“Maria Durso’s new book calms all those fears as she explains the steps that will lead us to a peace-, joy-, and purpose-filled life beyond our wildest dreams.”
– Jim Cymbala, Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle
In her new book “From Your Head To Your Heart – The Change You Long For Is Just 18 Inches Away“, Maria Durso shares the story of how in 1975, she was instantaneously changed by the power of the gospel. Although Maria was a new creation in Christ and experienced the transforming power of the gospel, she continued to doubt the fact that God really loved her. But Maria received a new revelation that changed her life forever, thus the reason for this book.
We praise God for His amazing grace that transforms the lives of wicked sinners. But that is where the praise for the book ends. I do not doubt the author’s sincere desire to minister the gospel to others, but sincerity is not enough when it comes to sound biblical doctrine. If a house is built upon a faulty foundation, it doesn’t matter how solid the material used to build might be, if the foundation is faulty, the whole house is faulty.
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-14 ESV).
The Apostle Paul makes it crystal clear, anyone who claims to labor for the Gospel must make sure that the labor is built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians John MacArthur states the following:
“Paul was a master builder whose primary task, as an apostle, was to lay the foundation of the Christian gospel. But he did not design the foundation; he only laid it. The only foundation of biblical Christianity is Jesus Christ. The foundation is not New Testament ethics, many of which are found in other religions. Nor is it in the history, traditions, and decisions of churches and church leaders through the centuries. It is Jesus Christ and Him alone. In a sense, it is all of Scripture, for all of Scripture is both from and about Jesus Christ. The Old Testament predicted and prepared for His incarnation. The gospels tell the history of His earthly ministry, and Acts the history of His church in its early years. The epistles are commentaries on His message and work, and the book of Revelation is the final testimony of His reigning and imminent return. What Jesus said of the Old Testament is even truer, if this were possible, of the New: “You search the Scriptures … and it is these that bear witness of Me” (John 5:39).
Some builders have tried to make the foundation of Christianity to be church tradition, others the moral teachings of the human Jesus, others ethical humanism, and still others some form of pseudo–scientism or simply sentimental love and good works. But the only foundation of the church and of Christian living is Jesus Christ. Without that foundation, no spiritual building will be of God or will stand”. (1 Corinthians: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary)
Unfortunately, the foundation of this book is not built upon the revelation of Jesus Christ and his Word, but on a new revelation that comes from so-called “medical research findings”. In the video above Maria states the following:
“In 1991medical literature published research findings that the heart has its own brain. This is an extremely important fact that would confirm what I felt all these years, that I wasn’t a weirdo. I also realized that if this was in fact the truth, that number one, the Bible would confirm it, and number two; I wouldn’t be the only one with this deep divide on the inside. Scientists discovered that the brain in the head is connected to the brain in the heart. The two brains send messages to one another connected by thousands of neurons and tiny filaments. But the messages don’t necessarily coincide with one another. This may seem to us, the layman, like just some boring medical fact that has nothing to do with us or our spiritual life. But I assure you it as everything to do with us. This affects every facet of our lives, especially our spiritual lives.”
Maria argues that many Bible-believing Christians receive the truth of God’s Word into the physical brain in their head, but something happens that hinders that truth from transforming their lives. She states:
“It’s as though the revelation thief stole the faith we had to live out this truth. I don’t think the problem was with us believing in our minds, I believe as the truth was working its way down into our heart, that truth was suddenly expelled and rejected by the heart’s brain because of some fear or past experience. We had a heart attack of sorts. The heart is the seat of our emotions, not the mind, its where all the action of our lives takes place. The bible confirms it is says “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).”
In Chapter 1 of the book Maria writes:
“It is a fact— a scientific fact— that words spoken to us are etched deeply into the memory of the heart’s brain. As I said in the introduction, scientists have recently confirmed what was written in the Bible thousands of years ago. They discovered that the heart actually has its own brain. It has the capacity to think and store memory. The Word declares that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23: 7). In other words, the thoughts imprinted in the brain of the heart, which came from words previously spoken to us, direct the way we view life and the way we think about ourselves. Those words can be so attached to who we think we are, it can seem next to impossible to believe otherwise. The negative assaults launched slowly at our hearts since our childhood are like mini “heart attacks” on the brains of our hearts, and they have shaped the way we view life. This “heart brain” is where our feelings, or our emotions, are formed.” Durso, Maria (2015-02-03). From Your Head to Your Heart: The Change You Long For Is 18 Inches Away (p. 1). . Kindle Edition.
