When learning how to share the gospel, I remember being taught to ask people to “give their heart to Jesus.” In college, my professor Dr. Henry Krabbendam once said, “Don’t tell people to give their heart to Jesus! It’s diseased and dead. Instead, tell them to ask Jesus to give them his heart! It is holy, perfect, wonderful, and full of life.”
I’ve also heard people say, “They missed knowing Jesus by 18 inches.” What they mean is that a person knew about Jesus, but didn’t know Jesus. It is true that a person must know Jesus personally. Being a follower of Jesus is both a head thing and a heart thing.
Why is the head important?
What we know (or think we know) informs our heart what to feel and believe. Scripture teaches the importance of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. For example, we are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7) and wise men store up knowledge (Prov. 10:14). We are told to acquire wisdom and understanding (Prov. 4:5) and to ask for it if we lack it (James 1:5). And, we are told to incline our hearts to understanding (Prov. 2:2). It is through understanding of the scripture that we begin to gain wisdom and through the gaining of wisdom that we truly begin to fear the Lord and start to come to know about him. And, it is in that knowledge about him that we find the desire either to know him personally or to reject him. That is when the heart comes into play.
Why is the heart important?
Scripture talks a lot about the heart. The heart, in our culture, is the seat of our emotional being. Of course, I’m not talking about our physical heart. As Mark Lowry points out, have you ever thought about how weird it is to say to a person, “I love you with all of my heart?” What you’re saying in a physical sense is, “I love you…with all of my blood pumping muscle.” The Hebrews considered the bowels to be the heart of the emotions. Lowry says, “When they said, “I love you. They said, ‘Oh baby, you make my liver quiver.’”
When we talk about the heart, we’re talking about something else. The heart, as our emotional seat, functions in three ways. It determines how we think, how we feel, and what we will. For example, if we are passion in how we feel about something, it is something that we think about often. We spend much time researching it and considering it. When it comes time to act on our passion, our will to act on it is determined by how our heart feels about it. If we love it, we fight for it. If we hate it, we fight against it.
Our heart also determines both the moral and social dimensions of our lives. The way we think, feel, and our will has a direct impact on what we believe morally and how we interact socially. If we believe, for example, that there is a God who is ultimately good and that he embodies the absolute truth, then we will live in a way that acknowledges what he declares to be morally good and we will treat others in the way that he treats us. If we believe that there is no God and that truth is relative each to his or her own, then we may live morally ambiguous lives and our social conduct is determined more by how each of us feels than a set standard for what is right and wrong.
We are created in the image of God. Whether we believe in him or not, that image exists within us. How that image plays out is determined by what we think, feel, and will. It is impacted by our moral and social understanding. That image within us is a creative image and it is what drives us. It is the impetus for our actions and speech. We can be creatively good or creatively evil. In my private prayers, I’ve often prayed, “Lead me away from temptation, because I can certainly find enough left on my own.” That image of God in us leads us to want to create, to do, to be, and to say. And, the heart determines what those creations, actions, being, and sayings will be.
HEART -> THINK, WILL, FEEL -> MORAL & SOCIAL UNDERSTANDING -> CREATIVE DRIVE -> ACTIONS & SPEECH
So, God aims for the heart. In 1 Sam 16:7, we are told that God doesn’t look to our appearance, but to our heart. Psalms tells us that God knows the secrets of the heart (44:21), creates a clean heart in us (51:10), that we are to approach him with a broken and contrite heart (51:17). The heart without God, we are told in Jeremiah 17:9-10 is, “deceitful above all things and beyond cure” and that God “searches the heart and examines the mind.” Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure of heart” (Matt 5:8) and Paul teaches, “With the heart a man believes and is justified” (Rom 10:10). In Philippians 4:7, Paul warns us to guard our hearts and minds and the writer of Hebrews says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).
God wants us to know about him and to know him. He gives us his scripture and teaching so that we can know about him and he aims his message at our heart so that we will desire a relationship with him. If we are to be good witnesses for him, then we must know about him and we must know him. We must be driven by a passion for him that is deeper than that for anything else in our lives. It should be the basis for what we think, feel, and will. It must be the foundation for our moral and social interaction. We should be driven to speak and act in a way that shows our faith and belief in Jesus! So, be careful in how you think and guard your heart; so protected then make sure you act and speak in a way that brings honor and glory to our Father!