In physical life, emotional life, relational life, and spiritual life the heart is absolutely essential. February is often spoken of as the month of love. Because of Valentine’s Day, we emphasize love between men and women in a romantic sense, but it’s a good month for us to remember all expressions of love, matters of the heart. In I John 4:7, 8 it says, “Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
The heart is essential to the expression of love in human life. A song in a musical says, “You gotta have heart. Miles and miles and miles of heart.” Our heart is physically critical – pumping blood in our circulation systems. The heart is vital to good health, to strength of energy, to stamina. No wonder the Bible uses the term “cardia” (translated heart) more than one thousand times.
The heart is our emotional center ranging from joy to sorrow, from turmoil and inner storm to peace, from feeling troubled inside to rejoicing, from be filled with love to being consumed with selfish ambition and lust. We might be filled with fear or have a deep trust of the heart. We might be full of pride or humility. We might be discouraged to lose heart or encouraged to take heart.
People speak of the heart as the seat of our desire, the source of our passions. It might be envy or lust. If the passion is directed to the One who gave us life – God – people would say, I seek the Lord my God with all my heart.
How is your heart today? The heart is a place of understanding, wisdom, and insight. It is also spoken of as our moral center. When Peter preached on Pentecost Day, he talked about how the sinfulness of humanity has caused the death of Jesus, the Son of God, on the cross. Scripture says the people were “cut to the heart.” They had a conviction of their responsibilities, their sinfulness, and they asked Peter, “What should we do?” Peter responded, “Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The heart is important to our relationship with God. Jesus once said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” As I prepared to share this message, I read an article by Mark DeJesus who wrote, “8 Signs You Have a Broken Heart.”
The first sign he listed was someone has an untrusting approach to relationships. All too often we can have promises made that are violated. Somebody might abandon us, and as a result of people’s lies and deception, we have difficulty trusting in relationships.
Another sign we might have a broken heart is that we have unrelenting struggles with fear and anxiety and worry. We’re just paralyzed by those fears because we’ve been hurt too often in the past.
The third sign that your heart is broken is you have a hard time processing love, either in the giving of love or the receiving of love from someone when it’s offered to you. Again, almost as a way to protect our emotional vulnerability, we shut off the spigot of our love and we don’t give it or allow it to penetrate our inner soul.
Another sign that our heart might be broken is if we react in a volatile way, especially a dominant feeling of anger. It’s like we’ve been hurt so often, disillusioned so often, that it is our immediate response.
The fifth thing that DeJesus said is, “You have a broken heart if your body begins to break down.” He quotes Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good like medicine for the soul, but a broken heart dries up the bones.”
Have you ever met someone who is seemingly healthy in every way except for the fact that they have been through some emotional trauma and, as a result of comprehensive physical health, was suffering? Often our hearts are broken when we are stuck in dysfunctional patterns of life. We may even find those patterns of behavior to be undesirable and unhealthy, yet we still continue to do those same old stupid things. Maybe it’s because our heart is broken. Perhaps we become robotic, very mechanical in our approach to life. We simply go through the motions.
The eighth sign you may have a broken heart is that you are a human. A broken heart is a universal part of life’s experience. We live in a broken world with broken, imperfect people, and it’s only a matter of time before somebody crushes our heart. So, in matters of the heart, we need God to heal us. Only He can do it.
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that we have sick hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all else and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” In AA recovery circles, they speak of this weak vulnerability of the soul as an illness that is cunning, baffling, and deceitful. I have a sick heart. Luther called it the bondage of the will, and an old gospel hymn says we have a sin-sick soul that only Jesus can heal.
We have dirty hearts – patterns of behavior we’ve repeated over and over again when we have drawn our hearts through the figurative mud. We need to be cleansed.
This time of year in the upper Midwest of the United States, we have frigid temperatures. Our cars and trucks not only become dirty and caked on, but then it also is frozen to the metal. The only way to get it off is by a high-powered carwash. The warm, soapy water under high pressure can cut through the ice and dirt.