Biblical Data Examined
So, according to a new medical revelation, are we to believe that the physical heart has its own brain that can think, process information, and make logical decisions? And this so-called “heart brain” is the real reason why so many Christians are struggling to believe what the bible clearly says about God’s great love toward His people? But in reality the Bible never tells us that our problem is due to a physical brain located in our hearts? And the bible never differentiates between head and heart. This teaching is not built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and His Word but in the mind of the author and erroneous medical information. Without going into great detail, the Bible uses the word “heart” and “mind” to refer to the inner being of man, not the physical muscles within. The heart and mind are used interchangeably and the bible knows nothing of this 18-inch false dichotomy that is presented in this book. The heart and mind are the seat of the intellect, the emotions, and the will of man. When God said, “I will give you a new heart” in Ezekiel 36:26, he was not referring to a new muscle in our chest, but new life in Christ brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit in the inner man.
Vines Old Testament Dictionary defines heart as:
The Hebrew word Lebab (3824), rendered “heart” is the seat of desire, inclination, or will and can be the seat of the emotions. The “heart” could be regarded as the seat of knowledge and wisdom and as a synonym of “mind.” This meaning often occurs when ‘heart” appears with the verb “to know,” “Thus you are to know in your heart...” (Deut. 8:5, NASB); and “Yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive [know]…” (Deut. 29:4, KJV; RSV, “mind”). Solomon prayed, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people that I may discern between good and bad...” (1 Kings 3:9; cf. 4:29). Memory is the activity of the “heart,” as in Job 22:22: “…lay up his [God’s] words in thine heart.”
The Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible confirms that the word heart rarely refers to the physical organ:
“In general, the center or middle of things (Deut. 4:11; Matt. 12:40). The ancients did not seem as concerned about the heart (Heb. lēḇ, lēḇāḇ; Gk. kardɩ́a) as an organ as they were about such other organs as the liver and kidneys. References to the heart as a physical organ are extremely rare in the OT (cf. 1 Sam. 25:37). “
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament agrees:
“The thought of the heart as the central organ of the body and the seat of physical vitality is found only in Lk. 21:34 and the select poetic expressions of Ac. 14:17: ἐμπιπλῶν τροφῆς … τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν, and Jm. 5:5: ἐθρέψατε τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν (cf. 1 K. 21:7; ψ 101:5; 103:15).”
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament agrees that the New Testament use of the word heart is similar to that of the Old Testament:
“The New Testament use of the word agrees with the Old Testament use as distinct from the Greek. Even more strongly than the LXX it concentrates on the heart as the main organ of psychic and spiritual life, the place in man at which God bears witness to Himself….That the heart is the center of the inner life of man and the source or seat of all the forces and functions of soul and spirit is attested in many different ways in the New Testament: a. In the heart dwell feelings and emotions, desires and passions; b. The heart is the seat of understanding, the source of thought and reflection; c. The heart is the seat of the will, the source of resolves; d. Thus the heart is supremely the one center in man to which God turns, in which the religious life is rooted, which determines moral conduct”
If the problem of unbelief arises from the physical brain that resides in my heart, as the book suggests, then the solution to my problem is found in a heart transplant. The problem is no longer me, but the brain that resides in my heart, which up until now, I had no idea it existed. So then all I need to do is find a donor who had a “believing heart” and all my problems will be solved. This is absurd, right? Of course it is, but this is the only logical conclusion to the idea that our problem lies in the fact that medical researchers have discovered a brain within our hearts, and it is this brain that is the source of our unbelief. But the author of the Book of Hebrews clearly tells us where the source of unbelief stems from, and it is not a physical brain or an 18-inch gap:
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13).
The bible tells us over and over that sin is our greatest problem and the gospel is our greatest need, something that this book failed to make clear to the reader.
Medical Research Findings Examined
The book is also based on erroneous medical information regarding the human heart. Dr. Steven Novella of Yale University School of Medicine responds to this false concept in an article entitled Brain Cells in the Heart?:
“The function of the heart is highly regulated, because the demands on the cardiovascular system can fluctuate quickly and greatly. Just standing up requires a delicate adjustment in cardiac output and vessel tone in order to maintain perfusion pressure to the brain. Without this rapid adjustment we would get light-headed and possibly faint every time we stood up (this is a disorder some people have when there is a problem with autonomic function). The heart responds to three systems that work together to regulate its function – the autonomic nervous system, the hormonal system (chemicals that are secreted in the blood that affect heart function, like adrenaline), and an intrinsic nervous system. The heart contains its own electrical system that regulates itself in order to keep the heart pumping in a coordinated fashion. This function is then further adjusted by the autonomic and hormonal systems. A recent review of the evidence indicates that the heart contains a complex intrinsic nervous system comprised of multiple ganglia (clusters of neurons) that network with each other. None of this means that the heart has a mind. It takes more than neurons, or even a system of neurons, to form a mind. A complex network of neurons can function like a computer chip, and no more has a mind than your laptop does. The heart does not contain brain cells. It contains neurons that comprise its own intrinsic system for regulating cardiac function. Further, neurons alone do not equal mind or consciousness. It takes the specialized organization of neurons in the brain to produce cognitive processes that we experience as the mind. This is all a complex and fascinating system. It is a shame that some gurus exploit this for a cheap mystical metaphor, distorting the very cool science.”
