Understanding The Heart

Heart 1
What Does “Heart” Mean?

Who are we in our innermost being? More than just the seat of our emotions, the heart is the starting point of salvation and renewal in Christ.

by Dan Schaeffer

I love this quote by the 17th-century British writer Izaak Walton: “God has two dwellings: one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart.” The word heart is so powerful in meaning and implication, especially in the Bible, that it can hardly be overemphasized. In Scripture, the term describes the inner self that thinks, feels, and decides—an idea expressed by the Hebrew lev in the Old Testament and by the Greek kardia in the New Testament.

The word has a wider meaning in the Bible than we see in modern usage. In fact, the heart is so central to man that almost all scriptural usages refer to some aspect of human personality: it is the seat of all our emotions, both good and bad, including love, hate, joy, sorrow, peace, bitterness, courage, and fear. It can think, understand, imagine, remember, be wise, and even speak to itself.

Because this part of us is so central to our being, it’s the thing God searches to understand and know us (1 Chron. 28:9). Tragically, as a result of the fall of man, our heart is no longer as God originally intended (Gen. 8:21). And because it affects human emotion, will, and thought, these aspects of our personhood have been corrupted. That’s why Jesus said, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders (Matt. 15:19).

As Scripture describes it, the heart is uncircumcised (Jer. 9:26), hardened (Ex. 4:21), wicked (Prov. 26:23), perverse (Prov. 11:20), godless (Job 36:13), deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9 NLT).  An unclean heart can pollute the entire person, which is why we are urged in Proverbs 4:23 to watch over it “with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Here is the root of our problem, and also the beginning place of the solution—where God begins His good work; salvation starts there and then righteously “infects” the other areas of our life. God intends to make man’s heart new, so it’s with this part of ourselves that we believe in Him (Rom. 10:10). It is also where the Spirit of God comes to dwell, pouring out divine love within us (Rom. 5:5).

I like how A. W. Tozer put it: “The widest thing in the universe is not space; it is the potential capacity of the human heart. Being made in the image of God, it is capable of almost unlimited extension in all directions. And one of the world’s greatest tragedies is that we allow our hearts to shrink until there is room in them for little besides ourselves.

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