A sad note in the Bible and in life is that people’s hearts change.
King Solomon started his rule with a heart after God but ended up worshipping the idols of his many wives. Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem to the “Hosanna” chorus, but a few days later he was rejected for Barabbas.
We see people who seem deeply in love become enemies. We see people who are excited about some new moment in their life become sour and unhappy about it.
Our human hearts are changeable and subject to temptations and weaknesses within us. We are warned that the human heart is deceitful and wicked.
“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
The Apostle Paul told the church leaders in Ephesus, a church he planted himself, that some among them would end up doing harm to the church.
“Some of you will rise up and say things that are distorted, in order to have your own group of followers.” Acts 20:30
Because of this vulnerability within us we are warned to keep watch over and to guard our heart keenly.
“Diligently keep guard over your heart because all the issues of life spring from there.” Proverbs 4:23
And we are told to direct our heart to love God and to love our neighbour. This is a matter of our will, directing our heart to do what is pleasing to God. It’s a command, so it must be in our power.
“Jesus said to him, You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
So we see that our heart is problematic, likely to come up with things that will lead us astray, so we are to give attention to the condition of our heart and purposefully direct it to the things God wants. Our heart does not rule us, but we steer it.
What is helpful is to cry out to God to work in our heart, changing it and cleaning it up, so we are kept from temptations and distractions that take us away from glorifying God. David prayed to God to clean up his heart, after he committed adultery.
“Create a clean heart in me, O God; and renew a right spirit in me.” Psalm 51:10
We also have the wonderful promise by God that He will give us a new, purified heart.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit inside you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
The combination of God’s work in us, along with our intention to keep our hearts pure before God, will enable us to be free from the many traps the human heart can produce.
As a matter of ‘keeping’ or guarding your heart it is wise to stop from time to time to audit your heart and keep track of where it is going.
A father once shared how he taught his daughter to protect her heart. He gave her a page with a large heart drawn on it and asked her to write in the heart the names of people who had a piece of her heart. She wrote her parents, family and God into the heart, but as she reflected she also recognised others she cared about, including an old lady and some needy people. The father then discussed these people and what part they should have in her heart, encouraging her and cautioning her as he saw fit. Father and daughter made this a regular event as he taught her to guard her heart and steer it in the right directions.
So here’s a suggestion for you to do privately. Draw a heart and write on one side all the positive things that make your heart glad, identifying the people who bring that joy to you. On the other side write all the negative things in your heart, such as envy, resentment, un-forgiveness, bitterness, hurt, shame, etc, and the people connected with those feelings.
Then submit the whole list to God, as your loving Heavenly Father, to give His comments, correcting and encouraging you. Listen to the godly conviction that comes as you consider each one, and make godly choices about how you will guard your heart and keep it pure before the Lord.
Then take those things that seem stronger than you, such as deeply rooted feelings you know God does not approve of, and call on God to change your heart, purify your heart and protect you from yourself and your own evil reactions.
Remember that God is your saviour. He saves you from sin, death and hell. God also saves you from yourself and the evil that may be in your heart. He can overpower every evil snare, attack and fiery dart of the enemy. Your part is to value your heart and call on the Lord to save you.
You might like to track down Brian Doerksen’s prayer song that asks God to purify your heart, or Keith Green’s song “Create In Me A Clean Heart, O God”.
Purify my heart, Cleanse me from within And make me holy.
Purify my heart, Cleanse me from my sin, deep within.
Refiner’s fire, My heart’s one desire Is to be holy; Set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be holy; Set apart for You, my Master, Ready to do Your will.
May you each have a Pure Heart before God.