Cultivate a Christ-Like Heart
To resolve an issue, one must first identify the problem. When comparing one’s heart to the ideal expressed through the life of Christ Jesus, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. One might also become resigned to not knowing where to start to transform one’s perspective.
Bible study is part of a sincere Christian routine. It’s a great place to begin examining the heart. When approaching scripture to prove a point, “I know the Bible justifies my position”, or to accomplish a goal, “I memorized the book of 1 John”, or for general bragging rights, “I have read the Bible from cover to cover every year”, the heart is not involved. These examples are driven by the fallen ego.
Heart-centered Bible study is primarily a quest for understanding. Wisdom is born from the heart and scripture can be like a sledge hammer breaking down the hardened heart. However, to use the Bible as a tool to increase wisdom one must first release personal desire.
For example, when troubled or facing a life decision, Christians may turn to the Bible for guidance. This is a good practice, but unless one is willing to let go of their personal hoped-for outcomes, the guidance is unlikely to be true. Scriptures have been used to justify wars of aggression, human slavery, casting out family members, and to amass personal material wealth while ignoring the needs of others — just to name a few evil examples.
Christ understood and expressed the truth of scripture because he sought the wisdom of the heavenly Father and not justification for personal desires. To cultivate a Christ-like heart, Christians must sacrifice the ego on the altar of wisdom. At any point up until his death on the cross, Jesus could have chosen a different path. Instead he chose to keep his heart open to infallible wisdom which resulted in permanently opening a path of light in the darkness of the fallen world. Jesus expressed Divine Love through his human form because he aligned and worked to keep his heart aligned with God’s purpose.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” — Matthew 11:28–30
Jesus is the ultimate servant leader. A good servant obeys the Master with humility, joy, and even aspects of human enthusiasm. If Christians wish to develop a Christ-like heart, service to others is the practical application of the first law which is to love God.
To cultivate a heart like Jesus, one must only love God completely. However, it may be useful to consider what the heart of Christ looks like in action as discussed in this series so far. Consider the first five perspectives from earlier articles.
First, the heart is the origin of all behaviors and decisions. When Jesus felt doubt, or the weight of the world on his shoulders, or needed clarification, he went to the desert or climbed a mountain or simply separated himself from the crowd and his disciples. Jesus meditated in stillness and prayed to God for clarity and strength. To cultivate a heart like Jesus, one must turn to God for guidance and strength.
Second, the heart discerns the Truth. When Christ prayed for the cup of execution to be removed from his role, not only did the heart not reveal any other path but it immediately called soldiers led by Judas to arrest him. While the idea of persecution and martyrdom was not desirable, Jesus surrendered to the guidance he received because he trusted in the Truth which was being expressed.
Jesus took three disciples with him to pray that fateful evening. He asked them to “watch”. While it’s easy to say they were there just to witness the events, an interesting “what if” is to consider any role these three may have played in affirming the crucifixion of Jesus. What if these three had believed their Master when he told them multiple times of his execution and what if they had prayed with him instead of falling asleep. Would four men calling upon God to rewrite the history of Jews been sufficient to create a different outcome. Intensity in prayer and surrender to God’s will results in leading a life centered on Truth.
Third, the heart is the keeper of God’s ideal. When renovating an historical building, the architect will refer to the original blueprints to see what was intended by the initial design. By the time his public mission began about the standard age for a Jewish male to become a rabbi (30 years of age), Jesus had no doubt regarding who held the blueprint for creation (God) and who was actively destroying anything that followed the blueprint (Satan). When healing the ailments of countless individuals, Jesus affirmed to follow God’s law not the deception of the evil one. To foster a Christ-like heart, one must trust in and try to discern the perfection God intended for his creation.
Fourth, the quality of Christ’s alignment with God through his heart is revealed by the light he manifested everywhere he went. Like moths to a flame, people who had no intention of becoming a disciple were drawn to see Jesus in person. The mere presence of Jesus transformed his environment. The heart’s treasure is revealed through one’s environment. Christ’s environment was continually improved to express more of God’s perfect love for humanity.
Fifth, the individuality of the example Jesus gave to the world will outlast creation itself. Not only do scriptures attest to the Divine Kingship of Jesus (one who masters himself masters creation), but also to the pre- and post-creation existence of Christ Jesus. To reclaim one’s birthright as a child of God, each Christian must touch God’s heart.
While any parent will tell stories of the willfulness of a child from a very young age, Jesus often elevated children as examples to be followed. Here, Christ compares himself to a child with a heart that is not confused by the reasoning of men.
But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” — Luke 9:47–48
Please read the introduction to this series on “The Lost Heart of Christ”.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Be sure to buy my book. “Sin No More: A Pragmatic Approach to Loving Christ” by Ed Sharrow on Amazon.