by Femi Aribisala
We claim to be Christians, but don’t have a new heart.
If you have been to some churches lately, you can be forgiven if you conclude the one thing God wants from believers is our money. Every trick or witchcraft is used in the churches today to squeeze money from church-goers in the deception that for every kobo you give, God will give you a hundredfold return.
But this is all pie-in-the-sky. God does not need our money. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:8). When asked if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus denies God’s interest in money. He observes that it is Caesar’s image and inscription that is on money, and says: “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21).
What then belongs to God? What bears his image and inscription? The answer is obvious: it is man himself. We are the ones created in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:26). Therefore, God does not want our money. He wants us. He wants us to give ourselves to him.
But God is even more specific than that in what he wants from us. What he wants is our heart. He says: “My son, give me your heart.” (Proverbs 23:26). Jesus reminds us that the first commandment says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.” (Mark 12:30). Although God routinely hides from man, he promises that: “You shall seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).
The heart is seen in scripture as the essence of man. Solomon says it defines who we are: “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Jesus also says: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45). Therefore, Jesus insists: “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37).
This needs to be emphasised because we cannot belong to Christ without first giving God our heart. However, most Christians don’t know this. They don’t because the pastors of our churches are equally ignorant of this. Instead, they preach asking people to give their life to Christ. Then they bring them to the altar where they are told to recite statements claiming they now believe Jesus died for their sins and have decided to make him their Lord and Saviour.
But this turns out to be just one big deception. Jesus himself says it is the heart of man he is after: “These people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:8-9). Nevertheless, a significant part of the Christian church persists in what has become a vain commandment of men: the answering of the altar call.
That is why the contemporary Christian church is so deceptive. That is why the bad shepherds that call themselves pastors today are deceived deceivers. All the more so because they also fool people into believing that by paying tithes and giving offerings, Christians are fulfilling the full counsel of God. They fail to recognise that a man can give all his money without giving his heart. But the man who gives his heart to God has already relinquished everything he has.
What does God want to do with our heart? He wants us to give it to him so he can throw it away. His principal intention is to give us a brand new heart. He says this in Jeremiah: “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their good and for the good of their sons after them.” (Jeremiah 32:39).
The psalmist says: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). When we delight ourselves in the Lord, he takes away our desires and gives us new righteous ones. He ensures that his desires become the desires of our heart. Thereby, his yoke becomes easy and his burden becomes light. Thereby, like the Jesus of David’s messianic psalm, we delight to do the will of God because the law of God is written in our heart, instead of in tablets of stone or in a book called the bible. (Psalm 40:7-8).
This is God’s promise of the New Covenant: “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. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
Herein lies the contradiction of so-called Christians. We claim to be Christians, but don’t have a new heart. We claim to be Christians, but are full of hate. We claim to be Christians, but don’t know the Lord. We claim to be Christians, but don’t have the Spirit of the Lord. We claim to be Christians, but don’t know the ways of Christ. We claim to be Christians, but don’t know the will of God. We claim to be Christians, but don’t know we are not of God.
This contradiction is equally evident in so-called believers in the scriptures. John speaks of some Jews who believed in Jesus. (John 8:31). However, Jesus ends up saying to them: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” (John 8:44).
Jesus’ word is Greek to such so-called Christians. He says: “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’ For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:13-15).
But his verdict is different to those who have given the Lord their hearts: “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:16).
– This article was first published on Vanguard Newspapers