Today Pastor Choi talks about the human heart. Pointing out that the human heart is a battle-ground between God and the devil who vie for our worship, devotion, and affection, Pastor Choi exhorts the people of God to take good care of their hearts by asking for God’s help.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
What is the Heart?
Jeremiah 17:9 New American Standard Bible
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
Recently, after 25 years in ministry, I wanted to have a deeper understanding on one subject: the heart. Not that I wanted to be a cardiologist or a psychologist. It seems to me that everything in our life (both good and bad) stems from the heart such as kindness, love, greed, and even hate. Heart matters in every relationship with God and with people. So, this is how I reasoned myself: the better understanding of the heart, the better understanding of myself and others, and the better relationships with God and with each other. So I started my study on the heart.
It still has a long way to go before I can even say that I understand the human heart. This morning, you are about to hear my preliminary study on the subject. In fact, I am going to do a three-part series in the next three Sundays. I hope and pray that the series will lead us to a better understanding, better care of our hearts, and better relationships. Here’s part 1 of 3: what is the heart?
Definition of the Heart
Let me begin with what I mean by the heart. There are three definitions of the heart: medical, poetic/artistic, and scriptural.
- Medical: a hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation (Oxford Dictionary)
- Poetic/Artistic: the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion (Dictionary.com)
- Scriptural: the innermost seat of emotion, mind, will, conscience, and appetites.
This morning I am going to strictly focus on the scriptural sense of heart: the heart as the innermost seat of emotion, thoughts, will, and appetites. Our western mindset is tuned to the separation of heart and mind (or heart and head) due to the Platonic distinction. Please note here that I make no distinction between heart/emotion and mind/intellect, because the Scriptures don’t make a clear-cut distinction between emotion and intellect. In fact, the Ancient Hebrews believed that all the characteristics of modern-day “heart and mind” were interconnected and originated from one entity, not two, and they called them “heart.” So, will I. When I say “the heart,” it covers both the mind and emotions.
Three Kinds of Heart
The Bible talks about three kinds of heart.
- The Heart of God (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 32:41, Ezekiel 28:2)
- The Heart of Man (Jeremiah 7:19)
- The Heart of Beasts (Daniel 5:21)
The Heart of God
I am so thankful that God too has the heart. God’s heart deserves a full sermon for another time. This is how much I will tell you, though. Out of His heart, God created the heavens and the earth (intellect). Out of His heart, He has chosen us to be His children (will). Out of His heart, He loves us unconditionally (emotion). To Him each soul is equally valuable, sinners and saints alike (e.g. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous—Matthew 5:45). He never gives up on anyone unless they reject Him first. In fact, His loving kindness, generosity, and mercy endure forever! They blow us away! All out of His loving heart! Isn’t it wonderful that we worship and belong to such a God with a loving heart?
The Heart of Man
When God created Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, He has given them the heart that shared the characteristics of God’s heart; pure and innocent, loving, kind, creative, and no sign or touch of evil at all. However, when they disobeyed God, sin came in and that changed everything.
In fact, sin corrupted the human heart to the core and forever. For instance, during Noah’s time, God was deeply grieved with the constant evil thoughts of humans to the point where He regretted that He had created humans. He wanted a new start. So, through the Great Flood, He wiped humanity off from the surface of the earth except for Noah’s eight. However, Noah’s eight still had the old heart—still depraved as before. Thousands of years later, God described the condition of the human heart to prophet Jeremiah as follows: the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9).
Almost three millennia passed since prophet Jeremiah; in the 21st century, our heart still is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Wouldn’t you agree?
The Heart of Beasts
The reference on the heart of beasts is also found in the Bible; only once. The heart of beasts demonstrates basic instincts of survival: no reason, no ability to create, no conscience, or no reverence of life. It only knows daily survival among prey and predators. One man actually experienced and had it for seven years (Daniel 4:32). E.g.
21 He [King Nebuchadnezzar] was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes (Daniel 5:21).
Once again, my focus will be on the human heart.
What’s Happening in the Heart?
- You can forget all the rest of my sermon this morning. However, please remember this: Your heart is a battle ground between God and the enemy of God (that is, the devil) who vie for your worship, devotion, and affection. For instance,
– God sows the Word of God in the heart (Luke 8:11).
– The devil snatches away the Word sown in the heart (Luke 8:12).
- Remember: Your heart is like an open bowl and both God and the devil have access to it. In fact, three parties have access to your heart: self, God, and the devil. All of them can throw in and take out any thoughts out of your heart. Let’s think about this a little more, beginning with “self.”
What Each Party Can Do to Our Heart
- Self: we can initiate/retain/remove any thoughts, wishes, and plans in our hearts either good or bad. Here are some examples of what we can do with our hearts.
– We can humble ourselves and incline our hearts to God.
– We can watch over our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23).
– We can also neglect the care of our heart and let it be defiled: See what happens to the heart that is neglected, that is not properly cared after or not protected from the devil. Listen to Jesus in Mark 7.
– From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deed of coveting and wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23).
- The devil: too many a Christian have a very naïve understanding of the devil: some of us think he is not real; others believe that it is just a personification of evil. Others depict him as the guy holding a pitch-fork with two horns on his head and a tail. Or, a cute little guy sitting on our shoulder whispering to us. No, he is much more a cunning creature than those images. He has only one goal: to steal, kill, and destroy your soul into hell (John 10:10). In order to achieve his goal, he diligently works, first and foremost, on your heart. He enslaves your heart through temptation, fear, deception, and confusion. He snatches anything good and godly away from your heart especially God’s Word sown in your heart (Luke 8:12) [e.g. distractions during sermon]. Then, he fills up your heart with evil/unclean/negative/destructive thoughts that you often take as yours. E.g. Judas Iscariot (John 13:2).
- God: He is the expert in the human heart and He is most interested in your heart and mine. Our hearts are His business. In fact, He cares about our heart more than any one of us ever would. How much does He know about our heart? Everything. Through and through. Remember: He is the designer and creator of the heart. He is the divine heart surgeon. He can make our sick hearts healthy again. In fact, the Bible lists 32 things that God can do/does with our heart. For instance, He searches the heart, weighs, examines, tests, strengthens, revives, renews, changes, and sets the heart free, to name a few. However, one thing He will never do to our hearts: control. He leaves the full reign of the heart to us to the point where we can abuse such freedom to even curse the Creator. Such a freedom is the sure sign of love.
The good news is this: God can help us to remove evil/unclean/destructive/negative thoughts. He also can fill our hearts with good/godly thoughts. He can purify and strengthen our hearts as well. All of these would He do only upon our invitation and requests. Without our desire to keep our hearts pure and clean, and without our invitation, God wouldn’t do it. We must ask for His help from the heart.
We all have a job to do: to take good care of our heart. Where do we start? Ask God for His help today. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit will help you. Next week, we will think about some practical ways to take care of our heart. Let us pray.