Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Living from the Mind and Heart

             Do you find yourself asking a lot of "why"  questions to figure out life?  If certainly is okay to be curious and ask questions to find out as much as we can to make life better for all of us.  But, at the same time, the older I become, the more I believe the color gray is as close to black or white as will be achieved by human effort in answering some of the most difficult questions in life.  Why is this?  <smile!>  Simply because the "heart" factor is what fuels life.   
            God placed man uniquely in His creation as a living soul. Job writes, “But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding” (Job 32:8). Man is a spiritual being, and as such, spiritually sensitive to spiritual matters. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Rom. 8:11) As explained here by the apostle Paul, believers in Jesus Christ have a regenerated dimension of spiritual discernment that comes from the Holy Spirit living inside them. The spirit of a person connects to spiritual matters through both the mind and heart.
God created human response as a complexly intrinsic combination of intellectual, volitional and emotional elements. God views each person as a “whole person” (both physical and nonphysical). Many Scriptures mention the words, mind and heart, contextually as a dichotomy. Although some Scriptures seem to speak of mind and heart together as the same entity, many Scriptures indicate at least a slightly different makeup of the two. Distinctions are made between functions related to thinking patterns and orientation related to core belief systems and values.
The difference between knowing about and experiencing forgiveness (as discussed in the previous blog post) may also be related to this distinction. “From their callous hearts come iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits” (Ps. 73:7). Here evil conceits of the mind lead to a callous heart, producing the fruit of iniquity. Jeremiah 31:33 says, “‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” Here the act of “putting” in the mind is contrasted to “writing” on the heart (a much more involved process, as etching into tablets).
This prophetic word spoken by Jeremiah is quoted by the author of Hebrews to emphasize the gravity of Christ’s sacrificial work for the forgiveness of sin.52 “By one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”53 Jesus Himself quoted Isaiah in Mark 7:6-7, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” When teachings and exercises of the mind do not accompany a heart devoted to honoring God’s ways, Jesus calls this hypocrisy.
The modern world has taught us to seek a “scientific” method to resolve problems, but the methodology breaks down when applied to human behavior. Trying to reduce human interaction to objective methodology does not take into account the individual’s uniqueness endowed by his Creator. Because of the intricate balance of mind (brain power) and heart (inner being), a person must seek for both to be changed when trying to overcome bad habits and destructive behaviors.
Spiritual maturity involves a balancing of the mind, heart and will in life issues. A person’s spirit is active in both cognitive and emotional experiences. The human soul is the meeting place of mind and heart. Engaging the mind challenges ungodly beliefs and helps enforce new beliefs necessary for transformation. Examining (discerning) heart attitudes, thoughts, motives, feelings, and emotions help reveal core beliefs which govern behaviors. Together, the mind and heart contribute to the “whole soul” in the process of healing and living out forgiveness.
An important distinction must be made here. In describing a person’s heart; the heart is not synonymous with feelings and specific emotions. Experiencing life from the heart is not simply doing what feelings dictate. Feelings-based living leads to foolish consequences.  Living from the heart means there is an inner directive that, if governed by the Spirit of God, keeps the person on a path that is spiritually attuned to who he or she is and how God is leading. When people’s hearts are focused on God, they see who they are and know what they are to be doing.
The Word of God instructs that a man’s heart is “deceitful above all things and beyond cure”,  and all need God to heal their condition (save from sin). Isaiah 53:4-6 states:
 ”Surely he took up our infirmities
      and carried our sorrows,
      yet we considered him stricken by God,
      smitten by him, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
      he was crushed for our iniquities;
      the punishment that brought us peace was upon    
      him, and by his wounds we are healed.
 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
      each of us has turned to his own way;
      and the LORD has laid on him
      the iniquity of us all.”

The heart that experiences Jesus is a changed heart; a heart where He resides and provides forgiveness of sins. There are many references to a transformed heart throughout Scripture. One passage is in the book of Ephesians, where the apostle Paul prays for the new believers in the Ephesian church. “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Eph. 3:16-17) Faith in the accomplished work (of forgiveness) of Jesus Christ is the most powerful agent in the process of changing a person’s inner being. God wants to live in people’s hearts. When He is there they experience the freedom and power to be the persons He created them to be.
            This week I returned from a trip visiting Christian brothers and sisters in Haiti. I learned much about the people and culture in Haiti.  I appreciated the opportunity to share in their hunger and thirst for the things of God. It is amazing to see how God has created people with common expectations and experiences across all times, places, races, ethnicities, cultures, and nationalities. No single group or nation possesses the complete mind and heart of God. We all need each other to be the complete Bride whom Christ is returning to wed.
            I pray that "God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23).

            Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  Most of the text above is taken directly from text in Chapter Four of the book. I pray that you will find this book a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here:

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry