Article written by Dr. Christi Butler / Nov. 2015
This post today is part four in the series I have been writing about how to live before God with a transformed heart. If you have not had a chance to read the previous messages, I recommend going back and looking them over because today’s lesson is a continuation of what was previously taught.
Sometimes before change or transformation can occur in a person’s life, the person has to be able to see the need for change. Furthermore, when someone who is ill goes to the doctor, the first thing the doctor does is try to diagnose the problem so that the illness can be treated correctly. In much the same way, for spiritual change to occur, believers must first become aware of the areas in their lives that need to be changed. Transformation cannot occur if believers do not see the need for change and ask God for help. Therefore, in an effort to help people see the conditions of the heart that may need to be transformed, I would like to make an analogy between the condition of the physical heart and the condition of the spiritual heart.
In the natural physical body, the heart is an organ that is absolutely essential to life. If the heart is not beating correctly, if the blood is not flowing through it properly, if there is severe pain, or if the heart is misfiring in some way, the entire body will be affected. A person whose heart is malfunctioning will not be able to engage in the same active lifestyle as a healthy person. If the heart is sick, it will effect a persons ability to exercise, work, raise children, and so much more.
What believers must understand is that what is true in the natural is also true in the spirit. A spiritual heart that is “ill” in some way can impair one’s ability to live out the abundant Christian life that Jesus Christ died to make available to all who believe. In order to live the Christian life to the full, the believer must learn how to “keep their heart with all diligence” (see Prov. 4:23).
What does it mean to “keep” the heart? It means to tend to it, care for it, and watch over it. The believer is to watch over the state of their heart exactly like Adam was called to watch over and care for the state of the Garden of Eden. Believers must learn how to “keep” their hearts because Satan roams the earth like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8), but if people in the church become skilled at keeping their hearts, Satan will not have a door of access to bring defeat into their lives.
In an effort to explain in more detail how to “keep” the heart, allow me to continue making the analogy I began with. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Natural heart disease is a killer, but so is spiritual heart disease. Many people are dying from heart disease in their physical bodies, but unfortunately, it seems that even more might be dying of spiritual heart disease.
In the natural, there are four stages of heart disease. The first stage has to do with having a simple genetic predisposition for heart disease based on one’s family of origin. In much the same way, all human beings on earth are born with a spiritual predisposition towards sin because of the Adamic nature. Thankfully, the Lord has prepared a way for people to overcome this tendency towards sin. God has made it possible to become “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ. When a person is “born again,” regeneration occurs and a new spiritual nature is received (2 Cor. 5:17; Heb. 10:16). Praise God.
However, even though the believer receives a new spiritual nature, he or she still has to contend with life in a physical body that continues to have certain desires that war against the new nature of the spiritual man. Secondly, even though a person becomes a “new creation” at the time of salvation, there will continue to be areas within the mind and soul that must be renewed to the knowledge of God’s Word. Therefore, even though the new birth creates a new heart within the believer, the believer must diligently work, on a daily basis, in cooperation with the Spirit of the Lord to “keep their heart” pure and undefiled before God.
This ongoing participation in daily crucifying the flesh, taking thoughts captive, repenting of sin, guarding the heart, and working out the sanctification process must become part of the Christians way of life. As Christians choose to live this way before the Lord, they will experience continuous growth and transformation.
In the second stage of physical heart disease, small structural changes begin to occur in the organ of the heart. The heart is not quite healthy, some plaque may exist in the arteries and the heart will not be getting the full abundance of the oxygen it needs. This stress on the heart will lead to problems like fatigue.
In the same way, I have noticed that when people are not being fed spiritually or when they are to busy and distracted by the cares of life, the Christian can become spiritually fatigued. In my own life I have been spiritually fatigued when I was trying to do to many things the Lord never called me to do in the first place. I have also met many Christians who have backslidden from the faith and they have told me that their trouble began by being overwhelmed and exhausted by all the demands of living in the modern world.
