We all believe that the better way to respond to blessings is to offer words of praise and thanksgiving to God. However, doing so is not always a guarantee that God will be pleased. There are many who praise and heap words of thanksgiving to God, but do so with insincere hearts. Jesus appropriately described these people as hypocrites when he said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matt. 15:8). They have a heart problem – they need to have a new heart. The Lord, through the prophet Ezekiel, said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26).
The problem of the heart was emphasized by the prophet Jeremiah when he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). The heart can indeed pretend to be happy outside and yet it is actually grieving inside. No wonder God looks at the heart and not the outward appearance of a man. He made this truth very clear when Samuel was commanded to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as king of Israel. When the first born of Jesse came in and Samuel saw that he was a good looking man, he thought that this would be the man chosen by God, but God said, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:6).
The reason God is very much concerned about the heart is because it is the center of our life. The Book of Proverbs says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23). Whether physically or spiritually, when the heart is sick it affects the whole body. There is such a thing as a spiritual heart attack where the heart is so hardened that it is no longer responsive to the Word of the Lord. This will result in spiritual death and the only remedy is a heart transplant. This is the reason why the Lord said, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” The Lord Jesus emphasized this need to have a good heart in the Parable of the Sower. Only a good heart is fertile for the Word and it will, according to the Lord Jesus Christ, “produce a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matt. 13:8). Needless to say, all other hearts will be unproductive.
Aside from a renewed heart, we also need to have a renewed spirit. That was King David’s desire after he had committed a grievous sin of adultery. He cried, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12). One who has not been renewed in the spirit will not be able to overcome the challenges of life. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us and to teach us all things. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we are convicted of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. It is so easy to go with the flow or to enjoy everything that is presented to us to enjoy, but it is by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that we are made aware of what is right and what is wrong. It is a renewed spirit that will cause us to desire the things of God.
For us to be able to live holy and blameless lives, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. We can better appreciate the power of the Holy Spirit to save when we consider the fact that we have unseen enemies. The apostle Paul, in his epistle, revealed these enemies when he said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). These enemies are called powers of the air. These are unseen enemies and yet they are so real. They have the power to steal, kill and destroy and they remain invisible and unrecognizable until the Holy Spirit will reveal them to us. Today, we are no longer unaware of their works and influences because they work using the airwaves. We see them on TV, internet, cell phones and all kinds of gadgets using the airwaves. We even have what is called cyber war and cyber-attacks. They are very influential and can take any unsuspecting person captive. While they may appear friendly and useful, they can be very cruel. The only way to combat these wicked spirits is to draw help from a greater power, the Holy Spirit. For these reasons, we need to have a change of heart and renewed spirit. May we pray on all occasions that we may overcome them. May the Lord take our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh that we may serve him faithfully. Hallelujah!