“Lord do what you need to do in our hearts to bring this about!”
The catalyst for this teaching is a recent vivid dream recalling attacks on my motives by church authorities in the past. Later that same morning I saw a heart (for in scripture it is the heart which motivates). As I further meditated the heart had arrows heading towards it, no doubt of Satanic origin (Eph 6:16). In a subsequent graphic image I saw the heart bleeding from many wounds. Some days later the Spirit drew my attention to a heart with sharp edges (the paradoxical meaning of this will be explained later).
The dream and first set of hearts represent Satanic strategies used with great effect amongst God’s people to hold back the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29). The last heart symbolises the source of a healing Word that shall bring forth lasting spiritual renewal. These images highlight that our greatest present need in the Western church is for heart defence and heart transformation, such is the message of this teaching.
The Vitality of the Heart
The importance of the heart was first highlighted for me through the writings of Jonathan Edwards. An American contemporary of the Wesley’s, he delivered probably the most famous sermon in history, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” His preaching incited fainting, swooning, convulsions and crying out in fear of falling into the pit of hell. This was because Edwards had an applied theology of the heart.
In Edwards’ theology, understanding, will and emotion are three branches from a common trunk, the heart, which is the centre of personality controlling every aspect of the soul. The Word of God is directed at the heart rather than the mind, the emotions or the will. He believed God’s goal was the transformation of entire personality by touching it at the root – the heart. Whatever popular culture means by “heart”, in scripture the heart is the central organizing principle of human life. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Prov 4:23)
Failing to Guard our Hearts
The psalmist explains how to guard the heart, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”(Ps 119:11). Since the Word of God always comes forth from the Father, to devalue his Word is to cease to live as a child of God. This is a particular problem for Western culture due to our unique history of doubt.
For centuries Western culture has taught us to doubt. Doubt was the starting point of modern philosophy, it is foundational to the success of modern empirical science and above all it is a by-product of capitalism. Today the “profit motive” makes the world go round. Even your old age is dependent on stock market investments (superannuation). Tragically, profit principally means my profit, not yours! Contrast this with Paul’s words, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour… o that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” (Eph 4:28)). The primacy of self- interested profit in popular culture is massively damaging our belief in the purity of God’s heart by creating a spiritual climate of doubting the purity of human motivation. Our only recourse is to rediscover the heart of Jesus.
The Heart of a true Child
When Jesus said, ““Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3), he was speaking about something that was first true for him. The kingdom was powerfully present in his life because as a true son he never questioned the motives behind his Father’s Word. In praying, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things (miraculous powers) from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children…”” (Luke 10:21), he confessed he did not analyse the will of his Father but submitted to it without question.
The struggle in Gethsemane does not contradict this, but highlights the purity of the motives of God. Let me explain. In the Garden, Jesus is beginning to experience overwhelming sorrow (Mark 14:34) as the Spirit is calling him to the cross, to become “a man of sorrows…acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3). This is a grief that God takes no pleasure in causing, “though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” (Lam 3:32-33). Literally, God does not afflict “from his heart” i.e. from the root of his personality. Jesus is being asked to embrace the fullness of the divine wrath against humanity, the one thing the heart of God loathes to perform. Hence the unbearable tension about the Father’s will. This reaches a climax on the cross where Jesus actually bears the divine anger (Rom 3:25).
God’s Word comes from his heart (John 1:1,18), but because God’s wrath does not reveal his heart, the place in which the fullness of wrath is expressed is a Wordless place. Hence the cry of dereliction, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34).
Jesus endures the supreme anguish of being a Son without hearing his Father’s Word. It is as if God’s heart is closed to him and his own fully hardened to God. This is the cost of his taking on our sin (2 Cor 5:21), of penetrating to the root of our personality in its absolute rejection of the root of God’s personality. In his atoning work, the sin of the world and God’s anger upon it are taken away (John 1:29;3:14). This changes everything at the deepest level.
The Deepest Healing of All
“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek 36:26). This means a truly “born again Christian” cannot have a fundamental corruption of motives. The temptation to be hardened by deceit (Heb 3:13) is real, but cannot reach to the root of personality. The consequences of this for the discernment of spirits and dealing with sin in the church are profound.
Whereas Satan stirs up suspicion and accusation against the fundamental motives of others, the Spirit speaks a prophetic Word to a heart level that still confesses Jesus as Lord. We are speaking about a church that refuses to condemn brothers and sisters, of a new heart for our city that covers its shame.
