The title of a popular Christian song that expresses the desire for change in a believer’s heart. This crying out from deep within of large majority of believers is emblematic of their understanding of the gospel. How do they expect their hearts to be changed? This article will show where the real issues are and a real and realizable answer to a yearning that may not need to be.
The initial joy of salvation
Though I didn’t walk down the aisle to answer the call to place my trust in Christ in the manner commonly observed at evangelistic events, there were tears streaming down my face, there was a lightness of being as I felt my soul being cleansed from the burden of sin, there was a profound sense of being loved by a power external to my heart that caused me to tremble in a strange but wonderful gladness, and a waterfall of joy that flooded my being. But this is by no means more special or valid than the experiences of others that may be more subtle, and perhaps more from the mind than the heart. I believe God gives each person an entrance into his kingdom in as unique a way as the individuality that he skillfully crafted into them. Yet for those whose conversion to Christianity is less than spectacular, they yearn for the glorious experiences just the same.
But no matter how glorious the initial joy of salvation might have been, it’s not meant to last forever. Most testimonies only record the mountain top moments, and though they’re far and few in between what commonly experienced by the large majority of Christians, they’re often cited as the standard against which we must measure our faith. Shortly after the glorious moment of conversion, the Christian begins to wonder if their heart might have grown cold, if they might have failed God, that there might be something more that they missed, and there’s more to be done.
My heart is not right
So they cry out: “Change my heart oh God.” The lyric and the melody of the song soothes the soul of the worshipers. It quenches their thirst for the living water they once tasted when they came to their Savior on bended knees and with teary eyes. It provides a moment of tranquility, of respite from the burdens that life brings.
But these wonderful benefits vanish as soon as the last musical note ended. The state of the heart remains the same. Unchanged. At least by the believer’s own estimation. There would still be the same craving for something more, the same feeling that there is something incomplete. This sense of incompleteness may result in the inkling that their heart is not right with God, that they’re not fully accepted by Him.
The believer is not quite sure what is missing. Should he spend more time on his knees praying? More Bible study? More church related activities? But he’s done all that already. He’s faithfully attending church, revival camps, he teaches Sunday School, visit the sick. He’s always available when the body of Christ needs him, for church renovation, for whatever his multitude of talents is needed to minister to others.
Occasional visits from missionaries or some sort of God workers stirred in his heart a longing to do something more; perhaps he could join them in their next endeavor, or at least he could participate in setting aside a part of his day to pray toward it. Maybe he can assist them financially.
So he keeps singing Change My Heart Oh God as it perfectly expresses how he feels about his relationship with God. But does this believer know how his heart should be changed? All he knows is he still feels a vacuum in his heart but has no idea how it can be filled. No matter how busy he keeps himself doing the Lord’s work, the emptiness seems only to grow larger.
Is my heart meant to be right with God?
It seems the believer is falling right back into work-based religion. When he first came to God, he came with empty hands, yet he felt an unspeakable joy. God’s grace was a concept he could grasp as he knew without any doubt the sonship of God he had was truly an undeserved favor, now he’s trying so hard to prove that he’s worthy of the sacrifice of the Son of God.
No, this believer got it all wrong. He, or his heart, has never been, and will never be right with God, for to be right with Him he must be perfect, sinless, as pure as Adam and Eve before the Fall. When he knelt before the cross the first time, he acknowledged he could not meet God’s righteous requirement, he relinquished his judgement of right and wrong which Adam and Eve acquired for him as they ate of the forbidden fruit. He was resigned to the fact that the only One who could please God was Christ, and he gladly accepted what Christ did on the cross was a gift that he could freely receive. Why is it that now he feels it isn’t enough? What else must he do to make up for what Christ missed, if indeed the Lord missed something in his work of reconciling him to the Father?
This writing will not show you how to get right with God, it will not show you how to change your heart, or have a changed heart, but it will show you how to love the man, or the woman, that God has already loved and accepted so completely through His Son.
Everything you need
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
All things means exactly that: ALL things. All things you need for godliness and contentment. All things you need to be more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37). All things you need to boldly enter God’s throne of grace (Hebrews 10:20). All things to make you fully acceptable to God. Not at some point in the future, not something you get incrementally, but right now, and fully.
There is NOW no longer any condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
So are you in Christ? If you are, your soul can rest, your work is done, the work of believing in the One God has sent (John 6:29).
If God has fully accepted you, he must have also fully accepted your heart. But the peculiar thing is week in, week out, this heart still cries out to God to be changed. How can it be that a child of God who is so loved and accepted by God still find it difficult to love and accept himself? Were it the Lord’s will to change the believer’s heart, wouldn’t he be the best one to know when and how to get it done? The Lord is the molder and his subject is but clay in his hand. If he’s pleased of the state of his creation, who are we to question his work, or to hurry his hand?
… Now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him - if indeed you remain in the faith, established and firm, without shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard (Colossians 1:22-23).
Do you want any more than what God has stated that it’s finished? As a matter of fact this was what Jesus uttered on the cross before he took his last breath. He declared that the work to present you as “holy, without blemish, and blameless before God” was done. Therefore Jesus is now resting at the right hand of the Father as a testament to the re-creation he has done in the lives of those who put their trust in him. He resurrected fallen Man and he declared that it was good.
Just as I am
Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come (Hymn Just as I Am, Without One Plea)
Just as you were when you first knelt before your Redeemer, so are you now as you walk with Him the rest of your days. Your heart, whatever the state that it may be in, might it be filled with the joy of salvation, or weary and falling into a state of drowsiness like the virgins in Jesus’ parable, might it be calm as it perceives that everything makes sense, or in great anxiety as everything seems to be going wrong, God’s love for that heart will never change.
To you who sings Change My Heart Oh God without seeing its incompatibility with your new identity in Christ, perhaps you’re basing the assurance of your salvation upon a shaky foundation. You’re basing it upon yourself, your state of mind, or heart, your ability, or whatever else that comes from your very self. No, you should not do that, but instead you should base it on Christ and what he accomplished on the cross.
The song reflects a believer who is obsessed with himself, one who engages in morbid introspection. But we are admonished by not just the Hebrews writer (Hebrews 12:2), but by Jesus himself that we should fix our eyes on him, as he says:
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15).
If you keep trying to change your heart, or asking God to change it for that matter, chances are good that you won’t experience any changes at all, but if you fix your eyes on Jesus, you might find that even you can accept your own heart, as God has accepted it so, and changes might come swiftly when you least expect it.
Last but not least, your heart has already been changed though you may not feel it, and others may not see it, but its right standing before God has been signed and sealed by the very promise of God long ago:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17—NIV)
Live by faith, o God’s righteous ones, for the just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38). Trust in God that he has already given you a new heart. Don’t ask God to change your heart any more, but instead live as if you already possess a new heart.
- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen
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