The Heart: It’s You
Did you know that the concept of the heart surfaces over one thousand times in Scripture? Something that reoccurs that many times is incredibly significant. We can call it a mega theme. Though it is of high importance, I think there is much misunderstanding about this particular subject. So, let’s define the heart.
If we were to look up the basic definition, we would find things like: your inner self, the center of your thoughts and emotions, your gut feelings. Think of common phrases like, “I know it by heart,” “he has a heart of stone,” “they lost heart,” or “I love you from the bottom of my heart.” These phrases reference human nature, human will, memory, and emotions. The heart is the place from which our thoughts emerge, our will engages, and our emotions pour forth. “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man” (Prov. 27:19).
In speaking of the heart, Scripture tells us that “from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:27). In Proverbs alone we find that the heart is the origin of understanding, faith, obedience, rebellion, lust, joy, pride, speech, the imagination, and much more! Jesus confirmed this when he said “…those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man…” (Matt. 15:18-19). In short, the heart is the very core and essence of who you are.
The Lie: Follow Your Heart
The heart is not only a mega theme in Scripture but also in the world! Because the heart is the core of human beings, that is exactly what Satan is after. He has packaged his lie in a phrase most of us will quickly recognize: “follow your heart.” It’s no wonder we find this lie showing up in such diverse settings as religion, business, education, art, and the ideals of humanistic truth and happiness.
For example, what do you think of when you hear the phrase, “follow your heart?” Sounds like a Disney film, huh? Well, that’s because it is. You don’t have to look hard to find that that is one of the dominant teachings of the timeless Disney classics. The very line finds it’s place in thousands of films … as well as in music, marketing of every kind, phsycology, and religion. The world will teach, “There is no need to reach high for the stars. They are already within you – just reach deep into yourself!”
These types of statements aren’t only in cartoon movies for kids. This is the teaching of the world’s most influential people and religions! Religious leaders teach that we ought to look deep within ourselves to find tranquility and peace; to give ourselves fully to following our inner instinct. A Hindu monk said, “You cannot believe in god until you believe in yourself.” Along the same premises we find Buddha teaching to, “Look into your heart. Follow your nature.”
Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple said, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” Oprah Winfrey, the media icon and self-made billionaire said, “Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.” And actress Kristen Dunst oh, so eloquently expounded that, “The real secret to total gorgeousness is to believe in yourself, have self-confidence, and try to be secure in you decisions and thoughts.” Other famous people have said similar things.
Clearly, this idea is incredibly prevalent. It is so deceptive and charming that it has crept into so-called Christianity. The famous and highly acclaimed Joel Osteen teaches, “You have to learn to follow your heart. You can’t let other people pressure you into being something that you’re not …You can’t let outside expectations keep you from following your own heart.” Another pastor preaches, “I want to talk to you today about the power of BELIEVING IN YOURSELF. Even more specific, I want to talk about what God has uniquely given you to help you BELIEVE IN YOURSELF … We need to have a confidence, nearly a cocky-confidence in our own self.” You get the point.
The Bible teaches something very different to what we read above. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Solomon wrote, “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26). You see, the concept of following your heart is absolutely antithesis to the doctrine of the Word of God. Let God be true and every man a liar!
The Reality: Seeing from God’s Perspective
What is reality? It is “the state of things as they actually exist.” God is reality; God’s Truth is reality; God sees things as they actually are. Therefore, we too must see things from God’s perspective. Jeremiah writes the reality about the human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick [wicked]; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9 ESV).
True reality shows us the seriousness of the problem. We need change and healing. However, this can’t simply come by alterations in our actions; it goes far deeper than that. Any time we are going to address how to change actions, we must address the heart. Otherwise we’ll be trying to correct the fruit instead of the root. We need new hearts not new habits! Though Jeremiah gives us a clear picture of the darkness and depravity of the human heart, we find hope among these same pages. Jeremiah himself prophesies, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make … I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts” (31:33). Ezekiel also speaks of the coming hope: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone … and give you a heart of flesh” (11:19).
Because of Jesus and His work on the Cross we get to experience these Scriptures fulfilled! Those who surrender their lives to Christ and follow Him have been born again and are new creations in Christ; given new hearts and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5 ESV). Therefore, “You have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you are committed” (Rom. 6:17 ESV). Now, “let us draw near [unto God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Heb. 10:22 ESV).
The New Testament speaks of our hearts in a more positive way then the Old because the prophesies have been fulfilled. A result of this regeneration is a goodness in our new hearts that needs to be continually guarded, renewed, and transformed by truth. Furthermore, in James, we see warnings about the danger of not guarding these new hearts. He says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers … But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth …Purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jms. 1:16; 3:14; 4:8).
From these passages we see that even with new hearts, sin still has the ability to deceive us. Though our hearts are genuinely new they are not perfect, though changed they are not fully mature, though a citizen of heaven, for a season, we remain walking on the dirt of the earth. Yes, God is bringing us from dust to glory, but it doesn’t happen overnight. We need not only what is internal – the new heart and new Spirit – but we need that which is external: the living and active Word of God both in Text and Person.
The Big Idea: why is this important?
This is the big idea I want to get across: don’t look to change your actions, go for the root of the issue – your heart! When you share the Gospel, disciple others, or discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness you must look to see the heart changed, not just the actions modified. If you make behavior the focus, all that will be accomplished is behavior modification, a rearranging of the flesh, but no lasting change will occur.
The Call: give, hide, direct and guard
Here are some practical steps to help you address heart issues.
1) Give the Father your heart for instruction.
This is to surrender your heart and listen to His instruction. He is your Father and you’re His child.
“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26
2) Hide the Father’s instruction in your heart.
Meditate on and memorize His instruction so as to not lose sight of His will.
“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.” Proverbs 4:20-21
3) Direct your heart in the Father’s way.
Obey His instruction, lead your heart in the Way, Truth and Life that is Christ Himself (see John 14:6).
“Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” Proverbs 23:19
4) Guard your heart from pollution.
Keep your heart unpolluted from both your inside and outside enemies, the flesh and demonic powers, by guarding it with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
God’s call to you is to surrender your heart to the Father, lead your heart in the way of His Son, guard your heart from the pollution that is in the world, and allow Christ to dwell in you heart with unhindered access to all you are.
My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.
Proverbs 4:20-27 ESV