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!”