“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified…” (Romans 10:10)
I recently spoke at a mens' event in which one of the participants asked me if having a good and noble heart was just a matter of semantics. [In other words, does it really matter?]
His view was that we should simply count on the Spirit's ongoing work within us to make an errant heart good over time. In other words, Why can't he make a diseased heart good... in time? What did it matter that you start the journey with Christ equipped with a brand new heart?
My response was:
- It's hard to ignore Scripture's indication that Jesus replaced our 'heart of stone' with a new heart. [He didn't merely try and clean it up - but replaced it.] [Ezek. 36:26] When you said 'yes' to Christ, he removed the heart that would have been a hinderance to the 'in-Christ' life; and gave you a heart saturated with his own goodness, spiritual health and vitality.
Romans 10:10 points out that it is "with your heart that you believe and are justified." Just as a sick and dying body can't reproduce life on its own, so a heart that's debilitated, self-righteous and wandering won't trust God's offer of life, nor have the ability to successfuly abide in that life in the long run. That would be asking it to do something that's against it's nature: like asking spotted and rotted fruit to provide the body with nourishment.
- Second, the people of Israel's primary problem was a wayward heart -- forever wandering and fauning after lesser 'gods.' So God solves the root problem, promising: “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jer. 24: 7). You can't "return to God with all your heart" if your heart is 'prone to wander' and waffle. That's why your new life in Christ begins with a new heart that can receive him, that desires his will, and can love as Jesus loves.
If we start the journey with a thoroughly-new, supernaturally radiant and good heart, then this is the way we continue the journey: We cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he releases the goodness he's already birthed within us.
Simply relying on Jesus to be good for you underestimates his restoring work in us: Jesus is not going to be good "on your behalf." [This is the fallacy of "imputed righteousness."] This would be short-changing his surprising work in you. Rather, he's made you good by giving you his own goodness; and will continue to nourish, celebrate and release "the work he began in you" -- the work that started with your heart. We mature as we allow him to engage this new goodness he's already given us.