“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” – 1 Timothy 1:5
A pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faith—these are all possible to attain in this life. It’s these very things that Paul tells Timothy his goal in preaching should be; to produce pure hearts, good consciences, and sincere faith in the lives of his hearers.
I’ve been learning that this is actually possible in this life, although I doubted it for the longest time. And you know what has helped me to see the most transformation in my heart, conscience, and faith?
For the first 7.5 years of my walk with Christ, I learned an abundance of doctrine and theology and knowledge that has provided a great foundation for my faith. Yet it’s been the taking of those doctrines and ideas and truths and actually applying them to my life that has been the most rewarding experience, far and above the learning of the truths themselves.
For example, three years ago I could explain in great detail the doctrine of the immanence of God. But it’s when I actually sat back and pondered the practical implications of that doctrine that I began to realize the actual affects it has for our lives. I began to pray actually believing that God was near, close by, conversing with me. I began to fast truly believing that my sustenance didn’t come from food alone, but that it’s “in Him that I live and move and have my being” (Acts 17:28). These vertical ideas began to take on horizontal dimensions in my life and what I feel I’ve stumbled into are the beginning steps toward a truly holistic Christian life, one that affects not only my mind or my worldview, but my heart, my soul, my very being.
The beautiful part of all this is that I’ve not had to jettison any of the rich theology or doctrinal heritage I’ve discovered and adopted along the way. John Piper, David Platt, Matt Chandler–all these men, and many more, helped me early on in my walk to build a solid, biblical, little “r” reformed foundation with which to understand God, Jesus, the Bible, and the Christian life. What I feel God is doing, though, is building upon that foundation. He’s taking all that I’ve learned and putting it into actual use. His grace towards me has not been in vain and what I’ve found over the last three years is that, slowly but surely, I’ve been finding myself developing a more pure heart, a more clean conscience, and a more sincere faith. I’ve not become “holier than thou”, I’m far from perfect and have a long way to go, but I have seen progress. I’ve not become some “crazy charismatic”, although that charge has been levied. I’ve just become to believe that the Spirit of God actually indwells me and lives in me and empowers me to live a holy life. I’ve tried to take my beliefs beyond just lip service. I’ve not been duped into any harmful form of “mysticism”, although I’ve been warned of that by well-meaning brothers. I’ve just come to actually apply action to my belief that the Kingdom of God is a present reality that I can enjoy now, it’s not some glimmering hope in the dim future, it’s currently within my grasp.
Of course I’ve had several guides along the way. It all started when I read “Recapturing the Wonder” by Mike Cosper which led me to pick up “Desiring the Kingdom” by James K.A. Smith (and subsequently the whole trilogy). Both of these books were paradigm-shifting for me in the way I understood myself and the means of grace God has given me to become more like Christ. And from there I began reading everything I could get my hands on regarding spiritual formation. Dallas Willard (who’s “Renovation of the Heart” inspired the title of this post) and A.W. Tozer have been invaluable guides. Eugene Peterson has been refreshing and life-giving. Pete Scazerro, David Naugle, Craig Troxel, and Robert Saucy have all helped me see my heart as something to be actively shaped and formed through practice and discipline and cooperation with the Spirit. And the teachings of John Mark Comer have seemed to me to be a synthesis of everything I’ve been learning from all the others I’ve mentioned. Most of these guys are what many would claim to be “outside of my tribe”, but as my heart is being renovated, I think the room that contained that whole category will be done away with. Hopefully.
I’m finding that the way of Jesus is actually that: a way of living that leads us to experience the greatest flourishing a human being can experience this side of heaven. And I’ve never been more optimistic about the future.