Open as PDF
"For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7b).
"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars" (2 Chron. 16:9).
"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23).
"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies
" (Matt. 15:18-19).
The condition of our hearts should be our central concern as we seek revival. Before we can do this, we must understand that the Bible uses the word "heart" as convenient shorthand for the entire person. It includes the mind, the emotions or affections and the will. To focus on the heart means, then, to focus on every aspect of our being.
As we examine these verses, we find both the importance of the heart and our responsibility regarding it.
The Importance of the Heart
The above verses underscore for us the importance of the heart. They join their voices, as it were, to give united and powerful testimony to this matter. They show us in the first place that the condition of our heart dictates the conduct and quality of our lives.
The author of Proverbs gives testimony to this truth by affirming that "the issues of life" spring from the heart. The heart is the wellspring of life. Our capacity to live successfully comes from within, not from our circumstances.
The Lord Jesus also gave testimony to this same truth. On one occasion, He likened the heart to a tree. If the tree is good it will bring forth good fruit; if it is bad it will bring forth evil fruit (Matt. 12:33-35).
On another occasion, He said, "
those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matt 15:18-19).
When Simon Magus sought to purchase from the apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter traced the problem to his heart: "You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God" (Acts 8:21).
One writer put it like this: "The heart is the warehouse, the hand and the tongue are the shops."
Do we understand the centrality of the heart? The state of the heart determines the character and the conduct of the person!
What is it that causes a Christian to choose not to go to church? It is his heart! What causes him to nurse resentment toward a brother or sister in Christ? It is his heart! What is it that causes him to have no concern for the unsaved? It is his heart! What causes him to think of prayer as a drudgery and to find the preaching and teaching of Gods Word monotonous? It is his heart! What causes him to so quickly lay down spiritual duties to embrace the fleeting things of this world? It is his heart!
Our text verses give us yet another reason the heart is so very important. They tell us that God is vitally interested in the heart.
God watches the heart. This is what is important to Him. When Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the next king over Israel, he was immediately impressed with the first son. He looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lords annointed is before Him!" (1 Sam. 16:6).
Samuel could not have been more mistaken. Immediately the Lord spoke these words to him: "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7).
The prophet Hanani struck this same note in his message to King Asa of Judah: "
the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chron. 16:9a).
Modern day Christians seem to be easily impressed with all sorts of things: polished personalities, entertaining programs, clever and humorous sermons. But the Lord is interested in our hearts. He is not impressed with the size of our churches, with the depth of our learning, with the quality of our music. He is interested in the condition of our hearts.
What is it the Lord wants to see in the hearts of His people? The prophet Hanani said the Lord looks for "those whose heart is loyal to Him." The loyal heart is the devoted heart. It is the heart that is wholly dedicated or surrendered to the Lord.
To be loyal-hearted is to be wholehearted. The Lord calls for those of us who belong to Him to be wholehearted in our love for Him. He says: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37).
The Lord calls us to be wholehearted in praise. He wants each of us to say with the psalmist: "I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;
" (Ps. 9:1).
The Lord calls for us to be wholehearted in obedience to His commandments. He wants us to also say with the psalmist: "Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed I shall observe it with my whole heart" (Ps. 119:34).
The Lord also wants us to be wholehearted in service to Him. He wants us to be able to say with the apostle Paul: "I serve with my spirit in the gospel
" (Rom. 1:9).
The Lord wants us to be wholehearted in praying, to take these words from the psalmist as our own: "I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O Lord!" (Ps. 119:145).
The Lord wants us to be wholehearted in repentance. His promise to us is the same as it was to the people of Jeremiahs time: "And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13).
With these things in place we can turn our attention to the second matter placed before us by our text verses, namely
Our Responsibility Regarding the Heart
The author of Proverbs puts it succinctly: "Keep your heart with all diligence,
" (Prov. 4:23).
This verse invariably causes me to think of all the "keepings" we have in this life. There is the keeping of our physical well-being. There is the keeping of our families. There is the keeping of our finances. There is the keeping of the reputation. How many keepings are we responsible for? This much is clear there is no greater keeping than the keeping of the heart.
What does it mean to keep the heart? We are to keep harmful things away from it. We are to keep false doctrines from entrenching themselves in our minds, keep base or low desires from seizing our emotions and keep evil choices from governing our wills.
We are also to keep helpful things in our hearts, and the most helpful thing, of course, is the precious Word of God. The psalmist was correct to say to the Lord: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Ps. 119:105).
If we are to keep the Word of God in our hearts, we must read it, study it, meditate on it and obey it. We must give it a dwelling place, a working place and the ruling place in our hearts.
There is no need for us to talk about revival if we are not willing to focus upon our hearts. Revival does not come by Gods people looking at the condition of others. It comes as they look squarely at themselves. Revival doesnt come to those who look around at their fellow-Christians and say: "Woe are they!" It comes as we take up the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Woe is me, for I am undone!" (Isa. 6:5).
Please join me in making the following lines your sincere and earnest prayer:
My eyes are dry, my faith is old;
My heart is hard, my prayers are cold.
Alive to You and dead to me.
And what can be done for an old heart like mine?
Soften it up, cleanse me I cry:
Let my heart break, let tears once again
Flow down my face for the souls of lost men.