With all our life hacks, kitchen hacks, and travel hacks, we often try to hack our spiritual lives, too. But as Richard J. Foster reminds us in Sanctuary of the Soul—free this month on Faithlife Ebooks—we can’t hack, program, or microwave our spiritual and devotional growth.
Only God can form and transform our hearts—and we desperately need him to do so.
Here’s an excerpt from Sanctuary of the Soul.
As we consider the transformation of the human heart, we need to keep two central realities clearly in mind. To begin with, we simply cannot program our own heart. We cannot program anyone else’s heart. There is a whole theology that stands behind these statements. I will not go into extreme detail here; I will just state it in this flatfooted manner: You are not in charge of the transformation of your heart. Neither am I. This is God’s domain, and you and I are utterly dependent on God to accomplish the work of heart transformation. We can want heart transformation and seek after heart transformation. Those certainly are good things to do. But the truth is we do not make transformation happen. God does.
Second, the human heart itself is part of our problem. We are, each and every one of us, a tangled mass of motives: hope and fear, faith and doubt, simplicity and duplicity, honesty and falsity, openness and guile. God knows our heart in ways we can never know. Supernatural abilities are needed to untangle the mess. God is the only one who can separate the true from the false. Only God can purify the motives of the heart.
So, you see, we are utterly, utterly dependent upon God to do this transforming work in us: the work of heart purity, of soul conversion, of inward formation, of life transformation. This solitary and interior work within the heart is the most important, the most real, the most lasting reality in human life.
Therefore, the devotional masters’ [such as Theophan the Recluse, Madame Guyon, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer] constant appeal to heart purification speaks an important word for us. It is no vain thing for us to return to our first love over and over and over again. It is an act of faith to continually cry out to God to search us and to know our heart and to root out every wicked way in us (Ps 139:23–24). This is a vital aspect of the salvation of the Lord.
Let me stress this central reality once again: God is the ultimate form-er and trans-former of the human heart. Having said this, I hasten to add that God has graciously invited you and me to participate in this highest, deepest work of heart transformation. Remember, God does not come uninvited. If certain chambers of our heart have never experienced God’s healing touch, perhaps it is because we have never welcomed the divine Scrutiny.
Pick up your copy of Richard J. Foster’s Sanctuary of the Soul—June’s free book from Faithlife Ebooks.