The Bible makes a lot of promises. Here’s one, from Psalm 51: Create in me a new heart. And renew a steadfast Spirit within me. This is what God will do for, give you clean heart. This is the biblical version of the modern day heart transplant.
Here’s how Ezekiel puts it, 500 or so years before Jesus. And God promises, “I will put a new heart, and a new Spirit in you, I will remove your heart of stone, and put my spirit in you.”
Now, if you don’t get that right away, this idea of God giving you a new heart, I totally understand. It’s a part of my reaction as well. “What does that even mean? If I have a problem in my life that needs attention, I’ll fix it myself, thank you very much. If I need a change of heart, I’m just gonna take action. Let’s git’er done. I’m responsible for my own heart.”
For all you who are thinking, “There’s got to be something I do here. Behaviour has to enter into this somewhere.” There is some good news. There is something we can do. It’s a dance. God leads, but we need to get on the floor and follow.
From Psalm 51 at verse 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
These words say that a broken spirit is not something God despises. A broken spirit is something God desires. Make no mistake that this is a seismic shift. Firstly, because it runs contrary to everything we learn in culture. The last thing we would ever want to do is to admit weakness. And brokenness. On the contrary, we want everyone to see how together we are.
Good marriage, great career, nice house, as fit as a fiddle as the whole world can see. Ring any bells?
And then, it’s just plain not easy to be humble of spirit. It’s not natural because humility it is a completely unselfish act. I don't know anybody who would say that being unselfish is easy.
Here’s what God wants from you. An admission that greed, ego, lust, and selfishness keep creeping back into your life. It’s the garbage that keeps floating down the river of your life, and as much as you keep trying to clean it up, you need to get to the source of the garbage. And God says “I can help you with that.”
Back to verse 10 Psalm 51:10 Create in me a new heart. And renew a steadfast Spirit within me. Our eyes tend to go first to the words “new heart”. But, this begins with an asking. There is an asking, “God, do this for me. God, create in me a new heart.” Renew what is old and dead in me. I really need this, I really want this, so, I’m asking. I have recognized brokenness in this regard, and now, I’m asking you to do this.”
That simple act of asking is the door that opens wide to the great promise: "I’ll give you a new heart, and remove your heart of stone.”
If you’re still thinking “I just wanna do more myself”, there’s more good news. From Proverbs 4, words of Solomon which I talked about in my last blog. “For above all else, guard your heart.”
God will give you a new heart. You are renewed, and all cleaned up. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. That’s great news, for anyone who wants it then asks for it. And now, says Solomon, you need to guard that.
"Guard it" we ask? Jesus leans forward, with Solomon on one side, and all the other prophets, saints, and apostles on the other, and says "Please don't miss this. It's of massive importance." Wy? Because there’s just a whole lot of stuff in this world, and you know this, that’s going to be trying to throw that garbage back in.
There’s temptation that’s constant. Jesus dealt with it, as do we. As have every person who has ever breathed this air and walked the soil of this earth.
There’s ego that we wrestle with. (you wanna talk to clergy and church leaders about ego and its ugly offspring of competition that exists between churches)
There’s lust, greed, and selfish ambition. The unholy trinity that are a part of each our lives. They’re always on the bank, just waiting to throw the garbage back into our river.
And so, there is this instruction to us to guard our hearts. That they may kept clean.
How do we guard? The apostle Paul says it here, as clearly as anywhere in the Bible. “There are three things here, that you can do, that will guard your heart in Christ Jesus”.
First, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” (Philippians 4 verse 5) Live a life of gentleness, and your heart will be guarded.
If you think about a time in your life when you acted in a way that just wasn’t gentle, maybe a time very recently. Maybe you lost your temper, and someone was hurt by that. Or, perhaps you were overcome by selfish ambition, or had a moment of greed, and later realize you just walked all over six people who used to be your friends to get what you wanted.
Maybe there was an argument, and you just knew you were right, and he was wrong, and in that zeal for proving yourself right, you lost the spirit of gentleness.
When we allow that part of us to take over, and we all have that side, greed and lust and selfishness, we lose the spirit of gentleness, and all that garbage flows right back in to our heart.
So consistently, in scripture, Gentleness is used to describe a follower of Jesus Christ. And that act of gentleness will guard your heart.
Second thing: “The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5) Remember that God is with you. right here, right now. God is near, and will replace your weakness with his strength. Paul says “You have the same power in your life that raised Jesus from the dead. This is the same power that created the universe, and led the slave people of Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land. It’s the same power that helped Jesus resist the voice of temptation when he was in the wilderness. It’s not a bad idea to call on it. It will help you through the storms of life. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it will be more than enough for us.
Last thing. (Philippians 4: 6) But in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Jesus kept connected to God in prayer, and in that prayer, he was reminded that God is so near. Prayer grounds you, and reminds you of what’s important and what’s not. In prayer, you get some persepctive. You are reminded that God is bigger than ego, and greed, and selfishness. If you take God’s lead in the dance, you can get rid of that garbage. Forever.
And God promises, “I will put a new heart, and a new Spirit in you, I will remove your heart of stone, and put my Spirit in you.”
And that’s the invitation. Allow God to give you a new heart, and then, guard it. And then, you’ll be getting to the source of everything. And all that is beautiful and clean will overflow into your life.