You Can Trust Your Heart

You Can Trust Your Heart

*This entry is adapted from my devotional The Power of 21 Days: Identity in Christ. More info here.

You can’t trust yourself. Your heart will lie to you.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard these phrases a time or two hundred, likely from well-meaning Christians. This line of thought is taken from a verse in Jeremiah, that describes the heart as deceitful above all things and beyond cure. But then there are other verses, such as Proverbs 4:23, which tells us, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

So which is it? Is your heart deceitful and beyond cure, or the headwaters from which everything you do flows?

Jeremiah is describing our condition before Christ, when our hearts were bad. And if you have a bad heart, everything you do will flow from that. Jesus confirmed this, when he said that a bad tree bears bad fruit, and cannot bear good fruit (Matthew 7:17-18).

Jeremiah got it right in describing what he saw around him, but his words are not the final words. Ezekiel comes on the scene shortly thereafter, and declares, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

Ezekiel saw what was around him, but he also saw what was to come. He didn’t just see the problem, he saw the remedy. In today’s terms, we refer to this as salvation.

Salvation is not about making a commitment to attend church or to become a better person. It’s about transformation. When this takes place, God gives you a new heart with new desires—a heart that wants to love Him, that doesn’t want to go the way of the bad father anymore. If you try to go the way of your True Father without having your heart transformed, you’ll only end up tired and frustrated. As Jesus said, if you make the tree good (by transforming the heart), the fruit will be good as well (Matthew 12:33).

In one of his letters, the Apostle Paul prayed that Jesus would dwell in the people’s hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17). If their hearts were still beyond cure, it would not be possible for Jesus to dwell in them; their hearts had to be made new.

The heart is central. Don’t bury it. Don’t try to suppress it, out of fear that it will deceive you. You can trust the heart that Jesus gave you. You can trust yourself, because He has made you new.

A Matter of the Heart

A Matter of the Heart

As I was driving to a meeting this morning, I was thinking about love, and how central the human heart is to life. I began to think about my own life, whether my heart was alive and awake, or if I had slipped into auto pilot. There are many people who have never had their hearts awakened, who have been living on auto pilot their entire lives, but then there are those of us who have come alive at some point in time, and who are continually being awakened, but who are still able to slip into auto pilot and often do.

I find it interesting that when Jesus walked this earth, He did not go around giving lists of rules. Instead, he talked a lot about the condition of people’s hearts. We usually don’t like this; we would prefer the rules to be clear-cut and black-and-white. (This is usually so that we can point out when someone is breaking a rule.) But if Jesus’ standard is the condition of the heart, that means only He and that person can render a true verdict. And honestly, we ourselves don’t even comprehend the motives of our own hearts all of the time. I love how 1 John 3:20, which talks about confidence in approaching God, tells us that even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, because the righteousness that He gives us is far more powerful than even our biggest and deepest sins. The verse ends by stating that God knows everything. So when we feel condemned, He is bigger than that, despite the fact that He knows everything about us—even the things we don’t know about ourselves.

Jesus cares deeply about our hearts, because He cares deeply about us, and He knows that the heart is central to life. What a shame that many Christians have been taught that their hearts are bad, and therefore the desires of their hearts should be suppressed.

What if we lived life in a way where we listened to the desires of our hearts and had the courage to follow them? What if we kept doing this, even when it gets us in trouble?

What I am trying to say is, not everything we desire is necessarily good for us, but those desires can still give us clues that are vital to knowing ourselves. Sometimes we have to fail a time or two dozen on the road to discovering who God created and redeemed us to be. It’s okay. He calculated that in ahead of time. You don’t have to worry about missing out on what He has for you, just enjoy the journey.


God is Love

“God is love.”

These three simple words, which come from 1 John, are incredible powerful. But they have been so overused that it is often easy for us to forget their meaning.

What is so powerful about this phrase is what we would probably view as the least important word.

“God IS love.”

The reason why the word “is” is so important is it tells us that “love” is not just something God does, but who He IS. Love is not an emotion that God feels some of the time; love is the very core of who God is.

Why is this important? Because when we read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, it’s pretty easy to establish a way of thinking that says God is angry and perhaps even mean. But just because God WAS angered doesn’t mean that He IS angry. God is not defined by His anger, but by His love. We do not serve a God who is sometimes angry and sometimes loving, but a God who is fully love.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it would be accurate to say, “Jared is love.” You could say, “Jared loves,” or “Jared is becoming love,” or “Jared is learning how to love,” but to boldly declare “Jared is love” would be quite inaccurate.

