When the Bible talks about receiving a new heart, what does that mean?
In general, the term heart is used to describe a person's soul—the mind, will, and emotions. In the Bible, it can also be referred to as the "inner self" (2 Corinthians 4:16). We were created in the image of God and, ideally, our hearts should mirror His so that we may be like Him (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9). However, this is not our hearts' natural inclination. The longer our fleshly sinful hearts are left to their own devices, the more they become like stone toward God; we need to receive new ones (Zechariah 7:12). When we study the Bible, we can learn what receiving a new heart from God will do.
The book of Ezekiel mentions the concept of a "new heart" several times (e.g., Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26). In Ezekiel 11:19, God says: "And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh." In this Ezekiel reference, God is talking to a Hebrew people who have been scattered. He is promising to restore them to their land into a right relationship with Him. Just as they have been physically divided as a people, their hearts have been divided in their devotion to Him. Upon receiving a new heart, they will be capable of being obedient to God's commands (Ezekiel 11:20). This sentiment is echoed in Jeremiah 24:7, which says: "I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart."
When Saul was anointed as king of Israel by the prophet Samuel, he received a new heart from God (1 Samuel 10:1, 9). Saul's new heart enabled the things Samuel had prophesied to come to pass. Receiving a new heart from God is about transformation into the image of our Creator: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). As our hearts are transformed by God, we are able to discern His will and accomplish His purposes for us. When we receive a new heart, we must renew our minds with God's Word (Romans 12:2; Philippians 2:12–13; 4:8).
God has requirements of us: "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). We cannot fulfill them with our own strength. In order to fully turn our hearts to the Lord, we must receive a new heart. This happens when we surrender our hearts to God and are saved by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. Another name for this is being born again (John 3:3). God the Father draws us to the point of salvation (John 6:44). When we are saved, we receive a new heart and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, enabling us to know God and live for Him (John 14:15–17; 2 Corinthians 3:18). There will always be a battle between our heart's fleshly desires and God's Spirit that is within us. As we renew our minds, our hearts become more and more inclined toward the things that will please God. Receiving a new heart enables us to be obedient to God, to fulfill His plans, and become more like Him.
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