The Gift of a New Heart
Nate Danser testifies to his own journey at Pure Life and the work that God did in him to give him a new heart. He shows from Scripture that this is what regeneration in Christ is all about, and that freedom from sin does not come without that new heart.
Jim: Nate Danser is with me in the studio today. Nate is Media Outreach Director here at Pure Life, and we're going to talk today about the gift of a new heart. Nate, I want to begin our time together by reading the Scripture, three passages from the prophet Ezekiel.
He writes in chapter 11:
When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. Ezekiel 11:18-20
And this one is from chapter 18:
Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live. Ezekiel 18:31-32
And finally from chapter 36:
For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from 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 be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24-28
In every one of these passages the prophet is talking about dealing with the sin and rebellion of Israel in exile by God giving them the gift of a new heart. Nate, what is your immediate reaction to these wonderful passages of scripture about the gift of a new heart?
Nate: Well, I can keep it really short and really simple. This is extremely good news. That's the way it strikes me, and these kinds of passages have been of tremendous encouragement to me personally, because anyone who begins to understand that sin comes from within, and really gets a sight of the fact that it's the heart that is the problem, then the promise of a new heart is really encouraging.
<pull-quote>For anyone who begins to understand that sin comes from within, and really gets a sight of the fact that it's the heart that is the problem, then the promise of a new heart is really encouraging.<pull-quote><tweet-link>Tweet This<tweet-link>
Jim: Now before we talk about the gift of a new heart, and we will get there, I want you to share with our listeners how is it he'll dealt with a particular issue that was brought to him over and over again by the children of Israel they had a saying, and you're going to share with us what that is, but it was their way of blaming their situation, blaming their problem, and even blaming their own sins on the actions of their fathers before them. How did Ezekiel deal with this issue?
Nate: Well, he had a word come to him from the Lord, and God said, “What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore. “Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die. (Ezekiel 18.1-4) And one thing I'll just mention, because I think it's maybe helpful. There is a sense in which it was very natural for the children of Israel to think this way, for a couple of reasons. One, because God had said that He would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation, and He had also demonstrated that at times the judgment that came about because of a particular person's sin was postponed and dealt with at a different time on a different generation. And so, it wasn't as if they had no precedent for this. But the problem was, as you mentioned, they were using it to excuse their own guilt and to put an accusing eye toward God, as if He was not righteous or just.
Jim: And, of course, the situation that you're in, in exile, is the children who are born in exile say, “We didn't get here; our father's sin is what brought us here! It’s not my fault! It's my father's fault that I do what I do. How does that show up in our culture today?
Nate: Well we don't use this proverb ourselves, but the heart of it still shows up in the lives of many people, because it is absolutely human nature to think highly of ourselves and to think lowly of other people -- as if, “Oh, I would never do this on my own! Something must have happened to me that would cause me to be this way.” And so, we see this in the whole nature vs nurture debate in the psychological community. We see it in people who are always pointing towards a father wound or a mother wound, as if the way that their parents treated them made it impossible for them to turn out any different than they have. And I do want to say that I understand that there is a very real effect upon a person's life when they are mistreated, misunderstood, neglected, abused, abandoned -- those things are very, very real. But as Christians, we have to be very careful that we don't excuse our own sin by blaming someone else, and the most compelling example that I've ever heard was to look at the life of Jesus, because there's no one who's ever been as mistreated, as misunderstood, as neglected, as abused as Jesus was, and He was sinless. And so, what it shows is that there is the real possibility of living above our circumstances, living above the way we've been treated, and we definitely see that in our world today people constantly wanting to blame someone else for their own sin.
<pull-quote>There's no one who's ever been as mistreated, as misunderstood, as neglected, as abused as Jesus was, and He was sinless.<pull-quote><tweet-link>Tweet This<tweet-link>
Jim: Regardless of what happened to you in the past, regardless of what kind of parents you had, what kind of upbringing, what kind of socio-economic background you have, there comes a point when you have to stand up and take responsibility for your own behavior.
Nate: Yeah, that's right, and what is tragic is that many people spend years and years, decades, focusing on someone else to excuse their own sin, and they only become more and more bound, more and more enslaved, and so, when we blame someone else, what we're really wanting is, we're were hoping that by blaming someone else we will get out of the situation that we're in. “If I can just figure out the root cause, which is this person, then I should be free,” but what happens is the absolute opposite. The more you blame someone else, the more you excuse yourself, the worse off you become.
