What is “the heart” as it relates to our living and our relationship with God?
In its most simple expression, the “heart” is the seat of our conscious living, and includes our mind, our will, our emotions, and our conscience. It is the part of us that thinks, chooses, decides, perceives, and commits. Some call the heart the gateway to our entire being – body, soul, and spirit. Indeed, the heart and the spirit in us relate closely, making the the heart the host of our relationship with our God.
The heart as our God intended it to be was pure, responsive to our God, and completely consumed with relating to Him. It was always seeking Him and always responsive to His initiatives. The Lord God was the preoccupation of the heart, and the self-life was subordinated to the presence and life of God living in the heart.
The great rebellion of humankind against our God upended that status of the heart and that relationship with our God. It was a rebellion of one, made in the simple, single choice to do as he pleased. Adam chose to insinuate himself into the place reserved for God alone. The monumental upheaval that one choice made reverberates still in every human relationship, in all affairs of humans everywhere.
At once, Adam instituted idolatry, rebellion, and separation from our God. At once, he opened the door to sin, suffering, and death as the common experiences of all humans. The self-life usurped the place of God in the human heart, and with it came the unavoidable human experiences of selfishness, pride, self-assertion, self-promotion, self-protection, and every sickness, sin, and suffering common to the race. And none are exempt. Isaiah describes this for us: “All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned, everyone of us, to our own way.“
Jeremiah 17:9-10, unpopular among those who think we are doing just fine as a human race, tells us the true condition of every single human heart in its natural state.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, to give to each person according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”
Here we have not only the true, unaltered condition of us all, but also the response of our God to our condition. He is the One who tests our hearts and recompenses all of us for the results. How sad that would be for us if we were left to our own devices, for every last one of us would be doomed. The heart, left untouched by our God, is incapable of ever becoming worthy of acceptance to a holy, righteous, and just God.
The status of the heart untouched by our God is clear when one looks around at the world in which we live. We are a selfish, uncaring, divisive, destructive, rebellious, and often despicable race of people who have made no progress whatsoever at redeeming ourselves from our inherent lostness. This despite the protestations of those who believe we are on the path to a better race, and that given a little more time we will be internally and inter-personally healthy once again. We confuse technological advancement with human advancement, while ignoring the facts that are glaringly obvious. We are making no progress in becoming a better race of people. What characterized us 5000 years ago still characterizes us today.
There is little more evidence needed to prove this than the behavior of humans during the last three years. Selfishness, foolishness, division, strife, anger and rage aimed at each other have characterized our response to a common enemy, a worldwide pandemic. Profiteering, opportunism, posturing, war-mongering, lying, and willful dereliction of responsibility has characterized the responses of people, corporations, and governments without exception. And those who point the finger and raise the voice at these things do so with the same selfish motive that they point out in others.
Yet, our God was never willing to leave us in this state. Knowing that this would be the choice of humans from before creation, He always had planned for us a path to reunion with Himself. He has opened to us that path that will redeem our hearts and restore us to union and communion with Himself.
Look for the continuation of this story in a future post, “The New Heart of the Matter.”