The Training Table: God’s Design for Transforming the Heart… and the World!
Welcome to the Training Table where you can depend on some spiritually-nourishing chow, carefully prepared, to help you run the Godly and good race! For what good is a good race, unless it’s a Godly race (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24)?
I hope you’ve arrived at today’s Training Table with a very big yet discerning appetite. This feast for the born-again, famished, sacrificial, and serving heart is… YUM!
The ingredients of God’s Plan of Redemption includes a variety doctrinal truths which make up the foundations of the Biblical, Christian faith. The content below is one of my favorite truisms concerning how The Trinity, a) created humankind’s heart in the beginning (Genesis 1,2), b) how it all went bad (Genesis 3), and c) how the three persons of The Trinity work both separately and together to use what went BAD… in order to make all things GOOD (Romans 8:28) and eventually brand new again (Revelation 21:5).
The Heart of the Matter is a Matter of the Heart.
There’s a very short yet jam-packed verse in the Bible that’s just loaded with meaning, wisdom, importance, exhortation, warning, and loving and truthful advice from God: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).
“Above ALL else…”?! Yes, ALL else. How so? The heart of the matter is to always begin with the disposition of the heart. And, from God and the Bible’s perspective, there’s a very good chance that “the heart” takes into account much more than you currently know, assume, or imagine. Taking care of the heart… your heart… is very, very important.
God’s Heart-Spirit-Life Ecosystem (in part from The Weeping, the Window, the Way, by John Dozier)
“By far one of the most important principles and promises to understand about the Bible [and how it relates to how God created us] is the emphasis that God places on the heart: As God’s Image-Bearers, the Trinity’s heart of Pure Love and Truth is reflected in each and every one of our hearts—the repository of God’s Character, His Communicable Attributes, His Love and Truth.
But, [a way-big but…] humanity’s heart went horribly wrong at The Fall (Genesis 3) when Eve and Adam chose to be God rather than obey God as God, and henceforth all hearts, our heart, is now “wholly dis-eased” (Genesis 6;5), “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), “sin-filled, stained, and infected from birth” (Psalm 51:5), an “idol factory” (John Calvin, Romans 1:18-32) churning and turning out “little gods” as effectively as Campbell’s Soup produces new flavors to satisfy every taste.
But, The Good News is that in Christ [by means of repentance, faith, and justification by grace alone], the heart can be radically [yet only partially] redeemed! God has offered every Image Bearer, human being, in the world the chance to cross THE LINE: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, emphasis added).
This is where heart transformation begins… And ONLY where. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4;12).
The Holy Spirit Must Make the First Move to Transform the Heart in “Regeneration”—This work of God is closely, yet mysteriously, linked with his effectual calling so that the two could conceivably be considered one simultaneous work of God. It is distinguished as that act of God’s grace whereby he supernaturally implants a new, Christ-aware heart and spiritual life in us so that our internal spiritual governance changes. It “carries with it the operative grace whereby a person called is enabled to answer [God’s specific and effectual] call…to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel.” (1) This supernatural work of the Triune God working separately and in union is frequently illustrated in Scripture as God’s gift of a new heart, a heart that is alive and honorably responsive to Biblical truth. It is God’s work alone that initially changes the heart, and yet Christians are called to evangelize and make disciples. This apparent contradiction or tension is God’s to command and ours to obey, nonetheless. (2) (John Dozier, WWW, Appendix “B”, God’s Redemptive Plan, Have Peace: There’s a Person, a Promise, and Perfect Plan in Place)
 Berkhoff, Systematic Theology.  See Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26-26; John 1:13; 3:8; 6:44-45; 1 Corinthians 2:5,12, 14; 2 Corinthians 3:3, 6; 1 John 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:1, 4, 18; James 1:18; and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.
When Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…” (Matthew 22: 37), He was using “heart synonyms” to describe and focus on “the center of our being”: The Heart. Your heart, Beloved of God. This is NOT the “Westernized” depiction of the heart as being the source of our emotions and the head being the source of our thinking. More on that in the next course of the feast…
“The care and feeding of the heart” has far-reaching… even and especially eternal… repercussions.
