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From the Heart, Part 1

Updated: Mar 3

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23



 

The Lord Knows Our Hearts


For man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (Samuel 16:7). Only God knows a person’s true character because only God knows a person's heart. Only He can look into our hearts to examine our thoughts, intentions, and what we truly believe. He knows everything there is to know about us. We can't hide from Him. For the believer, what a comforting truth that is! For whenever our heart condemns us, we know that God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything (1 John 3:20). God is greater than our feelings of guilt, and He is greater than our sins. God is greater than our hearts.


In Scripture, the term "heart" is what we would now refer to as the mind. We don't find the word "brain" anywhere in the Bible. That's because in ancient Hebrew and Greek, the heart was considered the seat of knowledge, thinking, and understanding; the place of moral responsibility. The heart is a person’s intellect and will: one’s inner moral and spiritual life. The heart is what God is going to judge, whether it be righteous or rebellious, obedient or disobedient, believing or unbelieving. Please note that I will be using the terms heart and mind interchangeably in this post.


A New Heart


According to Scripture, The heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked; who can understand it? "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds" (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We're all born in sin with a heart that can't do anything but sin. Scripture says that even our most righteous acts are filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6), when not done through faith in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). 


That's why we must be born again and given a new heart; a heart that desires the things God loves and turns away from the things God hates. We must be given a righteousness that is not our own. and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Phil 3:9). The moment we first believe in Jesus, the Lord puts His Spirit in us, removes our heart of stone, and gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). We are justified through faith and clothed in Jesus' robe of perfect righteousness. We are made new creatures in Christ. The old things have passed away and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Through the new birth, God gives us new hearts with new natures and new desires to be able to walk in His ways (Ezekiel 11:19-20).


It's a Gift


Just like there's nothing we can do to earn or keep our salvation, there's nothing we can do to receive a new heart. Just like we could never cause our physical birth, we could never cause our spiritual birth. And we certainly can't turn from our sins and muster up an obedient heart in our own strength. That's impossible. This is only done by divine grace. Scripture says that according to God's mercy, He is the One who causes us to be born again into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). He chose to give us birth through the word of truth (James 1:18). Furthermore, the Lord says,“I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will show compassion to whomever I show compassion.” So then, it does not depend on the person who wants it nor the one who runs, but on God who has mercy (Romans 9:17). (See also Titus 3:5). We receive a new heart only because God is merciful. Scripture also says that anyone who comes to Jesus, He will certainly not drive away (John 6:37). God will never reject any sinner who comes to Jesus with childlike faith.


Salvation, which includes being given the Holy Spirit and a new heart, is a sheer gift from God. No saved sinner could ever boast that he achieved salvation by his own intellect. We only can choose and love Jesus when He first chooses and loves us (John 15:16, 1 John 4:19). Scripture says that salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8, 62:1, Jonah 2:9). This means every single aspect of our salvation, including a new heart, is from God and is utterly dependent upon God. The only contribution we make to our salvation is our sins that Jesus took away from us on the cross. God gets all the glory!


Everything Flows From It


If we want to live self-controlled lives in all manner of behavior, we must guard our hearts with the truth. Scripture explains that everything we do flows from our hearts and that we must guard them with all vigilance. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23). A guarded heart is one that believes and obeys the truth, discerns deception, and rejects lies from corrupting it. Scripture also says that what's down in our hearts will come out of our mouths. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45). We must plant the truth of God's Word in our hearts through faith to control how we talk and behave.


We can't hide what's in our hearts for very long. Sooner or later, what's down in our hearts will come out of our mouths, manifest in our actions, spill out into our lives, and point in the direction of our eternities. Our words, actions, attitudes, and overall pattern of our lives will flow from what we believe to be true in our hearts, and it’ll be clear to a watching world whom we follow and what we believe. We must first guide our hearts to receive truth, and then we must guard our hearts in the truth. In turn, our behavior will reflect the truth that we believe; namely that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).


Guarded in the Truth


When we guard our hearts in the truth, we will believe and obey the Lord by His grace, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit will show up in our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will generally mark the lives of those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation. These attitude fruits can only flow from a heart that is guarded in the Truth. As fallen creatures living in a fallen world, these fruits won't show up perfectly, and in certain seasons of our Christian walk, we may bear little fruit to the naked eye. But we know that God knows everything, and He is greater than our hearts. Oh, how comforting that is to the struggling Christian!


Nonetheless, the fruits of the Holy Spirit will be ever-increasing in our lives as we continue to walk by faith; as we continue to trust and obey God's command to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (2 Peter 3:18).


To be continued...


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