To say “God loves” is a cautious and conservative way to approach the love of God. But God’s love is not cautious or conservative; God’s love is wild and extravagant. To say “God IS love” is bold and daring, and it is a statement that John dares to make not just once, but twice, in 1 John 4 (Verses 8 and 16).

Our words often reveal the deeply held beliefs of our hearts. If you find it easy to say “God loves,” but a bit more difficult and awkward to say “God is love,” it may be because you have seen the Father incorrectly. And how we see the Father is crucial, because it will affect how close we allow ourselves to get to Him.

Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. ~ Ephesians 5:2, The Message

A Picture of God

A Picture of God

Today is February 14th. But for me, it’s Friday. I don’t mean that in a cynical way, because I try to make the most of every day, holiday or workday. So for me, it’s Friday, but it’s not just Friday; because it’s never just Friday at all. Anyway …

As I was driving to a meeting this morning, I was thinking about earthly love, and how it’s given to us as a gift to show us a picture of what God is like. Earthly love was never intended to be an end in itself, but a sign post to point us toward the greater reality of heavenly love. When we make earthly love the end game—the focus of our existence—we miss out on its purpose entirely, which is to point us to a greater reality. I am not making trying to make light of earthly love, but trying to help us understand that it is a good thing that points us to a great thing.

I loved what Mark Driscoll said on Twitter earlier this week, that when we are at a wedding ceremony and see a groom smiling at his bride, we should remember that that is how God feels about us.

1 John 4:19 tells us that when we love, it’s because we were made in the image of God, who first loved us. I used to think this verse meant that it was impossible to love unless you first received the love of God for yourself, but today I am questioning if that is true. I do believe that there is a selfless love that humans once possessed but was lost along the way, that they cannot access until they are in relationship with their True Father. (And even when we can access that, we don’t live out of that place all the time, especially not in the church parking lot.) But to say that it is impossible to love altogether until you are reunited with God would contradict the fact that every person, Christian or otherwise, was made in the image of God. We love because He first loved us, not because we received His love.

I am thinking out loud here, but journey with me … I think pretty much everyone seeks to be loved. (The people I have met who say they don’t, I often discover have been hurt at some point in the process of seeking to be loved.) Even people who don’t seek God seek to be loved. But what if … what if they really are seeking God, and they just don’t realize it? What if in their search for love, they are really searching for God? If this is true, then the problem is not that people aren’t searching for God; the problem is that they don’t search deeply enough for God. They settle for what is good, and miss out on what is great.

I know a counter argument for this idea (which just came to me in the last five minutes, so please bear with me) could be that people who don’t know God are never really satisfied with the love they find, but I know plenty of people who don’t know God who are quite content in their relationships. It would be far too general of a statement to say that they are struggling through life because they don’t know God. (And let’s be honest, we often still struggle through life just as much with God, we just struggle with hope, if you will.)

If all of this is true, perhaps our methods of evangelism should change from trying to convince people that they are miserable and empty, to trying to convince them to not settle for less than they were created for. What if, instead of “beating them down” into salvation, we inspired them to dream of knowing a Love far greater than the greatest love they will ever experience on this earth?

For the record, I am not saying that we do not need to realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior. That is still foundational to the Gospel, and we cannot take it away. I am just saying that perhaps we can switch our presentations of the Gospel to an invitation to encounter, rather than the ultimate beat down.

Another counter argument would be Romans 3:11, … there is no one who seeks God, which expounds on Psalm 14:2-3. And so, for my Calvinist friends, I would agree that we cannot come to God without Him drawing us to Himself, but what if God is already drawing every human being to Himself? We know that He is doing this at least through His creation (Romans 1:20), and if this is true, than we can say that God is drawing every person to Himself, which would mean that every person is able to seek Him.

So, in conclusion to this blog that got so far off topic from what I originally intended (though in a really cool way), I would like to say that earthly love is good and something to be enjoyed and cherished, just as long as we don’t make what is good the main thing, to the point where it gets in the way of us experiencing what is great.

