I heard last night on the news that 2012 brings with it a lot of hope, if only because it isn't 2011. It was a reminder of what the future always seems to represent - hope. Hope for what exactly though? Hope for change? Most people don't like change. Hope for something better? We'd do well to be careful in what we wish for. No, the kind of new hope I'm talking about comes from an understanding of who you are as a born again warrior of God.
My wife and I have been having some very serious discussions about some die-hard beliefs we have held to for a long time without any real understanding about why we feel that way. For some of those long-held beliefs, we have discarded them simply because they were not Biblical and more preferential, for other long-held beliefs, we needed more insight either to continue to hold to them, or let them go entirely.
One of those die-hard beliefs comes from an oft repeated verse in the Bible from Fundamental Independent Baptist pulpits. Let me be clear, I have a strong Baptist background, and this post is in no way meant to be derogatory, however, there are a lot of religions, churches and groups out there (including the Fundamental Independent Baptists) who could stand a large dose of intense Bible study by the individuals who claim those titles.
The verse in question comes from Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" The premise taught for so long being we are sinful wicked creatures with a heart bent toward evil deeds. Whether saved or unsaved, you are degenerate and only by the grace of God does anything good ever come into or out of your life. This is what I had been taught and believed for pretty much my entire life. Then a book came across my path over the past few months: "Waking the Dead", by John Edlridge, which put forth a counter claim. In the book Edlridge claims that the verse in Jeremiah only holds true to a person who has never accepted Christ as Savior, and that once a person accepts the blood of Jesus for payment for sins, they get a new heart. The process of being "born again" is the awakening of the Holy Spirit of God in you wherby God now lives in you, in your heart, and as such, your heart is no longer "desperately wicked" but rather your heart is good!
I immediately recognized and latched on to the truth of that statement. How can anyone possibly operate from a core that is pure evil and hope to influence anyone in a positive way?! However, if my heart is good, then from that central core where Christ lives, I can begin from a positive stance to begin to influence the world around me in a positive way. My wife, however, needed more than a book to tell her this. She needed something from the Bible.
To her credit, during an intense Bible study not related to the heart, she came across another verse in the New Testament. Hebrews 10:22 "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Here, in this verse she actually stumbled upon while conducting an unrelated Bible study, we see the words and process by which our "desperately wicked" heart is made good.
The whole passage actually starts at verse 19 and goes through verse 25, and having it in its proper context only lends greater strength to the truth she realized. The Old Testament required a process of purification by which the High Priest could enter the presence of God in the Holiest place of the tabernacle or temple. That process included the ritualistic purification by water and the sprinkling of blood upon the horns of the altar - a picture of what was to come.
Verse 22 is the full realization in the life of the believer of that ancient practice, when, as born again believers we are encouraged to "draw near with a true heart." What kind of heart? A heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked? No, but rather "hearts sprinkled" with the blood of Jesus Christ (see verse 19 of the same passage). Sprinkled to what purpose? The purpose of purification, to have our hearts washed "from an evil conscience" so that we no longer have to bear the guilt and weight of sin. Finally, we are "washed with pure water" so that we can appear unblemished before God.
This verse completely counters the claim made by so many that the verse in Jeremiah is describing the hearts of all men. For the heart of a man who has laid his faith in the blood of Jesus Christ is no longer wicked, his heart is good. Your heart, my fellow warrior in Christ, is good. This is great cause for celebration indeed, for it gives a new hope not just for today, nor only for the next year, but for every future endeavor of your life.