It is with the heart that man believes (Romans 10:10). It is with the heart that we are to seek (Deut. 4:29), serve (Deut. 10:12), and love (Deut. 6:5) God. It is only with the heart that we know God or worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). It is in the heart, therefore, that the divine Word does the work.
……Now when they heard this they were (cut) to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37).
It is into our hearts that the divine Word does the work. It is into our hearts that God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son. It is the heart, the inward life of desire and love and will, that the Holy Spirit guides into all truth (John 16:13).
We cannot lean on our own understanding
We have two powers at work in our lives: the understanding or intellect that knows things from ideas we form, and the heart that knows them by experience as they become part of our wills and desires. One of the main reasons Bible teaching bears little fruit in our lives as Christians is because we rely on our own insight or understanding.
We might argue that God gave us our intellect, and without it there is no possibility of knowing God’s Word. This is true, but in the Fall our whole human nature was disordered. It was the desire for knowledge and power that led Eve astray and was the outcome of the temptation.
Our wills became enslaved, our desires were perverted, and our understanding was darkened. We believers likewise don’t have the power of a holy will and that’s why we need the daily renewing of the grace of Jesus Christ.
We don’t have the power to love God and others unless it is given to us by the Holy Spirit. We don’t realize that the intellect is equally ruined spiritually and incapable of understanding spiritual truth.
To think that we can take the knowledge of God’s truth for ourselves out of His Word is still our greatest danger. We need a deep conviction of the inability of our understanding to really know the truth. We need to realize the terrible danger of self-confidence and self deception and to heed the warning in Proverbs 3: 5, “Trust in Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
Our own understanding gives us only thoughts and ideas about spiritual things without the reality of them. This deceives us with the thought that the truth, if received into the mind, will somehow surely enter our hearts. It blinds us to the terrible experience that is so prevalent in the Church today: the practice of daily Bible reading, listening to God’s Word every Sunday and yet becoming neither humble, nor holy, nor heavenly minded because of it.
We need to come with our hearts to the Bible and trust God to be the Teacher Who will give us an understanding heart and a spiritual understanding.
Can we study our Bibles without using our understanding? Yes we can do that, but we shouldn’t use our understanding for what it cannot do. Our understanding can only give us a picture or thought of spiritual things like it happened to an Ethiopian eunuch.
The eunuch was very dedicated to God because he had traveled a long distance to worship in Jerusalem, and as he was returning, and sitting in his chariot, he was reading the Book of Isaiah but he could not understand what he was reading, unless it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit through the disciple known as Phillip (see Acts 8:26-40).
The Burning Heart
A.W. Tozer delicious words apply to our day as accurately as they did to his. Let’s listen to him:
Pastors and teachers are giving sound Bible exposition—but all this may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth.
The Bible is not an end itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and centre of their hearts.
There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy.
Again, we have the wonderful story of the disciples on the road to a village known as Emmaus, which was about several miles from Jerusalem. The Bible tells us, their hearts were greatly moved and burning with them while Jesus had revealed Himself to them, as He opened, explained and interpreted to them in all the Scriptures beginning with Moses and throughout all the Prophets and the Psalms, the things concerning and referring to Himself that had to be fulfilled.
Thus it is written that the Christ (the Messiah) should suffer and on the third day rise from (among) the dead, and that repentance [with a view to and as the condition of] forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I will send forth upon you what My Father has promised; but remain in the city [Jerusalem] until you are clothed with power from on high. (See Luke 24:1- 49)
This proves to us that Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit is the only one who opens our minds to understand the Holy Scriptures. The true preacher knows that everything depends upon the condition of his/her heart. We have to go with our hearts to the Lord to make His Word life and truth in us.
If we lean on our own understanding we might take pride in our intellect. Nothing can save us from this except continual dependence of the heart on the Holy Spirit’s teaching.
The Holy Spirit interprets God’s Word
Only the Holy Spirit can, and most surely will be the Interpreter of His Word. Divine truth needs a divine Teacher. Spiritual understanding of spiritual things can only come from the Holy Spirit. The unique character of the Word is that it is essentially different from, and infinitely exalted above, all human understanding
When the Holy Spirit quickens the Word in the heart, then He can guide the intellect. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way” (Psalms 25:9) and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)
We should ask the Holy Spirit to make the Word of God true to us and to make it work in our hearts until the Word becomes the strength of our lives.
Image credit: From the Have it All Album, Bethel Music