It is roughly the size of a human fist and weighs only between 9 and 12 ounces.
It beats 100,000 times per day.
It pumps blood, giving life to our frame.
We cannot live without our heart, which feeds and awakens the body.
But there is something more important than this organ’s physical, life-giving job. It is also the gatekeeper to our spiritual condition.
The world casts its greedy eyes on outer appearances, so quick to judge and categorize: tall or short? Chubby or slender? Brown eyes or blue? Dark or fair-skinned? Handsome or homely? Stylish or frumpy?
Yet God studies the heart.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
The condition of our heart matters. God is observing those chambers where motives are born, swell, and give way to actions. A healthy heart will be soft, tender, and malleable, eager to submit to the Lord, while a hardened heart is cold, rebellious, and bitter. It rages against God and becomes incensed when faced with truth.
Pay attention. If you find yourself making excuses about haphazard Bible consumption, sloppy church attendance, or if your heart remains impenetrable while hearing the preaching of Scripture, you are in a dangerous place.
Thin ice, my friend.
When I was a little girl, I waited eagerly for our pond across the street to ice over in winter. Ice skating was my favorite pastime, and I spent hours practicing.
The weekly lessons at our local rink were fun, and we would step off the ice only to watch the Zamboni clear the scrapings each hour, transforming the rink into a sheet of glass. Of course no one was required to examine the thickness of the ice, because if it melted, so what? There was no danger of drowning.
But our pond at home? Now that was a different story. Mr. Golden, our landlord, was the consummate safety patrolman. We were not permitted to put so much as a toe on the iced-over pond until he had given his nod of approval, and for good reason. The pond was not only deep, but it flowed to the steep dam, and if we were to fall in, we would be dragged downstream, carried away under the sheet of ice, unable to find the surface. We would likely drown.
There was no playing fast-and-loose on Mr. Golden’s watch. He required at least three hard freezes, with frigid temperatures in between before he would even consider testing the ice. Finally, after weeks of waiting, he drilled down to measure its thickness.
Once it met his approval, he stepped gingerly onto the slick surface and slid around in his work boots, jumping around a bit, arms waving to keep balance. My brother and I giggled. Mr. Golden was a large man–exceedingly tall and big-boned. It was comical to watch him bunny hop and flap his arms.
What’s so funny, you two? he roared, wiry eyebrows all furrowed.
We piped down.
Despite all gruffness, Mr. Golden was tender-hearted and his genuine love for us was displayed through protection. Thin ice equaled danger. We were warned that if we heard so much as a creak, we must get off the ice, and pronto.
Finally, when his standards were satisfied, we were free to skate.
Figure eights, twirls, jumps, a couple of hockey sticks and a puck, and we were off.
There is so much toxicity swirling in the world this minute: a smoky haze of confusion. It is all too easy to grow careless and complacent in our pursuit of God. If not on our guard, we become like Adam and Eve, falling through the thin ice of Satan’s lies: Did God really say?
That one act of rebellion in the Garden of Eden resulted in heartache for the ages.
May I encourage you to wage war against all passivity? To awaken to the beauty and safety of loving God wholeheartedly? To guard your heart, and your relationships?
Will you choose to feast upon his Word daily and be quick to obey it?
To pursue holiness is to keep your heart healthy. No one can do this for you.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
To keep your heart is a daily, life-long endeavor.
It is helpful to consider the saints of old, like Caleb. He stood boldly in the minority (with Joshua) speaking truth. In the fullness of his heart he trembled at God rather than those intimidating giants. He banked on the promises of God, who had already gifted the children of Israel with the Promised Land.
Caleb believed God and was later rewarded.
But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. (Numbers 14:24 NIV)
Caleb loved God more than anything. Wholeheartedly. He was a leader among men, and a servant follower of God. He stood on solid ground.
The other children of Israel, floundering on thin ice, despised the truth he spoke and wanted to stone both Caleb and Joshua for their obedience. (Numbers 14:10) God intervened and everyone, apart from these faithful two, died without seeing the Promised Land.
I have been slowly reading and rereading Keeping the Heart, by John Flavel. Listen to what this Puritan minister wrote:
To keep the heart, then, is to carefully protect it from sin, which disorders it, and maintain that spiritual frame which fits it for a life of communion with God….Carnal and formal people do not pay attention to this; they cannot be brought to confer with their own hearts. There are some people who have lived forty or fifty years and have scarcely one hour’s discourse with their own hearts. It is a hard thing to bring a man and himself together to do this. But Christians know those soliloquies are very beneficial. The heathen could say, “The soul is made wise by sitting still in quietness.” Though bankrupt hearts do not care to investigate their accounts, upright hearts will know whether they are going backwards or forwards. “I commune with my own heart” David said. The heart can never be kept until its attitude is examined and understood.
In contrast to Caleb, consider Lot’s wife, whom God turned into a pillar of salt.
This woman dabbled in both the spiritual and the worldly, never a good plan. Conflicted in heart, she disobeyed God’s clear instructions to not turn back toward the destruction of the city. But her heart longed for sin. She was drawn to the life in Sodom, and the wickedness that flourished in that land. It pulled at her darkened heart.
Lot’s wife was destroyed for her disobedience, circling around her desire to melt into the throngs of the wicked. She died a salty monument to the bitter consequences of refusing to guard her heart through obedience to God.
I will speak plainly: it is often a lonesome thing to pursue holiness by keeping your heart. Many, many, people both inside and outside the church, will grind their teeth, incensed as you walk in truth. You will be mocked, slandered, and misunderstood.
Tuck Scripture into your heart, feasting on a treasure that may never be stolen. And as you carry God’s Word in those secret, inner chambers, remember that God will be pleased. The Holy Spirit dwells there, giving you, Christian, the courage, and desire to obey him in the first place.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.