There is so much confusion in our day over the idea of grace and holiness. Over the issues of what God expects from people in terms of obedience and righteousness. Over the difference of the expectations concerning the old and new covenant.
We know from the get go that salvation is a free gift. Period. And we’re certainly aware that we can’t earn salvation. So, works do us no good in that department. At least in acquiring salvation.
However, there is something supernatural that happens to us when we give our heart to God by confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
We are made new.
As you might imagine, there is some debate over exactly how and when this happens, but there is little doubt that 2 Corinthians 5:17 is one of the most relevant verses on the subject.
“What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun.”
Wow. New persons? How so?
The Amplified version helps clarify a bit more. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].”
Incredible. Really. You almost have to read that again.
A new creature? How exactly?
By being completely reborn of the Spirit. Not the same. Utterly renewed. An entirely different species than before.
The old me has passed away. The old things have passed away. The old things that used to define the old me.
OK. What specific old things have passed away? “The previous moral and spiritual condition.” Our old sinful nature. The one we inherited at birth. Gone. Passed away. As in, dead. Buried. Deceased. As in, roll out the coffin, dig a deep hole, and put that old sinful nature to rest. I have a new nature. God's. I am crucified with Christ, and 'yours truly' is no longer alive, because Christ has taken over. Truthfully, his Spirit has. And he is now actually living my life on my behalf!
This changes everything.
Earlier, I mentioned that something supernatural happens in us when we give our heart to God by confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Yes, of course. We are made new. You got that part. But we are also given a new heart.
I know, I know. That sounds really nice. Aww, the little Christian got a new heart. Peachy. But it’s more than that. Much more.
You see, we actually, literally get a NEW heart. A brand new heart. One like we’ve never had. Not refurbished or rebuilt. But completely different. Newly fashioned. A fresh-out-of-the-box, God-like, spiritual heart.
How do I know? Well, there’s this little lesser known passage in Ezekiel 36 that reads like this:
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:25-27
Have you ever read that little jewel before? Ever meditated on it? Until you received the full revelation of what it is actually saying?
Many of us have heard about putting on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)—which is equally powerful—but to identify that God not only gives us full access to his mind but also to his heart? That is incredible!
Think about it. Hundreds of years before you and I were struggling with our fickle hearts—struggling with sin and temptation—and wrestling with worldly desires—God sent his word through his prophet Ezekiel to let us know that he had a solution already in the works.
And not just any solution. Seriously. Look at those promises!
“I will take out your stony, stubborn heart?” What? Take it out? My heart? Sounds painful. But boy do I need a replacement. Think of it. Truthfully, there are nights where I lay in bed contemplating who I am without God, and I just want to weep. And I do.
Have you ever been repulsed by yourself? Ever come face to face with your own sin? With your own stubbornness? With that big block of ice in your chest—the one we call the heart—the one that beats on so proudly. So selfishly? With arctic ambition?
You’re telling me God is offering to remove that stony, frozen heart and give me a new one? A tender one? An obedient one?
Where do I sign up?
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9-10.
This is horrible news, but…I believe we already knew this. Even so, Jeremiah’s bad news makes Ezekiel’s good news even more apropos. First, we receive the grievous word that our hearts are wicked beyond description, but alas, we’re given a Kingdom solution—the promise of a heart completely reborn.
Ezekiel prophesied hundreds of years ago that a day was coming where God’s people would be due a spiritual heart transplant. A day where we would no longer be trapped in rebellion with corrupt hearts. A day where he would wash us wonderfully clean by the blood of Jesus. A day where our true heart’s desire would be utterly transformed. A day where obedience would become our very nature. A day where he placed his Spirit in us—in our hearts—so that we might think as he thinks. Value what he values. Love as he loves. Seek what he seeks. Live as he lives.
Low and behold, that day is today! And the GREAT HEART EXCHANGE is upon us.
It reminds me of a sermon I heard by author and musicianary, Ray Hughes. He mentored us Sonicflood guys years ago and has since became a mentor and friend. He spoke of us giving our heart completely to God—so completely that as we offer our heart to him, he offers his heart to us in return. Not exactly an even exchange. No. But wonderfully beautiful, nonetheless.
I was so stirred by this thought that I wrote a song about it called Keep My Heart back in 2004 on my album, Light. The chorus sings like this:
Keep my heart
I give it to you, Lord
As I offer mine
Will you give me yours
Keep my heart
Till the closing of time
And I’ll worship you
For all of my life
Keep my heart
Keep my heart
No doubt, instead of accepting our claim to a brand new Kingdom-motivated heart, we might imagine God grabbing a roll of duct tape in an attempt to patch up our broken, shredded hearts. Somehow, some way, it might hold together this time.
Hebrews chapter 8 echoes Jeremiah 31's potent Old Testament words, bringing them forward into the new covenant.
8 But when God found fault with the people, he said:
“The day is
coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
9 This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
10 But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Jeremiah 24:7 sounds off a similar sentiment; “I will give them hearts that will recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.”
Wholeheartedly. Hearts that recognize him as Lord. Hallelujah! Let it be so!
The beauty of the great heart exchange is that it flips everything on it's head concerning how we live our daily lives. We now have access, post Pentecost, to what the Israelites didn’t. God’s Spirit. God’s mind. God’s passion. God’s righteousness. God’s holiness. Even God’s heart.
It’s what we long for. To obey. To walk together with our Heavenly Father as Adam did. As Moses did. As Jesus did. As Abraham did. As Paul did. In fellowship. Obedient. Tender. Submitted. As one.
Now all we need to do is receive.
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