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The Open Heart - 2 Cor. 5:14-6:13

One of our prayers this year has been that God would open doors for us to share the gospel. But an open door by itself is not enough; you must have an open heart! An open heart describes a posture of love that desires good for your neighbors, especially their eternal good. An open heart wants others to be saved! So in light of 2 Cor. 5-6, I want you to ask this question: Do I have an open heart?

The default answer for all of us is “no.” We are born with closed, selfish hearts that love ourselves far more than we love others. Unless the love of Christ controls us as in 5:14, the love of self controls us, and self-love is the defining characteristic of a closed heart. We are inward-focused, not outward-focused. This is our natural fallen state, and it takes a miracle of grace to open our hearts.

The good news is that when God makes us new creations in Christ, then the love of Christ controls us, and our hearts are opened! When we encounter the good news that God sent Jesus to die for sinners like us and reconcile us to God, we are experiencing God’s open heart towards us in Christ. That love changes the way we look at the world, and it opens our hearts to love and serve our neighbors.

When this happens, as v. 15 says, we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. This is how our naturally closed hearts open up. Our self-love is overwhelmed by love for Christ. And now that we are living for Christ, God has given us a particular calling towards other people: our open-hearted God is reconciling the whole world to Himself in Christ, and He entrusts that message to us as His ambassadors (5:18-20). If we find ourselves struggling to get the message across, the first place we should look is at our own hearts. A closed-hearted people will never do a good job representing an open-hearted God!

And because the love of Christ controls us, and not our love for ourselves, we carry out our role as ambassadors in a self-sacrificial way. The open heart avoids placing obstacles in anyone’s way, and it endures hardships for the sake of others. An open heart looks at our neighbor and says “I will do all the work, I will take all the risks, I will suffer all the hardships, so that you can enjoy the blessing of knowing God.” So ask yourself again: Do I have an open heart?

In 6:11-13, hear Paul’s exhortation: “Our heart is wide open towards you; now widen your hearts, too.” Open hearts open hearts. God’s open heart opened your heart; when you share Christ’s open heart with others, that’s how God will open their heart, too. Out love for Christ, open your heart!

And here’s how: First, repent of a closed heart, and all of those moments in which you choose to live for yourself. Ask God to forgive you for having a cold heart that is far too slow to care about those who are without hope and without God in the world.

Second, remember Christ’s love for you. Remember that Jesus died for you and was raised to life for your sake. Remember that because of Christ, you are a new creation! Let God’s open heartedness towards you take control of your affections, so that your heart starts to widen!

Third, pray for an open heart. Ask God to soften your heart by His Spirit, to widen your heart through His word, and to guide your heart through the godly examples of His people.

Fourth, prepare your heart for endurance. God never promises that having an open heart will be fun. Jesus died of an open heart; dying to self is what having an open heart means. The closed heart uses hardships as excuses, but the open heart counts it all joy.

Finally, open your heart by showing the love that you feel, or by acting like it until you feel it. Sometimes, your heart will lead your hands into action, but sometimes your hands will have to disciple your heart. Even if you don’t feel like reaching out, let engaging in acts of love push open the door of your heart.

Before you will become the kind of person who walks through an open door, you need to cultivate an open heart. The closed heart produces a million excuses, but the open heart overcomes a million obstacles, because the love of Christ controls us. The heart of God is wide open to you in Christ. So in return, widen your hearts also.

Posted on Wednesday, November 07, 2018 by CJ Bowen