To everyone who is single, like myself, I would quote the words of Donald Miller (even though that is not popular right now since he doesn’t go to church), from his book Through Painted Deserts: “It’s funny how you think you need something but you really don’t. I mean I remember feeling like if I didn’t have this girl I was going to die. But I am not dead, and I feel fine, and I think half the time when I like some girl I am really looking for some kind of redemption, some kind of feeling that I matter or am valuable or am needed, and I don’t think there is a problem with that, but it just makes you realize how much we use each other sometimes. I heard once that real love doesn’t ask what is in it for me; it just gives unconditionally. It just tries to take the weight out of somebody else’s pack, lessen his load, and if it gets reciprocated, that’s great, but that isn’t what you did it for.”

In order to properly function as humans, we definitely need communal (community) love, but we don’t always need romantic love (though it’s okay to want it). We do, however, always need the love of God, because He is the only one who can make us fully alive. And here is what is so amazing about the love of God: It is available to us at any point in life, regardless of how good (or not good) we are at experiencing earthly love.

And so tonight, if you are enjoying a candlelit dinner with your significant other, as you gaze deeply into their eyes, may you catch a glimpse of what God is like. And if you’re eating Chinese take-out in your living room, will you pause for a moment, gaze deeply into the eyes of the Father, and receive the perfect love that only He can give?


New Lenses

This is Part 4 in a series on Familiarity. View previous entries here.

Sometime last year, I walked into the Lenscrafters in my local mall, in order to purchase a new pair of glasses. An hour later, I was trying on a pair that were identical as my previous pair—the only difference was a new type of lenses.

As I walked into the mall, everything looked different. I was seeing the world around me in a way that was more fresh and vivid than before.

I can see clearly now.

I thought I could see clearly before, but that was really just what I was familiar with. As my eyes began to adjust, I began to wonder how much my old lenses had kept me from seeing, and my head began to ache. Sometimes, when we begin to see things in a new way, it disorients us a bit, but that feeling eventually fades.

What was interesting about this was I didn’t know how much of a difference my new lenses would make until I began to look through them. I just noticed I needed new lenses, because the old ones were scratched up quite a bit. This wasn’t extremely noticeable though, because it was familiar. But when I got new lenses, which were not familiar, I noticed the difference in how I could see.

I think there are many of us who struggle to see the full color and beauty of the world around us, because we’re still looking through our old lenses. It’s as if our vision is blurred, and we can only see certain aspects of reality. And the worst part is, we don’t even realize that we cannot see clearly. It’s not until we put new lenses on that we realize there is something that we’ve been missing, that there is more than one way to see. Because as long as we keep looking through our old, familiar lenses, we will continue to believe that what we see is all there is.

The implications of this are staggering when we think in terms of our spiritual lives.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. ~ Ephesians 1:18-19a, NIV

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is praying for the Ephesians, that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened. In other words, he is praying that that their spiritual eyes (rather than just their natural eyes) will be opened. He’s praying that they will be able to see things differently, see beyond what is familiar. He’s praying that they would get new lenses, that what happened to me physically would happen to them spiritually.

If new lenses in the natural realm substantially change the way we see, how much more do new lenses in the spiritual realm?

My new lenses were not just new in the sense that they were not old, they were actually upgraded from my old lenses, specifically for the purpose of seeing things more clearly. But I didn’t realize just how clearly until I actually put them on.

The eyes of our hearts are not just upgraded versions of our physical eyes; they are an entirely different way of seeing. In this passage, Paul is saying that this new way of seeing reveals: 1) The hope to which we’ve been called 2) The riches of the inheritance God has given us 3) The reality that all of Heaven’s power and resources are available to us.

When we begin to see with the eyes of our hearts, it’s not so much that we’re seeing something new, it’s that we’re seeing what has always been. Like with my glasses, familiarity has a way of preventing us from seeing what is right in front of us—or at least, not all there is to see of what is right in front of us.

Familiarity causes us to think that our experience is the only experience. When we’ve only seen through one set of lenses our entire lives, we don’t realize that there are other ways to see. But when God gives us new lenses, we begin to realize that our story is not the only story, that there are many ways to see.

I can see clearly now—and you have the opportunity to see clearly too. The first step to seeing clearly is realizing you need new lenses, even if it’s not for the reason that you think. Because even though we recognize our need, we never recognize how great our need was until we’ve seen it through new lenses.