professes to feel, and believes what it professes to believe. Its faith may be feeble. Its obedience may be very imperfect. But one thing will always distinguish the right heart. Its religion will be real, genuine, thorough, and sincere.

Summary:

A heart such as that which I have now described, has always been the possession of all true Christians of every name, nation, people and tongue. They have differed from one another on many subjects—but they have all been of a right heart. Some of them have fallen, for a season, like David and Peter—but their hearts have never entirely departed from the Lord. They have often proved themselves to be men and women laden with infirmities—but their hearts have been right in the sight of God. They have understood one another on earth. They have found that their experience was everywhere one and the same. They will understand each other even better in the world to come. All that have had right hearts upon earth, will find that they have one heart when they enter heaven.