To have a deep cleaning down to the very metal paint is what I need in my spirit, my heart, and my soul. That’s why the promise in I John 1 is so beautiful when it says, “If we say we have no sin, we’re only deceiving ourselves. The truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We need to come before God in the name of Jesus our Savior and confess the specific sins we have done wrong that have violated God, hurt others, and caused our hearts to become dirty.
No wonder David, after his indiscretion with Bathsheba and then, using his power as king, ended the life of Bathsheba’s husband to cover up her pregnancy, said this to God in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” We need Jesus to heal our sin-sick hearts. We need Jesus to wash our dirty hearts.
Our hearts also become hearts of stone, hard hearts. We become cold and cynical, lacking in compassion, ambivalent and indifferent, detached and aloof from people. We no longer love. We’ve lost the capacity to truly love others like the God who gave us life loves us. The only solution is for God to do a heart transplant. That’s what the prophet Ezekiel talks about in the Old Testament. God promises, “I will cleanse you and give you a new heart, not like the heart of stone. I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will put a new spirit within you, and you will be mine. And I’ll save you from your uncleanness” (Ez. 36:26).
A number of years ago, a blockbuster movie hit the theaters starring Denzel Washington. The plot line depicted his character’s son in a very difficult illness. He had a bad heart and was going to die unless he got a transplant very quickly. The father and mother were beside themselves for their boy. They didn’t want to lose their son, whom they loved so much. He was such a good boy. So they decided to go drastic. The father takes over the hospital and holds the entire staff – including the heart surgeons – hostage demanding that they find a new heart for his son.
Well, that’s easier said than done and time is running out, so the father decides he’s going to give his own heart to his son that his son might live. The heart doctor said, “No. That’s not ethical. You can’t do that,” but the father says, “You can’t stop me. I’m going to give him my heart!”
Later, the father goes in to talk to his son before the surgery. Thinking he is going to sacrifice his life in order that his son would have a heart, he says to him, “Hi, son. How are you doing?”
His son says, “Dad, did they find me a heart yet?”
Tears start streaming down Washington’s face as he says, “Yes, son. They found you a heart. You’re going to live!” And then he has the type of heart-to-heart conversation you can imagine a father would have with his son if he thinks he’s never going to talk to him again. He tells him to tell his mother he loves her every day. He tells him to treat girls like princesses, because that’s what they are. He tells him to stay away from the bad stuff, to be a good man, and to always remember (as he taps his own chest) that he, his father, would be right there in his heart.
Well, the boy gets a heart. His life is sustained, and the father lives too. This story is the story of the gospel in the Scriptures. The Father in heaven, who is the source of our life, loves us so much – even though we are imperfect sinners – that He is willing to sacrifice His own Son. He gave His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross in our place. Jesus gave us His heart. He forgave our sin and planted His heart and His Spirit within us so we might have life in His name. We have eternal life because of Jesus Christ. I owe God, my heavenly Father, my life. I’m grateful with all the passion within me for the love that God has shown me, for the willingness of Jesus to die in my place to forgive my sins, and, by His Holy Spirit, to come to live within my heart.
Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, was passionate in his loyalty. “Even if everyone denied you, Jesus, I will die for you!” Yet we know that before the day was over, Peter denied Jesus three times. He wimped out. He was disloyal, unfaithful. How do you think Peter felt when Jesus went to the cross? How do you think Peter felt when he ran to the tomb knowing Jesus was alive again, but then, not knowing what to do, went back to fishing – the life he lived before he met Jesus? When Jesus came to find him and did a miracle again of fish being caught, Peter knew it was the Lord. Jesus asked Peter,
“Do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord. I love you.”
A second time He asked, “Peter, do you love me?”
“Lord, you know all things. You know I love you.”
A third time Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”
Peter was grieved that He asked him a third time. He said, “Yes, Lord. You know I love you.”
Our love for Jesus, even after He gives us a new heart, is a lot like Peter’s. Our love, our capacity for loyalty, is not perfect, but our faith trusts the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, who promises that we belong to Him. He forgives our sins, and His Holy Spirit lives within us. I praise God that, by the power of the Spirit, Jesus Christ makes His home in the heart of every believer who confesses His name.
May Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, live within your heart today and always. Amen.
Rev. Lee Laaveg