Links Daily Devotional

Newness of Heart

“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 I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27, ESV)

One of the biggest battles a golfer faces is negative self-talk. We can be our own worst enemies with attacking and unkind internal dialogue. We lack gentleness or forgiveness for our failures, and the screaming inside our heads often leads to ugly behavior that creates distance with our playing partners. Over time our destructive words can even harden our hearts where the number we add up at the end becomes our idol and we no longer enjoy playing the game.

I constantly had to be mindful of my self-talk throughout my career and if I’m completely honest, the words I said to myself were awful. My slandering internal barrages did damage to my heart, I lost sight of enjoying the talents God blessed me with and my performance was my idol. As much as I wanted to change, my heart was hard and I couldn’t do it without the Lord’s intervention.

The Israelites had an ongoing struggle with hardened hearts and idols as well. The prophet Ezekiel came on the scene during their exile in Babylon for their idol worship and cyclical rebellion in profaning God’s name among the nations. Instead of waiting for his people to repent, God chose to act. He gathered his people back to their own land for the purpose of vindicating the holiness of his great name before the eyes of the nations.

This is the context of today’s scripture. The Lord cleansed his people from their idols and gave them a new heart and spirit. The Israelites were recipients of God’s great mercy even as they continued to sin against him. He removed their hardness. He gave them a heart that is alive. He put his spirit within them and caused them to walk in obedience that leads to life. And he did it for the sake of his holy name.

These two verses have been a place of rest and comfort for my heart when I have felt separated from my fellowship with the Lord. Recently, however, as I studied the broader story unfolding during Ezekiel’s prophecy, I learned God’s care for his people (us) runs deeper than I can comprehend. When we turn our back on God and stumble in our repentance, he longs to gather us back to himself for his name’s sake because we are his sons and daughters.

God continues to play out Ezekiel’s prophecy today: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Because Jesus willingly hung on a cross, God’s love can flow into our hearts through his Spirit who has been given as a free gift. And it is his Spirit who will remove our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh so that we can love the Lord and others with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Tracy Hanson
May 28, 2015
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