The Gospel of Self-Esteem
As I read through the book I could not help but notice that the author was promoting a false gospel of self-esteem. In Chapter 2 Maria writes about the Israelite spies in Numbers 13 and their response to the people when they returned from spying out the land:
“Then they declared these famous words: “We seem as grasshoppers in our own eyes and so we were in theirs.” (See Numbers 13: 33.) Look at the way the New Century Version puts it: “We felt like grasshoppers, and we looked like grasshoppers to them.” Where do those feelings come from? Our emotions— our heart! In my opinion, God’s people suffered from “grasshopper-itis,” or as I also like to refer to it, the “grasshopper sin-drome.” The Israelites’ enemy wasn’t on the outside; it was on the inside. It wasn’t the giants in the land that threatened to defeat them; it was the giant of low self-image and self-worth. After all, their whole lives they were the underdogs. They weren’t conquerors; they were slaves, the lowest on the totem pole. So it stands to reason that their past was present with them. Along with the fruit they were carrying on their shoulders, they were also carrying around a gigantic sense of fruitlessness. They were experiencing a tug-of-war between the two brains. I can picture the battle. Their minds were confirming what God said, but their hearts were fighting tooth and nail to keep them steady— and stuck. Their sense of defeat had nothing to do with the five-hundred-mile round-trip journey they had just taken; it had everything to do with the eighteen-inch journey they still needed to take. What they knew to be true in their heads and what they saw with their own eyes couldn’t stand up to what they felt in their own hearts. Truth be told, the walk to the Promised Land isn’t horizontal; it’s it’s vertical. A low concept of God will not only destroy our God-given potential, but it will also destroy a city, which in turn will ruin a nation. Before we can venture out and change our city, we must conquer the territory of the heart; that is the first and most important leg of the journey. The Israelites were just eighteen inches from victory— so close but so far” Durso, Maria (2015-02-03). From Your Head to Your Heart: The Change You Long For Is 18 Inches Away (p. 10). . Kindle Edition.
According to Maria, the spies were suffering from low self-esteem. But is that what the inspired text says?
“Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (Num. 14:1–12).
According to Joshua, these people were not suffering from low self-esteem, but from a rebellious, unbelieving heart. In fact, God specifically called them wicked, grumbling people:
“How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.” (Numbers 14:27–30)
In his sermon entitled “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit who Mourn” John Piper rightly condemns this false concept of self-esteem:
“What is the biblical solution when a person is paralyzed by a sense of guilt or unworthiness or uselessness? I believe with all my heart that the solution is not self-esteem. God did not say to Moses, “Stop putting yourself down. You are somebody. You are eloquent.” That is not the biblical way. What God said was, “Stop looking at your own unworthiness and uselessness and look at me. I made the mouth. I will be with you. I will help you. I will teach you what to say. Look to me and live!”
The biblical answer to the paralysis of low self-esteem is not high self-esteem; it is sovereign grace. You can test whether you agree with this by whether you can gladly repeat the words of Isaiah 41:13, “Fear not, you worm Jacob . . . I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” In other words, God’s way of freeing and mobilizing people who see themselves as worms is not to tell them that they are beautiful butterflies but rather to say, “I will help you. I am your redeemer . . . Go to Egypt now, and I will be with you.”
William Carey’s Secret
William Carey did not have high self-esteem. He castigated himself again and again for his sin. When the fire of 1812 destroyed dozens of his precious manuscripts, he didn’t blame the devil. He said, “How unsearchable are the ways of God!” And then he accused himself of too much self-congratulation in his labors, and said, “The Lord has smitten us, he had a right to do so, and we deserve his corrections.”
