Does The Church Have A Heart Problem?

Between 2005 and 2007 I lost three of my closest relatives on my father’s side of the family due to heart attack, thus moving from a relatively low risk to a high risk for being felled by such a problem myself, not least because my own build so closely resembles much of my father’s family. Be that as it may, I am speaking not of physical hearts, which are troublesome for many people, nor of hearts in the sense of romantic love, which is equally troublesome for many of us, but rather of the heart as the place where decisions are made and character is formed in the biblical sense of word. In the last few posts [1], I have commented on various issues of sovereignty. Today I would like to turn the discussion from the theoretical and philosophical issue of the issue that we have been talking to and pondering about and turn to the heart issue that points out why these questions matter.

The heart is of serious interest in the Bible. In particular, I would like to focus today’s discussion on three scriptures and their implications as they relate to the role of the heart in questions of authority and sovereignty. In Deuteronomy 5:28-31, we see God’s lament that Israel did not have the heart to obey His laws and commandments: “ “Then the Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken.  Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!  Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.”  But as for you, stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess.’” God always wanted an intimate relationship with Israel where God would transform them after His image where they would live according to His ways and set an example for the world around them that would attract the world as a whole to follow God and gain the same sort of blessings and advantages that Israel was to be given for obedience. This, of course, did not happen because Israel was not obedient.

Psalm 95:6-11 connects the state of the heart of those who have been called by God to their acceptance of his sovereignty: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”” This is a particularly ominous passage for a variety of reasons. For one, it points out that the children of Israel in the wilderness, those who did not have a heart to walk in obedience to God, had hardened their heart in rebellion against Him and had provoked God’s wrath to deny them a chance to enter into His rest–not only the rest of the promised land but also the millennial rest for those whose names have been written in the book of life. This particular passage is quoted repeatedly by the author of Hebrews to warn his audience not to be like the stubborn and stiff-necked Israelites whose rebellion was so disastrous. In reading this passage and its citations in Hebrews, we must ask ourselves, do we go astray in our hearts, do we fail to know or remember God’s ways, and do we provoke God to grief and wrath with us?

It is therefore of little surprise that the author of Hebrews again connects matters of law to matters of the heart when he speaks of the new covenant in Hebrews 8:7-10: “ For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.  Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Let us note that it is not the laws and commandments of God that He disregarded, but the people who refused to walk in them. Let us also note that God did not change the commandments and laws of the covenant but rather writes them in the minds and hearts of believers rather than on external tablets of stone.

So let us return to the question we asked at the outset: does the church have a heart problem? Ancient Israel had a heart problem that was so severe that they needed a heart transplant (and some serious brain surgery, it appears) so that the law could be written on their hearts and minds. I do not believe the state of the church is quite so desperate as this, even if we do live in a pretty gloomy age. Yet the fact that brethren are filled with a desire to follow God and obey His ways and, I believe, a respect and honor of God’s ways to the extent that they know them does not mean that we are without problems when it comes to matters of the authority of scripture and the sovereignty of God’s economy. Rebellion against authority and hostility to people holding us accountable to God’s laws and ways is rampant in our society, and we are not immune to the baleful influence of a corrupt and wicked society around us. It therefore behooves us all to pay serious attention to the state of our hearts and make sure that we are right with God and being transformed into His sons and daughters to shine as lights in the midst of the darkness all around us.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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