For most of us, we are used to thinking that our hearts are the seat of our deepest feelings and we have been told by countless number of Disney movies to follow what our heart wants. The greatest good, therefore, is to follow our hearts and conversely the greatest bad is to repress our feelings. But are we just driven by synapses firing in our neurons and emotions from our hormones? Do these dictate how we live our lives?
The heart that wants what it wants
The Bible, however, speaks of the heart in different terms. It is not less than emotions and feelings, but much more. As Pastor and writer Timothy Keller puts it, the heart symbolizes the “seat of our most basic orientation, our deepest commitments”. It shows us “what we trust the most (Prov 3:5, 23:26), what we most love and hope in, what we most treasure, what captures our imagination (Matt 6:21)”. Jesus Himself declares that sinful behaviors that defile a person originate from the heart (Matt 15:18). We live out what our hearts are like.
We’ve established before that the reason why we don’t read our Bibles is because we don’t want to read it. But if we trace that to its roots, we don’t want to read God’s Word because it is not what we love, hope in, or treasure. And it most certainly is not what captures our imaginations.
The heart that needs to be renewed
What then? If we don’t read our Bibles because our hearts don’t want to, the logical and natural solution is to help our hearts want to read our Bibles. And as circular and unhelpful as this may seem, the way we help our hearts want to read our Bibles, is by reading our Bibles.
We read the Bible to learn about ourselves. The Bible is a mirror - just as a regular mirror shows us who we are (pimples, blemishes and all), the Bible also shows us who we truly are (our brokenness, sinfulness and all).
This changes the way we read the Bible and look at the stories of the characters within. We don’t look to people like Abraham and David as role models or Bible heroes, but instead we see a reflection of ourselves and our own fallenness recorded in the pages of Scripture. The Bible tells us the truth: not that we ought not to follow our hearts, but that left on our own, our hearts cannot be trusted.
But the Bible doesn’t merely show us the problems with our hearts, only to leave us there. It also shows us how our hearts can be made right. God knows the state of our hearts. In fact, in Eze 36, He describes the heart as a “heart of stone” (Eze 36:26). In our contemporary speech, we know that to describe someone as stone-hearted is a negative and unpleasant description of a cruel and unfeeling person. This is how we are towards God and all that He says. Just like our problem with Bible reading, our problem with sin goes beyond skin-deep: we don’t need cosmetic surgery. What we need is a heart surgery, and we certainly cannot perform it ourselves. This is why God Himself has to give us new hearts and a new spirit, to remove the heart of stone and to replace it with a heart of flesh (Eze 36:26).
The heart that needs to be reminded
This is what happens when we are born again not of the flesh, but of the Spirit (John 3:6). When we profess faith in Jesus Christ, we now have new desires. Where once our hearts loved and treasured and built our lives upon our abilities and sought to please ourselves, we now can say with Paul that the life we now live in the flesh, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal 2:20).
This has everything to do with Bible reading. Scripture makes us wise for salvation through faith in Christ (2 Tim 3:15). It shows us who we are and how hopelessly sinful we are. It shows us how time and again we simply cannot save ourselves. It shows us time and again our deep, desperate need for a Saviour. But more than anything, it shows us that we have a Saviour in Christ.
When we read the Bible, God’s very words, He shines a light into our dark hearts to give us the illuminating light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus (2 Cor 4:6). Our once stone cold hearts now burn when Scripture is read, when we see our Saviour and the glory of God. Reading God’s Word reminds us daily of how amazing God’s grace is.
The heart that is enabled to grow through repentance and faith
But reading the Bible not only serves as a reminder. Reading the Bible continues to help us to grow. As the words of the hymn go, we struggle with a heart that is prone to wander, and we continually pray for God’s help to walk the narrow path. This doesn’t mean we worry about losing our salvation, but rather that we need to continue to put off our old selves and desires, and learn to be renewed in the spirit and put on the new self with new desires (Eph 4:22-24). We continue to learn to align our hearts not to our will, but to God’s.
This is not a magical process, but takes place when we read the Bible. The Bible continues to remind us of who we are in Christ. We are those that have been delivered from the domain of darkness, redeemed and forgiven and now in the kingdom of the beloved Son of God (Col 1:13-14). This means that sin no longer has a hold on us.
The Scriptures remind us that those who are in Christ cannot be separated from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35). It shows us that we are so secure in Christ.
The Scriptures assure us that He keeps us from stumbling, and will one day present us blameless before Himself (Jude 24). We have a hope, because He holds us fast and will not fail.
The Bible is God’s very own words. As Christians, we read the Bible not in a grudging way, but with the joy and excitement of the Psalmist in Psalm 119, because we now see how these are the words of Life. Once, these were just words on a page, but now we know that we are recipients of new hearts because of God’s grace and love. Once we were His enemies, but now we are His children. Now, we see grace in every page of Scripture, certain that this grace that has “brought [us] safe thus far”, will also “lead [us] home”.
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