Wide Open Heart by Deborah Ann Saint
“…give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (Proverbs 23:26 ESV).
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return widen your hearts also”
(2 Corinthians 6:11-13 ESV Emphasis Mine)
These verses call us to give our hearts to God and to widen our hearts to others. As I reflect on the events in that clinic, I realize I did not actively seek an opportunity to speak to this coughing man. My heart was not wide open to him. In truth, I was partly relieved and partly sad that I did not speak to him. In my deepest heart, I wondered what I would say to him. (I guess, I did not believe I could make a difference. That showed me I was trusting in “my house of cards”-that his response was somehow my responsibility and not God’s.) It seemed a relief that I was not given an opportunity. Clearly I was in conflict.
I asked questions of myself that you might want to ask of yourself as well: “How wide-open is my heart?” God wants us to enlarge our hearts? How do you and I accomplish it?
For me, widening my heart begins with an admission of my need for change. I must repent and then turn to Christ for more faith to believe that He brings results. I simply need to be willing to share and be persistent to follow through and depend on The Lord. I pray for a wider opened heart, moved to action in caring and to sharing Christ.
The truth of how much God loves me despite my failures, and how He has forgiven me and given me mercy and grace, compels me to want to share my faith with others. However, I feel inadequate about how to share Jesus and the gospel to people. I have lived religiously so long “in my house of cards” that I need revival in my life and a new dependence on the Holy Spirit.
When I was writing my first book The Elephant Gospel, a pastor encouraged me to engage the LGBTQ community with the truth of the gospel. Joining a ministry for Christians with an LGBTQ history and hearing their stories, made clear to me my shortcomings and my inability in myself to make any difference at all, unless the Holy Spirit was at work in me. I found my work-based faith hindered God’s Spirit. Due to “my works and pride” I confess that I have treated others as less than or inferior. Sadly, I was self-righteous, fearful and judgmental. (This is similar to the way church people have sometimes treated me in the past.) By interacting with others with similar histories as mine, I faced my worst self: my worst sins. I had to identify with those whose life experiences were similar to mine. I had to learn how to live the gospel by extending grace to myself and to them. I had to grow through the Holy Spirit in a way I had not known before.
The adage, “Children learn what they live” is true in my life. I have been indoctrinated into “works-based” Christianity and I have focused on what I am doing, rather than focusing completely on the Lord. My works were my “house of cards”. To die to self and live for Christ is not just another expression or Bible verse, it is an act of God, (and the truth of God) at work in born-again believers.
When I was treated by other Christians with self-righteous, prideful, religious, unloving, and unaccepting attitudes, I was never drawn to Christ. I know these attitudes will not help others either. It is no wonder so many want nothing to do with Jesus when they are confronted with those with these attitudes and approaches. God’s people often do not represent Him well. (Sadly, myself included.) I pray to give my heart more fully to the Lord to be open-hearted and allow His Holy Spirit to change me and for Him to do what only He can by His Spirit.
In America, many people know about Jesus but are turned off with “Christians” who show little, if any, evidence of the love and life of Christ. It seems familiarity with these type Christians has bred contempt for Christ. People seem to know the words of John 3:16 but not the reality of this truth. Unless those who don’t know the Lord see transformation in us who do know Him, and unless they feel love from us, they will never want to know the Truth. It is as if we are preaching a different gospel instead of the Truth. We want to represent Christ well by allowing Him to be in control. Let us ask of our Heavenly Father for more of His Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:13, Acts 8:14-17)
We do not want it said of us, what Paul said of the Galatians:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As I said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9 KJV Emphasis Mine).
“For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough”
(2 Corinthians 11:4 ESV Emphasis Mine)
But instead we want to live the great commission with these truths at work in our lives and in our messages:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV Emphasis Mine)
Most people in America have someone in their family, friends or sphere of influence who have completely different lifestyles and world-views. How we were raised, our life experiences and what we thus believe affects how we interact and relate to others. The biggest challenge in my life and in this book is: Are we willing to relate and live the gospel, the truth, to those who are different from us, in their lifestyles and beliefs?
How do we, as believers in Christ, show God’s love and live true to His Word in the midst of church and cultural divisions due to differing beliefs and world views?
Since opening up my story to first one person, then another trusted person, then a few people, then a small group, then larger groups and now open to the public by the book The Elephant Gospel, I have learned that the more I tell my story, the freer I become. I am more accepting of the truth of who I have been and more aware of the forgiveness, grace and mercy I have received from the Lord. Sadly, I have also learned that telling my real story has brought judgments, rejection, disappointments, risks, bad advice, abuses—and a feeling that the gospel is on trial in all of us. As Christians, we are called to live Christ and share Christ in the truest sense of the gospel.
Have you ever seen the movie Overboard with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell? I love this movie! To me, the best thing about the movie is that after horrible trauma to include amnesia, betrayal, abuse, and a near death experience, Joanna, the main character, is no longer the same woman she once was. She has come to experience love and compassion and has broken out of her old existence into an experience of purpose, love, and hope like she has never known.
In the movie, Joanna sees the truth of who she used to be and how she had been living by the standards she was taught to live. Her perspectives had been so narrow and limited. She came to see how much richer and more fulfilling life can be when love and purpose are involved.
“A God kind of transformation” has happened to me through sufferings, and different situations that caused me to wake up and be willing to see the futility of self-works-based—futile-type living. I then began to live the true gospel to myself and others. I have in a sense, jumped off the ship of works-based religion and its judgments. I have embraced the truth of who I used to be and how what I had been taught was not all there is to know. Life is much richer and more fulfilling when the Spirit of God is at work and love, truth and gospel purpose are involved.
Understanding myself and gaining peace with my past are being achieved through the Gospel. I know where I have been, that God’s plans are good, and where I am going (Jeremiah 29:11; John 14;1-3). I have experienced that the gospel is precious, that Jesus is real, and life can be good. I believe the Lord reveals Himself and His gospel to us more and more as we walk with Him and He teaches us His Truth. He promises to guide us into all Truth. Jesus is the good Life.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come”
(John 16:13 ESV).
“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11 NIV).
”…Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (John 8:31-32 NIV).
LORD, help us know Your heart of love for us. Please help us give You our hearts to open them wide. We love because You first loved us (1 John 4:19). Help Your love show in our lives. Help us understand to a greater measure the wonder of Your love at the Cross and our receiving Your gift and sacrifice for us! Help us recognize to a greater revelation the result of receiving You is “being born from above”: having the Holy Spirit indwell us! Please help us live in and from this born from above state in communion/relationship with You, Lord Jesus and Your Father. Please make the presence of the Holy Spirit real to us and apparent in us. We ask for more of the Holy Spirit to manifest in and through us. (Luke 11:13) Cause our salvation experience and its transformation to be evident in us. Teach us Your way, Lord, that we may rely on Your faithfulness; give me/us an undivided heart, that I/we may fear Your name and hold to Your teachings. Let our eyes observe Your ways, to know Your truth and be free. Let us not be restricted in our own affections. Cause us to be willing for our affections to be for You and Your kingdom. Help us believe Your plans for us are good and help us consider Heaven now and in our future. Help us speak freely to others as Paul did to the Corinthians with our hearts wide open. May we decrease so You will increase in us, Lord (John 3:30). May we be willing to truly show Your heart to the world. May a widening of our hearts to others demonstrate Your heart of Love to them, In Jesus Name, Amen.