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Vol.  10  No. 10 October 2008  Page 10
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Raymond ElliottThe True Heart of a Man

By Raymond Elliott

Among believers in God, there is a misunderstanding regarding the true heart of a person. When asked what the heart is, most people would place their hand over their chests and say, “This is my heart.” Some religionists have been known to say, with hand on chest, “I had rather have the feeling that I have in my heart than a stack of Bibles.” Others have accused members of the church of our Lord of not believing in a ‘heartfelt religion.’ Certainly, a religion that does not touch and control the heart is worthless. It is cold and lifeless. It cannot and will not save. However, heartfelt religion is not just placing your hand over the organ that pumps blood through the body and saying, “I know that I am right because I feel it in my heart.” The real problem relative to this subject is the misconception as to what the heart of a man truly is and what the definition of ‘heartfelt religion’ is all about. Actually, we could summarize the whole matter by saying: “Heartfelt religion is the Christian religion cordially received into the heart, accepted by the heart, felt in the heart, enjoyed in the heart, producing the change of heart and purifying the heart and causing it to be holy.” Now, let us turn our thoughts to the Bible definition of man’s heart.

First of all, let us notice the unconverted heart. Jeremiah wrote that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? Furthermore, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool…” (Proverbs 28:26). Jesus taught: “For out of the heart come forth evil thought, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings” (Matthew 15:19). We can understand why God has instructed man to “Keep thy heart with all diligence; For out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The heart that has not been changed by the Gospel message of Christ is not to be trusted; it is vile and corrupt, and it is the source of every evil thought and deed. A man is what he thinks. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7). Therefore, the unregenerated heart does not and cannot produce a life acceptable to God.

In understanding what the true heart of man is, we must notice the exercises or functions of the heart. First, there is the intellect compartment of the heart. Man is able to think in his heart: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7). “In the days of Noah, God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts” (Matthew 9:4)?

Man is able to understand in heart. “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing and their eyes they have closed; lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, And should turn again, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:15). Faith is produced in man’s heart by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). “Because if thou shalt confess with they mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him for the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:10). Man can reason in his heart: “…Why reason ye these things in your hearts” (Mark 2:8)? In addition, one can meditate in his heart: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Second, there is the compartment of man’s heart that deals with the feelings or emotions. We are taught to love God “with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). We also can have desires within the heart: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). We are instructed by the writer of Proverbs to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). It is in this area where many problems arise. For example, a person attending a religious crusade may be emotionally moved by a stirring sermon and the singing of a very touching invitation song and respond. However, a short time later this individual may not be found associated with any religious group. Generally speaking, man makes a decision with his emotions. Certainly, any decision in religious matters that is not from the heart is worthless; however, a decision based solely upon feelings will not stand.

True Christianity deals with the intellect of man. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18). There are facts to be believed. A person must believe that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, that he was buried and that he arose on the third day to die no more (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). It is only after one has studied the Holy Scriptures, believed the evidence that one is to be moved to make the proper decision to obey Christ. Jesus said, “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The third compartment of the heart deals with the will of man. One can intend with the heart: “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and sprit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thought and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Paul mentions that a Christian should give to God as he has “purposed in his heart” (1 Corinthians 9:7). The young man Daniel purposed in his heart not to “defile himself with the king’s dainties…” (Daniel 1:8). Therefore, one can purpose or plan in the heart. In addition, one can obey with the heart: “But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6:17).

We have given an overview of the true heart of a man. In its various compartments, the intellect, the feelings and the will, we have learned that the heart is capable to think, understand, believe, love, desire, trust, intend, purpose and obey. Such evidence from the Holy Scriptures should be sufficient to prove that the heart is not the physical organ that pumps the blood through the human body. Before we conclude, it is necessary that we discuss how the heart is instrumental in the matter of conversion. Through the preaching of the Gospel, faith is produced in the heart of a man: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The heart is cleansed also by faith. Peter mentioned in Acts 15:7-9 that God made choice among the apostles inasmuch that he preached to the household of Cornelius in order for the Gentiles to “hear the word of the gospel and believe.” Peter also declared that God cleansed their hearts by faith. This cleansing by faith was not a passive one, but a faith that was obedient (James 2:24). We know this is true because of the words that the apostle later wrote in 1 Peter 1:22: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth…” We know that only the pure in heart shall see God (Matthew 5:8). Now notice in the writings of David those who will be in the presence of God: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart…” (Psalm 24:3-4).

We conclude therefore that a clean heart and a clean soul are the same. Furthermore, we know how the heart is made free from sin and that is through obedience to that “form of doctrine” delivered to the hearers in Rome (Romans 6:17). That “form of doctrine” was in the likeness of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Romans 6:1-5, we learn that a believer dies to sin in repentance and is immersed into Christ where there is salvation from sins and is raised to walk in newness of life.

Thus, the change of heart involves one’s belief, relationship and affections. “Is thy heart right with God, Washed in the crimson flood, Cleansed and made holy, humble and lowly, Right in the sight of God?”

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