Friday, October 11, 2013

The Battlefield of the Heart

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, October 11, 2013: Jeremiah 16:16-18:23

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?  10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NKJV)

The Bible has much to say about the heart of man.  Our few words here do not afford us space to deal with this important topic as thoroughly as it deserves.  I will only make a few observations.

The Bible describes the heart as the deepest inner core of a man. Out of this core comes the multi-faceted dimensions of mind, emotions, and will.

 1. The heart is where we have our basic thoughts and attitudes.  Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he."  Jesus once asked, "Why do you think evil in your heart?"  When the angel told Mary of the Son she would soon deliver, Luke 2:19 says, "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

2. The heart is the ground level of our decisions -- our will.  The Bible often speaks as it does in Exodus 35:5 saying, "Whoever is of a willing heart." We are continually instructed to "set your heart" (Dt. 32:46, I Chronicles 22:19) or "settle it in your heart" (Luke 21:14).

3. The heart is the reservoir from which flow our deepest feelings and emotions.  In the heart resides joy.  Jesus said, "Your heart will rejoice" (John 16:22).  Out of the heart come grief, gladness, desires, delights, affections, anxieties, and anguish.  The list goes on.  The heart is the symbol of love.

There is one major problem with our hearts.  This deep core is the battlefield between good and evil.  The heart is wooed by God and attacked by the devil.  Because of the sin of our original parents, something of our basic being died and is now vulnerable to deception and injury.

Some have responded to this battle by hardening their hearts.  Others have become cynical and suspicious.  Few there be that are able to keep a clean, healthy, whole heart in this battle.

Jeremiah gives a "heart diagnosis."  The first words are not pretty.  He says that we all have congenital heart issues.  We keep getting life wrong because we are prone toward deception.  There is something fundamentally disconnected in each one of us -- at the heart level.  It is a desperate situation!

The diagnosis may seem bleak, but the prognosis is good.  This heart problem can be fixed.  Jeremiah says that the Lord knows our hearts.  It is for this reason that we regularly use phrases such as "Ask Jesus INTO YOUR HEART."  This is not empty religious verbiage.  This is the real deal.  

Jeremiah says that God will search us, test us, and give to us.  From a medical perspective, this means that He will diagnose exactly what's going on and then give us exactly what we need in the light of our unique life circumstance.  

Some have read the last phrase as JUDGEMENT -- "to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."  That sounds like God will give you what you have coming.  I believe, however, these words are REDEMPTIVE.

Our great God will search and test our hearts.  He will then give us the exact medicine we need to bring health and healing.  The basic medicine is always the same -- the Cross of Jesus -- the shed blood of Christ.  That medicine is applied "according to your ways, according to the fruit of your doings."  It will invade and redeem your incredibly complex and unique set of mess-ups.  

There is nothing too difficult for God.  He can even unravel a messed up heart.  That's the message of Jeremiah. It is the message of Jesus.  So invite His to do it.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best news any of us have ever heard.  And it works -- at heart level.

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