We submit our hearts to the Word of God.
In the world of Christianity, what I sometimes call “pop-Christian culture,” it’s so easy to fall into the TRAP of thinking that God wants us to follow our hearts. I heard just recently an evangelical pastor say these words: “Wherever your heart is leading you; that’s where God wants you to go.” And he was applying that very broadly. Is that true? Is it best to think like that? Let me allow God’s Word to throw a wrench into that plan. Jeremiah 17:9:
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
Our hearts are deceptive above all things. Now yes, God is changing our hearts. Our hearts can lead us in the right path. But, our hearts were never meant to be our ultimate guide. Instead, our hearts are to trust in the Word of God. It’s the Word of God that is molding and transforming our hearts in the first place. One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible expresses this—Hebrews 4:12:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Did you catch that? It discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It stands over. It reveals and cuts and convicts and discerns and transforms the heart. God intends for us to submit our very hearts, our identities, our desires, our will, to the Word of God. And God designed our hearts in such a way that they would be pierced by the truth of the Word.
The problem, though, is that we can’t submit our hearts to the Word of God if we don’t ever open it and let it do its work. If we as a church don’t preach and teach it; if we don’t open it with each other individually and in small groups and over lunch.
If we don’t read it on our own, we can say we believe in Sola Scriptura all day long, but hear this: if you don’t open it, there is something else guiding your life.
You’re living your life according to some set of principles; it is a fact. Whether they’re just your own principles you made up, or maybe a few Biblical principles you learned when you were a child that you assume came from Scripture. If we’re not opening God’s Word in the church, in small groups, with friends, and on our own, then we clearly are not seeking after it like it’s God’s ultimate truth for us.
And unless we’re opening the Word letting it have its effect on our minds and hearts, we will inevitably forget the Gospel to which it testifies.
We hear about indulgences and think that’s crazy how far-off the Roman Catholic was. We think about Luther and his contemporaries and how they went to church and never actually heard the Gospel preached and we think that’s crazy, but then we forget or maybe we just don’t notice that in most churches (or at least many), the Gospel is far from the pulpit and far from the hearts of the people.
Maybe indulgences were more obvious than moralism or legalism today, but the prevalence of believers who don’t know the Word and, more sadly than that, aren’t even interested in knowing the Word— this should wake us up. In our churches, in our homes, in our individual lives: where God’s Word is not seen and treated as the only ultimate and infallible authority for truth, the gospel will not be clearly displayed in all of its beauty: My sin and rebellion against God paid for on the Cross by my King Jesus, who died then rose from the dead.
We forget the Word, we forget the Gospel. We marginalize the Word, the marginalize the gospel.
We don’t find our life and joy and sustenance in the Word of God, we don’t find our life and joy and sustenance in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Insofar as we cherish God’s Word alone as our final authority, we cherish Jesus and what he did for us. The Word is how we meet, how we know, and how we love our Substitute and King.