The heart is mentioned throughout the Bible—used as a term that summarizes the motivations of both God and humanity. Anyone who reads through the Bible very boldly, say in five to six weeks—or less—will be struck by the role the heart plays in God’s conversation with his people.
So much so that when I encourage others to take up a lifestyle of fast-paced Bible reading it isn’t a call to the spiritual equivalent of an ironman competition. Instead I’m hoping they read fast enough and with a heart open enough to be captured by the music of the heart-to-heart communion God invites us to share with him. To be invited into the eternal love of the Father, Son, and Spirit—a communion of mutual glory and delight—is to discover joy, peace, patience, comfort and every other splendid quality of God’s own heart. As in the time of David, God is still looking for men and women after his own heart—for those who will taste and see how good he is! No earthly concert should be listened to in five minute segments over a year’s time; nor does the Bible captivate the reader who only nibbles at it and picks out a few favorite snacks.
So here’s the point for today: to hear God’s own heartbeat is the ultimate joy of life. Having ears to hear that heartbeat is what characterizes a true Christian from a mere pretender. Jesus said as much to a group of false disciples in John 8 when he told them “if God were your Father you would love me!” A love for the Son is the birthmark of the Spirit in our hearts. To know Christ is to encounter the one who is the eternally “beloved” of the Father. And in knowing Christ—not just knowing about him—we come to him as those drawn to him by the Father.
What startles us is that when we meet him in the Scriptures he emerges as a living Personality shimmering under the words we read. His compassion for us is the most compelling vision we find there. The Bible exposes our sin. It brings us to tears. And it tears away the old attitudes that otherwise rule us. As a caring parent who knows when diapers need changing, he doesn’t leave us in our filth. His is the love of a mother scrubbing a muddy child in the bathtub in order for the happily-dirty child to be fit for the coming of company for dinner.
The words of God confront us, console us, and cleanse us. His open-heart will always shock us by how different it is to our sin-entangled hearts. We thought he would be impressed by our righteous zeal as we build impressive new ministries, organizations, churches, all in order to become the best and the brightest of our generation—for his sake, of course. Then we finally begin to hear his gentle whisper as a heart-to-heart confrontation: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned your first love.” Only then do we look back and see the debris of broken relationships our zeal for success caused us to leave in our trail.
God’s heart does not offer a flow of syrup but a flow of blood. For us to experience the Trinity as a union of God’s communing Persons is to discover the love that sent the Son to die on the cross. We simply cannot fathom how the indivisible One who is God could engage in a division for our sakes. This is the most profound expression of love ever offered: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The cost of that heartfelt gift was expressed in the terrible cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But it was also followed some moments later by the Son’s ultimate entrustment to the Father’s heart in creating a pathway for us to come into his love. He whispered this final reality of union-within-division with his final breath, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” God’s heart is both terrible and tender: full of wrath towards spiritual adultery, and full of compassion to forgive. Jesus shared in both for us.
I write this posting as a sinner living among sinners. I know from statistics given to us by counselors—and from some heart-breaking confessions—that many of the men around me are captured by sexual addictions. And that any number of women are living in empty delusions as their imaginations travel to ungodly places. I also know that the socially embraced addictions of greed, glory, and power have damaged our world in ways deeper than we ever imagined possible. I know that television, video gaming, internet chatting, and more, have consumed countless souls with the sticky sugar of empty stimulation and social violence.
Why this captivity? Because our hearts are not on fire. God offers himself as a consuming fire who will burn away all our empty pursuits. To use the imagery offered at the end of the book of Malachi and in 1 Corinthians 3, we can come to that fire as those delighted to be warmed in the sunshine of God’s glory; or we can have the many works done in this life apart from the substance of faith finally consumed by fire on the day of judgment. Which will it be?
The advice offered in Proverbs 4:23 is critical to us, “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for out of the heart flow the springs of life.” And how shall we guard our hearts? Let me suggest that we can guard them in turning away from evil by seeking God’s heart. Leave behind the popcorn and sawdust we eat so freely, hoping to fill our spiritual appetites. Turn, instead, to God.
How? Try reading through the entire Bible in just a few weeks. And as you read, underline every use of the word “heart” and see what happens to your own heart. That’s a challenge some of us—by God’s Spirit nudging us—will be ready to accept. I look forward to hearing what you discover! As David invited us, “Oh taste and see, the LORD is good!”
I just “stumbled” on to your website. What a delight! YOur thoughts from today are solid nourishment from the Lord to my soul.
I’m eagerly looking forward to pour over the prior and upcoming entries. Thanks for being a servant through the Master speaks with purity. My soul always wants more of Him for having connected with you.
This is the best posting you have done. I have been turned on too reading the Bible because GOD has shown me His Love and He wants a personal relationship with me.
My favorite verse is Proverb 23:26 my son, give me your heart, and let your eyes watch my ways.
When I surrender to my Lord and give him everything. I understand about being baptize, is going through His death and resurrections. I understand that forgiving others is what He has done for me. I understand that producing fruit comes from His Heart and goes through my heart to others. I find it so easy to talk with strangers about my relationship with Jesus and His Father and to show other that Jesus and His Father wants all of us to open up our hearts to HIM.
i think this is the most important piece you have done..kudos’ my friend.
Change starts with the HEART – seat of all understanding.
There are over 900 references to the heart in the bible. IF the bible makes mention of something over 900 times it must be important.
