“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23, NKJV
It is always interesting to me when I hear someone say that they are “speaking from their heart.” What they mean is that they are honest, sincere and passionate about a certain matter. If they are very sincere and very passionate about something, they might even say that they are speaking from the “bottom of their heart.” Usually when something is at the “bottom,” rarely is it a good thing. But concerning the heart, it is just the opposite. The heart is the center of our innermost being, the seat of our deepest affections and emotions. It really is what steers our ship and empowers the engine that runs our lives. It is what moves us to do what we do. However, the real question is what is the condition of our heart and what direction is it taking us? When people speak from the heart, what kind of heart do they have? Some people pay a lot of money to doctors to deal with a physical heart condition. Others may take cholesterol-lowering statins as a strategy to preempt a future problem with their hearts. If it is that important to take these steps in the physical realm, how much more important is it in the spiritual realm?
Diagnosing the Heart
The Bible has a lot to say about the heart. God tells us that the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). After the ark rested on Mt. Ararat, He reaffirmed to Noah that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Gen. 8:21), one of the reasons why the Flood occurred in the first place. Ecclesiastes 11:9 warns that if a young man walks in the ways of His heart and in the sight of his eyes, he should also know that for all these things God will bring him into judgment. The heart of man is so stained, so depraved that it affects every aspect of his being—what he thinks, what he says, what he does. The situation seems desperate. As Paul described it in Romans 3:10-18, man whole being is corrupt—he has no spiritual understanding, his throat is like an open tomb, his tongue is deceitful, his lips are poisonous, and he has a mouth full of cursing and bitterness. The biblical assessment is that it all stems from a heart that is inherently evil since “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
But the Bible also offers a solution for this dilemma and pitiful situation. Despite the dire condition of man’s heart, there is free remedy provided by the Lord. He offers to each one the opportunity to receive a new heart and a new spirit that He alone gives (Ezek. 36:26-27). He promises to take away the heart of stone which has been hardened through sin and make it a heart of flesh—soft and tender toward the things of God. He can then encourage us to delight in the things of God, so that He can give us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4). As we humbly come before Him in prayer and in the thoughtful study of His Word, it will affect the words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts (Ps. 19:14). Like Hannah, our hearts will rejoice when we see the Lord work in our lives as our prayers are answered (1 Sam. 2:1). We will be like the men in King Saul’s day, who go forth in service, valiant men whose hearts God had touched (1 Sam. 10:26). As we do the same, walking with the Lord and letting His Word dwell in us richly, we too will be as those whose hearts will be changed, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16).
Keeping the Heart
But just as it is in the physical life, so too we need to keep our hearts in shape. Solomon warned in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep the heart with all diligence, for out if it issues of life.” It takes constant monitoring to make sure our hearts are in tune and healthy, spiritually. We can be like the children of Israel who in their hearts “turned back to Egypt”, as Stephen cited (Acts 7:41). The result was that they had hardened their hearts and by so doing did not enter God’s rest (Heb. 3:7-11). Not guarding our hearts can lead to a lot of problems!
Both the priests and the people in Malachi’s day were guilty of going through the motions of spiritual worship and not taking it to heart (Mal. 2:2). They questioned God’s love and His dealings with them as His people, because their hearts were not right. Maybe some of us are having the same problem. Maybe some of us have turned back to Egypt in our hearts. It is an easy thing to do, especially in our media-saturated culture. Maybe we need to get our hearts checked to see if there is any issue that needs to be addressed. Our heart is Christ’s home. What kind of home is He living in?