Follow your heart. It’s the moral mantra of our society. By itself, it’s not the worse advise a person could give. In fact, the prophet Nathan says much the same to King David when David first brainstorms his ideas to build the Temple (1 Chr 17:2). But many of us have followed our hearts and found the results wanting. The problem is not the advise itself, but with our hearts.
If we have not known the Lord long or well, our hearts more accurately resemble some variation of the corrupted world than they do our selfless and merciful God. Theologian, university professor, and writer Dallas Willard has said it well: “The greatest need you and I have – the greatest need of collective humanity – is renovation of our heart. That spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices, and actions come has been formed by a world away from God. Now it must be transformed.” 
All of our choices come from the heart – this place at the core of our being that contains
all that we truly are. It holds the things we believe about the world, about ourselves, about our God. And it is on the basis of those beliefs that our actions follow. If I believe alligators reside under my bed, I will not dangle my feet in the morning when I get up. It’s a silly example, but the same applies to the way we think about every aspect of the world around us. Our beliefs govern how we respond to every situation we face every day.
The question then becomes, How do we change the inner workings of our heart? Just how do we alter this intangible center of our being? If that inner place directs our actions, are there actions we can take that will somehow influence our heart?
Thankfully, the answer is yes. For centuries people have found that there are indeed concrete activities in which we can engage that will, over time, affect the core of our beliefs. We’ve heard the quote: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Certainly, many of us have experienced this truth from a negative standpoint. We’ve thought something illicit, followed through, and before we realize what’s happening, we’ve become addicted to a behavior that is personally and socially destructive.
But the same is true, thankfully, of virtues. We can impress upon our minds positive Kingdom thoughts, purposefully act on them, and, in time, find ourselves carrying a greater portion of the character of Christ. The process, actually, is rather simple, but that does not mean the practice is easy. No, it’s hard work doing something that seems against our nature. Yet, if we desire to transform our nature, we must embark on efforts that will propel us in a new direction. N.T. Wright, Anglican bishop of Durham and New Testament scholar, describes the journey this way: “Virtue … is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices, requiring effort and concentration, to do something which is good and right but which doesn’t ‘come naturally’ – and then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what’s required ‘automatically,’ as we say.” 
We live in a day two thousand years removed from the time when Christ walked the earth, sharing the good news that this glorious Kingdom of God was near at hand, proclaiming that indeed the law of God could be written on our hearts, as the prophets of old had promised. To our benefit, there has been since that time generations of Christians who have found very practical ways of acting with concerted effort that transform the heart, thought by thought, choice by choice. These are called the disciplines. Not a Christian lives who would not find her life rearranged to more accurately resemble Christ if she pursued these practices. This is the process of spiritual formation. It is for every believer.
 Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002), 14.
 N.T. Wright, “Living in the In-Between,” Relevant Magazine 46 (Jul-Aug 2010), 68.