When he had outlived four of his comrades in mission, he wrote back to Andrew Fuller, “I know not why so fruitless a tree is preserved; but the Lord is too wise to err.” When he died in 1834 in Serampore, a simple tablet was put on his grave with the words he requested. And when you hear these I want you to ask, what was William Carey’s secret? How could he persevere for 40 years over all obstacles—as a homely man, suffering from recurrent fever, limping for years from an injury in 1817, and yet putting the entire Bible into six languages and parts of it into 29 other languages—what was the secret of this man’s usefulness and productivity for the kingdom? The tablet on his grave reads, “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fall.”
The secret for William Carey was not self-esteem. He was poor in spirit to the very end. “A wretched, poor, and helpless worm,” he calls himself, knowing very well his sin and failures. His secret was in the last line of his epitaph: “On Thy kind arms I fall.” This was his secret in dying and this was his secret in living. He cast himself, poor, helpless, despicable on the kind arms of God. For he knew the promise of Jesus: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for to them belong the merciful and mighty arms of the King of kings.”
Our greatest problem is not low self-esteem, but sin. We do not fail to believe God because we suffer from a low self-image. We fail to believe God because we have a wicked, evil, rebellious, unbelieving heart. That is our greatest problem and the Gospel is our greatest need. Much of the material that is being put out today by these seeker-friendly, mega-church authors is nothing more than a Christianized version of Dr. Phil or Oprah Winfrey. It is void of the Gospel and tells mankind that his greatest problem is low self-esteem. There is absolutely no mention of an angry God who pours out his wrath on sinners. In fact, this kind of language is avoided amongst mega-church, seeker-sensitive pastors of our day. They don’t want to offend or cause someone to have low self-esteem. That kind of language is offensive to human pride and those who preach about the wrath of God and the true gospel are called mean-spirited. But Charles Spurgeon rightly stated:
“Bold-hearted men are always called mean-spirited by cowards”
I am not accusing the author of being a coward, I am simply making a point that the majority of seeker-friendly churches today preach in a way as to not offend the sinner. It takes boldness in this neo-pagan, man-centered society to preach the full counsel of God’s Word and to let people know that their real problem is not low self-esteem, but a wicked, evil, unbelieving heart. Human pride rejects that message. But that is exactly what the cross is, an offense to human pride. Jesus died because you are are a wicked, evil, depraved, self-centered, God hating, rebellious, hell-deserving sinner. That is the message of the cross. It does not just tell you that Jesus died for you. It tells you why Jesus died for you. If you remove the offense from the cross you remove the power of the Gospel. This concept of the offense of the cross is found in the Bible:
“If I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still be persecuted? In that case, the offense of the cross has been removed”. (Galatians 5:1)
Paul argues the fact that if we are basically good people, then we can merit God’s favor by good works, and by doing so, the offense of the cross has been removed. Why? Because the cross declares just how wicked and evil we really are. It shows us that we are absolute failures in regards to our relationship with God. We are totally depraved and utterly sinful and there is absolutely nothing redeemable in us. If God saved us based on our worth, then he saved us based on merit. But the cross declares our utter worthlessness. “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12)
In his book The Gospel According to Jesus John MacArthur writes:
“I am convinced that the popular evangelistic message of our age actually lures people into [Satanic] deception. It promises a wonderful, comfortable plan for life. It obliterates the offense of the cross. Though it presents Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, it says nothing of the small gate or the narrow way. Its subject is the love of God, but there is no mention of God’s wrath. It sees people as deprived, not depraved. It is full of love and understanding, but there is no mention of a holy God who hates sin, no summons to repentance, no warning of judgment, no call for brokenness, no expectation of a contrite heart, and no reason for deep sorrow over sin. It is a message of easy salvation, a call for a hasty decision which is often accompanied by false promises of health, happiness, and material blessing. This is not the gospel according to Jesus” (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, p. 186).
Our problem is not that we think too little of ourselves, our real problem is that we thing to highly of ourselves. The J.B. Phillips translation of the New Testament translates Romans 12:3 as follows: “Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all.” But this is exactly what the gospel of Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick, Joyce Meyer, Christine Cain, Chris Hodges, Bill Hybels, Rich Wilkerson, Jr., and countless others preach in pulpits today. They tell you that you are special and highly favored and that your only problem is low self-esteem. If you just think “God thoughts” about yourself you will step into your divine destiny. This kind of thinking is what Martin Luther called a Theology of Glory.