Jim: The bad news is that your sin is your problem and it's your fault. The good news is that once you take ownership, then God is able to do something about it in your life.
Nate: Yeah, and isn't it amazing how many times we see that in the Residential Program? That as soon as a person says, “It's my fault,” then the healing and the transformation begins to flood in.
Jim: Alright, now, God intends to solve our sin problem through giving us a new heart. How does he do that, Nate? Tell me from the New Testament, how God gives us a new heart?
Nate: Well, before I go there, let me mention something about the heart. because in Scripture the heart is essentially the very center of the person. And so, like I mentioned at the very beginning, when you begin to realize that your heart is the problem, what you are saying is that the very core of my being is the problem. And when that begins to become a reality, well, it can be pretty traumatic for people because they begin to realize that there's no help, there's no hope inside of me, because to the very deepest level that's where the corruption is coming from. There's nothing below that to reform. I can't get down there deep enough to really change things around. I need something completely brand new, and that is what God promises to give us. He promised us to make the change at the deepest part of our being, at the very center. That's where the healing is going to come from, not from the outside in but from the inside out, and that's what regeneration is all about: receiving a very new supernatural center of our being. And when you study out the Scriptures, what you find out is that, that is the Holy Spirit. That's what he's promising to give us is the Holy Spirit at the center of our being, so that from our inmost being, rivers of living water are springing out of us. Instead of corruption flowing out of us, now there's living water, there's a healing, there's a spiritual life flowing out from the center of our being, and that's how he solves our sin problem, is by removing the center of that corruption and putting in that place spiritual life in the Holy Spirit.
Jim: Well, Nate, I want you to make this personal for us in just this way: you were raised in the church, came from a Christian family, went to a Christian college, you were active in church, you were a worship leader; you had all the outside trappings of a good Christian kid. You were just hooked on pornography. And when you came to Pure Life, you experienced a radical conversion. Walk through that experience for us, and describe how that happened for you here.
Nate: Ok. I came to Pure Life high on myself, there was no question about that, thinking I was a great guy, and couldn't wait to get through this program in 5 months and become even greater. And so, at about month four (this is going to be the super Cliff Notes version), I started to entertain the idea that maybe I wasn't as great a person as I thought I was and that I probably needed something inside to happen. Ad so I just simply asked the Lord, “Please move into my life,” (essentially). Now what I expected was, I expected that I would go from great to greatness, but what happened was, my spiritual eyes came wide open to the sinfulness of my life, the sinfulness of my heart, the depravity of my character. I could suddenly begin to see God in His holiness and His righteousness, His purity, His love, His humility, and I started to realize that I was the opposite of all of those things.
Jim: You were none of those.
Nate: I was none of those, and I didn't know how to become those things. What I did at first was I tried, I tried to become more righteous, more holy, pure, humble, all those things, and instead of getting any better … it seemed like I was only getting worse and worse and worse as I tried to become those things. And so, after about a 4 or a 5 month period of, at times, terrible anguish of soul, I finally let everything down, all the facades, all the effort, and I just came to God as simply as I knew, and I said, “I have no idea how to even have a relationship with You.” And that is when the cross became real to me. That's when I understood why, why the cross, because His nature and my nature were so opposite that there was no possibility of a relationship, there was no possibility of fellowship or communion, and the cross was God's solution. It was His way of saying, “I will become what you are, so that we can have a relationship, and you can become like I am. And when He revealed that to me, in just such a simple way I could finally understand it, and for the first time I put my faith in that thing that He had done. That that was my answer, and I don't know how to explain it exactly, but when I woke up the next morning, everything was new.
Jim: That's right. Now Nate, I think when the average person and even the average Christian in the church today listens to that story, that sounds like a pretty radical conversion to them. Doesn't it also occur to you like it does to me, that that is the exact experience that God wants every person to have, that should be the normal experience of coming to Christ.
Nate: Yeah, absolutely, because what was so real to me, when I woke up the next morning, was not that I was new, but that there was someone new in me, and it was as if I could see Jesus inside my soul. I don't know how to explain that, but I knew that a person was there. It wasn't that I became something great; it was that there was a person there that was pure and holy and righteous, and that was completely new for me. I had never experienced anything like that.