It is no mere coincidence that the word “heart” (Heb. lebab/leb [b’bel], Gk. kardia [kardiva]) and its synonyms [mind, soul, strength, inner being, wisdom, understanding, etc.] show up thousands of times in the Bible. The heart is central to how God created us (Genesis 2:7); how we strayed from God so thoroughly (Exodus 20:3); and how God’s Plan of Redemption begins in us with the problems of heart being the first issue that’s addressed by God (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26-27; John 3:3-5; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 5:1; “Regeneration” above).
The only change of heart that matters is, [God said] I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). PLEASE NOTE: Who exactly is the One Who is initiating the crucial changes of the inherited, darkened, depraved, and dead heart? Only God, Only God, Only God… can begin the change from outside us. No form of self-help or religion [both impossible, man-made ways to reach God Who is perfect and we are certainly not] can initiate such a change of heart.
It’s 100% impossible for any fallen Image Bearer to save him or her self. But God the Father in Election, God the Son on the cross, and God the Holy Spirit in Regeneration is capable and does initiate the change. Period.
Please be real: The only ingredient, “merit”, or “offering” we bring to God’s plan of salvation is our sin. But, If we repent and confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Have you crossed this line? Have you been born again? Can you tell someone… anyone… the story of your conversion? If you were to die today, what would be the basis upon which God should allow you into His heaven?
The Bible does not use the Westernized “mind-cognition-thinking” VS. “heart-emotions-feelings” dichotomy. No, not at all. As the inset graphic depicts, God separates, empowers, and interconnects our HEART—SPIRIT—LIFE ACTIONS into a holistic ecosystem of life: It’s the way God first SAVES us and then SANCTIFIES and CONFORMS into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1… lots more) as we are discipled, matured, grown-up, made holy, and conformed more and more into the likeness and “serving effectiveness” of Jesus Christ. This is huge, friends.
The “HEART—SPIRIT—LIFE ecosystem / cycle” first exists in and for salvation, and then occurs, over and over again in and for purification—until we die and stand face-to-face with God, or Jesus returns to make all things new. And it’s ALL, 100% accomplished by God’s most marvelous and merciful Plan of Redemption!
This is no small matter, right? If we miss the divine design God has created as part and parcel of our BEING, we will inevitably get way [way] off track in our all of our DOING. We must BE born again before we can DO anything but displease God.
It’s What Inside That Counts!
The HEART contains our worldview, ideologies, core beliefs, truths, falsehoods, dreams… our non-negotiables. The sort of things we think about when we’re all alone, and what we hold most dear in life. The heart is the center of our being. [Not where our feelings reside.]
The SPIRIT—the Hebrew word ru′ach, or the Greek word pneu′ma, both meaning “wind”, “force”, “life-force” in the Old Testament; but when used in the New Testament will often be referring to our “emotions” [fleeting, superficial, often over-powering] and our “affections” [long-lasting, deep, abiding, and consistent with beliefs].
The content of heart affects the rest of a person: A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:13); a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).
LIFE IN ACTION/FAITH—is how we live each and every day in word and deed. Every single action we take in life is but a consequence, a reflection, and the result of [the fruit of] the COMBINATION of the prior two spheres of our life: The state of our emotions, that flow from a heart, are RIGHT or WRONG with regards to whether or not they are aligned with God’s Love and Truth found in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
If your HEART is in the right place—in concert with God’s Scripture—your EMOTIONS, AFFECTIONS have less and less anxiety from yesterday; less fear for today; and less worry about tomorrow: For freedom Christ has set us free… (Galatians 5:1)! And more and more assurance, Shalom peace, resistance from the ways of the world, your dead and old “flesh” [ways of sinful habits], and the devil, friends!
