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Summary: The bible speaks often about the heart. It is more than the blood-pump in our chests, it is all-encompassing to our lives. This lesson looks at some if the ways "heart" is used in scripture.

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1. Last week we spoke of the relationship of our actions and our hearts -- our actions show our hearts

2. The Bible has much to say about the heart

a. Can be deceitful (Jeremiah 17.9)

b. To be used fully for God -- Deuteronomy 6.4-9

c. Impacts our appearance

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. Proverbs 15:13 (Cain's countenance -- revealed his heart condition)

After Richard Norris was badly disfigured by a gunshot wound in 1997, he remained hidden at his parents' home for years. They covered the mirrors to keep him from glimpsing his face. But recently a team of doctors changed that by performing a "face transplant." Using medical advancements, the physicians gave Richard a new countenance. Last fall, his transformational story was featured in a major magazine.

While Richard's story is unusually dramatic, there's a sense in which we all need a new countenance. Study the faces of people you meet every day. Steal a quick glance at your own face as you pass a mirror or reflective window. How stressed and grim we look! Our emotions inexorably flash through the forty-three muscles in our face, and we communicate our feelings through our eyes, our brows, and the set of our mouths. One smile can light up a room; one frown can darken a day.

The Bible tells us a merry heart makes a cheerful countenance. Rejoice in the Lord this weekend, and let the joy of Jesus shine through.

I have seen more cheerful faces on iodine bottles than on some Christians. Vance Havner, in Pepper 'n Salt

3. What is the heart, according to the scriptures?

I. The Heart Is the Center, the Essence

A. Stats:

* 814 references to the human heart (not much about the blood pump in our chests)

* 26 references to the heart of God

* 11 references to the heart of the sea

* Matthew 12.40 -- Heart of the earth

B. The Heart/Essence of the Gospel

Messing up comes naturally to us, but some mess up worse than others. One woman in Michigan was convicted for embezzling more than $10,000 from her employer. During her sentencing, she admitted, "I have shamed myself and my family, but by the grace of God they have forgiven me. It will take a long time for me to forgive myself. I know that people will never look at me again the same way, and I am very sorry."

It's sad to see people who have made life-altering mistakes, and sometimes it's hard to forgive ourselves when we're the one who sinned. Left to ourselves, we're a constant source of shame and sorrow to ourselves and others. Since the "wages of sin is death," we're all condemned to hell apart from the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The essence/heart of the Gospel is this: We have a forgiving God who will restore us if we confess our sins to Him. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. We can forgive ourselves only because He washes away our sins and makes us holy in His sight. He can clean up what we mess up. He can forgive to the uttermost.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7

II. The Heart Is the Genuine ("Real Deal")

A. Genuine Belief is from the Heart

Righteousness based on faith -- But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10.8-10

B. Genuine Forgiveness from the heart (Parable of the Unforgiving Servant) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. Matthew 18.35

C. Genuine Loving Actions

Why Help the Pig?

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Philippians 2:3

Two men were riding their horses down a country road, discussing the question of motivation. One believed we're capable of pure motives, even without Christ. The other disagreed. They came to a ditch where a pig had gotten tangled up in fencing and was struggling to extricate himself. The latter gentlemen got down in the mud and managed to free the animal, though he ruined his clothing.

Resuming their trip, the first man said, "There! That was a selfless act of kindness." But his friend replied, "No, it was pure selfishness. The only reason I helped that pig was to save myself from the guilt and torment of worrying about him all day."

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