Like many of you, I grew up as a Christian, memorizing a selection of recommended Bible verses. One such verse is that of Jer. 17:9 which reads,‘9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Having it memorized, and thereafter ingrained in the mind, one is reminded on ends as to the depravity of the human heart. But it begs the question – Is this true of Christians? Are our hearts to be defined as deceitful and desperately sick?
Alongside this description of the human heart, we are uplifted with other teaching from Scriptures, like Eze. 36:26, ‘And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.’ and 2 Cor. 5:17, ‘17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ (which is another favourite verse committed to memory).
The question therefore is to ask, ‘is Jer. 17:9 still true of the believer, now that we are a new creation in Christ, possessing a new heart?’ What has taken place ever since this ‘Heart Surgery’?
My dilemma is that while I now have this ‘new heart’ and is a ‘new creation’ in Christ, I am still grappling with sin in my life. Paul, as a Christian writes in the famous passage in Romans 7, telling us of his struggles. For instance, vvs. 18 and 19 reads, ‘18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.’
My developing thoughts as to whether Jer. 17:9 is still applicable to Christians is that – “Yes, we can be thankful, grateful and live in the confidence that having a ‘new heart’ and being a ‘new creation’, should now define us as to who we are.” As Romans 8:1 says it so beautifully, ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’
Yet, as has been variously suggested, it is helpful to describe Christians as 1) already saved from the penalty of sin, 2) are being saved from the power of sin, 3) and will be saved from the presence of sin. To put it differently, we are here talking about the long process of regeneration (past) to sanctification (present) to glorification (future).
As we continue on our journey, we are grateful that we do not rely on our ‘works’ to be accepted by God. In the first place, Rom. 5:8 reminds us, ‘but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Paul says it with all confidence that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Rom. 8:37-39).
Still, knowing the possibility of quenching (1Th. 5:19) and grieving (Eph. 4:30) the Holy Spirit, we strive to ‘do good works’, not to earn His acceptance or approval, but to live out what He desires of us (Eph. 2:8-10). May our hearts be conformed and reflect that which should define us (a new heart and a new creation) – more and more, through the progressive sanctifying work of grace.
Elder Richard Lai