Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 9, 1953

A Change Of Heart

Ernest A. Finley, Wichita, Kansas

It is generally recognized that a "change of heart" must be accomplished if one is to enter heaven. How is this change of heart accomplished? And what does it involve?

There is no question that the condition of the heart is a vital consideration. Solomon evidences his wisdom in the words, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life." (Pro. 4:23) It should be evident that the heart is the wellspring of life.

The scriptures make it clear to us that the heart must be right before God, that is, the heart must be in the proper condition if God is to accept us. Peter told Simon the recently converted sorcerer that his heart was not right before God (Acts 8:21), insisting that there was a need for a change on his part.

Man has a tendency to place too limited a concept on the change of heart which the Lord requires of us. Many would make the change an emotional response altogether. And while it is not denied that there must be an emotional change, more than this is required if the change is to satisfy the Lord.

The heart may be better understood if we recognize that it may be divided into three functions: the intellect, the emotions, and the will. All of these functions must be involved in any change of heart which the Lord will accept.

The change of intellect will be accomplished when the individual begins to think on the proper things, to understand them, and believe them. Notice how Paul's words support this thought, "But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom. 10:8-10) This change of intellect is accomplished by teaching. Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him: and I will raise him up in the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me." (John 6:44,45) How is the individual drawn to Christ? By being taught. It is not a mysterious power that overwhelms the individual. Paul asserts the same. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? Even as it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:13-15) By instruction, one's intellect is changed. He accepts the proper things, thinks on them, comprehends them and believes them. Faith in Christ is involved in this process. This faith is not a cold, formal thing, but a trusting submissive faith.

Not only must the intellect be changed, but there must also be a change of emotions involved in this change of heart. The faith which one has in Christ and the gratitude that springs up in the human heart as the sinner realizes the great price that was paid by the Savior inevitably moves one toward a greater love for Christ. Not only is the love alluded to here an inevitable thing if one has the right kind of faith, but it is an imperative thing. One cannot acceptably serve the Lord without love. Paul wrote, "And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Cor. 13:3) We must have love both for God and man. Jesus says that the great commandment is love for God. And a second command is love for our fellow man. We must love our brethren. In fact, we are purified from sin "unto unfeigned love of the brethren," says Peter. (1 Peter 1:22) But just as we have pointed out to you that love is an inevitable outgrowth of a saving faith, so it is also true that obedience is an inevitable outgrowth of love. Jesus said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments." (John 14:15) Thus, Jesus says that love and obedience are inseparable. One might just as well deny the necessity of love as to deny the necessity of obedience. If one loves the Lord, he cannot but obey His commands. One who loves Him simply asks, "What must I do, Lord?" When the loving heart hears the command, he unhesitatingly obeys.

This obedience which is the outgrowth of faith and love, accomplished by the change of intellect and emotions, produces the third aspect of the change of heart, that is, the change of will. The change of will is correctly defined as the act of repentance. In the act of repentance the individual simply says, "I will no longer do my own will. His will shall be my will." Whatever Christ commands, the convert purposes to do it. Whatever Christ prohibits, the convert determines to avoid. Being servants of Christ, we must no longer serve sin. Being children of God, we must no longer live as sons of darkness. Paul wrote, "Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness." (Rom. 6:16-18) Is there any question in any unbiased mind that obedience is necessary if one is to render acceptable service unto God? Fifth, trust, love and repentance will all have their place. But why stop short of this necessary step, the willingness to obey. Notice that in the passage given above that the Romans were made free from sin when they "became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching" which Paul set before them.

It is extremely regrettable that so many religious bodies which have a great deal to say about a change of heart, yet ignore the necessity of obedience from the heart. The change of heart is not fully accomplished until the faith and love kindled there have moved the individual to trusting submission to the Lord's commands. If one is justified by "faith only" as some contend, then the change of intellect is all that is necessary in the change of heart. But by the points which we have set before you, it should be evident that there is also a need for a change of emotions and a change of will. All of these things are necessary in a change of heart.