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  • Writer's pictureJohn Davis

Do You Have Heartburn?

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32, ESV)

These are the words of the two disciples who walked with the resurrected Lord that fateful day on the road to Emmaus. They were kept from recognizing him until he had already left them, but after he left, they couldn’t help but remember how their hearts had burned within them as he, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27).

Sometimes we read that and think, Oh, if I could have been there! If I could just hear Jesus teach the Scriptures, how my heart would burn within me! And that is true. But you don’t have to have Christ himelf as your teacher for your heart to burn like this. I know, becuase I’ve felt it. Have you? Do you know what this spiritual heartburn feels like?

The first time I can remember feeling it was in high school. I was already a believer with the Holy Spirit dwelling in me, but I didn’t know a lot about the Bible. I had not yet read through even the New Testament for the first time. But what I did have were particular verses and passages highlighted in my Bible, mostly in the gospels and the book of Acts. Every now and then, when I would have some spare time, I would go into my bedroom, lay on the bed, and open my Bible. Then I would flip the pages until I saw a highlighted verse, and I would stop and read it. Not the most healthy and productive way to read the Bible, I know. But as I read those words, I can remember feeling a tingling in my chest — a burning in my heart. I didn’t know what it was. All I knew is, I wanted that feeling again and again. It was addicting.

Looking back, I realize now what was going on inside me. The Holy Spirit was taking the words of God and applying them to my heart. He was causing my heart to burn within me as I heard the supernatural words of God, just like those two disciples on the road to Emmaus. I still experience this now and again. Sometimes it happens when I’m reading the Bible in my personal devotions. Sometimes it’s when I’m listening to a sermon where the preacher is faithfully and powerfully proclaiming the word of God. Sometimes it happens when I’m the one doing the preaching or teaching. And still, to this day, that feeling is addictive. I want it again and again. I’m chasing after it.

If you’ve been a Christian taking in God’s word for a number of years, you likely know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes, as we read the Bible, we are tired or distracted and the words don’t sink in like they do at other times. Sometimes we are distant from the Lord becuase of our own sin, and so our hearts don’t burn as they should. Sometimes, we are sitting under poor preaching or teaching. The life-giving words of God are presented in a lifeless way, or they are not really presented at all. And furthermore, there are times when we are obediently reading or hearing, with a clear conscience, and we still don’t feel much of anything. In his great wisdom, the Lord doesn’t want our faith to depend on our feelings.

And yet, by God’s grace and mercy, there are times when we feel this spiritual heartburn — times when we take in the word, and the Holy Spirit inside us applies it to our hearts, and our hearts burn within us. I want more and more of that. Don’t you? In one sense, our walk with the Lord should not be a chasing after feelings. Feelings come and go, and aren’t always trustworthy. And yet, in another sense, our lives should be a chasing after the feelings we get when the Lord satisfies our soul as only he can. David called it a “soul thirst” in Psalms 42 and 63. Those who know the Lord deeply are marked by this soul thirst. We are constantly seeking to satisfy it with the only thing that can do it — the Lord himself. And once we experience that satisfaction, we want more and more of it, again and again. Tozer said it like this…

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.
O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
(A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)


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