By Dave Lindsey
This article is not about the muscular organ that pumps and circulates blood throughout our bodies. In the Bible, the heart is something quite different. Sometimes it’s used to mean our emotions, attitudes, desires, and thoughts. In other places, it means our character, the things we believe to be truths and what we consistently act on most of the time. Scripture says that God looks on our hearts, and that’s the heart we’ll cover in this article. God can look on our hearts because they reflect who we are and they are seen in our actions. They’re capable of both good and evil.
Biblical scholars vary on their definitions of “heart,” making it difficult for the average reader to understand. But if we examine what the Bible says about “heart,” we can get a better understanding of what it is, and then we can do what’s necessary to make sure we are “heart healthy.”
Our relationship with God
Our hearts plays big in our relationship with God and His salvation. In Matthew 22:36, Jesus was asked, what is the greatest commandment in the Law? His reply in verse 37 was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Romans 10:9-10 tells us how to be born again and receive everlasting life. Those instructions include confessing Jesus as your Lord and “believe in your heart that God raised him out from among the dead.” If loving God and attaining salvation are heart issues, then we need to understand “heart” from a biblical perspective.
Isn’t all of mankind basically good-hearted?
We all inherited a sinful nature from Adam (Rom. 5:12). It’s our tendency to sin by nature. You’ll often hear it said that we should “always trust and follow our hearts”, as if heart is an innate virtuous quality that everyone has. But Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart–he is a fool.” That’s because our heart can:
- Become hard (Exod. 4:21).
- Become proud or lifted up (Deut. 8:14).
- Turn directions (1 Kings 11:2-3, 9).
- Be deceived (Isa. 44:20).
Jesus made it clear that a person’s heart can’t be trusted, when he said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matt. 15:19). There can be evil and maliciousness in people’s hearts. That’s why Scripture says, “More than anything else you protect, guard your heart, because from it are the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23). The word “issues” in the above verse is widely misunderstood. Probably the best definition is “out goings.” Those out-goings include things like our speech and deeds that can be seen in how we consistently act and react in any given situation, and especially under pressure.
Renew the mind to guard and protect the heart
Generally speaking, we think, rationalize, decide, and do a host of other things with our minds. The heart is more like a repository of the things we believe to be true. Many thoughts enter our mind over the course of time, but we don’t act or give them much consideration. We can generally change our minds quickly, and often do; but the heart is slower, and often reluctant, to change. That’s because the heart contains the accumulation of beliefs, attitudes, opinions, desires, and emotions that have been shaped through our life experiences. How we were raised and educated has an influence on our hearts and is reflected in our character. These experiences shape our hearts and can result in either godly or ungodly behaviors.
Do not be conformed to the pattern of this age.
Scripture calls Satan the god of this present evil age (2 Cor. 4:4). He is orchestrating much of life to shape and mold our minds to commit ungodly behaviors. Life is always teaching us something. Too often people get their understanding of who God is from life experiences. They believe such lies as “God is in control of everything that happens,” so when they see evil, they assume that it is God’s will. All those experiences shape and mold the heart of a person. We are encouraged in Romans 12:2 to “renew our minds” so that we know God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. What we subject our minds to does effect what we believe in our hearts, so it is important that we know how and what to do to protect and guard our hearts.
How do I protect and guard my heart?
Fellowship with other Christians is an important way to guard our hearts. Concerning the practical part of the Christian walk, I’m always amazed that it comes down to just a few basic principles. Scripture tells us that we are to “be encouraged in heart and united in love” (Col. 2:2). Being a Christian and serving our Lord is not the easiest path in life. It’s imperative that we fellowship with other Christians for encouragement and to be united in our common cause. Christianity doesn’t work well for hermits because all of us need the blessings and encouragement of others to keep our hearts united in love. Just as “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor. 15:23), fellowshipping with godly, honest company helps keep our hearts honest and godly, too. It’s not something we can do alone. As Christians, we have an obligation to watch over the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as our own (Phil. 2:4). There will always be times when we need to confront and correct each other to keep our hearts right with God’s Word.
Fellowship with our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus is also important if we are going to have the strength of heart necessary to do their will. Scripture says, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”(2 Thess. 2:16-17). There are many ways God and our Lord can encourage us. One of those ways is through the written word—the Bible.
Reading and studying Scripture is another way to guard and protect our hearts. We are fortunate to have printed Bibles in our lifetime. That’s something the first-century believers didn’t have. We should take advantage of this fact by developing good reading and study habits (2 Tim. 2:15). If our hearts can be deceived, then we need a standard to compare our hearts to. Scripture says that the word of God “is able to judge the considerations and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). God’s word should be at the center of our fellowships, with competent teachers who can instruct and give understanding of God’s will.
the eyes of your heart having been enlightened so that you know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the holy ones.
Scripture tells us that we can’t avoid persecution and suffering as Christians, but it also says that we have a hopeful future with great rewards for our faithfulness as we endure the evil of this present age. Suffering is never fun for anyone, but if we can’t see an end to suffering, then hope is often lost and we lose heart.
Prayer guards and protects our hearts
The pressures of life can cause us to lose heart, become discouraged, and even give up on the Christian walk. No one understood this better than Jesus. He teaches his disciples how to avoid losing heart in Luke 18:1, “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”
Philippians 4:6 tells us to not be anxious, but to pray with thanksgiving and let God know what we need. Verse 7 goes on to say, “and then the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”
Because of sin, our hearts can condemn us (1 John 3:20). Prayer is a great way to unburden our hearts. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray what is commonly called the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matt. 6:9-13), asking for forgiveness of sins was included. Prayer is asking, and when we ask for forgiveness, we know that God is, “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
We are to be witnesses to others of what Jesus Christ has done for us. 1 Peter 3:15 says, “but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Unless we honor Christ as Lord and as holy in our hearts, it will be difficult to be effective ambassadors for him. We make Christ Lord by confessing him as such and believing in our heart that God raised him out from among the dead. We need to be convinced in our own hearts before we heal the hearts of others with the Good News of salvation and hope that is in Christ Jesus.
Giving to others helps our hearts
One might argue that giving is more a reflection of the heart than something that guards and protects it. Scripture does tell us to give according to what we decide in our hearts (2 Cor. 9:7), but there is a principle attached to giving. It’s that when we sow sparingly we reap sparingly; and when bountifully, we reap bountifully. Giving can come in many forms, such as money, time, and possessions. No matter how we give, when we do it from the heart, it comes back to us through God’s grace. Not only is the recipient blessed, but God increases the ability of the giver to give more (2 Cor. 9:11). That kind of result helps to establish in our hearts that our God is gracious and loving, and it encourages us to keep giving.
Keeping our hearts pure
James 4:8 says we are to “purify our hearts.” A pure heart is not a milestone that we reach as a Christian, and then it stays pure. It’s a continuing effort that we must be engaged in daily. Sadly, many people don’t understand that they are being bombarded daily with demonic influences from the culture they live in. The news media, TV, cinema, and even social media don’t have a lot of heart-strengthening benefit. Much of the information from those sources have a negative impact on our minds, which, in turn, effects our hearts. It takes deliberate effort on our part to:
- Spend time with fellow believers for heart strengthening encouragement
- Read and study God’s word, so that our standard for truth is from God
- Pray and ask God and our Lord Jesus to forgive our sins and strengthen us
- Speak the good news of salvation through Christ to the unsaved
- Give to those in need.
There are many other things we can do to guard and protect our hearts, but these are important; and when we neglect them, we are neglecting our hearts.
We know that eating healthy and exercising keeps our physical heart healthy. We should also do those necessary things to keep what Scripture calls “heart,” spiritually healthy.