Chapter 18: New Hearts For Old

Having considered the nature of God's law, the nature of true obedience, and the nature of sin, we are now in a good position to consider God's blueprint for the changing of hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

The transformation that God requires is from an unloving, selfish heart, to a loving, selfless heart, and here, once again, we are reminded that in ourselves we are incapable of engineering this change.
'Love is of God - the unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it.' (SC59)
Thus we realise that no amount of persuasion or fear can make us into loving beings for the simple reason that . . .
'Love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority.' (DA22)
So just how does God implant the seed of love in our hearts? The answer is found in three short words.
'Love begets love.' (DA519)
Just as life begets life, and seeds beget trees, . . .
'Only by love is love awakened.' (DA22)
'God does not employ compulsory measures; love is the agent which He uses to expel sin from the heart. By it He changes pride into humility, and enmity and unbelief into love and faith.' (MB77)
This is why Paul prayed that our 'love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.' (Philippians 1:2)
He surely understood that . . .
'In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the principle of action. It modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and ennobles the affections. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the life and sheds a refining influence on all around.' (SC59)
This, therefore, is the simple formula that governs the transformation of the human heart. This is how God changes our characters.
'Love begets love; and thus the love of Christ displayed upon the cross woos and wins the sinner, and binds him repenting to the cross, believing and adoring the matchless depths of a Saviour's love.' (Con 72)
Love begets love. The practical application of this formula, however, is found in the words of Jesus.
'Come . . . and learn of Me.' (Matthew 11:28,29 KJV)
It's just that simple, for it is as we learn of Him and get to know the One who is the very embodiment of love, and as we bask under a growing awareness of His infinite kindness and compassion, that we learn of His love and our characters receive the most powerful stimulus for change. This is why God invites us to come, just as we are, and to get to know Him because . . .
'To know God is to love Him.' (DA22)
If we do not come to Him, we cannot know Him, and if we do not know Him, we cannot love Him, and if we do not love Him, we cannot be changed. Our great need therefore is to come to Him on a daily basis and to contemplate His love, for . . .
'The contemplation of the love of God manifested in His Son will stir the heart and arouse the powers of the soul as nothing else can.' (DA478)
The good news proclaims that we gain the victory over self, not by fighting against our selfish desires, but by getting to know God, for it is . . .
'The perception of God's love [that] works the renunciation of self.' (MB105)
Hence the gospel - the good news of God's love for His fallen children. In the gospel we will find the most beautiful portrait of God's love. This portrait is bordered by His willingness to forgive, it is etched with His eagerness to impute His righteousness unto us, and it is hung upon His grace, that being His incredible kindness towards an undeserving people - a people who have been nothing other than incredibly unkind to Him.
'In looking to Christ, we shall see that His love is without a parallel, that He has taken the place of the guilty sinner, and has imputed unto him His spotless righteousness. When the sinner sees his Saviour dying upon the cross under the curse of sin in his stead, beholding His pardoning love, love awakes in the heart. The sinner loves Christ, because Christ has first loved Him, and love is the fulfilling of the law.' (1SM374)
Thus by beholding the love of God we are filled with love for Him and for our fellow man, and thus we become commandment-keepers - for 'he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.' (Romans 13:8)
As we contemplate His love, love is implanted in our hearts, and thus we are brought into harmony with the Code of Love. In fact, this is the very essence of the gospel for . . .
'It is the glory of the gospel that it is founded upon the principle of restoring in the fallen race the divine image by a constant manifestation of [God's loving] benevolence . . . With Christ He gave all the resources of heaven, that nothing might be wanting in the plan for man's uplifting. Here is love - the contemplation of which should fill the soul with inexpressible gratitude! Oh, what love, what matchless love! The contemplation of this love will cleanse the soul from all selfishness. It will lead the disciple to deny self, take up the cross, and follow the Redeemer.' (CH223)
It is the contemplation of God's love that changes our characters. This is why He spared nothing, not even His life, as He sought to give us the ultimate demonstration of His love. God's hope has always been that His children would view the cross, not only as an instrument of torture, but as the everlasting and unparalled emblem of the love that He harbors for His sin-burdened creatures. With unexplainable longing He waits for us to contemplate the cross, and all that the cross represents, in the hope that our love will be awakened by His love. This is the basis of God's good news plan for the making of obedient children, for . . .
'To those who love God it will be the highest delight to keep His commandments, and to do those things that are pleasing in His sight.' (1SM217)
This is why the need of the world today is the gospel, the gospel of absolute hope, for it is only as we begin to understand the gospel that we can begin to understand the awesome dimensions of God's character-changing love.
'It is the gospel of the grace [loving kindness] of God alone that can uplift the soul.' (DA478)
'Belief in the propitiation for sin [the peace made by Jesus between God and man] enables fallen man to love God with his whole heart and his neighbour as himself.' (COL378)
This is why we are encouraged to meditate for a thoughtful hour each day on the life of Jesus - and especially on the closing scenes of His life (DA83). God wants us to behold His life, to behold the love that characterized His life, and especially the love that was made so abundantly evident in the final moments of His life, that by beholding we may become changed; that by beholding His love, love will gain a foothold in our hearts.
