The Presence of the Kingdom (2)
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36.26, 27
… for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2.13
Mind and heart
The soul—or spirit—is that spiritual entity, unique to each human being, which provides the compass and power for life. Put another way, the choices, decisions, and actions we take each day are not, in the first instance, outwardly determined. They arise from within us, from what we think, what we desire, and what we value.
As we have seen, when a person’s mind is clouded with darkness, the light of truth cannot break through. Thus, all the rest of the soul suffers light-deprivation, and the signals that come to the body from a darkened mind, heart, and conscience will not be such as bring glory to God.
All who believe in Jesus have the mind of Christ. The light of His truth bathes their mind and shines through to enliven all the other aspects of the soul, thus fitting and shaping them for living a Kingdom presence in the world.
But God leaves nothing to chance when He conveys a person into His Kingdom. Not only does He give them the mind of Christ, but He replaces their stony, dead heart, with a living, growing “heart of flesh”, a heart He is able to shape to follow the mindset of Christ into a life of holy desires and God-honoring affections.
The Kingdom presence which begins in the mind also floods the heart as the Spirit of God makes Himself at home in all the soul, bringing the presence of the Kingdom with transforming power.
The heart of the matter
In A Treatise on Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards explained the role of the Spirit of God in the new heart He gives all who believe: “The Spirit of God is given to the true saints to dwell in them, as His proper lasting abode; and to influence their hearts, as a principle of new nature, or as a divine supernatural spring of life and action.” The Spirit of God, dwelling in the new heart of a believer, brings Kingdom power to receive the insights and understandings of the mind of Christ and focus them on new and living affections which express the heart of Jesus Christ.
Edwards continued: “The Scriptures represent the Holy Spirit, not only as moving, and occasionally influencing, the saints, but as dwelling in them as His temple, His proper abode, and everlasting dwelling-place. And He is represented as being there so united to the faculties of the soul, that He becomes there a principle or spring of a new nature and life.”
We recall that the Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit; therefore, the power He unleashes in the heart is holy power, Christlike power, spiritual power to transform what we desire, hope for, and love into what is compatible with the mind of Christ and the pleasure of God. The more the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit becomes a pervading presence in our mind, the more our heart will glow with the warmth and light and love of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
As important as the mind is in helping us realize a Kingdom presence, the heart is the heart of the matter. Wrong, misguided, or underdeveloped affections can lead us to ignore the Kingdom thoughts of our mind, choosing instead to long for the leeks and garlic of our old way of life. Paul explained that this was what caused the churches in Corinth to become so bogged down in worldly strife: “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections” (2 Cor. 6.12). They desired the wrong things, loved what they should not love, coveted the esteem of the ungodly, and resented their brethren in the Lord.
Paul spoke to the hearts of the Corinthians, exposing and rebuking their wayward affections, renewing their minds in the glory of Jesus, and reminding them that selfless love must be the defining and controlling affection of their hearts.
We are all moved to action by the affections that rule in our heart. If those affections are primarily self-centered, then what we love, desire, long and hope for, will always be directed at what we consider to be best for us. But when our affections are informed by a true understanding of the Kingdom of God—when righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit are the soul-shaping affections in our new heart of flesh—then we will love and desire and have compassion like Jesus did, outward toward others. Thus our affections line up with the pleasure of God, and we become vessels of grace in a world that desperately needs His love.
A renewed mind is essential for understanding righteousness, peace, and joy. But unless the heart inclines to these, goes out toward them, seeks earnestly to possess and prosper in these, the presence of the Kingdom will continue to elude our soul. We can know that our heart is experiencing a Kingdom presence when we desire the good pleasure of God—righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit—above all things.
Edwards argued, “true religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.” And the holy affections we must primarily seek to nurture are love and joy—love for God and Jesus Christ, and joy in doing His pleasure (Ps. 16.11)—together with love for our neighbors and Kingdom joy in serving them well.
When the Kingdom of God is making its presence known in how we think and what we love, we are well on our way not only to knowing the presence of the Kingdom but to being that same presence in all the time and places and with all the people in our lives.
The question we must ask ourselves is: Are we willing for this to be so?
For reflection or discussion
1. What are “affections”? Why do they matter so much?
2. How do the mind of Christ and the new heart of God’s Spirit work together in the soul?
3. How can you tell when “wayward” affections are operating in your soul? What should you do then?
Next steps—Demonstration: Pay attention to the affections that well up from within your heart today. Are they Holy Spirit affections or wayward ones? Offer all your affections to the Lord in prayer whenever you are aware of their operating in you.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study.