Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Heart and The Scriptures

I have really been enjoying hearing what others have had to say about "the heart" lately. For example, understanding that in Christ we have been given a new heart. In the Old Testament, it was said that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." (Jer 17:9). But God's promise for the New Covenant was, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." We have a new heart that is indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and that is not deceitful. Aida recently linked to a website that talks about the heart, and while I've yet to fully look it over I've at least found a few neat things on it. One thing is this post.

On that post, something very key stood out to me:
Contrary to popular culture’s view, the heart is not the emotional or feeling side of us. Popular culture tends to think of the heart as the sentimental part of us. (Think of Hallmark cards.) Biblically speaking, our feelings can express what is going on in our hearts, but the heart is much more than feelings.
I very much appreciate many of the teachings I've heard lately that talk about us being able to trust our hearts... because they're new hearts that are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. I think it's a good thing to understand this. However, I still think it's very possible (and sadly common) for Christians to mistake their feelings, emotions, logic, gut sense, etc, for the true heart. While our true heart (spirit) is fully in line with God, and can indeed express itself through our minds, feelings and emotions, at the same time our minds, feelings and emotions can express things that are not true... that are not of the Spirit... and I think it's very important to grow in our understanding of the difference. Otherwise, we may mistake anything we think or feel for truth, when really our minds, feelings and emotions can still deceive us and take us away from the truth.

This is why I'm thankful that we have the Scriptures. The sad thing is that I see many "heart" people getting defensive when the Bible is put on the table! To trust God with our new heart is a great and wonderful thing, but how do we even know about the old heart/new heart apart from what the Scriptures say? How do we know many, many wonderful truths apart from the Bible?

I'll be the first to say... because I've said it before... that most people who have ever lived have never had access to a Bible, and yet God's word has been true and has been revealed to mankind since the beginning. But here's the thing that I've seen, if only a little, in some of the "heart" teachings I've heard: A disregard for the truth that we do have in the Scriptures. Sometimes (although rarely) it's even been almost to the point of animosity against studying the Scriptures. And a little more often the teachings have, in my opinion, been contrary to what the Scriptures do reveal as New Covenant truth. I'll be honest and say all of this concerns me.

Truth be told, we don't all agree on the interpretation of all the Scriptures. That's not what I'm addressing here. I'm talking about people's feelings, logic, emotions, gut reactions, etc, that they regard as "truth" when the Scriptures reveal something to the contrary. Again, God does indeed reveal Himself to us in our spirits, often through the avenue of our minds, feelings and emotions. But also again, our thoughts, feelings and emotions can deceive us.

Here are a couple of examples.

1) A man comes to Jesus by faith alone, trusting solely in the truth of the gospel. Then his thoughts and feelings begin to make him wonder if the gospel is really that good, and if maybe God is angry with Him for falling short, and he begins struggling and striving to maintain his righteousness in an effort to stay right with God - all because his mind and emotions tell him something contrary to what the Scriptures really say.

2) A woman comes to Jesus by faith alone, and then becomes emotionally connected with a man who is not her husband. She begins having deep feelings for him, and in her "heart" she really feels that God wants her to be with this man, so she divorces her husband and marries the other man.

In both cases, the people really did believe something about God and about themselves that wasn't true. They believed their hearts were telling them something, but it wasn't really their new heart (spirit). It was their minds, feelings and emotions. They were truly deceived.

That's the point of all this. We can believe some really "good" stuff about who God is and who we are, or some really "legalistic" stuff about who God is and who we are - or anything inbetween - that may not really be the truth. The whole point here is that we can easily be led in our minds, thoughts and emotions by things that seem to be true, but yet the Scriptures tell us otherwise.

Some other examples include the ideas that hell is just a fictitious place, and that everybody is saved. I've heard people say, "how could a loving God put people in hell, never mind creating it?" (A recent comment by Matthew in another post reminded me of this). Or, "It's just not logical that God wouldn't save everyone." It's supposedly the new heart from which people have gotten these doctrines - but it's really their own thoughts, logic, emotions, feelings, etc. It doesn't line up with what the Scriptures say.

When helping Timothy to understand God and the gospel, Paul didn't tell Timothy, "just follow what your heart is telling you." He reminded him about the Scriptures, "which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." He told him, "All scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..." The Scriptures he was referring to were, of course, the Old Testament. How wonderful that we now also have all of the New Testament to learn from as well! There is a TON of truth about who God is (and who we are) that we can be assured of through our studying of the Scriptures. Life is most certainly not about living by doctrines and theology. But if we're going to teach or share with each other things about who God is and who we are, and since we do have the Scriptures, which do indeed contain the truth about God and us, then let's not disregard the them as we learn to walk according to our hearts.