'It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon it, by drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of the divine nature. What food is to the body, Christ must be to the soul. Food cannot benefit us unless we eat it, unless it becomes a part of our being. So Christ is of no value to us if we do not know Him as a personal Saviour. A theoretical knowledge will do us no good. We must feed upon Him, receive Him into the heart, so that His life becomes our life. His love, His grace, must be assimilated.' (DA389)
God wants us to marvel at the love of the One who . . .
suffered the pain, the shame, and the guilt that we deserve, that we might enjoy the peace that only He deserves;
the One who was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share;
the One who suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His;
the One who was rejected in the person of us, that we might be accepted in the person of Him;
the One who became poor that we, 'through His poverty might be rich.' (2 Corinthians 8:9)
the One who became one with humanity, that humanity might become one with divinity.
It is as we contemplate these precious pearls that the seed of love will be nurtured in our hearts.
This is why we are encouraged to study the Scriptures on a daily basis, that we might discern how much God loves us, and that we might find therein the motivation that we need to obey.
'His power, His very life, dwells in His word. As you receive the word in faith, it will give you power to obey.' (MB150)
It is to foster within us the assurance of His love that we are encouraged to pray without ceasing, for . . .
'Unceasing prayer is the unbroken union of the soul with God, so that life [love] from God flows into our life; and from our life, purity and holiness flow back to God.' (SC98)
'Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Wellspring of life [love], and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience.' (GW254,255)
It is to promote an awareness of His love, and to implant in our beings the principles that govern love, that we are called upon to minister to the needs of others, for . . .
'The spirit of unselfish labour for others gives depth, stability, and Christlike loveliness to the character, and brings peace and happiness to its possessor.' (SC80)
In Bible study, in prayer, in meditation, in ministering to the less fortunate and heartbroken, we are answering to the call of John the Baptist . . .
'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,' (John 1:29 KJV)
It is as we behold Him, in His word, in prayer, in meditation, in the lives of His downtrodden children, that we are impregnated, so to speak, with the principles of love, and it is this love, infused into our minds and grafted into our souls, that drives out sin and changes our hearts of stone into hearts that can feel.
'By beholding Christ, by talking of Him, by beholding the loveliness of His character we become changed. Changed from glory to glory. And what is glory? Character.' (SD337)
This is God's simple plan to make the selfish selfless, to make the stubborn willing, to make the course refined, to make the vile noble, to give the hopeless hope. This is the only way that sin can be erased from our souls and, when we make Jesus the focus of our lives, when we make Him our companion for life, when we make Him first, best and everything in our life, we will not only change, but we will find within us an insatiable longing to be changed.
'By beholding we are to become changed; and as we meditate upon the perfection of the divine Model, we shall desire to become wholly transformed, and renewed in the image of His purity.' (1SM338)
'By beholding, man can but admire and become more attracted to Him, more charmed, and more desirous to be like Jesus until he assimilates to His image and has the mind of Christ. Like Enoch he walks with God. His mind is full of thoughts of Jesus. He is his best Friend.' (3SM170)
Notice that whatever else 'walking with God' might encompass, such a walk is characterized by a mind that is full of thoughts of Jesus. We will talk to Him and of Him at every opportunity, we will say good night to Him as we lay our heads on our pillows, our first thoughts in each new day will be of Him, we will call on Him in every situation - and especially in our moments of greatest weakness. And the more we think of Him, and the more we converse with Him, the more He will become a part of us. Thus it is that the garden of love is brought to full bloom in our hearts.
How happy we should be, therefore, that God's plan to change our characters does not demand that we spend long hours before our mirrors trying to persuade ourselves to be more loving. This would be a tiresome and a futile exercise for . . .
'We can never come into possession of this [loving] spirit by trying to love others.' (COL384)
'Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.' (Job 14:4 KJV)
Scripture tells us plainly that . . .
'Obedience [love] comes from faith' and that 'work[s of love are] produced by faith.' (Romans 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3)
In seeking to bring our lives into harmony with God's code of love, therefore, we do not strive to become better people, we do not try and whip the fruits of love into our characters. No! Rather, we will nurture our souls just as we would nurture a fruit tree. What sunlight, fresh air, water and good soil will do for a tree, Jesus will do for our souls. There simply is no other way for . . .
'Character is formed by studying the life and character of Jesus Christ, who is our Pattern.' (LYL77)
It is as simple as that, and this is why . . .
'The Saviour does not bid the disciples labour to bear fruit. He tells them to abide in Him.' (DA677)
The good news demands that we stop trying to be good, and that we start spending more time with Jesus, that we start getting our minds full of thoughts of Him, for . . .
'If we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells in us, our feelings, our actions, our thoughts, our purposes will be in harmony with the will of God, as expressed in His holy law.' (SC61)
God wants us to stop focusing on our own characters and to start focusing on His character, for only this will answer to the needs of our souls. Rather than devoting our energies to the struggle against sin, God wants us to devote our energies to getting to know Him - for . . .
