Summary: Our words and actions flow out of the condition of our heart.

Well, this year of 2001 will be behind us in just a couple of days. I think the events of September 11 and the ripple effects on the economy will etch this year in our memories for a long, long time. But apart from events outside of you, think about who you have been this year. How are you a different person today from who you were a year ago? Are you a deeper person? a more loving person? a wiser person? a more spiritual person?

How about a year from now? At the end of 2002, will you be a different person from who you are now? Will you be a deeper person? a more loving person? a wiser person? a more spiritual person?

I guess it was once common to make New Year’s resolutions this time of year. But my feeling is that people don’t bother so much anymore. Most talk about New Year’s resolutions is about how quickly they are forgotten and how ineffective they are.

I don’t want anyone feeling that they can’t grow deeper or wiser, or that those are things that just happen with time and can’t be hurried along. But we need to go deeper than just writing a list of new behaviors we are going to start in the new year. We need to get to the heart of change and spiritual growth.

And so, this morning I want to look at a passage from the Sermon on the Mount from Luke’s gospel that gives a very important key to how good things come about in our lives. We’ll read it in a moment, but let me tell you the answer first, the real key to change in our lives is that it all starts in our hearts. Develop a good heart and you’ll be a good person.

Now read with me our text, Luke 6:43-45. It’s printed in your bulletin.

"43 No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks."

Being a good person, the person God wants you to be, is a matter of the heart. And I think there is a deep desire in all of us that we don’t want to be just going through the motions of life. We want to be deeply connected, to feel with what we are doing, to really value the things that are good, to really care. Those are all matters of the heart. We want to live from the heart.

And, of course, when the Bible talks about “heart” it isn’t referring to that pump in our chests that keeps the blood flowing. It is talking about something much deeper, and harder to define. It is the core of who you are, the source of emotions and desires, passion, understanding. Heart is a word we use for the deepest sort of understanding, for heart to heart connections. It is in a healthy heart where we are able to connect with God. When our hearts are healthy, life is good.

The Bible describes all sorts of heart diseases. Let’s look at some of them.

In Proverbs 12:25 we read about an anxious heart. It says, “Anxiety weighs down the human heart.” We’ve had a pretty anxious year, haven’t we? And that’s a good description of what it feels like when you are anxious and worried? Your heart is weighed down, sluggish, it doesn’t respond well. If you are worried about your health or getting the bills paid or your kids or a strained relationship, your brain may be so busy trying to process just one or two anxious issues that there just isn’t much brain power left for anything else. It is not going to produce much fruit. An anxious heart is just too weighed down. It needs care.

Proverbs 25:20 talks about the effect of grief on the human heart. “Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood, sorrow gnaws at the human heart.” Those of us who have experienced a major grief know what it does to your heart. There is an empty spot there, no less real than the hole a moth chews in a woolen blanket or worms burrow into wood. For a while after a grief you just don’t have the emotional strength you would normally have. That makes it especially important to take care of a grieving heart and nurture it so that it can become strong again.

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