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. Ezekiel 36:26
"Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Psalms 37:4 is a frequently-quoted Bible promise, and sadly it's one that's often misunderstood, especially among those who don’t know Jesus as their Savior.
Even those of us who do, benefiting from the Holy Spirit’s capacity to interpret God’s Word as the Word of God, may have used it loosely or out of context at one time or another. I began to think about this in a perfectly ordinary moment, when I caught myself feeling sorry for someone who had plenty of material things ~ “everything her heart desired” ~ but I perceived she was sad and searching.
In this human state, I confess I often have little flares of envy -- or bouts of self-sympathy -- when I feel I deserve something but don’t have it. Even worse, I sometimes think I should have it instead of someone else. That’s coveting, and even as I indulge my personal perception of what’s fair and unfair, God reminds me in no uncertain terms that my perception is flawed. Flawed by flesh. And He points me to Psalms 37:4.
Delighting myself in the Lord is not second-nature, and it’s certainly not first-nature. It’s a decision, a sheer act of my will: based on His promises, which I know to be true. His sacrifice of His Son, the living, breathing, dead-then-resurrected Promise to save me and then keep me, is the crown jewel in His tapestry of promises. And the day, the very instant that I gave in to Christ’s persistent knocking, the promises changed from fable to fact.
The same timeless and boundless power that opened my eyes to His truth insists on making His desires my desires. He doesn’t necessarily want me to have all the things and experiences and emotions that I have on my life’s wish-list. Many of them, left to my discretion, are potential detours from the path He’s carefully mapped out for me. Many more of them are not in His plan at all, and it’s these I think He’s most intent on replacing. He wants to replace those desires with His: His inner peace for my restlessness; His patience for my impulsiveness; His mercy for my callousness; His generosity for my selfishness; fellowship with other Christians over life’s countless superficial distractions; a hunger for His Word over my desire to be entertained; and the desire to share His Word over my tendency to keep it comfortably personal.
When I said yes to Jesus, that “yes” scratched its way out of a heart of stubborn stone. We all have one, until we surrender it and mean it. My stony, unsaved heart was self-directed and unproductive ~ of little use for growing the Kingdom. Oh, I could still love people with it, and I could feel pain with it, and I even managed to be satisfied with it on occasion. But a stony heart is inhabited with so many imposters! False peace. False security. Mercy and acceptance, yes, but mostly to the extent that we stand to gain something from it too. A heart framed by conditions.
Ezekiel 36:26 is a picture of God’s promise to replace our hard and self-centered heart with a heart that is soft, and pliable, and vulnerable: the kind of heart the Master can use.
At the instant of His union with me, my spirit began to align with His motives. And my flesh began to fight...with plenty of help from the outside! Ever wonder why, when you’re really trying to pursue godly things, the negative influences seem to go into hyper-drive? Temptations scribble “What could it hurt?” across your perfectly good reasons why not. Laziness whispers “let someone else do it.” Selfishness crooks its finger at you, beckoning you to put others’ needs behind yours.
Girlfriends, I am speaking from experience! Daily I perceive the battle that goes on for my devotion: The He, or the “me”. And like the Israelites prevailed in battle only as long as Moses kept the Rod of God raised high (Exodus 17:9-11), my heart’s strength prevails only as long as God’s priorities are held higher than mine. Distracted from Him, or just plain lazy, I am gravely exposed and woefully ineffective (just the way Satan likes me, by the way).
Thanks to Jesus my Savior, now I have a remade heart, a “heart of flesh”... yet it’s still prone to act “stony”. But help is on the way, every time! I’m once-and-for-all, supernaturally inhabited with the Holy Spirit’s power to do impressive battle with that stoniness. The weapon of choice? His desires in my heart. The ammunition? My delighting in them! When I show His mercy, prejudice wails. When I exercise His patience, urgency is stilled. When I refuse to entertain and advance gossip, a healing can begin. When I do good for someone else, contrary to my own preferences, Satan himself gets pretty annoyed. Put simply, when we behave like Jesus, it messes up the enemy’s battle plans. He’s accustomed to complacent Christians, and acting on God’s desires in our hearts is far too active for his liking.
Sisters, there is so much power on the inside of each of us, waiting to be activated through the simple (yet excruciating) surrender of our desires. If you have trusted Christ with your eternal soul, then trusting Him with every other thing needs to naturally follow. The Holy Spirit already bears witness within you that He has only the best plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11 declares it. So does Philippians 1:6…and the list goes on.
As a daughter of the King, your heart has been made into the perfect receptacle for the desires God longs to place there. For the accomplishment of His purpose for you! Do you really want your heart’s desires to be the same as God’s? I mean, do you really? If so, then determine today to begin some self-examination, and invite God along. That’s biblical, after all (Psalm 139:23). He can find trouble spots that we can’t, and He will reveal them if we want Him to. Only then can He replace our selfish desires with His higher ones. The process isn’t pretty (or painless!), if undertaken honestly. And while our eternity is safe in His hands, this “desire makeover” is not a one-time project: it’s one that we must yield to whenever God’s priorities are allowed to slip lower ~ and the enemy begins to advance his agenda in our lives.
“No pain, no gain” is never truer than when God is doing this exquisitely delicate “desire transplant,” removing what’s destructive or powerless in us and replacing it with the life-giving stuff that His desires are made of. The transplant process is ongoing. I need this work done in me pretty much daily! And yet, the Surgeon stands ready. I imagine you're feeling the Spirit's nudge: "You need this work done too"... so go ahead: it’s time to sign the release.
Just a minute, and you can use my pen: I have to sign -- again.
( I'm so thankful He gets that. )