13 comments:

  1. Amazing post, Joel. Very clear and true!!

    This is one thing that makes me uneasy that people who come to freedom take that freedom to mean that the Bible isn't the absolute truth. We should in no way minimize our view of the Bible. Just because we're not under obligation to read it all the time means we're allowed to throw some of it or all of it out and go by what our "heart" says, which, like you say, is just our own reasoning, logic and emotions.

    The Scriptures are the final authority and we should not in anyway belittle the Scriptures or have a light view on them.

    We can definitely learn about God in various ways, but if it doesn't line up with the Scripture, then obviously it's something we have created to suit our own passions.

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  2. I meant to say: "doesn't mean we're allowed to throw some of it or all of it out." *

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  3. Matthew,

    Your comment hits on something that I really should have pointed out in the post, so I'm glad you said it. We are under absolutely no obligation to read the Bible... but that doesn't mean we throw it away as worthless. I have no problem with people listening to God speak to them in all kinds of ways other than the Bible, but if those ways begin to go against what the Bible really says, then I don't think they're really hearing God, but rather what they want to hear.

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  4. Joel, acknowledging that we are triune beings, composed of body, soul, and spirit, what are you calling our "heart?" I guess I have always thought Scripture meant my spirit, which was dead. My psuche, my soul (mind, will, and emotions) is to be constantly renewed by the washing of the Word; she is terribly unreliable. Although she had, like the woman at the well been with other men (6,indicatve of Adam), she is now married to the last man (Jesus, the second Adam). I am not to be led by my soul, but by the Spirit of Christ in me. That is why my conscience isn't my guide; only the Holy Spirit wll lead me into all Truth. Your thoughts?

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  5. RJW,

    Great comment. Yep, I agree that we are to be led by our spirit which is indwelled by Christ, and not by our soul.

    I've seen "heart" in the Bible used in two ways. When I look at the "new heart" that God has given us, I see it referring to the spirit - the new creation that we are. The post that I linked to in this blog post was referring to the heart in that way, from what I can tell.

    At other times in the Bible (more often), I've taken "heart" to mean something that is a part of the soul.

    Examples (for clarification):

    Acts 16:14
    The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

    1 Cor 7:37
    Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart...

    2 Cor 4:1
    Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

    As I've been reading various blogs and other writings, I've seen a lot of talk about trusting our heart. I believe these people are talking about "the new heart" that we've been given. But in my readings, it's seemed to me that some people have mistaken their soulful "heart" for their spirit, and thus if they begin to believe something in their emotions or with their own logic, whether it be about God, or about who they are in Him, they take it as the truth, when the scriptures actually say something different. In these cases, the "heart" (soul) is actually not lining up with the truth of the Spirit that is in our spirit, and that is confirmed by scripture.

    Sorry for the long reply. I welcome your thoughts.

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  6. Thank you for the clarification and for taking the time to "catch me up." I am trying to be more a part of this blogging community instead of just tossing my words into the ether. Thanks for your encouragement; it is truly appreciated.:)

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  7. There truly is a neat, ever-growing community of friends who have connected via the message of the grace walk. I hope you find much encouragement, and are able to encourage others, as you get to know more people out here in 'grace land.' :)

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  8. Joel, this post is very helpful, it's amazing how much more depth the Word has the more we study it....instead of just taking it at first glance. That's what I feel I am coming from, a culture that did not dig deep. Thus the whole big complication in my mind with the man of Romans 7.
    I think once you are understanding the New Covenant properly, all Scripture has to line up with it, so as a new covenant believer we are eager to go back and dig up the confusing passages that don't line up fully with who we now are in Christ.
    Good stuff, keep digging deeper!!!

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  9. I'm excited about the teachings we're receiving about our new heart. I personally believe that the Bible has been elevated to a place beyond where it should be. I know I'm probably upsetting some people by what I just said but I still believe it's true. Too many people in my opinion seem to worship the Bible.

    I've heard people say that you can't be a Christian unless you believe the Bible. Perhaps, I've missed it but I've never read that in the Bible. As far as I can tell, salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ and in him alone.

    Since most of the teachings on the Bible have in my opinion been rather lopsided, I believe the teachings about our good heart will ultimately bring a proper balance.

