This evening, I would like to consider the heart.
St Francis of Assisi once said: Preach the Gospel all the time – and use words if necessary.
Christianity is not, in my opinion a religion. What I mean by that is that Christianity is not a set of rules – Do’s and Don’t. and if you keep them, God will accept you. It is a lifestyle defined by our heart.
The glorious Gospel message is that God accepted us – while we were yet sinners and forgave us.
And he wants to change the way we live – not by forcing us to keep rules and regulations – as the old Communist regimes tried to do.
But he wants to change our hearts.
Let us start by looking at what the Scriptures say about the heart.
As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man. (Pr. 27:19)
My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep my ways. (Pr. 23:26)
Most of our problems as Christians stem from the heart – because there are areas that are not yet sold out to God.
What is the heart?
One definition of the heart is that it is
That organ that DISTINGUISHES the LIVING from the DEAD.
In Hebrew thought, the heart was the seat of the intellect as well as the seat of emotions.
Speaking about the Hebrew word leb which is translated in English as “heart”, one scholar said:
“the will originates in the heart, (as does..).. the carefully weighed intention.” (Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Vol 2. - Colin Brown p.181)
With that definition in mind, I believe that there are three types of heart that people can have
I. A Degenerate Heart
II. A Divided Heart and
III. A Delivered Heart (or Divinely Orientated Heart).
If you are anything like me, your first reaction will be to say – well I know which heart I have, it is the delivered or divinely orientated heart.
I suggest that there is a bit of each heart in us!
Story: St. Paul in the book of Acts describes King David as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).
Yet David was an adulterer and a murderer. How was he a man after God’s own heart?
I believe it was his willingness to admit his sin and repent of it.
You will recall how Nathan the prophet went in and accused David of adultery and murder.
It was courageous of Nathan, because he could easily have been killed by the king for doing so. Less honourable kings did just that to God’s messengers.
What was David’s response: “I have sinned against the Lord” (1 Sam12: 13).
So let us look at the first kind of heart.
I. A Degenerate Heart.
Let us start by looking at what the Scripture has to say
about the degenerate or “unregenerate” heart
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17.9)
Jesus - in Mark’s gospel - recognised the depravity of the human heart when he said:
What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mk: 7: 20-21)
Given that you might want to throw your hands up in despair. But there is hope.