A Theology of Glory vs. A Theology of the Cross
The late Lutheran Theologian Gerhard Forde describes what a theology of glory looks like:
“A theology of glory … operates on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem. Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not seriously addicted to sin, and that our improvement is both necessary and possible. We need a little boost in our desire to do good works…. But the hallmark of a theology of glory is that it will always consider grace as something of a supplement to whatever is left of human will and power.” Mr. Gerhard O. Forde. On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518
“Theologians of the cross, however, operate quite differently. They operate on the assumption that there must be – to use the language of treatment for addicts – a ‘bottoming out’ or an ‘intervention.’ That is to say, there is no cure for the addict on his own. In theological terms, we must come to confess that we are addicted to sin, addicted to self, whatever form that may take, pious or impious. SO theologians of the cross know that we can’t be helped by optimistic appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth because those things are themselves the problem. The truth must be spoken. To repeat Luther again, the thirst for glory or power or wisdom is never satisfied even by the acquisition of it. We always want more – precisely so that we can declare independence from God. The thirst is for the absolute independence of the self, and that is sin. Thus again Luther’s statement of the radical cure in his proof for thesis 22: “The remedy for curing desire does not lie in satisfying it, but in extinguishing it.” The cross does the extinguishing. The cross is the death of sin, and the sinner. The cross does the ‘bottoming out.’ The cross is the ‘intervention.’ The addict/sinner is not coddled by false optimism but is put to death so that new life can begin. The theologian of the cross ‘says what a thing is’ (thesis 21). The theologian of the cross preaches to convict of sin. The addict is not deceived by theological marshmallows but is told the truth so that he might at last learn to confess, to say, ‘I am an addict,’ ‘I am an alcoholic,’ and never to stop saying it. Theologically and more universally all must learn to say, ‘I am a sinner,’ and likewise never to stop saying it until Christ’s return makes it no longer true.” Mr. Gerhard O. Forde. On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518
Do you see the contrast between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross? A theology of glory aims at building up one’s self-esteem. Any type of preaching that is an affront to one’s self-esteem is avoided at all costs. It builds the person up by telling them how valuable they are and they simply need to start confessing that with their mouth. On the contrary, a theology of the cross shows us the truth, it shows us that our estimation of ourselves are not low enough, since we still cherish exaggerated ideas about our own importance and self-worth. The cross demolishes all human pride and shows us just how sinful and hopeless we really are. It is here, at this place of utter ruin, that the gospel of grace is truly amazing. It is at the cross where we understand that there is nothing good in us and there never will be. The cross is not self-improvement. God’s remedy for sinful man was not renovation but resurrection. The cross does not fix us, it kills us, and it is at this place of death that the life of Christ is manifested in our lives.
Christ in us, the hope of glory. Not self-esteem, the hope of glory.
How To Deal With Doubt
The source of doubt and unbelief is sin and not a physical brain in our hearts. The cure for doubt is faith, and faith is not something we muster up, it is a gift of God and it comes by hearing the Words of Christ. The cure for doubt is also repentance. The root of doubt is unbelief, not low self-esteem, and it is sin, and it needs to be repented of. But the good news is that Jesus came to save his people from their sin. The gospel is the answer to our doubt and unbelief. Repent and believe in the Gospel. We must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.
I would like to offer some alternatives to this book for those who are struggling with doubt and unbelief. That is what this book is seeking to deal with, doubting God’s Word.
When Someone Doubts – C.J. Mahaney
Battling Unbelief at Bethlehem – John Piper. From the 12 Sermon Series “Battling Unbelief”
Based on my above review, I could never recommend this book to anyone who is seeking for truth. This is sad because Maria does have some good things to say. For instance, she is spot on regarding the Biblical Doctrine of Election and nails the fact that God chose us before the foundation of the world and we had absolutely nothing to do with it. God did not choose us based on some foreseen faith or goodness, but simply because it pleased Him. There was nothing we could have done to merit God’s favor. Listen as she explains:
“The word translated favor in Luke 1: 28 is used in only one other place in Scripture— in Ephesians 1: 6: “Now all praise to God for his wonderful kindness to us and his favor that he has poured out upon us because we belong to his dearly loved Son” (tlb). The word favor in this context means freely accepted. So here we see “favor” is not “because”; it’s “just because.” We can interchange the word favor with the word accepted or chosen: “To the praise and glory of His grace, we know that He has [chosen or accepted] us in Christ” (emphasis added). Favor is simply the undeserved, unearned, unmerited grace of God giving us what we never could have earned ourselves— not even on our best day; not even if we helped a little old lady or a blind man without a seeing-eye dog cross the street; not even if we were stuck in traffic for hours, late for the most important appointment of our life, yet we allowed a semi-truck to cut in front of us, keeping our salvation intact! I once heard a preacher say, “He ‘be-graced’ us with His grace.” Grace allows the one who was unacceptable to become acceptable in His presence “just because” of divine intervention— period!” Durso, Maria (2015-02-03). From Your Head to Your Heart: The Change You Long For Is 18 Inches Away (p. 45). . Kindle Edition.
