Getting to the Heart by Way of Obedience

As human beings, you and I were created with both a brain and a heart—with intellect and with emotion. True Christianity speaks to both these capacities, revealing truth about God while also teaching us to love both our God and our neighbor. Yet because Christians are still individual people, with our own characteristic strengths and weaknesses, for many of us either the intellectual or the emotional comes more naturally than the other.

In my own part of the church, as we rightly emphasize the importance of theological study, we are often in danger of sliding into a dry knowledge of abstract truths with little joy or love to go along with them. Yet, as James warns, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (2:19). Theological knowledge by itself just isn’t enough; it can neither satisfy our souls nor put us in right relation to our God.

When we recognize that our Christian life is out of balance—that we have a full head above a cold heart, or at least a tendency in that direction—it is natural to seek to rebalance ourselves by trying to stir up warmth in our own hearts. We buy devotional books which are long on feeling and short on theology, or we sit through worship desperately sifting the singing and preaching for little embers of emotion which may fire our own hearts. We try to will ourselves to feel by raw effort, and usually all we end up feeling is tired and discouraged.

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