Born again – Part 12
The “heart” as used in the Bible is spiritual language that encompasses the totality of one’s intellect, emotion and volition, (see Mark 7:20-23); feeling, affections, will (Rom 10:9) and mind (Mat 5:8; Ps 4:7). Sometimes it seems almost to be a synonym of the human spirit.
The nature of the Heart Apart from God (unregenerated). When Adam and Eve chose to follow the serpent’s temptation to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their decision drastically affected the human heart― it became tainted with evil. At present, therefore, according to Jeremiah’s testimony, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). Jesus confirmed Jeremiah’s diagnosis, when He said that what makes a person unclean before God is not the failure to follow some ceremonial law, but the willingness to listen to wicked inclinations lodged in one’s heart, such as “evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). Jesus taught about the seriousness of sin in the heart, when He said the sin of anger is tantamount to murder (Mat 5:21-22) and the sin of lust is just as sinful as actual adultery (Mat 5; 27-28).
Hearts that are committed to doing evil run the grave risk of becoming hardened. Those who persistently refuse to listen to God’s Word and to obey what He commands, and instead follow the wicked desires of their hearts, will find that God will eventually harden their hearts, so that they lose all sensitivity to His Word and to the desires of the Holy Spirit (see Ex 7:3; Heb 3:8). The primary example of this in the Bible is Pharaoh’s heart at the time of the exodus (see Ex 7:3; 13, 22-23; 8:15, 32; 9:12; 10:1; 11:10; 14:17). Paul saw the same general principle operative in the Roman Empire (see Rom 1:24, 26, 28) and predicted that it would also occur during the days of the antichrist (2 Thes 2:11-12). The writer of Hebrews filled his letter with warnings to believers not to harden their hearts (e.g., Heb 3:8-12). Anyone who continues to reject God’s Word will eventually have a hardened heart.
The Regenerated Heart. God’s answer to the sinfulness of the human heart is regeneration, which comes to all who repent of their sins, turn to God, and place a personal faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. (1) Regeneration is a matter of the heart. Those who repent from their heart of all sin and confess in their heart that Jesus is Lord (Rom 10:9) are born again and receive a new heart from God (see Ps 51:10; Ezek 11:19).
(2) Within the hearts of those who experience spiritual birth, God creates a desire to love Him and to obey Him. Repeatedly, God emphasised to His people the necessity of a love that comes from the heart (see Deut 4:29; 6:6). Such love for and devotion to God cannot be separated from obedience to His Word (cf. Ps 119:34, 69, 112). Jesus taught that love for God with the whole heart and love for one’s neighbour summarise God’s entire law (Mat 22:37-40).
(3) Love from the heart is the essential ingredient in obedience. All too often, God’s people tried to substitute obedience to mere outward religious forms (such as feast days, offerings and sacrifices) for genuine love from the heart (see Isaiah 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-26; Mic 6:6-8; see Deut 10:12). Outward observance without an inner desire to serve God is hypocritical religion and is severely condemned by our Lord (see Mat 23:13-28; see Luke 21:1-4).
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