Scripture teaches that believers should think, react, and behave differently than those around us. Our attitudes and behaviors should be radically different from what the world accepts — attitudes and behaviors that are in line with a heart that’s been transformed through the hearing of the gospel (Romans 12:2).
While most believers would consider good, moral and obedient behavior as having a transformed heart, that barely scratches the surface. After all, it’s not too complicated to display external Christian behaviors on cue. But it’s the internal heart — the things we harbor in secret — that’s much more difficult to transform.
But it goes even deeper than that. Most people tend to believe the heart is basically good and only sometimes is it bad. However, this kind of thinking is in direct opposition to what Scripture teaches. Listen to how Scripture describes the heart:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:19 NIV)
“...there" class="auto" target="_blank">class="s1">“...there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-18 NIV)
As most of us know, there’s a constant internal struggle taking place between our old and new natures. And because of this struggle, some of us feel as if we’re doing something wrong or even that we’ve failed in our faith. The desire to transform is there and yet, it’s still a daily battle. Listen to how the apostle Paul describes his inner battle:
“I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to — what I hate...my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin.” (Romans 7:15; 23 TLB).
Most of us can relate to Paul’s inner struggles. And just like Paul, we can’t transform our thoughts and hearts on our own. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us — to produce in us the kind of love defined by God’s word and not the kind determined by our world and culture.
But the world tries to soften our sin and guilt and tells us we’re OK if we make a few small changes to our lives — like attending church once in a while or by picking up the Bible and reading a chapter here and there. And some of us have bought into this way of thinking. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. God expects a complete transformation once we become believers.
So, how does this transformation take place? Paul tells us that it begins with our death. He reminds us that we have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). Once we truly die to ourselves, when we completely surrender control over our lives and submit to the perfect will of God, real transformation of our hearts can begin.
But it won’t happen automatically, instantaneously or overnight. Transformation is a daily decision and requires a conscience effort on our part to allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to mold and shape us into the kind of people God created us to be.
So, let’s begin this week by submitting to God and giving him true control. Instead of holding back the secret parts of our hearts, let’s allow him full access to who we are and how we think.
After all, he promises to give us a new, clean heart that’s responsive to him (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26). Why not take him up on his offer?
Donna Hughey is an award-winning Christian author and columnist. She lives in Crescent City.