Anne of Green Gables always wanted a friend who was a kindred spirit. I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet hundreds, perhaps thousands, of kindred spirits. What qualifies someone for this group is not what they do, or how they dress, or what they watch or don’t watch; it is their heart.
The word heart, as used in scripture, does not represent the organ responsible for distributing blood throughout the body. Neither is it to be interpreted as a passion or emotion. Rather, it is the very essence of who you are. It is the inner man.
# Our heart determines our financial priorities and how we spend our money. â€œFor where your treasure is, there your heart will be alsoâ€
(Matthew 6:21 ESV).
# We receive Jesus by faith into our heart. â€œThat Christ may dwell in your hearts through faithâ€ (Ephesians 3:17 ESV)
# A transformed heart is the beginning of a life transformation. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 ESV).
# Saving faith begins in our inner man. “That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes and is justified; and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10 ESV)
There are 862 references to the heart in scripture. Several verses are listed below to aid you in your study of the heart.
David, one of the central figures in the Old Testament, is described as a man after God’s own heart. “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.’” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).
When I share what God has taught me for the past 30 years about being a better husband and father, I share insights into scriptures and how God has led me in practicing the inspired Word at home. But how we apply God’s Word is not the most important part of being a godly husband and dad. The critical component is a transformed heart. As the heart goes, so goes the head, the feet, the mouth, and the hands.
The desire to change and the willingness to repent come from within. After I come home from a conference where I have poured out as much of myself as possible to families, I realize that the most important aspect of a man is his heart. If a father’s heart has been turned toward his children, he will find ways to love them and build them up and teach them the Word of God.
If a man’s heart has not been touched by God’s good Spirit, he may practice the Bible and have family devotions and take his wife out on date night, but these efforts will fall short, because they are surface practices and not heart convictions. Like seeds planted in shallow soil, they will grow for a season but eventually they will die.
The good news is that God is the divine heart surgeon. Years ago I was attending a weekend retreat. It was an anointed time and many people were visibly moved. All except me. I had not been harboring unconfessed sin; I was walking in the light the best I knew how, but I was a bump on the log and not with the program. I sought spiritual counsel from a professor and he recommended I read a sermon by Charles Finney on breaking up the fallow ground (see Hosea 10:12). As I read the short treatise, I recognized the symptoms of a hard heart. I set aside time that weekend to seek God and ask Him to break up my hard heart and replace it with a heart of flesh. And He wonderfully answered my prayer. It was then that Ezekiel 36 became one of my favorite scriptures. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep mine ordinances, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
For many months thereafter I regularly asked God for a new heart of flesh, perhaps like David when he prayed, â€œSearch 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! (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV).
But in recent years I more often find myself asking God to turn my heart towards my wife and my sons, in keeping with Malachi 4:6. “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” (ESV) Because as long as my heart is soft, fleshy, and inclined to righteousness, the rest is easy.
May God search our hearts, transform our hearts, and incline them towards our spouses and our children.
— Steve Demme