Would you say that your heart is in good shape?
We know the dangers of a physically unhealthy heart. Our doctors encourage us, and sometimes flat out command us, to consume a heart-healthy diet and to exercise in order to maintain a healthy heart. We get our cholesterol, blood pressure, pulse, and rhythms check in order to make sure our heart doesn’t give out. We take medicine to regulate all of these things as well when they get out of balance because if we don’t the results are less than optimal. They include scary words like cardiac arrest and stroke. We are right to take heart health seriously.
But, I’m not asking about cardiovascular fitness.
Is your heart in good shape?
Hear this, it’s not just your phyiscal heart health that matters. Your spiritual heart health is a big deal, too.
Jesus lays it out at the beginning of his public ministry and he repeats it many times. Just six sentences into the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt. 5:8) Then throughout his ministry, he refers to the heart often. In fact, later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks directly to the condition of the heart as he rebukes the Pharisees, “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt. 12:34), echoing the words of Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
The heart is a big deal.
If you want to check and see whether or not your heart is healthy, here is a good place to start. Listen to what Jesus says to the Pharisees (again!) as they accuse Jesus’ disciples of eating with “defiled hands”.
“Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him…What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mk. 7:14-15, 20-23)
Look at that list! It starts out with things that are pretty severe and I think most Christians avoid them with relative ease: evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, and adultery. And then the list shifts and becomes a bit less overt: coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. That easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy list of easy to spot and easy to avoid sins has now turned into a challenging, convicting, slippery slope of sins.
If you want to check your heart, check your actions. It’s not enough to say that you’re not killing or stealing or raping or cheating or viewing pornography, so your heart is clearly in good shape.
Are you tearing people down? Are you talking negatively about people behind their back? Are you looking at what someone else has and wishing it was yours? Are you intentionally misrepresenting yourself or your actions in order to look better? Are you doing anything that puts yourself ahead of others?
Look, there’s no complete list, but seize on this–the condition of your heart will be reflected in your life. If you want to know what kind of shape your heart is in, take a look at what you do and what you say.
The heart of the matter is the heart. Don’t assume heart health because you’ve prayed a prayer or that you go to church or that you serve in church or that you tithe 10% (or more) or that you pray or that you read the word. It isn’t the “churchy” stuff that shows your heart health; its everything else.
So what do you do about it?
Seek professional help
The first step to understanding your attitude and heart condition is to see a professional. If you were dealing with a physical heart condition, it would be a cardiologist. Since you’re dealing with something spiritual, go to the Spirit. Ask God to enlighten you. Ask God to open your eyes to any areas that might not be healthy.
Here are three suggestions:
- Pray – Ask God directly. You have access to Him by the blood of Jesus. Take advantage of that. Make an appointment with the Great Physician who can rightly diagnose your heart condition and show you the right treatment for it.
- Read the word – Listen to what God has already said about it. God gave us a manual for heart health. The Bible is not an instruction manual, but everything we need to know to find grace and mercy is in it. Seek answers where you know you can find them, God’s living and active, piercing, and discerning word. It provides the best diagnostic for your life.
- Seek counsel from a mature Christian – Be sure to ask someone who can provide good insight. You wouldn’t ask a psychiatrist to diagnose an irregular heartbeat and prescribe treatment. Go to someone whose life reflects a healthy heart.