My New Heart: Spiritual Lessons
Daniel G. Osborne
I want to thank the many readers of this magazine who have prayed for me during the last two years. The Lord has answered those prayers by giving me a new lease on life. But before we get to that story, let me tell you a little about myself.
I was born and raised in Virginia. I first made public profession of faith in Christ when I was a teenager in our local Baptist church. I am grateful to God for the godly people there who taught me by word and by example. I am grateful also for my parents, who are both believers in Christ (my father is deceased).
While attending King College in Tennessee, I sensed a call to the gospel ministry. After graduation, I married the former Carolyn Goad, for whom I am ever thankful to God. We went to Texas, where I studied for the Master of Divinity degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I began ministry in the pastorate in 1972 and have continued in that calling ever since then. While we were serving in Maryland, the Lord gave us two sons, David (who lives in North Carolina with his wife Jenny and three children) and Jonathan (who lives in the Bronx, New York).
We entered the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1988, accepting a call to the pastorate of Covenant OPC in Grove City, Pennsylvania. In 1996, we moved to New York, where I had been called to be pastor of Westchester OPC in Mount Vernon.
Signs of a Major Heart Problem
In the summer of 1997, a group from our church went to Yankee Stadium for a baseball game. As we walked from the cars to the stadium, we had to climb a high bridge that crossed the street. As we climbed, I lost my breath. I was gasping, in fact, and had to stop walking. I regained my composure and we enjoyed the game. But Carolyn and I knew that I would need to see a doctor soon.
In the office a few days later, the doctor listened to my symptoms and then looked down at my ankles as I sat on the examining table. He saw some swelling and said, "You have a heart problem." So begins the heart story.
After many tests, medications, and procedures, including the installation of two different pacemakers, things settled down somewhat. But I was vulnerable to pneumonia. I was on a very strict diet. At times, what seemed to be the slightest intake of salt would make my ankles swell.
In October 2005, as Carolyn and I were walking to the church building on a Sunday morning, I collapsed. I caught myself on one knee. My blood pressure (90/60 on a good day) was so low that I was dizzy much of the time. We knew I wouldn't be preaching that day. From that point on, every effort was made to make my heart a little more effective, but they failed. I would die of congestive heart failure unless I could get a transplant.
My Heart Transplant
My heart became so weak that surgeons had to install two pumps below my stomach while I waited for a heart. This occurred on November 30, 2005. While I was still recovering from this first open-heart operation, a heart came for me.
On May 7, 2006, the Lord literally gave me a new heart. Surgeons at New York Presbyterian Hospital (Columbia Medical Center) in Manhattan opened my chest, removed my dying heart, and installed a heart removed from a seventeen-year-old who had died. I give thanks to God that he has extended my life a little longer. I give him thanks for my family and friends (especially at Westchester OPC and in the OPC as a whole) for your prayers.
Much earlier in my life, during my teenage years, evidence came to view which showed that the Lord had given me a new spiritual heart. I am the recipient of two new hearts from the Lord. The new physical heart is typical of the new spiritual heart he gave me.
The Lord promises to give to his people a new heart in Ezek. 36:26–27:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of 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 keep My judgments and do them.
Remember also Jeremiah 24:7:
Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart."
Now let's consider some parallels between a new physical heart and a new spiritual heart.
Why We Need a New Heart
First, consider why we need a new heart. I needed a new physical heart because I had a disease known as cardiomyopathy. I was getting weaker and weaker. If I had not received a heart transplant, I would have died.
Why do we need a new spiritual heart? Because our old heart is corrupt (Jer. 17:9). With our old heart, we do not know the Lord (Jer. 24:7). We stray from God and his way of living. If we continue with our old heart, we die spiritually and go to hell (Ezek. 18:30–32).
How We Get a New Heart
Secondly, think about how we get this new heart. It is given to us by the grace of the Lord, and we are passive recipients.
I was passive when I received a new physical heart. Notice that someone had to die. I received a heart from a donor, a person who had been living, but died. That heart had to be given to me out of the goodness of the donor and the donor's family. Some family had to make a great sacrifice for me to live.
Then surgeons had to do the work of putting this heart into my chest and treating me afterwards so that I could live. I was passive in receiving a new physical heart.
We are similarly passive when God gives us a new spiritual heart. Again, someone has to die. The Lord Jesus Christ endured the cruel death of the cross, so that his people could have their sins forgiven and be given a new spiritual heart.
Furthermore, the new spiritual heart is given to us, without us doing anything to receive it. We do not even ask for it. God simply gives it to us (Ezek. 36:26). Before he does, we live life for our own personal gain and profit. But the Lord takes the initiative and moves us to feel guilt and danger, and he gives us grace to respond in repentance for our sins and in faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Big Difference a New Heart Makes
Thirdly, notice the difference that a new heart makes. With my new physical heart, my pulse rate is much higher. My circulation is so strong that when things get really quiet, I can feel my blood reach my toes and fingertips. I can do so many things now that I could not do before the transplant. I feel like a new person. But I have to be cautious about infection and rejection.
An even greater difference is made in our lives when we receive a new spiritual heart. We then become children of God (Jer. 24:7). Without a new heart, our faith is nothing (Rom. 10:9–10). Likewise, our worship is nothing without a new heart (Matt. 15:7–9).
The new heart is the basis for new obedience (Ezek. 36:27). With a new heart, our basis for living and our goals for life are different. Now our primary purpose is to live for our Lord, to obey him, and to glorify his name. Our eternal destiny is heaven.
But we are now subject to a type of Christian rejection. Our new spiritual heart means that there is now warfare in our soul (Rom. 7:21–25; Gal. 5:17). I must be ready for the warfare and pray that the Lord will strengthen me.
Thanks to God, I have two new hearts. Thanks to God, all his people have a new spiritual heart.
The author is pastor of Westchester OPC in Mount Vernon, N.Y. He quotes the NKJV. Reprinted from New Horizons, August 2007.