Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
From the Heart
Romance lives even in the retirement home. Did you hear about the 90 year-old bachelor. One day this man gathered his four nephews and announced that he was planning to be married. His nephews were in shock. One spoke up and said, "Uncle are you getting married because this woman is beautiful?" He said, "No." Another nephew asked, "Uncle are you getting married because this woman is a great cook?" Again he said, "No." The third nephew questioned, "Are you marrying this woman because she is rich?" "Of course not," was his reply. The final nephew
said, "Uncle if your not marrying this woman because she is beautiful, or because she is a great cook, or because she is rich, then why are you marrying her?" With a wink he said, "I’m marrying her because she can drive at night!"
When a man opens the door of his car for his wife, you can be sure of one thing: either the car
is new or the wife.
In keeping with the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I want to explore the Bible’s use of the word heart. The Bible uses the word heart in tons of ways. The word appears in scripture approximately 751 times. In the New Testament, 156 times. Many, of course, refer to physical organ that pumps the blood.
In a 70 year lifetime, it will beat an average of 75 times a minute, forty million times a year - or two-and-a-half billion times. At each beat, the average adult heart discharges about four ounces of blood. This amounts to three thousand gallons a day or 650,000 gallons a year—enough to fill more than 81 tank cars of 8,000 gallons each. The heart does enough work in one hour to lift a 150-pound man to the top of a three-story building. It exerts enough energy in twelve hours to lift a 65-ton tank car one foot off the ground, or enough power in seventy years to lift the largest battleship afloat completely out of the water. No wonder we feel tired!
The majority of biblical references, however, refers to the seat of the emotions, our inner self, or even the center of the will. We speak of “a sinking heart,” “a broken heart,” or “a heavy heart” and we know exactly what we are talking about.
We all understand the “heart” as a figure of speech unlike the little boy. You have heard about the kindergarten teacher on the first day of class who told the class to put their right hands over their hearts and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher watched the children as they started the pledge, "I pledge allegiance to the flag..." She stopped when she noticed Johnny’s right hand over the left side of his rear end. "Johnny, I will not continue until you put your hand over your heart." Johnny replied, "Ma’am, it is over my heart." After several attempts to get Johnny to put his hand over his heart, the teacher asked, "Why do you think that is your heart?" “Because whenever my Grandma visits, she picks me up, pats me here, and says, ’Bless your little heart, and my Grandma doesn’t lie!"
In an article in Today’s Christian Woman, Carol Leet tells of an incident that happened to her granddaughter. Four-year-old Amanda went to the doctor’s office with a fever. The doctor tried to ease the little girl’s obvious nervousness. When he looked in her ears, he said, "Who’s in there? Donald Duck?" She said, "No." He looked in her nose and said, "Who’s in there? Mickey Mouse?" Again she said, "No." He put his stethoscope on her heart and said, "Who’s in there? Barney?" Amanda replied, "No, Jesus is in my heart. Barney is on my underwear." (Today’s Christian Woman, Vol. 18, no. 4.)
Let’s explore five biblical truths about the heart:
1. God is interested in the heart. He isn’t interested in a superficial, going through the motions relationship with us.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV) 7But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man
looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV) 29But 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.
Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV) 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV) 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 10:12 (NIV) 12And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
1 Chronicles 28:9 (NIV) “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. . . .
2 Chronicles 34:27 (NIV) 27Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD.
Psalm 51:17 (NIV) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) 23Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 21:2 (NIV) 2All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.
1 Thess 2:4 but God, who tests our hearts.
2. We have a heart problem. All humans do. That’s why the Bible insists that sin is more than just bad behavior. Sin reigns on the inside long before it shows itself on the outside.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “The Tell-Tale Heart” the main character committed murder. Unable to escape the haunting guilt of his deed, he begins to hear the heartbeat of the victim he has buried in his basement. A cold sweat covers him as he hears the beat-beat-beat of a heart, that goes on relentlessly. Ultimately the heartbeat drives the man absolutely mad, not knowing that it was not coming from the body in the basement, but from the heart within his own chest. So it is with a guilt ridden, unforgiving conscience.
Proverbs 27:19 (NIV) 19As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV) 9The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Proverbs 20:9 (NIV) 9Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?
Ephesians 4:18 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
Romans 1:21 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Isa 29:13 13The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
Jesus quotes this passage when he explains the human heart problem . . .
Mark 7: 1The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. )
5So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
6He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ 8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of
9And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
14Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”
17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
20He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
3. The message of the Gospel is about changed hearts. That’s another way of speaking of the new birth or being born again—having a new heart.
Psalm 51:10 (NIV) Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 139:23 (NIV) 23Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Mal 4:6 6He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Jeremiah 24:7 (NIV) I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my
people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.
Jeremiah 29:13 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Ezekiel 11:19 (NIV) 19I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) 26I 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.
4. The way of salvation, forgiveness, and right relationship with God is a matter of the heart.
Proverbs 3:5 (NIV) 5Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Romans 10:9-10 (NIV) 9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
1 Peter 3:15 15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have
5. The promise of God involves the heart.
Psalm 73:26 (NIV) My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 28:7 (NIV) 7The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
Romans 5:5 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Eph 3:17 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Phil 4:7 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
John 14:1 1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. . . . .“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:27 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV) 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
1 Thess 3:13 13May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
2 Thess 3:5 5May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Conclusion: The most precious promise of all . . .
Isaiah 40:11 (NIV) 11He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Cle¬land B. Mc¬A¬fee, 1903, classic hymn pictures it best:
There is a place of quiet rest, Near to the heart of God.
A place where sin cannot molest, Near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer, Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee Near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet, Near to the heart of God.
A place where we our Savior meet, Near to the heart of God.
Eli¬za E. Hew¬itt, 1898
“Give Me thy heart,” says the Father above—
No gift so precious to Him as our love;
Softly He whispers wherever thou art,
“Gratefully trust Me and give Me thy heart.”
“Give Me thy heart, give me thy heart”—
Hear the soft whisper, wherever thou art;
From this dark world He would draw thee apart,
Speaking so tenderly, “Give Me thy heart.”
***Dr. Roger W. Thomas is the preaching minister at First Christian Church, 205 W. Park St., Vandalia, MO 63382 and an adjunct professor of Bible and Preaching at Central Christian College of the Bible, 911 E. Urbandale, Moberly, MO. He is a graduate of Lincoln Christian College (BA) and Lincoln Christian Seminary (MA, MDiv), and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin).