“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).
ONE WAY OF LOOKING AT WHAT GOD WANTS TO DO WITH US IN JESUS CHRIST IS TO THINK ABOUT ALL THREE PARTS OF OUR “HEART” BEING REHABILITATED. Sin starts on the inside and works its way outward; so if the problem of sinful behavior is going to be corrected, the thing that most needs to change is inside of us.
Our minds are complicated and not easily described, but for our meditation today, let’s say that our thinking falls into three categories: intellect, emotion, and will. To be redeemed from sin, all three of these must be rescued, not just one or two of them.
Intellect. With our intellect, we process information: we learn, analyze, and store “facts.” But obviously, much of the “information” in our minds is incorrect, and that information, if we act on it, will produce behavior that is dysfunctional and destructive. Biblically speaking, untruth on the inside produces sinful behavior on the outside. So the first thing the gospel must do is establish truth in the intellectual part of our minds (John 8:32; Acts 26:18).
Emotion. As important as our intellect is, our emotions (or feelings) also play a critical role. Since our feelings grow out of our thinking (if I believe a burglar is in my basement, feelings appropriate to that thought will be generated automatically), it is critical that our thinking be based on truth. However, since our actions will mostly be determined by our feelings, we need to make sure our feelings are appropriate to the realities we’re dealing with.
Will. Our will is our decision-making ability, and freedom of the will means we can choose our actions individually. Here, then, is where the gospel of Christ makes the greatest difference. The disastrous conflict between our will and God’s will needs to be removed.
Putting all of this together, we see an amazing plan. In Christ, we can make better decisions because our feelings are more appropriate, and we can do that because our thoughts are more truthful. In bringing us back to God, the gospel leaves no stone unturned.
“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do” (Thomas Aquinas).