Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesus is after the Human Heart - 31 Days with Jesus - Day 18

Cemetery on the Mount of Olives hillside, Jerusalem


I was meeting with one of Detroit's Muslim leaders when he picked up a Qur'an and said, "The Qur'an is a rulebook. If I didn't have this rulebook to tell me what to do, I wouldn't do it." He then shared some specific Muslim rules, and emphasized that God gave these rules to prevent us from doing wrong. For example, the Qur'an instructs people to pray morning, noon, and night. My Muslim friend said, "If the Qur'an didn't tell I am supposed to pray I would not pray. So I am thankful that God gave me these rules."

While he was sharing I couldn't help thinking how different Christianity is from Islam, and how very different Jesus is from Muhammed. Jesus didn't come to articulate some more rules for living; he came to change the human heart. If a person's heart could be changed, then rules wouldn't be needed. If a person loved God, and understood prayer as conversation with the God they adore, they wouldn't need to be commanded to communicate with him. Out of heart-desire, they would pray.

Dallas Willard expresses this when he writes:

"The Revolution of Jesus is in the first place and continuously a revolution of the human heart or spirit. It did not and does not proceed by means of the formation of social institutions and laws, the outer forms of our existence, intending that these would then impose a good order of life upon people who come under their power. Rather, his is a revolution of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another." (Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ)

This, says Willard, is the "Revolution of Jesus."

There are so many examples of this in the Gospels that it's hard to choose among them. For example, Jesus said: "Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also." (Matthew 6:21) Commenting on this New Testament scholar Craig Evans writes: "The type of treasure that one accumulates is a reliable indicator of what one values." (Evans, Matthew, 154) In other words, look around at your stuff; there you will see your true heart. Or, look at your datebook and what you do with your time; there you will view your true heart. Therefore if Jesus can wrap himself around your heart and transform it, your life and choices and things and goals will look different because they are different, due to a radical change of heart. As Proverbs 4:23 says, "Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."

The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Matthew 12:34) Jesus came to fill our hearts with himself.

Willard writes: "He saves us by realistic restoration of our heart to God and then by dwelling there with his Father through the distinctively divine Spirit. The heart thus renovated and inhabited is the only real hope of humanity on earth."