What’s in your heart?

The heart is an important part of life. It’s not only physically important, in that our heart pumps blood through our entire body and without it we cannot live. Any medical problem with the heart is a really big deal. Even more important than the physical heart, though, is the deeper meaning of “heart” we often talk about as an invisible quality someone has. Rocky Balboa had “heart” to stay in the fight and keep going. Physically he should have been done, but he kept going because of a deeper, invisible quality.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. – Matthew 5:8

The heart as we use it here is defined as “the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors.” (https://lumina.bible.org/bible/Matthew+5). That is what the heart is. It’s much deeper than the physical.

Someone pure in heart is “one whose motives are unmixed, whose thoughts are holy, whose conscience is clean.” (William MacDonald, “Matthew” in Believer’s Bible Commentary, 3809).

Pure in heart is more than doing good things or being a good person. This is down to the very core of who I am as an individual, made in the image and likeness of God. There is something more going on beneath the surface of someone pure in heart. It is worked out in the physical realm, we can see it, but it comes from somewhere deeper.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. – Proverbs 4:23 NLT

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. – Luke 6:45 NLT

The pure in heart will see God because they are living faithful lives, following God, and determining in their hearts to live for Him instead of themselves. This is the person who realizes his or her selfish tendencies and lays them at the feet of the cross, looking to Jesus Christ as an example of how to live and trusting in Jesus Christ for eternal life.

 

How can we live consistently pure in heart? I think there are at least 4 things that can be very beneficial, maybe even essential, to living as someone who is pure in heart:

1. Cultivate daily faithfulness.

Living pure in heart is not a one-time decision that can be over and done with one day and forgotten about the next. This must be a daily, moment-by-moment determination that Jesus Christ is Lord of one’s life. It is a daily recognition we are poor in spirit, mourn after our sin, and live in humility. The pure in heart are comforted because they shall see God.

 

2. Live in disciplined pursuit.

This is our “personal growth plan.” It must be something intentional and consistent. There’s that old adage, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” We need to make a plan to succeed and be disciplined to do it.

 

3. Be quick to confess and repent.

The pure in heart are not perfect in heart. Temptation and sin is still an unfortunate present reality while living on this earth, but confession and repentance (a turning away) of sin renews our relationship with God and brings healing and freedom. We should be quick to confess and repent, turning from sin toward God.

 

4. Live in community.

“No man is an island entire of itself” – John Donne.

We need each other. We need to live in intentional community for the help and healing that come through it. A person who is pure in heart is not living it alone, because it is, if not impossible, incredibly difficult to live pure in heart on our own.

 

 

“Fear Him alone…” (Deuteronomy 13:4)

You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:4, NASB)

While many of the passages we have looked at describe what not to be afraid of, this verse tells us there is a Person to fear. All throughout the Bible we are called to fear the Lord. For example, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7); “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 10:12); etc.

The key to understanding the fear of the Lord is that this “fear” equals reverential awe. We are in awe of who God is, in awe of His power and might and the depth and breadth of His love. We are in awe of the grace of God and the wonder of God and the joy of God.

When you fear God alone and nothing or no one else, that is when you will experience the joy and freedom in Christ. When you recognize who God is, understand what He did in sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for your sins and for mine on the cross, and then raised Him again three days later…it is powerful!! Nothing in this world compares to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known. Paul says as much in Philippians 3:8 when he writes,

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

If we were to live in fear, or awe, of God and recognize the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord, and if we were to consider as garbage or trash or rubbish all the things the world considers as success and worth and value, then life would look much different and honestly much better.

 

A life spent pursuing Christ instead of pursuing the passing pleasures of this world is a life well-lived.

Pursuit versus Avoidance

A couple of years ago I was preparing a lesson for a group of college students, and a principle from Scripture came out so clearly to me, and it has been stuck in my head for awhile, as I think and talk with people about dealing with different life issues.

 

avoidance

This idea came to me, as I’m sure many others have thought of before, but it was so powerful. It’s so easy, and so common, to try to “not” do things. Right? We avoid things. It is just natural. We avoid awkward situations (though some, like me, sort of thrive in those environments, but most aren’t big fans). We avoid going outside of our comfort zones; we many times avoid too many risks or “outside of the box” ideas.

Especially in Christian groups, we often avoid talking about certain topics for fear of offending (as even saying this may offend some…oops) or making others feel awkward. We avoid confrontation. We even sometimes avoid calling sin what it is.

Here’s the kicker: we even avoid encouraging and lifting up others. We sometimes avoid being confident because it may be interpreted as pride or arrogance.

 

When I thought about this, it kind of made me sad. Many of these ideas of what we avoid just now came to me, they weren’t fully formed a couple of years ago. But, I think it is true we avoid a lot of things. My question is this: WHY?

Especially some of those more positive things we avoid…WHY? Why avoid encouraging? Why avoid being confident in who you are and what you are capable of doing (after all, isn’t it spiritual to be confident because God gifted you and made you talented, so why not have confidence in how He made you??)? Why avoid confrontation, done in love and with the right attitude, but why so often avoid it?

Many of the things we tend to avoid can be so beneficial to our lives. They can bring more joy and fulfillment. They can bring more unity and wholeness to our lives. They can bring a greater sense of purpose and passion in life when we confidently understand that we are capable of changing this world.

 

pursuit

There are some things in the Bible that we are instructed to avoid. For sure. But, there are also many things in the Bible that we are told to pursue. It is so easy to focus on the negative isn’t it? I know it’s easy for me. But, we are in a battle of pursuit every day. We all pursue something, or someone. For many, these things change and vary.

 

But there are some incredible things the Bible tells us to pursue. One of these lists comes from 1 Timothy 6:11:

“But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. PURSUE righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Now who wouldn’t want to pursue, or chase after, living right, imitating God, trusting in the Creator of the Universe, love and a habit of patience, as well as an attitude and a focus dominated by gentleness and compassion? This would be one pretty awesome person who lived all of these out. And the great thing is that it is possible! Paul, the writer of 1 Timothy, did not write here for people to pursue something that could never be attained… but he writes it so we know what to pursue and we know that it is possible to live such a great life, even an abundant fullness of life like Jesus promised in John 10:10.

 

So, I don’t know where you are at in life right now. But make a conscious choice right now to pursue these things. And explore the Bible for other things to pursue, like the fruit of the Spirit or wisdom (the entire book of Proverbs talks about pursuing, chasing, getting wisdom. Check it out.).

 

The Christian life is not passive. It requires a daily pursuit. So, live in this struggle between avoidance and pursuit. Recognize it. Own it. And instead of avoiding doing certain things, pursue Jesus Christ and see where He takes you. He often takes me into places or circumstances I would normally want to avoid at first, but then the blessing is so much greater than I could ever have experienced doing something under my own power… Try it out. Pursue Him.