Inspiration passages: Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10
Backdrop passages: 2 Corinthians 3; 2 Corinthians 5:13
Core concept 1: God has qualified us to communicate the Gospel as Kingdom influencers; however, to walk in this competency, we must receive hearts of flesh in place of hearts of stone.
It’s no secret the world bombards us with the idea success is an identity we achieve through ability. If we want to get something, we got to first become something; if we want to reach ‘x’ status, we must set an ‘x’ goal; to reach an ‘x’ goal, we must get there by ‘x’ effort, etc.
For example, you may have a counselor’s heart, but doubt its validity since you’re not a licensed counselor. The world would say until you receive the proper credentialing, you’re not a counselor. But to God, you are a counselor because that’s what He’s made you to be. Of course, you may have much to learn and have to wait a few years until certification. But this doesn’t mean you’re not who God has called you to be.
You see, the world wants you to think it’s all about the process…that what you hope to be can only be accomplished through how you get there. But think about it: In order for there to be a ‘how’, there has to be a ‘what’ and for there to be a ‘what’, there has to be a ‘who’, right?
The question is: Who do we believe when it comes to who we are?
While the outcomes are many, by allowing God to be the answer, we can know the sweet reality that not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny, and our future as well.
Accordingly, growth and improvement should not be seen as functions of development, but of yielding. After all, what you hope you are, you already are because your identity is not a matter of be-coming and self-refining (heart of stone thinking), but be-lieving and aligning (heart of flesh thinking).
This in mind, if what you seek to experience has already been prepared, why not enter into God’s best with a ‘yes’ than effort with a sigh? Why not accept His ‘realized new’ than take a chance missing it all for the sake of going your own way?
Core concept 2: To receive a heart of flesh is to believe God always sees the ‘finished you’. Accepting this sets us up to experience radical life in the Spirit…to be transformed through the Spirit’s inner power.
Consider this illustration from my dad/Gate senior pastor, Steve Fry (8:46-11:30)…
As created (or in this case, painted)…
…there’s amazing freedom to be found when we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined.
Understandably, this can be challenging to accept since we often seek to control our destiny through achievement and effort. We think as long as we work hard and ask God for the right things, they’ll be given to us and to a certain extent, this is true; however, if making requests to God and modeling faith through excellence are detached from alignment, are we not craving what He can give versus valuing what He creates?
If so, dare to view present and future struggle through David’s Psalm 51:10-12 heart-cry, where he asks not only for a clean heart, but a new one! (more on this in a sec)
As Paul emphasizes in 2 Corinthians, we’re not changed into a new creation, we are made as a new creation. We aren’t born again through accrued improvements; we’re born again through the Spirit’s transformative power which enables us to become what God has and continues to declare. As for us, all we have to do is align to God by His Spirit and walk His appointed paths through daily tuning and reliance. In a sense, that is life in the Spirit – an ongoing presence meets power, abiding meets trusting reality with God.
Think of this way: If the Good News is ‘Jesus is alive and has set you free‘, then by extension, you don’t have to earn your freedom because your efforts aren’t the keys to your life. Instead, you can relish in your freedom knowing you don’t create it by self-effort, but discover it being present with God.
Core concept 3: Believing God sees the ‘finished you’ allows you to embrace helplessness and surrender your veils.
When Paul mentions ‘veil’ five times in 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, it’s easy to assume he’s talking about revealed glory; however, when we consider v. 17 and its modern-day application, we find Paul is doing, at least, three things:
- He’s linking Christ’s finished work on the Cross to our finished person (to see freedom through the lens of the New Covenant is to accept both Cross and weakness as the plan for our transformation).
- He’s charging the church to fearlessly turn to the Lord.
- He’s cautioning the body against obedience through self-effort.
Concerning point #3, it’s worth noting even when we do the right thing, if the act is rooted in fear, our hard hearts will remain since trust is self-reliant. That’s why the flip-side is so radical. To do the right thing by trusting God is to allow God’s tender heart to tenderize your own. This is evident when we turn to Jesus in moments of dependence, desperation, and/or negative thinking. When you turn to Jesus, you’re essentially abandoning fear of conviction and exposure for the sake of discovering new levels of His nature, character, and glory. It’s the ultimate ‘His fullness exceeds my voids‘ proclamation…an acceptance of God and His desire for us to know His heart out of abundance, not fear.
As mentioned in Core Concept #2…
God doesn’t want to change your heart; He wants to give you a new one! He doesn’t want to improve you; He wants to take out your heart of stone and put in a brand, new heart of flesh.
Yes, God is able to fully restore health (Jeremiah 30:17), relationships (2 Corinthians 13:9-11), fortune (Job 42:10), strength (Isaiah 40:29), and the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), but with our hearts, our inhabitable being, He never stops wanting to go deeper; hence why God implants new hearts in His people so the larger dimensions can contain the future ‘more’ He’ll inevitably reveal.
As for our response, remember we don’t believe the right things so we can experience the cool buzz of God’s presence. We contend for them so the glory of Lord can fill our spaces…work, church, living, family/friends, etc. God desires His created to be free from performance and fear-based systems of thinking; however, we can’t tap into this desire if we try to effort our way there. Instead, we must yield our way to His way. That’s the hope of glory meeting the Good News as modeled in our own life!
- Stop trying to be a Christian and turn to Jesus regardless of how you feel
- Accept God’s acceptance of yourself
- Pain is real, but irrelevant when you consider we are his workmanship created not only for good works, but for fullness from our finished future. Side note: Combining Colossians 2:10 and Ephesians 2:4-10 is super fun!)
- (see graphic below)
…from your effort, self-reliance, systems of performance, and the deepest of emotional hurts.
Stay tuned next time for ‘part two’ when I’ll discuss how this theology works in the marketplace. ‘Til then, praise the One with the key not only to your heart, but your future as well.
2 thoughts on “Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 1)”
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