There are many other wonderful truths that Maria brings to light in this book. The fact that God chooses to use weak, broken, sinful people throughout the book is encouraging and echoes the Apostle Paul when he said “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). We all need to be reminded that God uses imperfect people to bring forth his perfect message of the Gospel of grace. But as the Apostle Paul rightly said to the Galatian church, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). It only takes a little false teaching to destroy a book. Although I believe that the author is sincere and is truly concerned about the struggles of others, the book is filled with just enough erroneous and unbiblical teachings that leavens the whole lump. The foundation of the book is built upon faulty medical research findings that the heart has its own brain. This alone should cause Christians to proceed with great caution, not to mention the man-centered gospel of self-esteem that permeates throughout the book.
Now I could be wrong, and I will give the author the benefit of the doubt. Either she did a poor job of explaining her theology of the cross, especially in Numbers 13, or she is preaching a theology of glory. And knowing the relationship that Christ Tabernacle has with various false teachers, all signs tell me that she is preaching a theology of glory and a prosperity gospel of self-esteem. But not only that, the whole premise of the book is based on false teaching. There is absolutely no biblical support for the 18-inch gap between the head and the heart, and absolutely no biblical or medical support regarding a brain in the human heart.
Which makes the fact that the book has been endorsed by some of the most well-known Christian pastors in America even more disturbing. Pastors who are charged by the Apostle Paul too, “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9). As we have already seen, the book is based on faulty doctrine. And it is the job of these pastors to not only teach sound doctrine but to rebuke and correct those who contradict it. Where were the Bereans, (Acts 17:11) or the Priscilla and Aquilas (Acts 18:26), who should have taken Maria aside and corrected her on her doctrine? You mean to tell me, that not one of these men who endorsed the book, knew that the bible never teaches that truth is received in the physical brain of the heart? The forward to the book was written by Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle and endorsed by Bill Hybels, Chris Hodges, David Ireland, and Frank DaMazio, to name a few.
How is it that all of these men who are commanded to be sound in doctrine could miss the erroneous teachings found in this book? But I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they never actually read the book, which seems rather foolish that someone would actually put their stamp of approval on a book that they even read. Either way, it shows a real lack of discernment on the part of all who endorsed this book. They all failed to uphold their duties as pastors and shepherds in this area:
“For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach”. (Titus 1:7–11).
The below article is from BiblicalEldership.com:
Qualification: Refute Error
The pastoral elder is charged with the positive aspect of teaching, the exhortation of sound doctrine; but he is also charged with the negative aspect of shepherding—refuting error. This is a qualification that is largely ignored or lost today. The under-shepherds of God’s Church are charged with the responsibility of refuting error. This responsibility cannot be shirked or ignored. It must be done. The Scriptures are clear that the primary weapon that Satan uses against the Church is false teaching (see John 8:44). The elder, out of love and concern for the Church, is to rise up and refute error. Like a shepherd protecting the sheep from the wolves, the elder is to protect the people from false teaching and error (Acts 8:28-29, 1 Tim 1:20). The rebuking, refuting aspect of shepherding will not win popularity contests. Our cultural sensitivities often stop elders short of actually refuting error; it is not en vogue to expose false teaching and error. The elder may pay a toll for offending the beliefs and convictions of those who are led astray. Refuting error is not for the faint of heart but neither is shepherding! But it must be done. Lives are on the line! The goal of refuting is not to destroy people, but to save them from the consequences of error and false teaching. Elders ultimately want to see people restored, not merely refuted. Practically, the pastoral elder needs to have a firm grasp of sound doctrine. He must be a man of the Word. But His knowledge and command of the Word of God must not be passive. He must actively refute error. He must actively expose false doctrine and false living.
It has been my observation that Christ Tabernacle, the church where Maria’s husband is the senior pastor, is affiliated with many false teachers. For the most part, Christ Tabernacle is doing pretty amazing things. They have many outreach programs that put most churches to shame. It is obvious that they are serious about evangelism and the Great Commission and for that they should be commended. But doing good does not give us a pass in regards to false teaching. In fact, Jesus had some very strong words for a church that was doing some pretty amazing things.
