are we beginning to commend ourselves again? or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? you yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. [2 corinthians 3:1-2]
the evidence of God’s work in a person can only be seen by human eyes on the outside. but the epicenter of that work is always on the inside. God’s work is first and foremost a work of the heart. if anything is going to change about who we are as people, if anything is going to change about who others are, it must begin with heart change.
do you believe this? do you and i functionally believe this?
we can say we do, but i want us to wrestle with a few questions that might help us get to the heart of the matter – so to speak. do we believe if change is going to happen in a person that it must begin with heart change? take a moment, pray and think on these questions.
- if you are trying to change your behavior, if you are stuck in a sin cycle, are you praying for God to transform your heart through the work of the gospel and the power of his Spirit? or, are you only relying on accountability, new habits, removing temptations, etc. these aren’t bad ideas, but they are only behavior modifying actions if you are not praying for God to transform your heart through the gospel and his Spirit. (2 cor 3:16-18)
- when you help correct or confront a child or a friend who is in the middle of sin – do you make this a heart matter? do you ask why questions? do you listen to what they did so you can get at the deeper why? do you just attack the surface sin (lying, cheating, arguing), or are you trying to pray and speak to the deeper sin that is driving these surface sins? are you helping them see their need for a gospel heart work that can only happen through the Spirit’s power? or, are you just correcting or rebuking behavior? easy to do with our children.
- how do you pray for others who you long to see saved? are you praying that that the Jesus would soften and bring conviction, that God would wreck their heart through the gospel’s boldness, and that Spirit would breath life into their dead heart? are you desperately praying for God to work in them? or, are you just praying for your presentation, your boldness, and your efforts. our words matter, but we can change no one’s heart. we must pray for the truth and love we share, but even more we must pray for the person’s heart and God’s power to change.
take a moment and ask God to help you believe – to deeply and functionally believe that change, that transformation begins in the heart. then ask God to help you put this belief into action.
how we pray reveals what we believe about God and people. if we believe people are basically good and just need some good advice, good friends, and good direction, we will pray for this. if we believe people are broken but new creations in Christ, we will pray for the Spirit to rebuke and heal. we will pray for God to soften and plow a heart to receive his word and his truth in love. we will pray for God to do only what God can do in us and in others – change the heart.
“woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! for you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. you blind pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” [matthew 23:25-26]
~ john ryan