TRANSFORM YOUR HEART
3 Simple Ways to Ask God to Transform Your Heart
Sheila Alewine Saturday, May 23, 2020
“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15).
As believers we can ask God for many things without knowing for certain that it is His will. We might ask to provide financially, but it may be His will that we do without some of the things we think we need. We might ask for physical healing, but it may be His will that we walk through trials of sickness, or even that the sickness will end in death. We might ask for our child to be spared from a disappointment, but it may be His will for them to experience His presence and power as He delivers them through it. We might ask to avoid hardship, persecution, or failure, and again, it may be His will to use these things to hone our character into His likeness.
There are other things, however, which we can know without a doubt that it is God’s will and desire for us. One such topic is the condition of our heart. God tells us clearly what His will is concerning the transformation of the regenerated human heart, and we would be wise to seek His help. After all, it is a spiritual transformation, and will never be accomplished by our natural, human will or ability.
Here are three things we can pray confidently for our own hearts, knowing we are asking according to His will, and that He hears us, and will grant us our requests.
1. God, give me a discerning heart.
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:5-6).
I stood quietly in the dark watching my granddaughter try to fall asleep. When I entered her room to calm her crying, it was completely dark, except for the dim light of her “glow-in-the-dark” pacifier, which I quickly located in her crib and gave her. As I stood by the door, however, my eyes adjusted to the darkness, and I discovered it wasn’t really that dark at all. The longer I remained in the dark room, the brighter and more normal it seemed to me. It only seemed dark in comparison to the bright lights of the hallway, just outside the door.
In a very real way, the longer we remain in the world, the more likely the eyes of our heart will adjust to the darkness, and more quickly than we realize, we will think we are walking in light. Our hearts are easily deceived (Jeremiah 17:9). We must ask God to give us discernment between good and evil, light and dark. If you don’t believe it, try to remember the first time you watched a movie that was peppered with bad language, graphic violence, or crude, sexual humor after you became a Christ-follower. Your spiritual sense was offended. Is that still true today, or does it simply go by you, unnoticed? Is your heart quick to discern between good and evil, or has it grown used to the darkness?
We also need discernment to know truth from lies in a world filled with the spirit of the antichrist. False teaching abounds, even in our conservative church pulpits. Do you have enough discernment to separate the wheat from the chaff?
The human heart needs discernment between good and evil and truth and lies, but there’s a third area that’s also important, as John reminds us in 1 John 1:8-10. We need discernment to recognize our own sin. We’re often very good at pointing out the speck in others, while missing the log in our own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). With a discerning heart, we humbly examine ourselves for faults and failures, knowing our propensity to overestimate our personal righteousness.
Psalm 119:66: “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments.”
Hebrews 5:14: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
1 John 4:1: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 1:8: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
2. God, give me a willing heart.
“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
God desires not only that we obey Him, but that we want to obey Him, so much so that He Himself gives us both the will and the ability to do what He asks us to do. Obedience is important to God because it reveals that our heart has been changed by His indwelling Spirit. Our formerly dead spirits have been brought to life (Ephesians 2:1-7). Living things give evidence that they are alive, just as a seed planted in the ground starts to appear with new growth, eventually becoming a mature plant. Obedience is the fruit of a regenerated soul.
God doesn’t want us to obey reluctantly or unwillingly, even though He knows at times we will not understand His commands. This is why we need His Spirit to give us a willing heart; our unredeemed flesh will always rebel against God’s commands, even as believers. A willing heart is only possible when we surrender our whole heart to the Lord, leaving no hidden corners or closed-off places where we are reluctant for Him to have full access and control. We cannot say to God, “I will obey You in everything except this.” Full obedience comes from a fully surrendered heart, and full surrender is necessary for God to change our stubborn hearts into a willing heart.
What does a willing heart look like? Jesus gave us the perfect example as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion. He had humbly given up His heavenly glory to be born as a human (Philippians 2:6-8), experienced all the temptations of our world, yet without sinning Himself (Hebrews 4:15), and now faced a terrible physical death and separation from the Father as He took on our sin (1 Peter 3:18). In all of this, His prayer was, “Not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). That’s a willing heart that only comes from the Spirit of God.
Hebrews 5:7-9: “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”
1 Chronicles 28:9: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.”
3. God, give me a loving heart.
“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11).
Love is a defining and compelling trait that sets Christ-followers apart from the world. Jesus said the world would know we are His disciples by the way we love one another as believers (John 13:35). Real love can only come from God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8). Truly loving others is possible only as we ourselves know and experience God’s love for us. As we abide in His love, it spills out into our relationships with both other believers and the unsaved (1 John 4:16).
What does it mean to have a loving heart? Is it just a feeling, a rush of emotion that wells up in us when we see or talk to someone? Is it the ability to show affection? How do we know that God has given us a loving heart?
Jesus taught us that all of God’s commandments are summed up in two simple statements: “Love God first with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves” (Luke 10:26-28). He went on to define what it looks like to love our neighbor: Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). Not only did He tell us what love looks like, He demonstrated it when He chose to lay down His life for ours on the cross, out of His love for the Father (John 17:23).
Love is more than a feeling; it’s a conviction to act on behalf of and for the benefit of others, even at the expense of self-sacrifice. John tells us we should not only love in our words, but in deeds and truth (1 John 3:16-18). We see a need, and God’s love in us moves us to action.
Do you have a loving heart? Here’s the test. When loving others requires you to set aside your own desires, preferences, or needs, are you willing to do it? Do you see others with the eyes of Christ, recognizing the spiritual poverty that lies at the root of the behavior and choices that make them difficult to love? Are you willing to lay down your life, so that they also may live?
A discerning heart.
A willing heart.
A loving heart.
Ask God to change the condition of your heart as needed in these areas. Pray confidently, knowing it is His will, and that He hears you, and will answer.
Philippians 1:9-10: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”
Author Sheila Alewine is a pastor’s wife, mother and grandmother. She and her husband lead Around The Corner Ministries, which serves to equip Christ-followers to share the gospel where they live, work and play.https://www.biblestudytools.com