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The Battle for the Heart
Last week we looked at the battle for our minds, and I ended saying, “That while the battle we are in is spiritual, the primary ground that this battle is fought is in our minds. But what ultimately determines the victory is the place we give to Christ in our hearts.”
Now, the reason why I am looking at the battle that is taking place for our hearts is because it’s the condition of the heart that determines not only who we are, but also how we relate to others.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a person thinks in their heart, that is who they are.” We looked at this in some detail last week.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
And Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Going back to what we looked at last week in the book of Ephesians about the battle we are in being spiritual, Paul takes us into God’s war room. And if we grasp the message, we will have a better view as to why the Christian lifestyle is so significant and must be fought for. We’ll also realize there’s a battle going on for our hearts.
Ephesians was written against a very bleak background, showing not only the type of people we were, but the overall condition of the human race. Listen to what Paul says about this in his letter.
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NKJV)
What this says is that evil dominates when humanity pursues life as they think best without thought to their actions.
Yet there is hope. Evil offers no contest to God’s power, hence Paul’s words that while once they were like this, that is, dead in their sins, God has now made alive. But also, as he stated earlier in his letter, God has had a plan from the very beginning. And so, Paul longed to enlighten those caught in the thick of the battle about God’s power, and the goal toward which God is working.
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” (Ephesians 1:17-19 NKJV)
Therefore, Paul is telling us the nature of God’s power, and how God can transform those who are spiritually dead into becoming alive with Christ, which begins in our hearts.
What is the Heart?
Medically speaking, the heart is a muscular organ that pumps life giving blood to all parts of the human body through the body’s circulatory system. This provides the oxygen and nutrients that our bodies needs to survive.
Now, a healthy heart pumps the right amount of blood at a rate that allows the human body to function as God created.
But when our hearts fail to pump the way they should, when disease attacks it, or our arteries become clogged preventing blood from flowing in or out of the heart at its optimal rate, then we are faced with illness and possibly even death.
So, I think it’s safe to say that the human heart is one of the most important organs God placed in our bodies.
But I think it’s also safe to say that a person’s heart is also one of the most important spiritual organs God has given to us as well.
Spiritually, the heart symbolizes the center or core of our being, from which prayer and morality originate. This even explains the word “core,” which is derived from the Latin word meaning, “heart.”
The heart is therefore the primary source for much of what happens in our spiritual lives. It also explains why love is associated with the heart, that is, authentic love comes from the “core” of our being. It is not something that is on the “surface,” like what is being portrayed in the literature and movies of our day.
Now, the Bible tells us that we have been made in the image and likeness of the Lord God Himself (Genesis 1:26). And so, saying that, we can then say that God has a heart. But it’s not the physical organ that resides within the human body, although God created it, but He has a heart, one that can be broken over our sins, and it is His heart that we are to follow.
In fact, it’s this seeking after God’s heart that He commends. He is seeking a people whose heart is seeking after His heart. This was God’s testimony of King David.
“He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” (Acts 13:22 NKJV)
Therefore, we’re to be actively seeking the heart of God.
Now, in our natural condition, which is the condition known as sin, the heart of man isn’t even lined up with God’s heart. Instead, it’s evil, wicked, filled with deceit and treachery. So wicked and so treacherous is the human heart that we are easily deceived by it. But this isn’t the case with God. He knows what’s in our hearts. In fact, He’s the only one who knows our heart’s true condition.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10a NKJV)
The Lord is saying, “I know the heart, I know what’s in there.”
Jesus also knew this about the human heart, being God and all; therefore, He didn’t give Himself over to anyone, because He knew what is in man (John 2:24-25).
Listen to Jesus explanation of the human heart.
He said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:21-23 NKJV)
And so, what we need is a new heart, which is what the Lord promises in Ezekiel 36:26 saying, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, to those who will seek Him for it, who will cry after it.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV)
This was the cry of King David. He said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NKJV)
And the reason we need to pray this is because, as the Apostle Paul tells us, it’s with our hearts that we believe unto righteousness (Romans 10:10).
Therefore, Solomon tells us to guard our hearts. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)
This message, therefore, isn’t about the heart as a vital organ, a muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. Neither is this concerned with romantic, philosophical, or literary definitions that are found in books, movies and the like.
And so today, we’re going focus on what the Bible has to say about the heart. The Bible mentions the heart almost 1,000 times. And in most of these cases, the heart is that spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires dwell.
Now, the human heart, in its natural condition, is evil, treacherous and deceitful as we saw in Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.”
But then the Lord asked this question, “Who can know it?” And then He gives us the answer, “I, the Lord, search the heart.”
We may not understand our hearts, but God does. In Psalm 44:21, the Psalmist said that God “knows the secrets of our heart,” even though we may not know them.
And while it is through a person’s heart that matters are decided, it is God who ultimate directs the heart.
Solomon said, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV)
The spiritual aspect of the heart is that for a person to be saved, the heart must be changed. This only happens by the power of God in response to our faith. The heart is therefore the starting place for spiritual life.
