Photo credit: The New York Public Digital Collection (EM2578), Jonathan Edwards engraving, 18th century.
Here’s something to think about. It might seem odd, but truly outstanding coming from Jonathan Edwards:
“I am bold in saying this, but I believe that no one is ever changed, either by doctrine, by hearing the word, or by the preaching and teaching of another, unless the affections are moved by these things. No one ever seeks salvation, no one ever cries for wisdom, no one ever wrestles with God, no one ever kneels in prayer or flees from sin, with a heart that remains unaffected. In a word, there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart deeply affected by those things. The reason is this: they are not affected with what they hear. There are many who hear about the power, the holiness, and the wisdom of God; about Christ and the great things that He has done for them and His gracious invitation to them; and yet they remain exactly as they are in life and in practice.”
This Jonathan Edwards quote I heard from Matt Chandler (Lead Pastor/The Village Church/Texas) after a frustrating morning of trying to live stream my own church’s service. YouTube kicked me off at 5 minutes and 31 seconds. The audio cut off early into the sermon. I tried to access the live stream on my phone rather than my laptop… Needless to say, I was ready to call it quits until I heard this quote and its related sermon.
Chandler’s sermon was a call to “know (in your gut) what you know (in your head).” Why is this so difficult for Westerners? One reason is because we think knowing more will automatically change our lives. But, this is not so. Ephesians 3:17-19 is part of a prayer of Paul for believers. It goes like this (NKJV): “(I Paul, pray) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
One of my favorite pastors, Dick Woodward (who is now with the Lord), said that the best book of the Bible to memorize is Ephesians. This is probably because he knew that Ephesians draws attention to spiritual resources that are available to us, that sometimes get overlooked and under-experienced. The things we need to know (in our gut) after we know them (in our head). The things that make us wrestle with and cry out to God. The things that disrupt our hearts away from clinging to unchanged life and practice.
We need to be affected by not just the Truth, but a genuine relationship with the Person of the Truth – Jesus Christ. It is the only way we change. We sail in wooden ships, but Jesus still walks on the water and stills the storms. We need to experience this. Sometimes great opportunity for heart change lies within the context of great struggles. Like a pandemic. Like social turbulence. Like an election year. Like personal safety being in shorter and shorter supply. What better time to experience the width, the length, the depth, and the height of Christ’s love which passes knowledge?
Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Only then will I experience 2 Corinthians 3:2-3: “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”
Being affected will happen when I will truly “know what I know.” From head level to heart level. I will be affected when I experience the Truth I have heard and read. I will be affected when the divine ink on my heart writes a genuine knowing. Being affected by the love of Christ which passes knowledge makes me seek God diligently, cry out louder in prayer, flee from sin, and allow the Holy Spirit to crush my heart of stone so it becomes flesh.
Be bold. Don’t let your heart be unaffected.