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December 10, 2007

“THE HEART IN ITS REGENERATE STATE”

by Professor Robert J. Barth

Jesus confirmed that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27; Deuteronomy 6:5). We know that “God is love” (I John 4:8) and He does not ask us to do what we cannot do, albeit by His grace through faith. In fact, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). The Apostle John said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).

What does it mean to love God with “all thy heart”? Does it mean that we never sin? Does it mean that we are always in solitary prayer or Bible reading/meditation? Does it mean that we must be in “full-time Christian ministry” as a pastor, evangelist, or missionary? We learn what it means by considering the qualities of heart that please God and for which He “commands a blessing” (Psalm 133:3; Deuteronomy 28:8).

Scripture tells us that King David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), but he was not a man without sin. He committed adultery and ordered the execution of a plan resulting in the death of Uriah the Hittite (II Samuel 11). When confronted with his sin, however, David repented and cried out to God for mercy. He asked God to “create” in him a “clean heart” and to “restore” unto him the “joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51). Despite his failings, God was pleased with David’s faith and the focus of his heart. (See Hebrews 11:32-33.)

Last time we described the conditions of the heart that separate us from God. All of the “bad hearts” are rooted in pride, selfishness, and a sensory or intellectual belief system. In fact, we know “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5). What is the “good treasure of the heart” that “bringeth forth good things” (Matthew 12:35)? What are the conditions of the heart that foster a deeper relationship with God and others to fulfill the two great commandments? Meditate on these verses to gain wisdom:

  • Reverent heart: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29)
  • Upright heart: “And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.” (I Kings 3:6) “My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.” (Psalm 7:10)
  • Understanding heart: “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (I Kings 3:9)
  • Perfect heart (completeness or wholeness of heart): “Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.” (I Kings 8:61) “But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.” (I Kings 15:14) “All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king.” (I Chronicles 12:38) “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.” (I Chronicles 28:9) “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (II Chronicles 16:9)
  • Tender heart: “Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD.” (II Kings 22:19)
  • Pure heart: “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:4) “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (I Timothy 1:5)
  • Broken and contrite heart: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
  • Fixed heart: “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” (Psalm 57:9)
  • Sound heart: “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.” (Proverbs 14:30)
  • Merry heart: “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” (Proverbs 15:13)
  • Honest and good heart: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)
  • Singleness of heart: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” (Acts 2:46) “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.” (Colossians 3:22)
  • Established heart: “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (I Thessalonians 3:12-13) “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” (Hebrews 13:9)
  • True heart: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
  • Sanctified heart: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (I Peter 3:15)

How do we change our heart? The truth is that we cannot change our heart, but we can choose to direct our heart (focus, thoughts, affections, beliefs) toward the source and power of change — the great, loving, and merciful God who desires that we have a changed heart to have closer fellowship with Him. It is like when you go on a trip in a car. It is not your power that gets you to the destination. But you choose to direct your attention and focus (and the car) toward the destination. You set your heart on the goal. For a Christian the focus and goal is Jesus, the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Next time we will look at how to cooperate with God to receive and maintain a “new heart.”

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16-17).

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26). 

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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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