'It is fellowship with Christ, personal contact with a living Saviour, that enables the mind and heart and soul to triumph over the lower nature.' (COL388)
'Continual devotion establishes so close a relation between Jesus and His disciple that the Christian becomes like Him in mind and character.' (DA251)
'It is by seeing Him who is invisible that strength and vigor of soul are gained and the power of earth over mind and character is broken.' (AA363)
No matter what our circumstances, no matter what state we find ourselves in, Jesus must be the center of attraction. We cannot even afford to spend time contemplating our own weaknesses, for . . .
'We shall not gain a particle of strength by dwelling on the discouragements. By beholding we become changed. As we look in faith to Jesus, His image is engraven on the heart. We are transformed in character.' (Letter 134, 1903)
'Let us, then, take our minds off the perplexities and the difficulties of this life, and fix them on Him, that by beholding we may be changed into His likeness.' (7BC970)
Our part in the battle against sin, therefore, is to behold God, His part is the removal of sin from our hearts. It is such good news. It is so encouraging, but it will only remain so for as long as the Lamb of God remains the nucleus of our thinking.
Who can be discouraged when it is all so simple?
God's way of making obedient children is certainly unlike the world's way. Imagine if an earthly judge, after having pronounced the death sentence upon a murderer, took the place of the accused, declared him to be free, and then stepped into the gallows in his place. How would the accused feel about this kindly judge? Would his affections be drawn towards him? Would he find it easy to commit crime in future?
Love begets love. We do not have to reject those aspects of our faith that we feel we will never be able to live up to; we do not have to reject the more challenging facets of the truth in order to live with ourselves; we have only to acknowledge our great need, and confess our inability to begin, and Jesus will hear our cry with great joy in His heart for . . .
'Christ's heart is cheered by the sight of those who are poor in every sense of the term: cheered by the seemingly unsatisfied hungering after righteousness, by the inability to begin. He welcomes as it were the very condition of things that would discourage many ministers.' (EV49)
When we grasp the full extent of what Jesus has done for us, when we understand the absolute hope that His love has procured for us, when we begin to appreciate the fact that He really does love us, even if our appreciation is ever so scanty, this is the mustard seed of faith, this is the tiny seed that has the potential to grow into the largest of trees.
Our singular struggle is to come to Jesus on a daily basis, to find time for prayer, time for Bible study, time for meditation, time to help others - that His love may water our souls. Then we can with absolute hope rely on Him to change our desires, our dreams, our appetites and our passions.
'He who beholds the Saviour's matchless love will be elevated in thought, purified in heart, transformed in character. He will go forth to be a light to the world, to reflect in some degree this mysterious love.' (DA661)
Let us not be fooled, however, and let us not get the idea that sanctification does not involve determined effort - there are rules and there is a struggle, but as long as we understand the rules, and as long we do not struggle against the wrong things, it is all good news - despite the struggle.
'Those who are waiting to behold a magical change in their characters without determined effort on their part to overcome sin, will be disappointed.' (1SM336)
Yes, we are to make a determined effort to overcome sin, but, as we have seen, the way to overcome sin is to behold Him. Our effort or struggle is not a direct struggle against sin, but against those things that keep us from beholding the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. The Christian warfare does not entail a direct attack against sin, for sin is a supernatural phenomenon and, as such, it can only be overcome by a supernatural power. The Christian's warfare is against all and everything that keeps us from spending time with Jesus every day; it is against those things that keep us from thinking of Him; those things that prevent us from thinking like Him; it is against everything that keeps us from entering into a sincere and continuing love relationship with Him - a love relationship that demands our time.
Ultimately the battle between Jesus and the devil is a battle for the mind of man. Both are vying for our affections and our attentions; both are vying for our minds - for the mind is the seat of our characters. Satan wants us to behold evil, so that we will become more evil, Jesus wants us to behold good, so that we will become good. On the one hand Satan holds out lies, deception, false promises, bright lights, pleasure, entertainment, fun and riches; on the other hand Jesus holds out His nail-scarred palms, the tokens of His love, and He pleads with us to set aside the things of the world and to come and to learn of Him. His open invitation is for whosoever will to come and to learn about the meek and the lowly One, to come and to learn about the One who is so unlike the super-heroes of this earth.
Having the freedom of choice, we show therefore, by the things that we behold, which leader we choose. It is no more complicated than that - for what we behold will finally determine on whose side we stand. The tenor of our religion, or, if you like, the make-up of our characters, boils down to what we look at and to what we listen to, for an unchanging law of life tells us that . . .
'Our religious experience is of exactly the same quality as the food we give our minds.' (UT57)
For the sake of emphasis, and as a fitting conclusion Part One of this book, let us repeat this almighty and all-important truth.
'Our religious experience is of exactly the same quality as the food we give our minds.' (UT57)
This concludes Part One of the original manuscript. Part 2, The Only Pathway To True Happiness, will be found at this link.
Having considered Part 1, and in the light of the above concluding thought, the reader is urged to consider the feature, A Brand New You.
THE END OF PART ONE


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