It is the navigation system to your life – where it is pointed is where you will go.
Ie God, self, sex, money, career, friends etc
Proverbs 2:2 “turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,”
Deuteronomy 4:29 “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
2 Chronicles 12:14 “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD .” (reign of Rehoboam was characterised by continual warfare).
Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”
Why was the inclination of their hearts important? Because out of it comes the issues of life – actions will flow from heart your heart is directed.
Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
It is out of the overflow of what is in our heart that leads to how we live our life. We like to blame other factors – other people leading us to sin, others sinning against us, opportunities to sin we find ourself in, we were set up, we were tired and depressed and we couldn’t help it.
It is none of these things – it is what is already within that simply springs out; from the heart – these things come; good or bad.
Matthew 12:34b “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Proverbs 27:19 “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”
Proverbs 21:2 “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.”
Everyone thinks he is right – but the fact is we are deceived.
Why are you being sexually immoral – I can’t help it; why are you disrespecting your parents – their mean; why are you stealing from your boss – he’s a jerk.
We think we’re right – but God weighs our heart. We need God to weigh our hearts.
Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
– Not porno, or what girls wear – it is a heart problem.
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
– Money is a great idol. Your heart is followed by your wallet. Show me your bank statement and I’ll tell you your idol.
Mark 7:21-23 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’
– It is not the environment that makes us unclean – that is just the opportunity to sin. The sin is already in us. Don’t blame.
Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
– the words you use indicate the condition of your heart.
Luke 21:34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.
– Drunkeness is an indicator of what is going on in your heart. Depression is a trap – but it is not because of what you have or don’t have – it’s the heart that needs fixing.
Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?
Because of this the Problem is the Heart. And the Solution is the Heart too.
We are broken. Psychologist and Psychiatrists have their theories about how to fix humans. But the answer is the heart.
God’s command is for a heart set on Him.
This is His command. We can not be blessed if our hearts are not turned towards God. It starts with the heart.
Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Joel 2:12 “Even now,” declares the LORD , “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
1 Chronicles 28:8-9 Be careful to follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever. “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.
God is not looking for robotic followers of rules – He is looking for followers of him – his children to have WHOLE HEARTED DEVOTION.
It is not enough to do the right things – legalism. You need to do the right things for the right reasons.
Don’t say well to stop sinning I need to stop this and cut this out and build a new years resolution 10 km long. It never works! Why? It’s rules and rules will never hit the problem which is the heart.
Rules will never get you closer to God. Rules will never produce the fruit of the spirit. Rules will never lead anyone to eternal life. Because the problem is our heart.
God’s promise is that if you do set your heart on God you will be blessed
Psalm 119:2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.
Deuteronomy 5:29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
There is a consequence for where your heart is at and whether you obey the word of God. Just as a broken, malfunctioning heart deceives us and leads us from God, a repentant heart and heart that is turned towards God will be blessed by God.
Assessment of our heart condition is our responsibility.
* The desire to change is our responsibility.
* But God will change it if we so desire.
God will speak to our hearts – he is right now. God’s heart for us is to give us His heart. To change. To renew. To transform our hearts and lives.
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
And we will be changed and blessed.
And God will be honoured and glorified.
I really appreciated so much of what you’ve offered here, Morgan. Thanks!
But I’m thinking over the item near the end, “Assessment of our heart condition is our responsibility”. While I know that Paul warns some in the Corinthian readership to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” there is so much that tells us that introspection is not really fruitful in correcting the heart. I.e. I wonder if Paul wasn’t just drawing a line in the sand which he knew the “false apostles” had so clearly crossed that he wanted to give the faithful element in Corinth some assurance that not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is (cp. my reference to John 8).
Why my hesitation? Because if our heart is truly the single motivational center of the soul, there isn’t anything in us that is “objective” and able to test the heart. Thus the warning by Jeremiah [in 17:9] that “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The answer follows: “I the LORD search the heart…” So, too, Psalm 139:23 where David gives the role of searching his heart over to God. And that makes so much sense if we start to get the real problem at stake: sin as self-love. So when I’m searching my heart I’m back to looking in the wrong direction, at my interior.
That’s not to say that the Spirit won’t have to take us by our spiritual ear and tug us into a place of self-deception, as he did through Nathan with King David: “You’re the man!”
In practice I find this “invitation” form of searching very effective. When I ask, “Lord, is there anything in me you want to confront?” I often find very clear insights coming to mind! Alas, he’s so good at that; and it keeps me looking to him as the ultimate source of my spiritual growth.
thanks for the encouragement. I want to go read my bible. I wish that was my only job. I really appreciate your encouragement.
Good words, Jesse. The day is coming when we’ll get to hang out with the Living Word for as long as we like . . . can’t wait!
Thank you Ron,
This is inspirational. He does burn away our empty pursuits.
‘our responsibility’ meaning beginning with sincere repentance knowing how depraved our hearts are, alas..i know to well.
…HE is faithful. No other form of searching will i tolerate. Welcome! Holy Spirit!
as you stated;
‘In practice I find this “invitation” form of searching very effective. When I ask, “Lord, is there anything in me you want to confront?” I often find very clear insights coming to mind! Alas, he’s so good at that; and it keeps me looking to him as the ultimate source of my spiritual growth.’
Thanks, Ron. First, for walking through a read-through with me (and Steve) and sharing that joy. As you know, if has launched a wave in our midst. Second, for this article, which expresses the wonder of the read-through so clearly.