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November 19, 2007

“YOUR HEART: THE COMMAND CENTER OF YOUR LIFE”

by Professor Robert J. Barth

As you read the New Testament, Jesus’ focus on the heart becomes very clear. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of the heart and only the “pure in heart” will “see God” (Matthew 5:8). Jesus preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17) telling people that repentance was a prerequisite to entering the kingdom of God. Repentance includes a turning of your heart away from self and sin, and a turning toward God and righteousness.

Jesus helped people to understand that sin includes evil intentions and desires of the heart, as well as wrong actions. The clearest example is His words concerning adultery.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)

The Lord emphasized that all sin begins in the heart and that words and actions are manifestations of what is in the heart.

And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7:14-23)

Of course, if evil actions and attitudes originate in the heart, it only follows that good actions and attitudes begin there as well. Jesus confirmed this.

Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. (Matthew 12:33-35)

In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus compares the “good ground” to a “good heart.”

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 11-15)

This is similar to the Apostle Paul’s exhortation: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Since the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” (Matthew 22:37) and the thoughts and meditations of our heart are so important (Psalm 19:14), it is crucial that we understand the nature of our heart and what it is.

The Scriptures reveal that our heart is the control or command center of our life. Out of the heart come thoughts, actions, beliefs, attitudes, and ultimately our eternal destiny. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10).

The heart is what we believe to be true. It is our presuppositions, values, and convictions. If what we believe is true, the fruit will be life. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and He came to give us life, and life “more abundantly” (John 10:10). If what we believe is based upon a lie or deception, the fruit will be destructive because Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). We choose, knowingly or unknowingly, whether to believe truth or untruths. To know the difference we must know the Truth!

What we value or treasure will be the focus of our heart. Jesus emphasized the power of our affections and the impact our choices have on the condition of, and fruit from, our heart. The “fruit” in our life, or what we are currently reaping, is often a reflection of the seeds that were sown in our heart and the condition of our heart. Ultimately, we will either value things of this world, or the things of God:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)

God also makes it clear in Old Testament verses that the heart is the control center of our life. In fact, out of the heart “are the issues of life.” That is why we are directed to “keep” our heart “with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23).  Our heart is often influenced by what others say and do, whether we know it or not. Those influences help shape the condition of our heart and those beliefs will bear fruit in our life (Proverbs 13:20; I Corinthians 15:33). Unfortunately many of the views, beliefs, and opinions that have been shaped in our heart are not based upon the truth. They are based upon the opinions and influence of others and upon experiences through our five senses. We could call these false heart conditions or beliefs “evil strongholds” that must be pulled down with the truth. This is all part of the “renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) by the Word of truth and the instruction of the Holy Spirit.

In the weeks to come, we will do a heart “check up” to consider the nature of our heart before being “born again” and the New Covenant promises with respect to the heart, the command center of our life.

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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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