“Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person,” wrote Joseph Stowell in Fan the Flame.
“It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity, the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will, and the center of a person. The place to which God turns.”
Over 40 times the gospel writers record Jesus speaking regarding issues of the Heart.
“Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matt 5:8)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Matt 22:37)
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good” (Lk. 6:45).
In today’s Bible reading, Jesus warned, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”(Matt 15:19)
Jesus’ statement was in response to his interaction with the Pharisees about His disciples violating their tradition. They were concerned about ceremonial cleanness and a special ritual they used in washing their hands.
Jesus said they were hypocrites. They were obsessed with human tradition instead of divine truth. They focused on the outward instead of the inward. They were preoccupied with the physical instead of the spiritual. And they were more worried about the contaminating of the body (really their rules) than they were defiling the heart.
Our challenge today is no different. Our actions and attitudes are issues of the heart. It is our most vulnerable area. It is where the devil will attack you. He may try to confuse your thinking, arouse illicit feelings, salve your conscience or weaken your will.
Sexual immorality is an issue of the heart. The reason there is so much immorality today is because of spiritual heart problems. We are attacked by television shows, movies and images on the internet that appeal to the lusts of the eyes and the flesh. Lurid literature that arouses lewd feelings assault the heart.
Improper attitudes reveal a heart defect. While we may be successful in guarding the heart against lusts, too many allow attitudinal problems to assail the heart. Pride, partiality, prejudice are problems of the heart that can spiritually harm us. As a result, we entertain evil thoughts that can lead to falsehoods and slander.
Disregard for human life exposes an evil heart. Murder is preceded by bitterness, animosity, and hatred. An evil heart produces an evil harvest. Men whose hearts are filled hostility don’t require a gun a kill someone. They can do it with a knife. A truck. An airplane. Or a pressure cooker rigged with explosives.
Too often we address the problems of human behavior we face in our country with superficial solutions. But they won’t work long term. Nor will they work in our homes, churches or personal lives. Oswald J. Smith was right when he wrote, “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.”
Fighting in the family, contention in churches, discord among neighbors and violence in our culture could be greatly minimized, even eliminated, by each person focusing on the health of their own spiritual heart.
It’s difficult to admit that we may have issues of the heart. It’s easier to blame external situations. Other people. Or a corrupt culture. But the Bible reminds us that who we are, our true character is formed by the thoughts of the heart. “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Indeed, every issue is an issue of the heart.
The ancient advice of the wise man, therefore, would serve us all well in the 21st century. “Guard your heart with all diligence for out it springs the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman