The Good Life Begins in the Heart
Sunday, March 25, 2007 -
In our last study we defined the heart as the place of the inner your - the place where priorities and values are established. The term “heart” is probably a good Scriptural one to use because, just as the physical heart pumps and sends blood to the entire body, affecting each part, your “inner heart” determines the future health and vitality of your entire spiritual life. Out of the heart really do flow the issues of life. By way of review, here are the points we studied in our last teaching on Proverbs and the heart:
a) If you concentrate on being right in your heart you will automatically be right in the rest of your life - Proverbs 4:23 - “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
The key idea here is that the quality of life is set at its source. This is where the Scriptural picture of a spring or fountain is so clear and helpful. If the water you drink at your house comes from an underground spring or well, its quality isn’t determined at your tap. It’s determined at its source.
b) The law of God is what sets the heart in good working order - Proverbs 4:20-22 - “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.  Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.”
The law of God must be kept in a deep place after it is heard. The writer says God’s Word must be kept “in the middle of your heart.” If it gets bumped to the fringe of life, the heart will go blind and sour. The main idea here is the Word of God is always powerless when pushed to the edges of a life.
c) For the Word of God to rule the heart, it must be practiced with great discipline - Proverbs 23:12 - “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.”
Notice, ears gather knowledge, but the heart is transformed by discipline. The bare, factual data of the Scriptures, while good and necessary, is only the starting place to a transformed heart. Only practice and consistent obedience will free the life - Psalm 119:45 - “I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.”
d) Only God’s Law can produce a truly joyful life - Proverbs 17:22 - “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” This really brings us right back, full circle, to point number one. Make the heart right and the rest of life will follow in kind. You can’t fundamentally improve life from the outside/in. Transformation that counts can only come from the inside/out.
Now to continue this lesson:
1) GOD MEASURES US, NOT BY THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT BY THE TRUE CONDITION OF OUR HEART
Probably the best known passage along these lines is 1 Samuel 16:7 - “But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
The same point, however, can be gleaned more generally from Proverbs 15:11 - “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” Abaddon is an Old Testament synonym for the place of departed spirits. Nobody can see that place. But God can. That’s the whole point of this small verse. God see the unseen part of our lives. He remembers the part we tend to ignore or abuse. He starts on the inside in His assessment of us.
This is not given just for theological information. We are being cautioned against being preoccupied with the motivation and desires of our hearts. This world plays up to the dangerous loves under our skin. Such goals and aspirations will never make the inner life sound or joyful. In fact, Jesus cautioned that if we live for the accolades of this world, it will be virtually impossible to experience the glory of God in our hearts:
John 5:44 - “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
2) FOR OUR OWN GOOD, GOD TRIES , SEARCHES, AND REFINES OUR HEARTS
Proverbs 17:3 - “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.”
One of the best known prayers of the Old Testament reflects this very idea - Psalm 139:23-24 - “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
3) ONLY GOD CAN CLEANSE AND REMAKE THE HEART
Proverbs 20:9 - “Who can say, "I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin"?” This is not a work we can manufacture. We can do our best to pursue wisdom and righteousness but only God can remake the heart. Only God can cleanse the heart of sins already committed. Education, therapy and moral reform, as good as they are, fall hopelessly short of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts.
The Psalmist David seemed to have a grasp on the depth and magnitude of the work required in our fallen hearts - Psalm 51:10 - “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” The important point here is that this new heart is a creative work of God. In that sense it is much like God’s creative work in Genesis chapters one to three. He has to make something that isn’t there naturally. This is the church’s unique message. This is the world’s only hope. It can’t be had anywhere else but through Jesus Christ, God the Son.