Your heart has a problem

Published 8:54 pm Friday, January 29, 2016

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

A Christian friend was studying at Cambridge University, in England. One day he was talking with a Muslim friend, a fellow student, about the secularism and corruption within British culture.

The Muslim asked, “Why is this Christian country like this?” My friend responded that there is no such thing as a “Christian country.” Great Britain is not a Christian country, and America is not a Christian country.

Email newsletter signup

The Muslim replied, “This is the problem with Christianity. It doesn’t provide a whole way of life, including government and politics.”

My Christian friend replied, “This is because of Christianity’s realistic view of human nature. According to Islam, our primary problem as human beings is our behavior. Therefore, behavior can be corrected by imposing a set of rules for living, which includes law, politics and government.

“But according to the Bible, our primary problem as human beings is not our failure to conform to behavioral rules. The Bible teaches that all behavior flows from the heart.”

Indeed, Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23).

You see, Christianity teaches that we have a heart problem. It is not a matter of cleaning up the outside through a system of rules and regulations. We need new hearts.

This conversation points to a fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam. Islam holds that the human problem comes down to behavior. Therefore, the solution is to impose laws regulating behavior.

This necessarily includes the government, which is why the American concepts of religious liberty and separation of church and state are foreign to the Islamic worldview.

But Jesus teaches that the human problem is not behavior. He teaches that our behavior flows from a much deeper problem. He is saying that we human beings have gone radically wrong at a heart level.

Obviously this is not something that can be fixed by the government or politics. No system of laws can give us a new heart, so that we will actually want to obey God and live for him. Who can? Only God can.

God says in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

In the biblical worldview, how do people change? Really change, from the inside out? It comes from a transformation of the heart.

And how do we get new hearts, hearts that love God and want to obey him? That comes from God.

One night a religious leader named Nicodemus came to Jesus. He had lived a moral and religious life, but his heart needed to be transformed. Jesus said to him, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).

And how can a person be “born again?” Only God can give someone a new heart and life, and he does it when we turn to the One who died for sinners and rose again.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.