Heart Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Heart

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In Scripture the heart is the seat of emotion, of desire and, especially, the governing center of a human being — the human being at her core, considered in her fundamental orientation to life.

In Scripture

"I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds" (Ps. 9:1).

"Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind" (Ps. 26:2).

"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4).

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me" (Ps. 51:10).

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:26).

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight" (Prov. 3:5).

"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" (Prov. 4:23).

"My child, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways" (Prov. 23:26).

"The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse — who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9).

"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer. 31:33).

"[T]hey did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened" (Mark 6:52).

"It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person'" (Mark 7:21 - 23).

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matt. 5:8).

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:21).

"He said to him, `You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind'" (Matt. 22:37).

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, `Brothers, what should we do?'" (Acts 2:37).

"When [God] had removed [Saul], he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, `I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes'" (Acts 13:22).

"I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:16 - 17).

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).

Points to Ponder

Biblical language Biblical language about human beings is neither scientific, on the one hand, nor merely careless, on the other. It's popular religious language that employs rough synonyms ("soul," "spirit," "mind" and "heart" partially overlap in meaning, but have distinct connotations) and lots of synecdoche (i.e., using the part to speak of the whole). Thus, instead of discussing "a person in her fundamental orientation to life," you simply speak of her heart. Instead of saying that a person has integrity, you speak simply of her heart: it's "clean" or it's "pure." Instead of saying that people are deeply corrupt, you say simply that the human heart is "devious" or "perverse."

Flux of emotion Heart language in Scripture often suggests the flux of emotion: Hearts may desire, may be troubled, may be calmed, may be hardened, may be softened, may be moved.

Governing center The prevailing use of heart language in Scripture is for the governing center of human beings. This is where the person's motives, desires, will and dispositions lie. The heart is the person at his essence, at her core. In the heart are the "springs" of life — the motives, the movers of life. So to have a pure heart means that much else in life will be healthy and right. To have a devious heart is to have a devious life — devious practices, devious habits, devious character.

Unfathomable The heart, the governing center, is at bottom unfathomable. This can be seen both with respect to good hearts and bad ones. In the case of good hearts, common grace causes surprises. A guy with a pickup truck may have fought with his wife one Thursday. He may have yelled at his kid and stressed himself out over his $12-an-hour job and tight finances. But then he hears of a flood in another state, drops everything and drives to the flood site. He fills, hefts and transports sandbags all night to protect people he does not know. Looked at from a domestic angle, his heart seems unhealthy. Looked at from a public service angle, it looks wonderful.

Jesus Christ is resident in it In the case of believers, all the desires and motives of the heart are influenced by the fact that Jesus Christ is resident in it. At least a good deal of the time Jesus is the prime mover in the believer's life. This is no minor mystery — that the Lord who seems to be "back there" in history or else "up there" in heaven, is actually as close to me as inside my rib cage. A heart with Christ in it is unfathomable. Was it I who welcomed an immigrant family even when it was inconvenient? Or was it Christ in me?

A heart empty of Christ A heart that is empty of Christ is also unfathomable. Ask a thief who preys on confused elderly people why he does it, and he'll say (if candid for a moment), "I want their money and cheating them seems to be the only way to get it." But why is he willing to break the law and badly hurt elderly people? Because he wanted their money more than their peace of mind. But why? Because he is selfish. But why be selfish if it causes vulnerable people so much grief? Because, as the filmmaker Woody Allen once said, trying to defend his affair with the young daughter of his wife Mia Farrow, "The heart wants what it wants."

Imperial heart overrules all That's the conversation stopper. The imperial heart overrules all. It is unfathomable. As Jeremiah says, "Who can understand it?"

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.