July 28, 2013

God grants the desires of a transformed heart

It is often said that women don’t know what we want. Usually it is men that say it, but sometimes I must admit that I don’t know what I want. This happens most often when I am in a spiritual battle about something, a battle between my old sinful nature and the new nature given to me by the Spirit of God. The Bible is clear which one should be allowed to win, but sometimes those old I-wants can be exceedingly strong.

The Bible says that if I delight in God, He will give me, or put into me the desires of my heart. That is, He will change my I-wants into things He wants.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

I’ve always understood this verse this way, that it is about changed desires, but this morning I looked up the meaning of the Hebrew word that is translated “desires.” It means “requests, petitions.”

I am surprised. Is this verse actually saying that God will give me what I want? My study Bible says that some take “the desires” as referring to the feeling of desire, i.e., “God will shape your heart so that it desires the right things”; but the sense is rather, “He will give you what your heart desires.” It is safe to say this to those who embrace the advice of this psalm, because as they delight themselves in the LORD, their hearts will desire the right things.

That means that right desires are assumed for the person who delights in God. This verse is not about desires,  but about assurance of answered prayer. God will answer the prayers of those who delight in Him. If I put Him in His rightful place in my life, then my prayers will align with His will and the answers will be given to me. More Scripture verses carry the same sense…

You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah (Psalm 21:2)
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145:19)

Obviously, this is not talking about the desires of my old sinful self. When I am walking in the flesh, that list of I-wants is harmful if not disgusting. However, when I am obedient to the Holy Spirit, those I-wants align with the will of God. They are expressions of love for Him and others, and give me great joy.

Why then would I not delight in God all the time and thus have all godly desires fulfilled? Just asking that question shows a clinging ignorance of the power of sin and the need for the saving power of Jesus Christ. Some strongholds linger in my life, some “I want what I want” places that pop up every now and then and try to throw me off in my relationship to the Lord. I’m certain every Christian has them. We call them “besetting sins” and know their power. However, the Bible says to lay them aside, put them off.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… (Hebrews 12:1)
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22–24)
The image is like a change of clothing. When I was in high school, I noticed that when I dressed up (rather than jeans or sloppy) I felt more like working. The same principle applies with putting off the old. When I do, it is much easier to delight in God — and to enjoy the answers He gives to the desires of my heart.

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