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In our journey through the book of Acts, we have reached Philippi, where Paul’s preaching established a church in that Roman colony and to which he later wrote one of the most encouraging letters in the New Testament. (Acts 16:11-40) There, we see Paul and his companions initially preaching to a group of women who gathered by the river to pray and we are told that one of them (a dealer in purple cloth named Lydia from Thyatira) responded to Paul’s message because ‘the Lord opened her heart.’ (Acts 16:24)

We all need God to open our hearts, minds and understanding if we are to respond to His words. Paul talks of the god of this age blinding the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor 4:4); we need God’s light to ‘shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.’ (2 Cor 4:4) To the Ephesians, he said, ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.’ (Eph 1:18-19) Jesus gave a very vivid picture of opened hearts when He spoke to the church at Laodicea and said, ‘I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’ (Rev 3:20)

To open our hearts to God means to receive His words gladly and to act on them: Jesus said, ‘everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ (Matt 7:24) James reiterated this when he wrote, ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.’ (James 1:22-25) To open our hearts to God means we submit to His word and receive His commandments gladly. Opened hearts are sensitive to God and will therefore be able to respond to what God says. We all need opened (and open) hearts if we are to grow spiritually.