I recently conducted a study with the women’s fellowship in our church on nutrition and linking it with spiritual nutrition. It has been an informational and inspiring study, at least for me, and I hope, for the other ladies too. Naturally, when looking into nutrition and its protective factors for our health, the heart comes up frequently. Generally, by the time people reach middle age, a common concern becomes the heart. Am I eating in a way that would protect it or harm it? Am I exercising sufficiently to keep it working steadily and efficiently. But, in my studies, I have been learning also about a different heart matter…our spiritual hearts.
I’m not going to be talking about the spiritual condition of the non-Christian’s heart at this time. I want to address us Christians. You see, heart disease can strike anyone from any socioeconomic background, any race. The same is true of the spiritual sort. It can creep up on any of us. We are not immune because we are a Christian. I see 2 heart troubles that afflict Christians.
The first is the deceitful heart. You can see this described in Jeremiah 17:9. This passage tells us the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. This is similar to the seared conscience the Bible describes in 1 Timothy 4: 1-2. There is no human cure for this disease of the soul. This is the person who is deep in sin but denies it, the person who compares him or herself with others and comes to the conclusion “I’m not so bad after all”. This is the person who convinces him or herself that the habit they are indulging in is not really sin – just a minor bad habit. “After all, I’m not hurting anyone else”. This person would go to great lengths to justify her behavior or to convince himself that his attitude is right. We are also told in this verse “Who can understand it (the human heart)? We certainly can’t! It is truly difficult to be honest with ourselves, to diagnose this particular heart problem – just as difficult as it would be for us to diagnose a physical heart condition. We need an outside expert. The person with this heart condition does not make use of God’s grace because she or he does not want to admit they need it. So, they stumble through life, an ineffective Christian, never living the abundant life God provides.
But there is a second condition too, called the condemning heart. This is the opposite problem from the deceitful heart. In this spiritual heart trouble, the heart is always condemning everything the believer does, says, thinks. Anyone out there been there, done that? We see this spiritual heart condition in 1 John 3: 18-22. This was a perpetual condition of my heart in my earlier years as a Christian and persisted for a long time. Even today, I have to guard against second guessing everything I do and say. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is very important and a valuable exercise to examine ourselves and to evaluate our attitudes, words, and actions. But there are people who have over-active consciences which never allow them to rest in God’s love and acceptance, no matter what the situation. This person does not make use of God’s grace because they are always in self-condemnation, never feeling worthy, always punishing themselves for some infraction. This situation is as grievous as the first. Again, there is no abundant life for this Christian and his or her testimony is also rendered ineffective.
So, is there hope? What can we do if we suffer from one or the other spiritual heart affliction…or from both? I suspect most of us, if not all suffer from at least one of these spiritual heart conditions. Yet, I believe there is hope. Our hope, as usual, lies in God himself. For those of us suffering from a deceitful heart, we have God’s Word and his Holy Spirit, which search our hearts and reveals what we have hidden from ourselves, what we do not want to admit. In the same passage in Jeremiah, we are told in verse 10 “I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind…”. Also, in Psalm 139: we can request this examination. Not only does God grant this request, but he also “leads us in the way everlasting”. He diagnoses the problem, and he fixes it. I like that!
What about the 2nd spiritual heart condition of the condemning heart? God has a cure for that too. In the same passage in 1 John 3, we see that God’s love, the kind that loves in deeds and truth, is the answer, as is resting in his presence. In fact, we are reassured in Romans 8:1 that there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”. The key here is to be ‘in’ Jesus. Is your heart condemning you? If you have done what God requires…accepting the work of Christ in your life, loving God, loving others in action and truth, then we can put our hearts to rest in His presence and stop listening to the lies of condemnation. I’ll never forget the time I discovered a way to disarm those constant condemning thoughts in my head. I would hear “You’re not good enough”. I’d say “Yup, that’s true. That’s why I need a Savior. That’s why Jesus died for me. That’s why I cling to Him! I’m not giving up.”
God is a heart specialist. If you are suffering from a spiritual heart condition, give your heart to Him. Ask Him to diagnose what your trouble is. Ask Him to heal your heart, to restore it to a healthy condition. From what I see in scriptures, He is eager to do so. Let’s set our hearts at rest in His presence today.