The Heart

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Sin is a raging river. If we surrender our hearts to it, we will be borne along by it, rushed towards the devastating consequences that lurk at the end of it. Through the Spirit’s power we must swim upstream - resisting its strength and fighting against its deadly current.


The heart in peril.

This will hurt, but stay with me.

It used to be shocking, the thing that now chokes your heart, stripping it of life.

The act of surrendering to it, once the source of great pain and disgust, has long since numbed through habitual trauma into a dull ache; the nerve endings of your conscience blistered beyond recognition by unchecked exposure to the lethal radiation of sin.

At one time so soft and sensitive, wincing away on contact with the needling temptations of lust, selfishness, bitterness and greed, it has been stamped into a senseless pulp by the deadly ritual of your rebellion.

Hear me, as you lift your heel to stamp down once more.

The moment that the last, precious flare of conviction has streaked across your battered heart, disregarded, and dimmed into a quiet, gnawing deadness; you are in peril.

If you have found peace in surrendering to the control of the raging river’s lethal current, no longer in conflict with its forceful manipulations, content to allow your head to be pulled beneath its icy blackness - you have surrendered to unbelief.

Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.
— 1 John 3:9-10

If you truly believe, you cannot position your life in a way that comfortably accommodates sin - true belief simply does not allow for it. The response of a true belief in the gospel can only ever be a love for God manifested as repentance, obedience, faith.

It is when lured into unbelief by the tug of sin’s rushing undertow that we begin to make compromises for sin, excuses for sin, long-term justifications for sin.

I can write this to you because I am writing first to me. I know that change can feel impossible, routine indulgence inevitable, surrender to its grip inescapable; the water simply too deep, too fast and too strong to resist.

We aren’t alone.

I have discovered this principle of life - that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
— Romans 7:21-24

The heart at war.

Conquering sin is so devastatingly difficult because it isn’t just an outside influence banging on the door to be let in, a probing vice snaking closer, intent on making us do bad things.

Sin is in us. It has polluted our very nature. It is inbred - working, compelling and urging us from the shadows of our hearts - and it is deadly.

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
— James 1:14-15

It is there in the very best thing you do and it is there in the very worst thing you do. There is nothing you can do in which you won’t feel the drag of sin’s resistance and it can manifest, out of nowhere, in an instant - big and hulking and ugly.

To tame the raging torrents of our sinful natures we must put them to death; for the glory of God, in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
— Romans 8:12-14

The heart’s only hope.

Joseph fought to master his sinful nature by clinging to two things that fuelled and propelled his obedience: an acute awareness of self and an acute awareness of God.

How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.
— Genesis 39:9

He knew that if he entertained the idea of dropping his guard even an inch, he would be at his most vulnerable. So, he refused to loosen his grip on the polluting, corrupting, defiling power of sin; just as he kept his mind fixed on God’s holiness, goodness and love.

It is only when we are fully aware of our capacity for sin that we can truly cherish the richness of His love.

How then, do we hold an awareness of both the devastating potential of our sin and the fathomless ocean of God’s love firmly in view at the same time?

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
— Romans 7:25

We look at the cross.

Nothing better exposes the seriousness of our sin.
Nothing better reveals the depths of His love.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
— Hebrews 12:1-3

At the cross, Jesus Christ - utterly pristine, pure, perfect, holy - plunged Himself down into the cloying, stinking slurry of sin birthed by our rebellion. He didn’t leave us to wallow and drown in our own filth - He entered it to rescue us from it.

He took it upon Himself, paid for its infinite debt with His infinite perfection and defeated the authority of it with His glorious resurrection. He accepted His own unbreakable terms of justice and settled the penalty demanded by them with His own life so that we could live - free, acceptable, clean.

Believe what He did there. Believe that He did it for you, to make right your rebellion. Believe in the power that the indwelling Holy Spirit wields to slay the sin that festers in the darkest recesses of your heart.

At the cross, Jesus defined love’s absolute: we hurt Him so much, but still He was willing - Love Incarnate, bringing us back into the family, making all things new. Because of Him, you are welcomed, adopted, cherished forever.

The heart made new.

Meditate on the cross in private, daily, soul searching prayer. Dwell in the knowledge of who Jesus is and what He did at Calvary; the significance of it, the magnitude of it, the brutality of it, the implications of it. Soak in the kind of Spirit-powered exploration of God’s Word that scours your soul; searching and destroying sin with the majesty of Jesus.

Fill your mind with thoughts of His character, glory, beauty and goodness; speaking to Him as you meditate on Him; delighting in the freedom of your intimacy with Him; saturating your spirit with His love - love that humbles souls, cleanses guilt, transforms lives and makes battered hearts new.

Pray with David,

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
— Psalm 51:7-10

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