The more that God’s Love and Truth found in the Bible fills your heart, the more the Fruits of the Spirit will define all of your life in word and deed: The more Christ-like you and I will be. Period.
God’s key takeaways?
1. If we are regenerate (Titus 3:5), heart-brokenly repentant (1 John 1:9), converted (Acts 2:38), born-again (John 3:3), new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), in Christ (Galatians 3:28), God’s loving command, …love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love you neighbor as yourself… WILL result in a harvest of The Fruit of the Spirit: …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… (Galatians 5:22-23).
2. BUT, if we are not—if we hard-heartedly shun God’s offer of salvation, lordship, and mission in and for Christ (John 3:16; Mark 16:15)—the heart has no other path but to produce and worship idols (Exodus 20:3-6), to harden (Hebrews 11:6), to hate (1 John 4:20) and to degrade further and further into …sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. (Galatians 5:19-21). God has most graciously offered NEW LIFE, but He will not force anyone to accept it. Remember, the doors of hell are locked from the inside (C.S. Lewis)
3. We must use God’s “design for re-design” and transformation: Part of the reparative, sanctifying work of the Christian includes using God’s design to “Tracing It Back” by being a vital part of a community of Saints to regularly, a) look at our behavior, b) look at our emotions, and, c) trace the behavioral and emotional content BACK to the heart of the matter: The details of what exactly you and I hold as being TRUE and/or FALSE—contained within the heart!
If we are in Christ, while none of our continued Sin [in Adam] and/or sinning [habits] can take us out of heaven (Romans 8), BUT it can take us out of fellowship with The Trinity… and The Holy Spirit in particular… and act as a block to our prayers and faith life and fellowship with other Christians, among other things. So, seeing the sin, tracing it back, repenting of it, and being sanctified, purified, made more holy as a result… is how it works! (Psalm 51)
The most merciful and miraculous gift of God in the “heart-spirit-life ecosystem” SAVES, SANCTIFIES, so that we can SERVE like Jesus… And redeem the heart’s fallen propensity to be egotistic, self-centered, pretentious, prideful… and yucky!
That’s the rub, my fellow race runners for Christ: What we hold in our heart as being the TRUE TRUTH AND LOVE OF GOD or a FALSEHOODS from the world, our own sin, or the devil, effects everything in our life in TIME—from the inside-out—AND will have a direct impact on the disposition of the rewards, stature, and station in heaven for ETERNITY (Matthew 5:10-12; 16:27; 25:20-23; Revelation 22:12; 1 Corinthians 3:11-14; Philippians 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:8).
The wellspring of God’s Love and True Truth creates blessed emotions, affections which then free us to live out our faith more and more as Jesus Christ did.” (John Dozier, WWW)
Please don’t miss a very important, seminal point about “The Heart-Spirit-Life Ecosystem”: It’s real; it exists; it affects all of your life… whether you believe it does or not. It’s working in you and I because God put it there. Sure, our free will and manifold choices to try and deny reality might feel like we can simply ignore all this stuff. But that would be a lie and, worse yet, a denial of our own stories.
And you and I know this to be true. If we hold FALSEHOODS about God and life in our heart, we will be fearful, unhappy at some or many levels, worried, shame-filled, unworthy, constantly comparing ourselves to others, judgmental, isolated, and horribly compartmentalized. But if we hold the TRUE TRUTH and LOVE about God and life in our heart, we will be… far from perfect… but free, secure, joy-filled, assured, abiding in love, whole, happily vulnerable, ready to give our life away, on mission for Jesus, and wholly integrated!
There are certainly some mysteries God has chosen NOT to reveal to us about the nature and process of His Plan of Redemption; but The Heart-Spirit-Life Ecosystem is NOT one of the mysteries! It’s real and it’s temporal-eternal life transforming!
So, repeat after me, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23)! And, as an added treasure and responsibility, Above all else, be on guard with and for your neighbor’s and fellow Christian’s heart, for it is the wellspring of our communal life in Christ!
Amen. And Amen.