    When people who have been held in bondage receive a truth, they often go in the opposite direction such as completely throwing out the Bible. This is similar to a pendulum which swings from one side to another until, after a time, it finally comes to rest in the center.

    I believe that's the same thing with many believers who are now experiencing freedom from the law. They may go completely in the opposite direction but I truly believe that Father will bring them into his perfect rest right at the center of his will.

    The real problem, in my opinion, is that because for too long we've believed that our hearts are evil, we've lost touch with our heart. As I've grown in understanding about my good heart, I'm learning to trust it more and I'm now seeing my life more closely line up with what I read in the Bible.

    I agree perfectly with what you said about not throwing out the Bible but even the scriptures aren't a foolproof protection against wrong motives or foolishness. I've seen people use scripture as the basis for some pretty dumb decisions. Actually, I've done the same thing myself so I can't judge anyone about this.

    Well, this has certainly gotten longer than I intended but I guess what I'm really trying to say is that I believe the pendulum is still swinging for all of us. However, I believe, as Jesus continues to build his church as he desires, the arc will get smaller and smaller until it finally comes to rest in the very center of God's will.

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  10. I just wanted to add something else.

    I believe since both our interpretation of scripture and the ability to hear our hearts are subject to error, it's often wise for major decisions to speak to another brother or sister who is further along on this journey than we are. They might see something we hadn't noticed that could change our decision.

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  11. Very good points, Aida. I agree that many people do seem to worship the Bible over the Word (Jesus), and I agree that both our Bible reading and the hearing of our hearts are subject to error.

    What led me to post this was both a love for the truth that we do have in the Scriptures, mixed together with what I personally believe is a disregard for some of those truths.

    Again, I know interpretations vary, and also as I said in the post, most people who have ever lived have never even had a Bible and yet can be in a full relationship with God. But since we do have some solid New Covenant truths that we can rely on, I have personally gotten a little concerned when I hear people teaching or sharing things that really go against those truths.

    And sometimes when I bring up the actual Scriptures, as compared to what someone says they believe in their heart, it seems like I have to go on defense... and that's just not right!

    And I've also experienced that the same people who rightfully use the Scriptures to put down other false teachings seem to have a problem when the Scriptures are used "against" some of their own teachings.

    The New Covenant scriptures have a lot to say about who God is, about who we are in Him, about the devil and demons, about walking by faith, about prayer, and about so many other aspects of the Christian life.

    As I said in the post, we don't live by doctrines and theology, but by the Person, Jesus. But my concern has been that lately I've heard various people sharing about what they feel, about what they think, about what they sense in their gut, about all these things... and they take this as God's word to them... but I'll just be frank and say some of it doesn't line up with the truth that has been revealed in the scriptures!

    Just as legalistic Bible teachings have blinded people to the truth, there is also a great danger in "heart" teaching becoming another religion that goes against the truth.

    I guess what I'm saying is that just as I'm upset when I hear legalistic teachings from Scriptures that are taken out of context, or that don't even come from the Bible, I'm just as easily concerned and upset when I hear non-legalistic sounding teachings that also go against the truth of the Scriptures.

    This isn't a "huge" issue for me, and it's not one that drives me insane or anything. :) Nor is it something that I currently feel the need to spend a whole lot of time on. But I can't deny that it is a concern of mine.

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  12. Lydia,

    I'm amazed at how "full" the scriptures have become for me. Matthew has pointed something out to me a couple of times that I hadn't really noticed, but yet I see is true. As I keep looking at various scriptures, I'm finding that more and more truth seems to be "drawn out" of them. I just now realize that that may sound braggadocious, but that's not how I mean it at all! I just mean that Father reveals Himself more and more, and it's a joy to keep on digging into the Scriptures and learning more and more about Him, and getting to know Him better personally. I see the same thing as I look around at other blogs and websites, and in books, etc.

    I realize, too, that not everything that I draw out of the scriptures is correct. That's one reason I love interacting with so many people out here in blogland!

    As for the scriptures, they hold so much truth, just waiting there for us to find as Father reveals it, and I don't think we'll even scratch the surface while here in these bodies. :)

    All this said, as Aida was talking about, I don't want to be Bible worshiper, not even for a minute. It's all about Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He reveals Himself to us in many ways.

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  13. It's true Joel, the word keeps get richer and new layers are revealed the more we dig. I have a new phrase that I recently heard, "The Bible is like a diamond, you will never see it the same way twice!"

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