Romans 6:17. But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
The death of the old self and our resurrection to freedom from sin brings with it the New Creation. Christian, you have a new heart. As a result, your obedience can now be from the heart.
This is only made possible by God himself – thanks be to God. God didn’t try to convince you to obey so that over time your heart would change. No. He changed your heart in one bold move – crucifixion and resurrection with Christ. He gave you a new heart instantly by his grace. A pure heart. A heart that is one with Christ’s. We are not sinless or perfect (yet), but our heart is new. Our deepest desire is for God and for his righteousness. This is the promise of the New Covenant – “I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” God has given us a heart that treasures him and his truth above all else. Back in chapter 2 Paul spoke of this need in our lives. The need for a new heart.
Romans 2:29. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
Now, by our death and resurrection with Christ, we have the new heart. He has freed us from Sin and he has empowered us for obedience. Real, pure obedience. Real love. Real righteousness. Obedience with no other goal in mind other than the glory of God. No self-promotion for we are already promoted. No self-righteousness for we are already righteous. No self-worth for we are already worthy. Only obedience for the sake of God’s glory and the good of others. This is your new heart.
With the new heart comes a new affection. Not just new knowledge. Not just new behavior. But a new desire to obey. A new slavery born from love. A new imprisonment freely chosen.
Yes, Christians are slaves. But they are slaves who want to be slaves. Their obedience is from the heart. It is wholehearted trust that becomes wholehearted obedience. Obedience under grace is always voluntary. Never coerced. Just like Christ himself, who obeyed from his own will, we too obey from our freedom.
Listen to how poet John Donne describes his heart and his need to be imprisoned to God:Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend; That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new I, like an usurpt town to’another due, Labor to’admit you , but oh, to no end, Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend, But is captived, and proves weak or untrue. Yet dearly’I love you, and would be loved fain, But am betrothed unto your enemy: Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I Except you’enthrall me, never shall be free, Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
“To live is Christ” is to be enthralled and ravished by Christ so that all obedience is from this new affection. Not guilt. Not obligation. Not law. Just love. Love that comes from knowing you are forever loved.
Do you see your obedience as “heartfelt?” How does union with Christ give us a new heart, a new affection? Can you identify this new affection in your own life?