The cutting edge of lasting revival is a healed heart, for when the heart is healed the Word that proceeds from the mouth is necessarily a healing word. Spiritually, the heart I saw with sharp (not hard) edges is a soft heart. The sharpness is the softness of God’s heart towards us revealed in the cross. Words of grace – filled hearts release the truth, “God’s kindness leads to repentance” (Rom 2:4), with penetrating power.
The Father is moving us away from sowing on unploughed ground. He is going to bring forth the “implanted word” which touches the root of personhood. Such a word always brings forth fruitfulness because it changes the heart of the hearer (cf. (Luke 6:45; 8:15). A new enthusiasm for hearing and speaking the Word will come as believers understand the blessing of laying bare one another’s hearts (Heb 4:12- 13) in an atmosphere without condemnation. Such an atmosphere draws out repentance, accelerates maturation and brings forth the fruit of eternal life.
Jesus promised, “the pure in heart see God” (Matt 5:8). As we stop imputing self – interested motives to others a vision of God will come. I believe a special healing is coming for genuine shepherds whose motives have been falsely accused by the evil one. Christian “niceness” about evil will be a thing of the past; the church will deal with real issues in real ways that will be attractive to people looking for real answers.
Changing the Heart of our Culture
In general, Australians are suspicious of the motives of religious people.Typically, Aussies think of God as “a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,” (Matt 25:24). Instead of seeing the vast personal and material talents of this nation as a God – given opportunity for multiplication of kingdom resources and the blessing of sharing our Master’s joy (25:21,23), we treat God as a personal profiteer. The judgement for seeing God as hard hearted is increasing hard heartedness to the presence of his kingdom. In such an atmosphere the kingdom does not multiply and the tangible presence of God is lacking. Tragically our judgements against God’s motives seem further confirmed. Thankfully the presence of Jesus can change all this.
His coming revealed the heart thoughts (Luke 2:34-35) of those devoted to personal profit (Luke 16:14). Positively, his free and full hearted giving created a new spiritual atmosphere so that “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). Such a Jesus presence today has the power to convert our cynical culture at the root of its personality.
The Lord is seeking to fashion a heart of love that has passed beyond fundamental questions of motivation. Such a heart will allow the light of Christ’s grace to shine through it into the world radiating the glory of God. The sign that this is breaking in upon us (Isa 9:2; Mal 4:2; Luke 1:78) will be God’s exposing motives leading into deep unforced repentance. This is always the mark of genuine revival. ““Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent…”” (Acts 2:37 – 38).
Whilst I am persuaded of the truth of what I have written, this subject is far beyond my experience. The Lord will have to do this thing by a sovereign move of his hand. All we can do is be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit as he calls us to give our hearts to Jesus in the same deep way as when we originally came to him and experienced the intensity of our first love (Rev 2:4). A first love that takes us beyond judgements on motives.
 A devout brother’s response to my last communication about resurrection power in our midst.
 “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)
 The errors of rationalism, emotionalism and voluntarism (moralism) respectively.
 John 1:1; 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:1 – 3 etc.
 The father of modern Western philosophy, Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650), expounded a system that began by asking what could be known if all else were doubted. This did not disturb his Catholic beliefs. In the history of Western thought the doubt has remained and the faith has largely been bypassed.
 If something cannot be measured and repeated it is not to be accepted. The success of science has unfortunately often been held up as a model for theological method.
 The father of modern economics, Adam Smith (1723 – 1790), invoked an “invisible hand” to explain how the market economy worked for the overall good. This he believed was an arrangement of divine providence. To bring God into contemporary economic theory is however taboo.
 Under the sovereign hand of God the current global economic crisis is exposing the inadequacy of selfishness as a pillar of civilisation.
 Churches motivated primarily by business principles are therefore very culturally attractive.
 ““Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mark 14:36)
 The new heart is no longer “deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9).
 “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:9).
 “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
 Compare, “a soft tongue can break bones” (Proverbs 25:15). Soft hear means strong, not weak.
 The fruit of the first “revival” (Pentecost) was that the hearers were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37).
 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.” (Matt 13:19)
 “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21). This means engrafted, rooted.
 Sin is evil beyond comprehension, but grace is immeasurably greater (Rom 5:15-21), both must be affirmed for maturity.
 But not of the Salvation Army, for reasons too obvious to state.
This is true not only of unbelievers (Eph 4:18) but Christians (Heb 3:8, 15; 4:7).
 Hearts that live beyond the knowledge of good and evil are neither suspicious nor naïve about human motivation but preserved from harm in Christ-centred obedience (Matt 10:16; Rom 16:19-20).
 For an example of this in more recent history do a search for The Great Pyongyang Revival 1907.