Let me delve into this and this battle for the heart through what we looked at earlier in Proverbs 4:23.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NKJV)
The Hebrew verb for “keep” is a command. Commands in Scripture are not optional.
The word “diligence” can be translated by a Hebrew word describing a prison guard. Therefore, we must take all precautions to protect and keep our hearts safe. Why? Because as Solomon says, out of it spring the issues of life. Or, more literally, “the springs of life.”
Spiritual Heart Disease
Now, earlier I mentioned how the physical heart is prone to disease which hinders its ability to work at its optimum level. The same can also be found in the spiritual aspect of our hearts.
A Fearful Heart
Any area of brokenness makes room for fear to enter. Insecurity is also where fear loves to dwell.
But the love of God casts out all fear, the Bible says (1 John 4:18). When we are living in God’s love knowing that we are loved and allowing that love to settle deep within our hearts, deep within the core of our being, then fear has no ability enter.
A Hopeless Heart
This is where we hit the wall, so to speak. It is here that depression sets in, our energy level begins to get depleted, and we start getting irritable. It is often looked upon as a “hope deferred” condition.
The Bible says that hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). And while this is a spiritual sickness, it is also one that leads to physical sickness.
A Hard Heart
A hard or hardened heart is one that has lost its ability to believe. A callousness forms around the heart, so no matter what good news we hear about our freedom in Christ, our eyes glaze up, and ears become stopped up.
You might say it like this, a person with a hard heart lives in an emotional prison. Therefore, only a work of the Holy Spirit can soften a hardened heart.
And while there is so much more to say about this battle, let me give a couple of steps to counter and win this battle for our hearts
Counter moves are when we see what the enemy is doing and take the necessary steps to counter.
To these heart diseases we just looked at, we see such a counter move that Jesus lets us know that we are going to need because of what we’re going to come against in the end times.
“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:10-13 NKJV)
God’s counter move is faithfulness.
Make Heavenly Deposits
Let me again go back to what Jesus said in Luke 6:45.
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 NKJV)
We need to make heavenly deposits. The treasury is a storehouse, a place where one’s treasure is built up over time. And so, this countermove happens within our hearts when we take time daily in God’s word and in prayer.
The Psalmist knew of his need to make these heavenly deposits saying, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:11)
Living Out the Gospel
I believe that the Lord has given to us the ministry of the gospel, not only to win souls unto the kingdom of God, but too also to guard our hearts from the attacks of the world. We do this by preaching the gospel, not only to others, but to ourselves, reminding ourselves of God’s love and sacrifice for us. As we preach the gospel to others and thus to ourselves, our love for God will increase, while at the same time, our love for the world will decrease.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16 NKJV)
So, the gospel is God’s counter move against the Satan’s strategy to rip us off, while at the same time fortifying and building up our hearts.
It was such a piece of armor that has been given to us by God as Paul points out in Ephesians chapter six. Here we are told that as believers we have been given the helmet of salvation. It is the assurance of our salvation and how this is our defense against anything the enemy tries to attack our mind, and thus our hearts with.
Seek God First
Now, this isn’t easy because this is the last thing that Satan wants us to do. That is why we’re told in the Scriptures to seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually (1 Chronicles 16:11).
The prophet Isaiah said, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7 NKJV)
What a beautiful promise that is, and what a blessing is ours when we seek God first and foremost over everything else. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (the things we need to live) shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NKVV)
Engage the Heart
In the Bible, King David is the greatest example of keeping his heart alive by always engaging it in whatever he was going through.
• He would cry out with prayers of desperation like in Psalm 13 when he cried out, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” (Psalm 13:1-2 NKJV)
• He would also weep deeply during seasons of sorrow. In Psalm 6 he said, “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. my eye wastes away because of grief.” And he knew that the Lord heard his heart saying, “For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.” (Psalm 6:6-9 NKJV)
• But he also rejoiced with all his might in the Lord and the victories that He provided like in Psalm 9 saying, “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:1-2 NKJV)
The media is full of “heart healthy” tips that we should follow, but even more importantly are the efforts we make to safeguard our spiritual hearts, or what Solomon calls the wellspring of our spiritual life. These tips include
• Don’t leave your first love, Jesus Christ, like the Chuch in Ephesus where Jesus said, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4 NKJV). Meet with Jesus on a daily basis. Be in touch with Him moment by moment throughout the day.
• Be on the alert. Recognize that Satan wants to steal your affection for God. Jesus calls him a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. But at the same time remember what Jesus said, that while Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, He (Jesus) has come to give to us an abundant life (John 10:10)
• Love God with all your heart. Jesus said giving God the our whole hearts is our highest priority. It is actually the greatest commandment given (Mark 12:9).
• Do not lose heart. There is also a blessing in this as we are told that when we don’t lose heart, when we don’t become weary in doing good, and that is, in the end, we will reap a great reward (Galatians 6:9).
Yes, there is a battle for our hearts, but God is greater than whatever Satan may throw at us, and in the end, the victory is ours, so we are told to rejoice and be exceedingly glad.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study