A Change of Heart Or A Changed Heart?
Robert Wurtz II
The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the tablet of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars. (Jeremiah 17:1)
Jeremiah was lamenting the fact that though the children of Israel ought to have had the laws of God written upon the tablets of their hearts, sin and idolatry was written in its place. The several “thou shalt not” commands had been replaced with “thou shalls.” The repeated warnings not to harden our hearts, given to us by the writer to the Hebrews, come into view. We hardened ourselves when we refuse to hearken to the many impressions that God makes upon our hearts when we are tempted to sin. We are further hardened by the deceitfulness of sin once we indulge in it. Taken together the heart can become as hard as a stone tablet. Such was the case with the remnant Judah. Their sin was written, not with a quill or a pencil, but with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond.
A Change Of Heart
As important as it was to have a change of heart about their condition, the people of Judah needed a new heart. We hear it every year this time. People decide upon their new years resolutions. Physical fitness centers see an explosion of new members for a few months, but by summer, things are back to normal again. Why? Because there is a great difference between a “change of heart” and a “changed” heart. The one can only ever be temporary, the other has a chance to be permanent. A changed heart is a brand new heart. God removes the old and installs the new. Amen.
The Wretchedness of the Heart
It is hard for us to comprehend the power of God. We throw words around like “omnipotence” and “all powerful”, but hesitate when it comes to believing that God can really give a person a new heart. Jeremiah asks the question later in our chapter:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Jehovah, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
John Wesley adds to Jeremiah’s sobering diagnosis, “There is nothing so false and deceitful as the heart of man; deceitful in its apprehensions of things, in the hopes and promises which it nourishes, in the assurances that it gives us; unsearchable by others, deceitful with reference to ourselves, and abominably wicked, so that neither can a man know his own heart, nor can any other know that of his neighbor’s.” Who can know it? God does. What can discern its thoughts and intents? The word of God.
All things are naked and open to the eyes of God. He knows the heart and He watches it. this is how He caught Satan plotting to rebel in Heaven. “You have said in your heart…, God said to him.” Jesus added that it was from the heart issues forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings. (Matthew 15:19)
The Power to Change a Heart
Nebuchadnezzar is a man that had some bad thoughts in his heart. He was proud and attributed to himself all of the accomplishments of his life. Little did he know, God was watching and listening. In fact, God warned him that the next time he acted out in this way, he would drive him from men and into the field like a wild beast. Sort of like a child that forgets that his or her parent has warned them of the consequences of continued behavior, Nebuchadnezzar, in time, forgot what God said.
At the end of twelve months he was walking in the royal palace of Babylon. The king spake and said, Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken: The kingdom is departed from thee: and thou shalt be driven from men; and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; thou shalt be made to eat grass as oxen; and seven times shall pass over thee; until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. (Daniel 4:29-32)
As he had been warned, God gave this man the heart of a beast and he began behaving like a wild animal. His whole nature changed from a man who enjoyed the plush pleasures fitting a king, to an animal that wallowed in the field and chewed grass like an ox. He was a regular circus act and could not help himself. What happened? This was no “change of heart.” This was no new years resolution. It was a changed heart performed by the hand of God. One day he is lying in his soft pillow bed, the next day he is laid out in the field like cattle. And all that had to happen was God change his heart. he went from man to beast with a proverbial flip of a switch. This is the kind of power for change that God wields. Once the man fulfilled the conditions spoken in the dream, the heart was changed. O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken: The kingdom is departed from thee: and thou shalt be driven from men; and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. After the time passed, God flipped the switch again and the heart returned to a man’s heart. He went back to the palace and became king again. It was amazingly easy for God to effect this level of change.
A New Heart
If God changed Nebuchadnezzar, do you think He could change Judah? They had hardened hearts emblazon with sin. Their altars were before their eyes and they went after sin like an Ox goes after grass. They did it to themselves. Maybe you agree that God, in theory, could change them. Did He want to? What did He say?
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Hebrews chapter 8 and 10 explains that this is the fundamental aspect of the New Covenant (everlasting covenant). God wants to give a new heart to those that will turn to Him in true repentance and faith. He wants to take out the heart of stone and install a heart of flesh. A soft heart- sensitive to His impressions. He wants to work in us to will and do His good pleasure. Like Nebuchadnezzar, the conditions have to be met. We cannot change our own heart, but we can go to God for it. We can make use of every means of grace that He had made available.
Many people are bound in sin and feel they can never change. Their problem? They have had a “change of heart” many times, but have never had a changed heart. That’s the difference. Nevertheless, we can be partakers of the Divine Nature and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. But we have to receive a new heart. Not a mere “change of heart,” but a “changed heart.”