Beloved, we must all become consciously aware of the fact that we are in a spiritual war and one of the most effective strategies the enemy uses is the strategy of wearing out or exhausting the saints. This is even mentioned in the scriptures. Daniel 7:25 in the English Standard Version reads, “He [talking about the anti-Christ] shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High.” With this in mind, Christians must become all the more diligent to study the word, pray, read their bible, worship, and participate in activities that will strengthen and encourage their spiritual heart.
Moving on, the third stage of physical heart disease begins to be evident when there is clear structural abnormalities and damage to the heart resulting in a marked limitation of all physical activities. At this stage, there will be some hardening of the arteries and a true lack of oxygen flowing through the veins.
Spiritually speaking, this stage of heart disease occurs when a person has a restricted relationship with the person of the Holy Spirit. For example, when a person resists God in some way, when they refuse to repent of known sin, when they are believing wrong doctrines that limit the way God can work in their life, etc.
In the scriptures, Jesus provides a perfect example of third stage spiritual heart disease. In Matt. 13:15 and in Acts 28:27 Jesus warns people about having hearts that become “dull.” Their hearts are not totally hardened. These people are not spiritually dead, but they do have a serious spiritual deficiency forming in their lives. Matthew 13:15 reads, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’”
In this context, Jesus is talking about the Jewish people who were listening to him preach. These people should have been able to recognize the time of their visitation. They should have been able to discern that Jesus was their Messiah because of the scriptures. They should have been able to recognize the anointing operating in Jesus’ life. These people should have known God was in the flesh and speaking to them through Jesus.
Instead, the people could not see and could not hear spiritually. Their spiritual senses where defective. Oxygen (or the Spirit of God) was not connecting with their hearts. This same thing can happen to believers today. This happens when Christians go to church religiously and just go through the motions, but have no true heart connection with Christ. This happens when God is trying to move in a church, but no one is able to discern it and follow His lead. This happens when God shows up to heal, save, and deliver, but no one is connected enough with God to realize it. Finally, this happens when people quench the Spirit on purpose because the Holy Spirit is interfering with their man made plans for how a church service ought to flow.
I pray the church would realize that Jesus Christ is still supposed to be the head of the church, and when believers will not allow Him to operate in and through the church, something is seriously wrong. Repentance and heart transformation is the required remedy. (If you are interested in reading a couple more stories that illustrate third stage heart disease, read Luke 5:17-25 and Mark 3:1-6).
Finally I have come to the end, the forth and final state of heart disease. In the natural this results in severe pain, restricted oxygen flow, heart attacks, and ultimately, death. Spiritually speaking this kind of heart condition occurs when a person willfully resists all of God’s attempts to bring conviction and to call a person to repentance. For example, the Bible talks about Pharaoh and how his heart was hardened because in spite of all the signs and wonders God did in Egypt, Pharaoh still would not believe in the Lord and let the Israelites go.
Actually, the Bible says God himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart. I believe this is because Pharaoh had so mistreated God’s people that judgment was determined against Him. Therefore, God allowed His heart to be hardened to fulfill His purpose of Judgment. There are stages of rebellion believers can go through and God will deal with them over and over again trying to bring them to repentance. However, if someone continues to resist God, fight against His purposes, and grieve the Holy Spirit without repentance, hardening of the spiritual heart can occur.
This truth is also illustrated in the New Testament in the book of Revelation. In that book, the Apostle John described the spiritual condition of many of the people who take the mark of the beast and serve the anti-Christ. John says that no matter how bad the circumstances get they will not repent. Instead, these people hate God so much they come to battle against Him literally and physically in the battle of Armageddon (see Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9, 11).
Forth stage spiritual heart disease occurs when a person is totally given over by God to a debased or reprobate mind. The person with this type of thinking will be absolutely convinced that right is wrong and wrong is right. This is why Jesus said that during the tribulation people will kill believers and think they are doing God a service. They will be totally convinced that persecuting and murdering the innocent servants of God is the right thing to do. This is spiritual depravity taken to the extreme and it leads to spiritual death.
I hope this Bible study has been helpful and thought provoking. Blessings, Christi Butler