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[the heart of the gospel] | Ryan Johnson

Have you asked Jesus into your heart?

A pastor once made the comment that the above question made absolutely no sense in light of what the Scripture says about how a person receives Christ.  And while I share this sentiment, and dislike the way it has become a Christian cliche, I now understand where someone thought it up.

While studying the New Testament recently concerning the word “heart” (the Greek word “kardia” from which we get our English words like “cardiac” and “cardiology”), I am amazed at how so many people who profess to follow Christ, myself included, can go on and on in our walk with Him and realize how greatly we miss the mark sometimes with the Gospel.  So many times Christianity is turned into a moralistic religion, simply characterized by rules and legalism.  We tend to characterize ourselves by the quantity of our good works and what we don’t do.  Consequently, the Gospel is masked and veiled in such a way that the true focus is lost.

Maybe it is for this reason that the church is seemingly losing the culture and watching our children turn away from the church at a greater rate than ever.  Also, could it be that the church’s methodology and focus has become so skewed that we have become our own greatest enemy.

The solution to all of these problems is a return to a right understanding of the focus of the Gospel and the priorities of the Kingdom of Christ.  We must get the Gospel right if we have any hope of being the kind of salt and light that Christ intended us to be.

Let us begin by looking at a theme running throughout the Scriptures; one that can be easily summarized by an oft-quoted adage, “The heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart.”

In the Scriptures, the heart is defined in many ways.  The majority opinion among the New Testament writers is that the heart is the unification of a person’s intellect, motivations, emotions and affections.  It is the core of belief, faith and action.  It is the whole picture of who a person is.  We are told to believe from our heart, to have a pure heart, a sincere heart and a true heart.  The Corinthians grieved Paul’s heart and at other times his heart was gladdened and refreshed.  The figurative uses show us that the heart is the seat, the source, the center point, the essence of who a person is.  In the same way, the very title of this blog post made you begin reading it understanding that I am talking about the core of the Gospel.  When someone wants to cut through any superficial issues in a conversation and get to what they see as the main point, they usually say something like, “Well, the heart of the matter is…” or ” The heart of the problem is…”

Therefore, like a great multifaceted diamond, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is about the redemption of the heart.  When our spiritual ancestors, Adam and Eve, fell into sin, they became corrupt to their core.  They became spiritually dead, “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them” (Eph. 4:18).

Therefore, a long shadow was cast over humanity that only promised the wrath of God due to the rebellion that a man’s heart and nature were born into.  All throughout the Old Testament, we see even the people of God, bearing the Law of God on tablets of stone were helpless to be “obedient from the heart” (Rom. 6:17).  Throughout Israel’s history they were continually stained, scarred, battered and beaten because of their disobedience.  There was no hope.  God demanded righteousness and faithful obedience, and there was none who could attain this on their own merit. 

However, through the prophets, God promised of a new day coming; a day where He would “remove the heart of stone from [their] flesh and give [them] a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36:26).  The Law which was once written on tablets of stone would now be written on their hearts, and they would wholly be God’s people (Jer. 31:33).

Therefore, because of the work of Christ, we have been redeemed.  We have been given new hearts and new minds through our Savior Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit has regenerated and renewed us so that we can worship and glorify God with our whole hearts, our whole lives.

So the measure of impact that the Gospel has had on us is not inherently found in what we don’t do or even in what we do.  Instead, are our hearts right with God?  Are we honoring Him with our minds, our intellects, our thoughts?  Can we come before Him with a pure conscience?  Is your heart walking in satisfaction in Christ?

The heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart.  But the heart of the Gospel is the redemption of the heart for the glory of God and the good of His children.

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