The Heart of the Matter.
“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the person.” – Proverbs 27:19 NLT
While the book of Proverbs appears to be a collection of disconnected sayings, there is a common thread running throughout them. They deal with a wide variety of issues ranging from gluttony and greed to pride and boasting. There are plenty of Proverbs about the fool, the deceitful man, the wicked, the boastful, the proud, the gossip, and the lazy. But these characters are almost always juxtaposed by the wise, the trustworthy, the righteous, the humble, and the diligent. For every negative example given, there seems to be a positive one. Because at the end of the day, the Proverbs are dealing with the condition of the heart. All these positive and negative character traits flow from the heart. The heart is the source and the characteristics listed in the Proverbs are what become visible to those around us. Pride is the fruit of a proud heart. It is not a character flaw, but a reflection of who we really are on the inside. Jesus put it this way, “A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say” (Luke 6:45 NLT). The heart is critical to living the life God has called us to live. Solomon understood this. It’s why he warned, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT). The heart affects everything you do. It is the source of all your pride, foolishness, humility, greed, patience, hope, hatred, and love. You can try and cover up what is in your heart, but eventually it will make its way to the surface for all to see. You can try and cover it up, but eventually the true condition of your heart will be exposed. Others will see it – even when we can’t. Our efforts to appear as something we’re not end up fooling only one person – ourselves. Everyone else sees through our charade.
The problem for mankind has always been the condition of the heart. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT). Jesus echoed those same sentiments when He said, “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God” (Mark 7:21-23 NLT).
The hearts of men are damaged. They are faulty because of the fall. They can’t produce anything worthwhile or righteous. But there is hope and it is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He gives us the capacity to live differently. He changes our hearts. “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT). So all the positive character traits listed in the Proverbs are achievable and possible for the believer. We have been given a new heart and a new capacity to live differently – from the inside out. We can produce new fruit because we have the Spirit of God living within us. But we have to remember, that we still have a sin nature. We still have a daily choice to either obey our flesh or listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul put it this way when writing to the Galatian Christians:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. – Galatians 5:19-25 NLT
Following the Holy Spirit’s leading is the key to living a life marked by wisdom, humility, and self-control. We have the Spirit inside of us and the Word of God to guide us. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the power available to us in the Scriptures: “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT). As we read the Word of God with the help of the Spirit of God, the character of God becomes increasingly more prevalent in our lives. The Proverbs become more than a list of pithy statements. They become reality in our lives. We begin to live out in our lives what Solomon put down on paper. And the world sits up and takes notice.
Father, my heart is the battle ground. It is the source of what comes out of my mouth, what I do with my hands and feet, how I handle adversity and prosperity. It controls my thoughts, guides my actions, and determines my steps. Along with David I pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me” Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men