I’ve said before that the key to the harvest is the HEART, not the head (see “Harvest of the Heart“). The heart is the seat of our effections; it’s what motivates us to do what we do. It’s how we directly connect to God, and it’s how we enter into a cooperative process with Him that leads to our transformation. Our renewed mind makes sense of what our heart already knows after the fact.
The heart is also deceitful (Jer.17:9-10). But even that’s not clear to us. The problem is, we evangelicals have used this passage to make the heart unredeemable. It’s “beyond cure” as some modern translations even say, but this modern rendering seems to be a projection of our theological bias, not what the original language actually says.
I like how the Septuagint (LXX) renders it from the Greek. This is the L.C.L. Brenton translation into English:
9 The heart is deep beyond all things, and it is the man, and who can know him? 10 I the Lord try the hearts, and prove the reins, to give to every one according to his ways, and according to the fruits of his devices. (Jer.17:9-10 LXX*)
It’s not that the heart is uncurable, it’s that the issues of the heart go beyond our comprehension and only the Lord can help us truly understand our hearts.
Unfortunately, we’ve dismissed the heart in modern evengelicalism and exalted the intellect, supposing that we can understand everything through logic and reason. While those cognitive faculties are important for many things, it’s only through the heart that we access the Spirit. This is why spiritual things must be discerned spiritually to even be understood at all.
14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Cor.2:14 NIV*)
Again, we believe with the heart (Rom.10:10) and we’re to worship God with the heart (John 4:21). To only believe with our head can make us dogmatically wooden, argumentative, divisive, and even spiritually arrogant.
The problem is that our finite intellect is not capable of going outside the echo of our own thoughts. We’ll just put God in a “box” of our theological bias. The natural mind cannot receive spiritual revelation, so living solely by our head cannot lead us to transformation. Only opening our heart the Spirit will do this for us. Once we do, our mind can be renewed to understand what our heart already knows.
So, this is our dilemma: we are called to be “heart” people, but we don’t even truly know our own heart! As Jeremiah said, who can actually truly know the deepest things about us? How can we discover the hidden motives behind what we do or don’t do…how we love and why we don’t love?
This is where Jesus—the Living Word— comes to our rescue!
12 For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, like a two-mouthed sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts. (Heb.4:12 TPT*)
Now, you might think I’m talking about the Bible. Yes, but the Bible without the Spirit is just text on a page. What makes it “living” is when the Spirit of God breathes on us and uses it to shed light into our soul, penetrating and revealing the deepest things about us that are even unknown to us.
This is why we must learn to let the Bible study us. We don’t just read it for information but engage in it for transformation. And this only happens when we open our hearts fully to Jesus. I seriously doubt if we’ll ever find the authentic freedom that Jesus wants for us until we fully surrender all to Him without reservation.
Of course, this surrender is actually progressive in nature because we don’t know what we don’t know. We can only surrender what we do know to surrender. Regardless, whatever we currently understand about surrendering, we must always be willing to lay everything down before Him. That’s where true spiritual growth begins.
This is what I’m calling the “cooperative process” with Jesus. It’s how we let Jesus help us remove the “log” from our own eye, so that we can clearly see ourselves and others like He does (Matt.7:3-5). Because if we don’t allow this process, we’ll always project our issues onto others. Except, now, we’ll spiritualize them and say we’re serving God. In other words, we’ll just become a religious hypocrite instead of a secular one.
One last thing: understand that Jesus’ promise to us, if we’re willing to enter into this daily exchange, is true freedom! This is because it’s the truth that makes us free, and the Truth is a Person, and He is the way into God’s own life.
31 Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “When you continue to embrace all that I teach, you prove that you are my true followers.32 For if you embrace the truth, it will release true freedom into your lives.” (John 8:31-32 TPT*)
Amen! Well said. I laughed when I read, this, “To only believe with our head can make us dogmatically wooden, argumentative, divisive, and even spiritually arrogant.” Now there’s an understatement!
I’m not sure what it is, Western culture or American evangelism, but there is this dominant false narrative that tries to suggest the heart is wicked, feelings are always sin, and the part of us that allegedly escaped the fall was our reason, intellect. So we wind up not growing in Christ, never letting Him heal our wounds, never having intimacy, and remining relationally dysfunctional. To make matters worse, we are then saved by our own reason, our own good works, and we don’t even need Jesus anymore.
It’s probably both cultural and theological. It’s the enlightenment stoicism that crept into the church 500 years ago. While there many good things about the enlightenment when it comes to natural science, it cannot help us at all with spiritual things, or even relationships in general.
Mel, thank you for this important word. My spirit (heart) and normal experience testify to the magnificent truth of what you have said here. How gracious that Jesus has bought us back from the chains of the Faustian bargain we made in the garden (and repeated infinitely since).
Thanks for your comments, Jon. Blessings.
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