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality
The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation (NIGTC), Theologian Greg Beale writes on this passage:
“Like Pergamum, the church of Thyatira is accused of giving free rein to a group of false teachers in influencing God’s servants to compromise with idolatrous aspects of pagan society. Possibly the reference is to only one individual false teacher, who could be a woman. However, the reference to “the woman” and “her children” (2:23) evokes the phrase “to the elect lady and her children” in 2 John 1, which in its context refers respectively to the community as a whole and to the individuals who compose the community (likewise 1 Pet. 5:13 and female personifications of Israel in the OT and of the church in the NT). This compromising teaching is explained in an allusion to the compromising relationship Jezebel had with Israel in the OT. The teaching here is virtually identical to the false teaching of the Balaam party and the Nicolaitans in Pergamum (see above on 2:14–15). Some have identified Jezebel with a local Sibyl prophet, but this is improbable, since she apparently holds a respected position within the church.”
– Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (pp. 260–261). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
When a church puts out a door mat for false teachers it doesn’t take long before they begin to embrace false teachings. And this is exactly what is happening in regards to this book. Is Maria Durso a false teacher? I would not put her in that category. But is she embracing false teachings? From my review of the book, I would have to say yes. The seeds of the gospel of prosperity and self-esteem are evident in the book. When you look at all of the false teachers that Christ Tabernacle embraces and partners with its no wonder. False teachers like Joel Osteen, John Gray, Carl Lentz, Kim Walker-Smith and Jesus Culture, Word of Faith teachers Bishop Dale Bronner, just to name a few. God is serious about sound doctrine. Whole books in the bible were written to refute false teachers. Yet when you speak to people who are members of these churches, they adamantly defend their pastors by pointing to the “good works” that are being done. But Jesus made it crystal clear, all the good works in the world, yes even those done in love, can never cancel out the judgment of God against false teachers.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).
“Maria Durso is incredibly qualified to talk about the changes Jesus can make in a life. In fact, you could say she has a PhD on the subject! Her book, From Your Head to Your Heart, chronicles not only the startling change God made in her own life, but also the many valuable lessons she has learned— along with the way since that memorable day when she became a walking miracle. Much of religion in the twenty-first century focuses only on facts about God, which I hope gets stored in our brains. But when it comes to experiencing the transforming power of Jesus Christ in a way that alters everything about us, that is another story altogether. God has raised up Maria to proclaim and teach about something much deeper than mental concepts about the Creator of the universe. She invites the reader to experience real change that comes from Someone who loves us more than we can imagine. The word change intimidates or frightens many today since it always seems safer to stick with the status quo. But Maria Durso’s new book calms all those fears as she explains the steps that will lead us to a peace-, joy-, and purpose-filled life beyond our wildest dreams. What makes it so powerful is that it all happened in her own life. She’s not an author with a mere argument or doctrinal position. She knows personally that the distance between your head and your heart holds the secret that unlocks all the beautiful things a loving God has planned for your life. Read this carefully— meditate on its simple truths— and experience the same wonderful changes that God gave to Maria.”
—Jim Cymbala Senior Pastor Brooklyn Tabernacle
“The heart and soul of the Christian life is learning to hear God’s voice and then developing the courage to do what He asks us to do. “From Your Head to Your Heart” must be added to your life and library. If leaders aren’t leading with their heads and hearts, the local church will never reach its full redemptive potential. Well done Maria Durso! This book will be a lifeline for so many people.” —Bill Hybels, Founding and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church
“With honesty, wisdom, and encouragement, Maria Durso helps readers draw closer to God as they seek to know him and not simple know about Him. From Your Head to Your Heart offers biblical wisdom and practical suggestions for connecting your mind and your heart with your faith. I recommend it for anyone wanting to experience more of God’s power in their lives.” —Chris Hodges, Pastor of Church of the Highlands
“In my travels over the years in ministry I have seen many people who have a “head relationship” “with the Lord, but not a close personal “heart relationship” with Him. From Your Head to Your Heart explores the depths of having an intimate walk with Jesus that will transform every part of your life and bring about a whole new level of victory and freedom!” —Nancy Alcorn, Founder and President of Mercy Ministries
