“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 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 36:22-27
God gives his people a heart of flesh, and His Spirit within us, and this helps us to carefully obey His rules
which are given to us to make us the kind of people God wants in preparation for eternity with Him. For Jews,
circumcision was a law that only profited because it was set within other laws that were intended to penetrate hearts and make Israel a people who were like God. It’s not about rituals but rules that recreate.
For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded[b] as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 2:25-29
Flesh is soft as against stone which is hard. God gives us a heart of flesh, as a far better alternative to our former heart after the flesh in which we used to walk in our bone-headed, closed-minded ways. Our new heart of flesh is soft and open, instead of hard and closed. God does not want us to be bone-headed and hard-hearted - closing our hearts to His word and the needs of people. God does not want us to walk in the flesh – which means walking in our own sinful ways. No, for He has given us a heart of flesh so we will be open to His ways and thus walk in His ways … the ways of the Spirit. God can turn “stones” into His open-hearted children - like Abraham! Luke 3:8.
In the New covenant, God’s laws penetrate our hearts for several reasons:
1) The New Covenant has forgiveness at its core, and forgiveness touches our hearts and promotes a desire to please the Forgiver.
2) In the New Covenant, we have the Spirit, that Israel did not have, and the Spirit is such a huge help in making God’s rules not burdensome, but light. Romans 5:5; 1 John 3:24; 4:13; 5:1-8; Matthew 11:28-30.
3) In the New Covenant, we have Jesus, and when you have Jesus you also have the Father and the Holy Spirit.
John 14:15-24. Notice in this John 14 Scripture the connection between keeping Jesus’ commandments and having Father, Son and Holy Spirit making themselves at home in our lives!!
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-4
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-15
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:1-9
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:16-26
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. 2 Corinthians 7:1-4.
To soft, open hearts of flesh, the Holy Spirit has revealed right knowledge about sin and Christ that leads to right faith which leads to salvation which leads to right knowledge about right behaviour which ultimately leads to eternal life. John 6:35-45,68; 16:12-14; Romans 1:1-6:23; 10:1-10; Philippians 1:27-2:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-17; Titus 1:1-3; 2 Peter 1:1-12; 1 John 2:15-29; 3:23-4:13. Thus God gives us a new heart and a new spirit to do His will.
The Holy Spirit and a heart of flesh cancel evil spirits and the ways of the flesh. 1 John 3:23-4:13.
All of this gives us hope for our eternal future: For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5
Back to the 1 John reference:
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 3:23-4:13
Notice the two references to the Holy Spirit God has given His people in 1 John 3:24 and 1 John 4:13 in the passage just cited. They are like bookends. And like bookends, it is what is between the bookends that is most important.
The bookends, however, are also very important because they hold together and support what is between them.
Without the bookends, what is between them would collapse. Without the Holy Spirit supporting us, our lives would collapse.
Right knowledge about Spirit and flesh leads to right behaviour: Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:6-10
Remember this from two earlier references? But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:16-17
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
Keep your heart soft and open to God’s light and life. (As an example, my heart was touched this week by Romans 12:10 – especially the latter half: “Outdo one another in showing honour.”)
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. John 6:63
God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit work in unison with their word to give us real life, but only if the heart of flesh, God has given us, remains open, pliable, ready and willing.
Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:8-21
True-hearted, whole-hearted, Savior all-glorious!
Take Thy great power and reign Thou alone,
Over our wills and affections victorious, Freely surrendered and wholly Thine own.
This stanza from True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted, words by Frances R. Havergal