In Acts 16:14 we hear a little more about the heart:
‘One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.’
Here is Luke telling us about a time when the Apostle Paul was talking to a group of women gathered by the river about a mile outside the city gates of a town called Philippi, which is in modern day Greece.
It’s interesting to see what happened to this lady Lydia as he spoke:
It says that ‘The Lord opened her heart’ – What does this mean?
Things are opened for a reason.
You open a tin of beans to get the beans out, you open your letters to see what’s inside, you open your front door to let people in.
Why did God open Lydia’s heart?
He opened her heart to let out doubt and fear and lies, and to let in truth. He opened her heart, her inner eyes, to see and to believe in the Jesus that Paul was telling her about.
I have had the huge privilege of seeing God open many people’s heart just like he did for Lydia.
I want you to be encouraged if you are a Christian today, and encouraged if you’re not.
If you are, then be encouraged that God is rescuing people from all sorts of situations and adding to his number with increasing regularity – The party in Heaven is getting more riotous by the day.
If you’re not a Christian, then I want you to be encouraged too. Many have gone before you, you are not the only one who is coming to understand that Jesus is the only way, God has opened up all sorts of people’s hearts, and he wants to open yours too. Be encouraged – Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to actually go for it. To identify yourself and say ‘I believe it, Christ died to take away my sin, and I need to know him!’
Think of the amazing consequences. A new life, a second chance, and this time getting it right.
From that moment everything about your heart is different.
1 Pet. 1:22 says:
‘Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.’
Watching an awards ceremony recently, I was struck by the way the actors ‘kissed’. There was no actual contact even though lips were offered to both cheeks. It was a shallow action.
The above verse is from one of Jesus followers, Peter, who was writing to groups of Christians in modern day Turkey encouraging them to have a much deeper love than we see at The Oscars.
He shows us what happens when God has opened a person’s heart.
The people he is writing to have believed in Jesus and asked him to be their Lord. Following Jesus has somehow purified them. The same is true for all who believe. Christ cleans us, makes us fresh and new. All the debris and scars of life, all the old habits that wasted our time and money are washed away as we learn to trust God. And there’s a knock on effect from this – as you are cut free and cleaned up you develop a genuine love for other people.
This isn’t the superficial love that you see in the world, where people pretend to kiss on both cheeks and call each other ‘Luvvie’.
It’s genuine, there’s no pretense. I have nothing to hide. I’m imperfect and so are all of us, but we can love one another because Christ loved us first. That’s why the church is such a supernatural community, it’s God’s family, where true relationship exists.
The word translated ‘deeply’ here literally means ‘with every muscle strained’ – Peter’s saying ‘Put all your effort into your relationships’, don’t give up at the first disagreement, don’t be fickle, work at it, don’t be cliquey, work at friendships beyond what would naturally be your sphere. It doesn’t take any effort to maintain a friendship with someone who agrees with everything you say. Peter’s saying ‘work beyond your comfort zone, love those who disagree with you, work through disappointments and disagreements, that way, as Paul said in his letter to the church at Ephesus, you will be demonstrating God.
Which brings me to the final part of our look at the human heart. I trust it has been helpful for you, whatever your faith, and that as I conclude there will be things that have brought comfort as well as the occasional challenge and encouragement to allow God do change each of us.
In ‘The Message’ translation of Luke 11:9-10 Jesus says:
‘Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; knock and the door will open’
Have you ever had major surgery?
In this blog we have been seeing how God works in the human heart. We’ve gone from having a heart that was dark by nature, and hardened by ignoring God, to having it tenderised through God’s grace and opened by His Spirit. This open heart has been cleansed, and instead of being filled with guilt and hypocrisy, it has become true and sincere.
It’s almost as if God has given us a heart transplant, exchanging the diseased for the healthy.
The medical procedure to get a heart transplant is complex. You must first be placed on a transplant list. But, before you can be placed on the transplant list, you must go through a careful screening process. A team of heart doctors, nurses, social workers and bio-ethicists review your medical history, diagnostic test results, social history and psychological test results to see if you are able to survive the procedure and then comply with the continuous care needed to live a healthy life.
Once you are approved, you must wait for a donor to become available. This process can be long and stressful. A supportive network of family and friends is needed to help you through this time. The health care team will monitor you closely to keep your heart failure in control until a donor heart is found. The hospital must know where to contact you at all times should a heart become available.
It is a complex procedure.
In the bible God tells us how to get a new spiritual heart. This procedure is not nearly so contrived and complex. In fact, God tells us in one word how to receive this new heart.