On Being Christian

Is There More to the Christian Life?

Week 4 of the spiritual formation lecture series, was about why as believers we may continue to struggle with sin. The series is taught by professors from Biola University’s Institute for Spiritual Formation.

“Why We Sin When We Know So Much” looked at why spiritual change often seems so difficult and slow. We need to understand that the reason the Bible talks so much about our hearts is because that is actually the core of our faith (love the Lord with all your heart, trust in the Lord with all your heart, God looks on the heart). My “heart” is the core of my will, intellect and what I really love.

More importantly, my heart – or what’s in my heart – directs my life. Proverbs 4:23 says “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” This includes two parts:
1. Externally – we must “guard” our hearts, protect them, be careful what we let in.
2. Internally – to change what “flows out” we have to deal with what’s already there. The degree to which we’re surprised by what comes out is the degree to which we do not know our own heart. (Remember, “the heart is deceitful…”)

When we have behavior or thoughts we can’t explain, they come from our unconscious or “hidden” heart. The truth is, we don’t intend to sin, we just leak what’s already there. (“I really wanted to love that person… but then they bugged me.”) Our behavior is actually just the tip of an iceberg of habit – below the surface is a glacier of sin and vice with deep relational and historical roots.

That’s why “magic” prayers (“God, fix me!”) or glossing over with quick apologies won’t work. And you can’t “try harder,” as no amount of surface correcting or resolve will change the deep beliefs and desires in our hearts. The Christian life is not just “putting on” Jesus, it also requires actively “putting off” old habits and desires.

Stopping the leak will take prayer and diligence. Psalm 139 says, “Search me O God, and know my heart…” Begin, like David, by asking God to search your heart about your struggle (anger, worry, selfishness). Don’t just ask him to fix it. Acknowledge where you are (angry, worried, selfish), and remember that’s why you need God. Thank him for loving you anyway – because amazingly – he does. Then, ask him to teach you. It’s a journey of growth and change, if you’re brave enough to be honest and face what’s really in your heart.