Center of the Mind
"Above all," God tells us, "guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Pro 4:23)
The beating pulsating heart powers the blood with its life giving oxygen, nutrients, minerals, and enzymes to every cell in the body. Once at the cell, the blood removes the waste and carbon dioxide for elimination. Without oxygen, the brain dies very quickly and the other organs soon after. Yes, even physically, the heart is the "wellspring of life." And physically we take good care of our hearts by eating right and exercising. Interestingly, we need to take care of our hearts emotionally. Certain personalities (like a Type A Personality) can work against a healthy heart or promote a healthy heart.
The heart has further meaning. In the late twentieth century, the heart is considered the center of the emotions. But Biblically, the heart refers to the center of a person's mind: his intellect, judgement, experiences, emotions, thoughts, memory. And just as the physical heart is the center of the body, so too the human heart is the center of a person.
Certainly, God wants us to guard our hearts physically, but He is far more concerned about the human heart, sometimes also called the inner man.
Something like an inner core of God's Spirit exists within those who are believers. Deep within the mind, perhaps even apart from the physical brain, God's power, righteousness, and essence dwells awaiting to break through our harden heart - stubborn and proud. Little by little and day by day, the power at work within wears away our crustiness until the light of God's goodness breaks forth like the dawning day. Sometimes God uses the outer world to impact upon our inner selves so the everlasting jewel of a quiet and gentle spirit, which is precious to God, blossoms forth.
"But let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." (1Pe 3:4)
Only God Knows Our Hearts
We think we know people, especially those close to us. We think we know ourselves since we live with us for all our lives. Sometimes we are convinced of our goodness, that we do what is right. Only God searches the heart, knows our innermost motivations and reasons. He reveals us to ourselves by the pages of the Bible and our experiences in life. No matter how much we think we know someone or ourselves, we do not. Only God knows.
God told Samuel not to look at the appearance of Saul, his tall and mighty body, his foreboding looks, and his military prowess. It is not a person's appearance that makes him strong and brave. No, it is person's heart that makes him a leader of men and a true king. Saul had the look of royalty and courage. But he had the heart of a coward and a people pleaser. We might understand the nature of King Saul by some present day leaders who have an appearance of leadership but lack the heart of leadership, courage and selflessness.
God deals with a person's conduct as far as reward and punishment are concerned. But He judges the motives for the behavior, as well.
God told another king, Solomon, that he should serve Him willingly with wholehearted devotion. But God warned him that He searches the heart to know the motivation for even his thoughts, much less his words and deeds. So Solomon, God told him, that when you worship Him, He would be with him. But if Solomon rejected God, He will forsake him forever.
David, a man after God's heart, wanted to please God, worship Him properly, and serve Him wholehearted, prayed to God that He search his heart so that He would reveal to David the things he needed to change to be at one with God. He knew that he could not flee from God. If he flew into the sky, God would be there with him. If he went into the depths of a mine or cavern, God would seek him out. There was no place to hide. God knew of his waking, coming and going, talking and listening, and doing and not doing.
David prayed for a pure and clean heart completely devoted to Him. He knew that he could not know his own heart and wanted God to make his inner most being in God's image. He was not afraid to get God involved in his life. He was not afraid to have God discipline him, for he knew that God would never discipline him more than he could stand easily.
We should learn from David to trust our hearts to God's care. We ought to know that God's love for us knows no bounds. Have no fear.
Do you think you think your ways are right? God weighs the heart. Ask Him if you are right with Him. Ask Him to reveal your heart to you.
(See: 1 Sam 16:7, 1 Kings 8:39, 1Chron 28:9, Psa 1:6, 139:1-12, Pro 21:2, Jer 17:10.)
Without God, the Heart Is the Center of All Evil
Just before the flood, God looked over mankind and saw that everyone's heart (except for Noah) was evil, not some of the time but, all of the time. Solomon noted, by God's inspiration, the hearts of men are full of evil and madness. Of course, madness always overtakes the ones who prefer their own ways to the ways of God. Sanity, not defined by psychologists, is being attuned to God's way. When a person's life is imbued with evil pursuits, his only destiny is the grave. First insanity, then death awaits the heart of discord. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man, not the Shadow, but God.
Romans 1 teaches us a great deal about the heart of darkness. The fruit of thanklessness and glorifying all but God is foolishness depicted by worship of the things or being created instead of the Creator. When people give themselves to idolatry, to pagan days of revelry, God gives them over to what might be deemed "the pleasures of the world." God hands these miscreants over to the evil lusts of life: sexual impurity, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, gossip, deceitfulness, malice, slander, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, senselessness, faithlessness, ruthlessness and heartlessness. And heartlessness - these have no center in their lives, no God Who is the true center of the creation and those made in His image, people.
