Do we have new hearts?
On the one hand, Bullinger would highlight in that booklet the fact that unregenerate man has a “natural heart,” which he says is “’deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked’ (Jer. 17:9), so deceitful that it constantly deceives and betrays us: so deceitful that none but God can really know it.” He also points out that “The Lord Jesus has some ‘teaching about the heart’ of the natural man in Matthew 15:19. ‘Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.’”
I’m sure we would all agree.
On the other hand, Bullinger writes about how “churches may talk about ‘a change of heart’; but, it is never changed. A ‘new heart’ must be given. They may talk about improving man’s heart (or nature): but the old heart cannot be improved; and the new heart needs no improvement.”
Is that really true? Are we given a new heart like we are given a new man? Or does the heart have to be renewed in the same manner as our minds (Rom. 12:2)?
There has always been a close connection between the heart and the mind. Paul makes a fascinating connection between the two in Eph. 4:18. He says that the unbelieving Gentiles have their “understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” When one is in a state of alienation from the life of God with their willful ignorance, the heart becomes darkened being cut off from His light, which leads to a corruption of your emotional life, and as a result, the corruption of all your understanding soon follows. The corruption of the heart leads to a corruption of the mind because the two operate so closely together. The mind is ignorant because the heart is blind being cut off from His light, and the mind soon becomes darkened and blind as well.
Of course, when it comes to hearts, we often think of Jer. 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The heart is desperately wicked. The heart is incurable in its moral depravity. I liked what John Wesley had to say about this verse. “There is nothing so false and deceitful as the heart of man; deceitful in its apprehensions of things, in the hopes and promises which it nourishes, in the assurances that it gives us; unsearchable by others, deceitful with reference to ourselves, and abominably wicked, so that neither can a man know his own heart, nor can any other know that of his neighbour’s.”
Solomon would write in Pro. 28:26, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” A study of the heart in the Bible illuminates through many verses that the unregenerate heart is full of iniquity, is hardened, impenitent, deceitful, proud, subtle, malicious, covetous, foolish, lustful (Ezekiel speaks of a whorish heart in Ezek. 6:9). The heart loves evil, and in fact, is a fountain of evil. The Lord Himself would say in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
Notice that it’s out of the heart of men that proceeds evil thoughts. Isn’t it curiously interesting that we all have thinking hearts? I have a theory that the unregenerate man is guided by his corrupt heart over his mind, but the believer is guided by a renewed mind over the heart, enlightened by His wisdom in His Word, which then gives direction to the emotional life God intended for us to experience.
When we get saved, the heart plays an important role. It’s “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom 10:10). What does that mean exactly? I’d suggest that faith is more than an intellectual assent. Sincerity of belief involves the thinking heart as well. Faith is as much emotional as it is intellectual. The heart makes the faith sincere.
And it would appear at first glance that there is a transformation of the heart that takes place when we believe because our hearts are given His light, which is the knowledge of Christ. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 4:6, For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. I’ve often made the point that the amazing thing about these passages is that what entered our hearts is His light and that light is knowledge. That knowledge is the embodiment of the glory of the entire Godhead in the person of Christ. But Paul says more than this. The light shines in our hearts for a purpose. That purpose is “to give” to others, to share with others, that “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The light, which is the knowledge of Christ, who is the glory of the Godhead, that knowledge of Christ shines in our hearts, so that the light may shine out of us and be shared with others.
This light, this knowledge of Christ shining in our hearts, is the treasure we have in these earthen vessels. His light is power operating inside of us, and that light, which is the knowledge of His Son, is to shine out into all the world for others to see.
Not only that, the excellency of the power of that light operating inside of Paul enabled him to endure all the most severe of tribulations and persecutions with pure joy in his heart. He would write in the next verse, 2 Cor. 4:8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 4:9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 4:10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
In other words, we are troubled on every side, but because of that light, we are not distressed. We are perplexed, but because of that light we are not in despair. We are persecuted, but because of that light, we know that we are not forsaken. We are cast down, but because of that light, we are not, nor will we ever be, destroyed. What we have in these verses is the power of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ completely transforming how Paul endured hard times. He endured those hard times with hope and with joy because of that light, a light that transforms our spiritual perspective of everything, that transforms our emotions, and transforms our attitudes to be in constant joy in the face of the worst of times.
That light isn’t the only thing that shines in our hearts now. Rom. 5:5 tells us that “the love of God is now shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Eph. 3:17 tells us that Christ Himself also dwells in our hearts by faith. We learn in 2 Cor. 1:22 that God “hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” In Gal. 4:6 we also learn that “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Do you see what Paul is saying in all these verses? He’s saying we have Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the love of the Father, abiding in our hearts.
Yet, Paul’s letters also seem to indicate that there is a kind of renewing of the heart that takes place when we study His Word. Consider 1 Thess. 3:13. Paul’s prayer request is that, through study, the Lord may “stablish our hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” Paul is speaking here of a process through study by which our hearts may be stablished, that our hearts may become fixed or settled into a permanent state, that our hearts may emotionally mature to a degree that it is operating in perfect synergy with the sound doctrines of grace such that it has actually achieved a level of blamelessness in its state of holiness. Paul’s prayer request becomes our goal to achieve that level of emotional maturity inside of us such that we are not committing egregious sins, that we are essentially blameless in our walks until the rapture of the church.
Consider also 2 Thess. 3:5. Paul talks about the Lord directing our hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. Also, through study. The Word of God directs our minds, which makes our hearts react by diving into an ever deeper love of God.
Timothy was commanded twice to be a model of charity out of a pure heart. I have always loved 1 Tim. 1:5 in which Paul writes, “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned…” You cannot have one attribute without the other. We cannot truly love without a pure heart, which cannot be pure unless we live by a good conscience, which we cannot possess unless we walk with a sincere faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is neither love without a good conscience, nor a good conscience without faith, nor faith without the Word of God. Pure faith in what Christ teaches us in His Word enables us to live with a pure conscience, which inspires us to love everyone we know with a pure heart.
Pureness of one’s heart is not automatic. But pureness of heart is something we can achieve after we get saved by studying to such a degree that our hearts are operating blamelessly in light of His Word which renews the mind and guides the heart in how to operate in pureness of charity toward everyone. Study of His Word stablishes the heart.
So I would suggest, for your consideration, that while a heart is transformed the moment we believe because God has shined in our hearts the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, yet, the heart also needs to be renewed like the mind, to become stablished in our faith, that our hearts may become fixed or settled into a permanent state in alignment with the Word, so that our hearts are operating in perfect synergy with the sound doctrines of grace, to achieve that level of emotional maturity inside of us such that we are not committing egregious sins, and we become essentially blameless in our walks until the catching away of the church.