Jim: Regeneration, a new beginning, a new heart, becoming a new creature: it's all described in the New Testament. It's supposed to be the experience for every person who comes to Christ. Why does it seem like it's so unusual these days?
Nate: You know the thing that preceded that, was the horrifying reality that I was all wrong. Not just certain behaviors, but me, to the core, all of that was wrong. And I knew that something had to change. I just wasn't sure what it was. And so those months of crying out to God, that was crucial for me, because that experience didn't come because I realized, “I've made some mistakes, and who hasn't, and I want to go to heaven.” That experience came from a deep yearning to have something other than me in place of me. And that was God's answer was to give me Himself as the solution for my sin.
<pull-quote>They’re mortal enemies, there is no peace between the new heart and the flesh nature, there can be no peace, and we were not called to peace we're called to war.<pull-quote><tweet-link>Tweet This<tweet-link>
Jim: Okay now, you not only testify, but you give evidence of the fact, that you have been truly converted. God the Holy Spirit has invaded your life and taken over, praise God. But you also have said to me on a few occasions, and publicly here at Pure Life on many occasions, that when you came to Christ as a new creature, that’s when the battle started. That's when life started to get tough. Talk about that. Why did the battle start once you were saved?
Nate: Well, even though God gives us a new heart, what is still very, very real, is indwelling sin and a corrupted nature. So, God takes out the center of the corruption, and puts inside something new, but that something new is still dwelling within a flesh that is corrupt, that hates righteousness, that hates God, that would be happy to go to hell. And so. that's why the battle begins, because now, you actually have something that's righteous and holy that wants heaven, that wants purity, that wants holiness, and it is surrounded by a nature and a flesh that wants exactly the opposite. So, it's like the children of Israel going into the Promised Land; they took possession of the land, and yet there were all of these enemies that had to be driven out. There were all of these things in that land that stood against the things the children of Israel were created to stand for, and so that opposition always means war. They’re mortal enemies, there is no peace between the new heart and the flesh nature, there can be no peace, and we were not called to peace we're called to war.
Jim: The Bible calls it enmity; the flesh hates the spirit, the spirit hates the flesh, and they're always at battle with one another. So tell me, you're still in the battle.
Jim: What does victory look like?
Nate: Well, you know one thing I've been so encouraged, from people who have been in the battle a lot longer than me, because I'll tell you, there were days I was so discouraged that I felt like I just going to quit. “This is too much, I can't handle this. There's so much pride; There's so much self-centeredness; There's so much apathy, There's love of the world; there's lust. There’s envy...”
And I mean it's when I became a Christian, that's when I became so even more aware of the sin that was in me, not less aware. And I would be very discouraged at times just I can't fight all of these enemies and there's no way I'm going to overcome all this stuff. And I was so encouraged from people who had been in the battle longer than me. “Nate what God is looking for is that you never quit never, you never stop identifying those enemies, you never stop putting those things under your feet by an act of your will. ‘I will not let you dominate my life,’ and you never stop seeking to live the life that is laid out for us in Scripture.” And so, victory looks like every single morning, in my heart, getting on my face before God: “I'm a sinner! I'm in need of mercy! I'm in need of strength and communing with Him and then going out into that day with just a general heart attitude that “I want to live for You today Lord; I'm not going to be satisfied to live self-centeredly, selfishly, sinfully, but my life – “I'm going to do war today. I'm going to do battle today. I'm going to grow. I'm going to be the less focused on myself today than I was yesterday. I'm going to be more eternally-minded today than I was yesterday.” And each day, just having that kind of heart-attitude, and I can say, “Yeah, I'll say gladly, that I have had periods of my life where I was regressing; where I did give in, where I did allow my flesh nature to get the upper hand, and God, in His mercy has, year after year, drawn me back to Himself and said, “Nate, I've called you to higher things; I've called you to live a life that's worthy of the Gospel.” And He's just, man, He's been so good to me in that way, to remind me of what the Christian life is really all about, and to give me conviction when I need it, to chasten me when I need it, encourage me when I need it, strengthen me when I need it. He's just done a lot for me in that way, and that is that new heart. That's the way He works. He works in the new heart. The flesh is good for nothing. It is destined to be put off and swallowed up in life, and the heart is the thing that will remain forever. The new heart living with God. In eternity forever.