New Heart, Who Dis?: Why Obeying God Matters
Breakfast devotionals (sometimes) work well for our family because pancakes tend to help our kids pay more attention than the witching hour at the end of the day. On one particular morning, we were telling the story of the Ten Commandments and asked our kids, “How many commandments did God give to Moses?” “A LOTTTTT,” was my 3-year-old’s quick response.
Can you relate? I don’t think he’s far off from what many of us feel at times: God has given us too many commands! And it’s impossible to keep them all.
Yes, and no.
If it’s true that we are saved by grace, not by works, then does how we live actually matter? Scripture answers with a resounding “Yes!”
According to James, faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Hearing must lead to doing, and faith must lead to works. My works don’t earn my salvation – they are not the basis of it – but they prove that I have it. Right actions are a necessary result of my faith.
New Heart, New Life
When we become Christians, the work that God does within us is amazing. We’re given not just changed hearts, but completely new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26-27), and he filled that new heart with the Holy Spirit. I’m no longer living out of a cold, dead heart. I’m living out a heart that is now guided by the Spirit of God, and that shows up in my actions.
Think about the physical heart you have in your body. If it’s working correctly, it’s pumping blood to all the other parts of your body – your brain, your fingers, all the way down to your toes.
Your new, spiritual heart does something similar: it is placed within you by God and starts pumping new life into all areas of your life.
That new heart, filled with the Spirit, changes you from the inside out.
We might have no idea what obedience to God even looks like the moment we come to Christ. But the growth process has been started by God! We become increasingly uncomfortable with our sin. Our tastes buds slowly change over time, and sin no longer tastes as good as it once did.
Years ago I went through a battle with cancer, and one thing the chemotherapy did to my body was alter the cells in my mouth. Before chemo, I had a love for strong, rich coffee. But after? Coffee lost its appeal (I was seriously bummed!). It now tasted bitter and dull, and the smell made me feel sick.
When God comes into your life to make you holy and obedient, he changes your hearts, which then starts to change your tastes.
The sin you once indulged in without an ounce of guilt or shame now comes with conviction. The Holy Spirit now rules your life! And your works become the proof of your salvation.
But I Keep Messing Up!
But what about when your life doesn’t really look like there’s any proof? What if you just keep messing up, giving into sin over and over and over again?
First, ask yourself if the conviction is there when you sin.
Do you feel guilty? Was your ultimate desire to not give in? If not, then you might not ever have experienced the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
But if you’ve noticed that your tastes are changing, that you are seeing your sin in more and more places and more and more ways, and that you don’t deeply desire it, then praise God – it’s evidence that he is at work in your life and beginning to change your heart! (Even when that heart change is making you more and more aware of your sin.)
Quick thought experiment: Think back over the last semester. The last year. Maybe the last few years if you’ve been a Christian for a while now.
Have you noticed a change in yourself, however small? Do you see ways you might have grown, even though it’s two steps forward, one step back? If you’re a Christian, it’s impossible not to see ways that God has been at work in your life—even if they’re small glimpses!
Satan would love nothing more than for you to live in a prison. He wants to point you to sin, to slavery, to shame. He wants you to carry heavy burdens and bear the weight of condemnation for your sin.
But Jesus does not.
“Come to me,” he says, “all who are weary and heavy-burdened” (Matthew 11:28).
He will give you rest! Sin enslaves, but friends, the way of Jesus is freedom. It is “for freedom that Christ has set us free,” (Galatians 5:1). We are free to not be enough, to not have it all together, to keep walking this journey in all of our imperfect ways because Jesus’s cross freed us from condemnation.
Our hope isn’t in all the ways we can triumph over our sin. Our hope is in God’s ultimate triumph in history – and that will never change or falter.
So let’s be people who fight our sin well, but also people who let our sin (even the darkest moments) point us back to Jesus. Let each failure be an opportunity to acknowledge your desperate need of him. And bring it to the light. True freedom awaits because the final victory is his.
Fighting sin and injustice in the world can feel like an uphill battle. But we aren't fighting alone! In this episode of Going There, Christian and Samantha discuss what this battle looked like in the life of Esther and how you can step into it today!