New Heart and Spirit
Have you heard the story of the woman who received a heart and lung transplant and discovered a few other things came along with it? She observed a new craving for beer, green peppers and chicken nuggets, among other things. Later, upon meeting the donor’s family, she discovered those tastes had been the preference of the young man whose heart she had received. Sound too strange to be true? Can memories of preferences be embedded in cells like the heart and be received by transplant recipients? Maybe.
God is recorded in Scripture as using this concept of epigenetics to teach us an important truth: he describes the heart as the core and centre of our being. He describes it as diseased, weakened, hardened. It is not able to function as He designed it to function. We have a problem, and it affects every aspect of our lives, every relationship we embrace. We need a transplant.
“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,” God declares (Hebrews 10:16). It’s an intriguing image– this earliest notion of organ transplant; but why the extreme undertaking? What is it about our ‘old’ heart and spirit that needs renewing? What does He mean by ‘your heart of stone’?
Imagine ourselves as babies. We don’t have any memory of those earliest days, but all the same, they were real. Very early on, our parents or caregivers began to see in us the emergence of the great human flaw. From the start we began to assert our own will, hardening our hearts to the injury it caused to those who loved us. When we were old enough to talk we shamelessly began using the word, “No!”
The drive for self-preservation made us senseless to the needs of others, especially those closest to us. By the time we reached adolescence if we had not yet put up some barriers in our heart toward others, this stage would accomplish the deed. We became hard-hearted toward unfair teachers, authoritative parents, backward peers, and anyone in general who put obstructions in our way. We began to realize that God, the sovereign of all, was the greatest threat to our selfish lifestyles and we hardened our hearts to Him. The disease was intractable. Like living oaks submerged under sediment and removed from the effects of oxygen, our hearts became petrified. Flesh became stone. The living, moving, pliant organ of relationability was replaced drop by drop in a stony cast; the form remained but the function dissolved. Shakespeare’s description fit our condition, “ ‘tis bitter cold and I am sick at heart.”
This metaphor of the heart like a petrified rock lends insight into a further problem. The word ‘petrified’ has another meaning. We use it in hyperbole to describe excessive fear. “I was petrified to walk alone at night!” So we observe that not only are our hearts under the influence of selfish autonomy, but also of a deep fathomless fear. Hard hearts are lonely, fearful hearts. Do you agree?
When God, who is the very spirit and embodiment of love, gives new hearts and spirits there is another amazing change that happens. Love begins to flow through our metaphorical veins. (“There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts our fear”–I John 4:18). How can we get our names on the waiting list for this essential transplant?
By saying “yes!” to Jesus. Acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God, that His death brings us forgiveness and His resurrection brings us eternal life, signs the release of permission for our new heart. And it comes with a bonus. God includes Himself with the new heart. He becomes closer than the very DNA of our being. He will never leave us, and we will never leave Him. The new heart also gives us a new craving to know Him better and to love Him and others more thoroughly. Now that’s a guarantee worth signing up for. It’s a choice we will live for eternity and never regret. It’s time to give this offer some thought…