“Wow! Maria has hit the target in this much-needed book. She knows intimately the difference between the head and the heart. Our culture’s tendency to try to figure out life and its challenges intellectually is facing a battle that, without this revelation from Scripture, cannot be won. You and I have to realize that our feelings will betray us at every step. We can’t analyze God’s forgiveness and love for us. The key is our heart. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. But it’s hard to realize the vastness of this truth. We need to have His spirit of wisdom and revelation to fully grasp His love and have our hearts mended and healed. Only then can we walk by faith and not by sight or by feeling. Michael and Maria Durso are both living and walking miracles. There’s no denying that. Their love for Christ and for each other, and their compassion for people are what make them so attractive to others. That’s why I love them and count them as dear friends. Right on, Maria!” —Nicky Cruz, Evangelist and Author
“Generally people don’t like change. Maria Durso’s amazing personal journey and God’s intervention reveals the extraordinary transformation available to us all who dare to believe in Jesus. This is a change everyone should welcome. It’s not just good for you. It’s also essential for a life of joy, hope, and love. When you read this book, you will learn how to find peace with God for yourself, and how to lead others to do so. This is a change you can live for.” —Commissioner James M. Knaggs, Territorial Commander, The Salvation Army
“Maria is a unique person with a life story that will bring tears and a greater faith for what the Lord can do to change a person from the worst of circumstances to a miracle of grace transformation. This book will touch the lives of all who read it. Great job, Maria!” —Frank DaMazio, Lead Pastor, City Bible Church, Portland, Oregon
“It has been said that emotion is the hinge of logic. Although we are wholly intellectual and logical creatures, deep change occurs when people get to our hearts. Maria Durso is masterful at getting to our hearts because she bravely opened up her heart to God and now to us in this wonderful work.” —David D. Ireland, PhD, Senior Oastor, Christ Church, Montclair, New Jersey & Author of The Kneeling Warrior (www.DavidIreland.org)
“I have never met anyone who loves the voice of the Lord more than Maria Durso! Maria’s devotion and dedication in worship and to the Word of God are contagious. The insights and revelation Maria finds in Scripture are so full of freedom and power that it is evident her time spent with the Lord produces deep wells of wisdom. There is a trust Maria carries from the Lord for the lost and broken that is rare and priceless. Maria’s passion for redemption and wholeness is a literal gift to the body of Christ everywhere!” —Rita Springer, Worship Leader and Recording Artist
“From the moment I read the introduction of this book authored by my dear friend Maria Durso, I knew it would be a powerful instrument for deep healing. Many people walk through this life unaware that they have a heart condition. They feel the effects, but they can’t locate the cause. In this amazing book you will go on a journey into the depths of your heart, and the adage “my heart has a mind of its own” will come alive to you. You will discover things buried deep that will finally surface and be removed through the revelatory information within these pages. And when you have read the last line, you will find, as Maria did, that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above what you could ask or think!” —Carol Kornacki, Evangelist and Author
“Maria is not only gifted with insight on church and family matters. Her spiritual insight and ability to communicate God’s Word in a very practical and life-changing way will also bless every reader. She is gifted to teach each person how easy it is to not only know the Lord but also to walk with Him every day.” —Mary Colbert, Cofounder of Divine Health Ministries & Author of 13 Women You Should Never Marry
“Maria Durso has written a book that offers us the possibility of actualizing success in every area of our lives. She teaches that if we get our hearts right we can get everything right. And since Scripture does, in fact, intimate that the heart feels, reasons, understands, imagines, discerns right and wrong, and makes decisions, I couldn’t agree more with the message of this book. Even more than the message, though, I am struck by the credibility of the messenger. Maria absolutely embodies this truth. She and her husband, Michael—who have led one of the great churches in New York City for more than thirty years—are dear friends and mentors to me and my wife, Sharon. I can affirm that Maria is a living testimony to this powerful message. I highly recommend Maria and her wonderful book.” —Terry A. Smith, Lead Pastor, The Life Christian Church West Orange, New Jersey, Author of Live 10: Jump-Start the Best Version of Your Life
“Maria Durso passionately embodies the profound message in her new book. There is, indeed, a powerful, life-altering link between the heart and the head. In her book Maria articulates with anointing God’s vision to bring about a fiery fusion between the heart and the head through the empowering enablement of the Holy Spirit. Every time I hear Maria share, I find my own heart aflame and my mind challenged and changed. For everyone who dares to pick up these pages and read them, I am sure they too will experience a heart and head revolution.” —Corey Jones, Lead Pastor, Crossroads Tabernacle, Fort Worth, Texas
“If there was anyone I would trust with the absolute priority of moving the knowledge of God from head to heart it would be Maria Durso. I have stood next to her in Christ Tabernacle prayer meetings and heard her passionately cry out to God for the church and community. I watched her stand for years with unmovable faith for her three sons through some dark days until they became the men of God they are today. I have heard her stir the hearts of audiences of all ages with her life story and vibrant preaching. Maria has a heart ablaze for God, and I am confident the Holy Spirit will set your heart ablaze through the pages of this book.” —Alec Rowlands, Senior Pastor, Westgate Chapel, Edmonds, Washington, President of Church Awakening, Edmonds, Washington