It is a bitter root that strangles the heart of a godless individual. Spiritual angina grips the heart of unbelievers and every exertion to do evil fill the chest with anguish. But heedless of the pain, they strive to defy the One who gives them life. For without God, no man can survive spiritual heart disease.
The evil store malice in their hearts like cholesterol. The unbelieving heart cannot understand the goodness of God. The deceit of sin hardens the arteries of the spiritual heart. Their minds become darkened and they stumble over the ways of deceitful desires. They think they are important and clever, but God looks down on them and finds them small and impotent. Their pride brings their destruction. Their haughty eyes betray a vacuous heart. Their love of the flesh and the ways of the world preclude their ability to see the real world created by God. They themselves harden their heart by wallowing in heart damaging activities and thoughts.
They never stop sinning. They seduce the unwary. They are experts in greed. They are ignorant of the ways of life. They live for death. Their lies deceive not only themselves, but also all around them. Instead of storing up wealth of goodness, they but store up for themselves the wrath of God disguised as the wealth of mammon. Cursed are all that fill their hearts with malice and selfishness.
(See: Gen 6:5, Ecc 8:11, 9:3, Rom 1:21-32, Deut 29:18, Jer 17:5, Mat 12:34-37, 2 Chron 12:14, Heb 3:10-13, Eph 4:18-19, 4:20-24, Psa 12:2-4, Hos 10:2, Jam 1:6-8, Eze 2:4, John 12:40, Rom 2:5, Jer 17:9, Psa 101:5, Pro 18:12, Jer 48:29, 49:16, Exe 6:9, Rom 8:7, 8, Dan 5:29, Exo 4:21, Psa 28:3, Pro 24:2, Rom 2:5, Jer 22:17, 2 Pet 2:14, Pro 12:23, Pro 22:15, Mat 9:4, 15,18-20, Act 8:23, John 13:2, Act 5:3.)
Only God Can Change the Heart
Since God searches the heart, the Word of God "judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart," He has the right prescription for changing the heart. How does God change the heart?
A peaceful heart gives life to a person. A happy heart shines through a person's visage. A cheerful heart makes a person feel as if he had a feast. A wise heart seeks the knowledge of God and His ways. A pure heart will see God. These attributes of a person's heart may seem foolish to people, but God values them. God does good to those who are upright in heart.
Many times God wished mankind would keep their hearts inclined to fear Him and obey Him so He could bless them. A wise person, one who has a discerning heart, accepts God's commands. But, for most, a heart inclined to God is seldom realized. The waywardness of people's hearts led them astray to seek after that which is abominable in God's sight.
God through His Word instructs person who attuned to Him. Even in the Old Testament, God instructs His People to put His Law on their hearts. How? As you know, we learn God's Way by hearing, speaking, and doing. So to we incline our hearts the same way.
God's love and forgiveness inspires our hearts toward obeying Him, and we must, therefore, obey our hearts by forgiving and loving others.
God expects us to go beyond His commandments. He wants us to be born again - be cleansed of our sins by baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. And then we are to put on the new self, which the Creator renews in us. Our light shines, our good works, out to the darkened world to give God the glory. God's Word radiates out from us so that we can admonish waywardness and sing psalms in gratitude to God. God's Word in our hearts lives forever.
Just as God inclines our hearts to Him, we, in turn incline our hearts to Him. We earnestly desire to follow His Way. We love God with our whole heart, our whole being. We trust God's Word and refuse to live by the world's or our way. We constantly keep God's Word in front of us. We draw near to Him by our actions and prayers. We give all the reason for our hope we have.
Yes, God gives a new heart and writes His laws on it so we can obey from the heart. He strengthens our hearts to follow in His son's footsteps.
God fills our hearts with greater joy than can be otherwise known to mankind. We sleep safely in His care.
(See: Pro 14:30, 15:13-15, Deut 5:29, 6:5-6, Act 8:22, Luke 16:15, Rom 8:27, Heb 4:12, John 3:3, Deut 30:6, Psa 51:10, Eze 11:19-20, 18:31, Col 3:7-16, 1 Sam 10:26, 1 Chron 29:18, Ezr 6:22, Act 16:114, 1 Thes 3:13, 2 Cor 4:6, Deut 10:12-14, Psa 119:112, Eph 6:6, Rom 10:10, 6:17-18, Pro 3:5, Matt 22:37-40, Jer 32:40, Neh 9:8, 2 Chron 19:3, 30:19, Ezr 7:10 1Sam 2:1, Psa 4:7-8, 97:11, Zec 10:7, Psa 125:4, 73:1, Heb 10:22, Psa 9:1, 119:10, 1 Pet 3:15.)
Receiving a new heart from God can be likened to taking Jesus's yoke on us. Jesus is humble and gentle so we do not have to worry that the burden will be a burden on us. That yoke, like the new heart, is easy and the burden light.
for the Sabbath Christian Church