Transformation! The Heart of the Matter

Robert L. Saucy: "The heart, above all, is designed to seek wisdom and knowledge by hearing God’s Word."

Living With an Open Heart Before God

All of this dysfunction is in sharp contrast to the spiritual life offered to us by Christ. Instead of living life detached from our heart, God calls us to live completely open to the truth at the depth of our being. “You desire truth in the innermost being” (Ps. 51:6). This requires living with openness to the truth of our own condition as well as the truth of God’s remedy for our heart’s disorders. In short, God desires that we live honestly with our heart.

Throughout the Bible, one of the greatest problems for God’s people was that of living dishonestly with their heart. This should cause us to recognize that the same weakness is present in each of us. This is obviously encouraged by the natural tendency to hide what is on the inside and try to appear—in the eyes of others and ourselves—that we are better than we really are. But it all stems from the remnants of the sinful, “god-playing” pride that remain in us. After all, a god cannot have bad attitudes, do bad things, or for that matter, fail in anything that he or she attempts. When that attitude predominates, life is about justifying ourselves before others and in our own eyes (Luke 10:29; 16:15).

While the root of this split between the heart and the external life lies in each of us, this disconnect can also be nurtured by others. Through well-intentioned encouragement and instructions people can unknowingly push others toward forms of mature behavior that are in reality beyond the actual situation of their hearts, thus causing a discord between the outward appearance and the heart.

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Adrian van Kaam addresses this problem as a counselor, but what he says is pertinent to everyone who desires to help another person in spiritual growth, especially Christian parents in relation to their children.

It is infinitely better that my counselee does a good thing in an awkward and deficient way but in a free and personal fashion than to perform such behavior in splendid perfection which is merely external and the fruit of my suggestion and encouraging approval …

Many people who come for religious counseling have lived their religion in an inauthentic way. Having heard or read about religious perfection, they started to imitate the perfect religious attitudes in their external religious behavior. Soon there came a split between their real personal inner life and the proliferation of perfect manners, customs and devotions, which they had assumed to the great delight of their excited educators. The latter, animated by the best intentions, did not realize that they were producing a number of neurotics instead of saints.

All Christians are vulnerable to living dishonestly with their heart. Leaders are particularly susceptible to this, since they are viewed as models (and rightly so). The uneasy feeling of spiritual failure—the sensing of an inner dryness—is often compensated by a pretense of spiritual vitality. Nothing is more dangerous to true spirituality and growth.

Testifying to having encountered this problem frequently among church people in his psychiatric practice, Paul Tournier says, “Every discord between form and substance, between what others see and the reality of the heart, is a denial of the gospel and can only be a source of psychological trouble. … Everything becomes simple once again when this essential harmony is rediscovered, even if the outer facade then looks much less imposing.”

Because all of life is lived from the heart, Christian living and growth requires living before God in honesty of heart. This means a heart that is totally open to the searchlight of his truth—including our sinful disorders. Without God’s grace of forgiveness, this is hard to face. But his grace is there.

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God already knows fully what is in our hearts, and he longs for us to uncover it honestly and receive his cleansing. Only an open heart can be cleansed. And only an open heart can receive the presence of God’s gracious power to nourish it toward greater maturity and fullness of life.


Taken from Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation Copyright © 2013 by Robert L. Saucy. Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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