We can often be distracted by the actions we do or which we see others do. We can see actions but we can’t see what goes on inside someone’s heart or head. So we most often assess people and even ourselves, based on the activities, rather than the attitudes.
God, however, looks at the heart.
“I, the Lord, search the heart” Jeremiah 17:10
God not only looks at the heart, but He also tests the heart, putting people through various challenges to see how their heart responds.
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 8:2
God is looking at your heart, but he also observes what you do. Your actions take on a different character in light of the motivation within you that prompts that action.
Here again is the verse about God searching our heart. In the whole verse we see that God also sees the actions (deeds).
“I, the Lord, search the heart; I test the mind to reward a man according to his way, by what his deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10
Your ‘deeds’ deserve different responses based on what is in your heart.
For example, a young child might well think it is fun to use a bed or lounge chair as a trampoline, jumping up and down. While that is annoying to adults and may damage what is jumped on, the child is not likely to be jumping because they want to annoy someone or cause damage. They are simply acting childishly, without thought for consequences.
The action has to be viewed in light of the heart or inner motivation.
If a child wants to annoy someone, or hopes to break the furniture, then that is a different matter. The difference is made in the heart, not in the energy it takes to do the jumping.
Christ applied this principle of separating the action from the motivation when He was on the cross. Christ called on God to forgive those who were crucifying Him, because of their ignorance.
“Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Apostle Peter made the same distinction on the Day of Pentecost, in the first sermon of the Church Age, as he preached to the gathered crowd in Jerusalem. He told them they had crucified the Lord, but then pointed out that they were not aware of what they were doing.
“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.” Acts 3:17
We also see in the Law of God that killing someone was to be treated differently if there was malice in the heart, with an intention to harm, compared to an accidental killing of someone, or a spur of the moment reaction that was not premeditated. So the attitude of the heart is a critical issue.
“The avenger of blood might pursue the man slayer in a rage, overtake him if the distance is great, and strike him dead though he did not deserve to die, since he did not intend any harm.” Deuteronomy 19:6
At the same time, God is not fooled by religious actions, since he can see the heart of the people and he measures people by their heart, not by their religious deeds.
“These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” Matthew 15:8,9
Jesus was quoting from the Prophet Isaiah, who prophesied that the people would do what the Pharisees and Scribes were doing.
“Therefore the Lord said: These people draw near to Me with their mouths and honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is but rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13
The Prophet Ezekiel was also warned by God about people who would come to him, but who had a wrong heart.
“With their mouth they show much love, but their heart pursues the things they covet.” Ezekiel 33:31
God is not fooled by your pious actions, because He can see your heart. Your heart response in life’s situations is what makes the real difference in your life. If your heart is unbelieving or selfish you will be shut out of what God has for you, no matter what nice and religious things you do.
In most churches the people who serve with dedication, or who give generously, or who seem the most zealous, are automatically thought to be the more spiritual or more pleasing to God. They may well be, but God also sees their heart.
I use an example in my Parenting talks of a parent who needs a child to fetch something at a nearby shop. A son keenly volunteers to go. The parent is impressed and thinks they have a very obedient child, but the son’s motivation is his hope to talk with the pretty girl who works at the store. The son’s keenness is nothing more than a display of selfishness and self interest, not heartfelt obedience.
When we look into heaven we see what a pure heart looks like. Those who have been redeemed by Christ and gone to heaven are not filled with evil, such as jealousy or selfishness. So a glimpse into heaven reveals what could be expected from a heart that is pure before God.
In Revelation 5 the Apostle John shares his vision of the Lamb of God coming to open a powerful book in heaven. The angels and the whole of creation expressed unrestrained praise to God. This is what comes from a pure heart.
“I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them, saying: To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise, honour, glory and power forever and ever!” Revelation 5:13
You can check your own heart response by observing how much praise and adoration of God flows from your heart and mouth. Do you respond to challenges and life’s circumstances with praise and trust in God, or with anger, annoyance and frustration? Some people use God’s name when they are under pressure, but not as praise. They curse and blaspheme, revealing what is in their heart.
King David knew that God watches his heart and so he prayed that God would cleanse his heart.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a rightly balanced spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
And when King David made an offering to God it was his heart, a heart that was broken and which no longer held onto selfish and worldly things.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
Remember that the issues of life come from your heart.
“Keep watch over your heart with all diligence; for out of your heart come the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
So friends, I urge you to prayerfully take stock of what is going on inside you, humbly calling on God to rescue you if your heart is not right before Him. I urge you to be sure you always make a right Heart Response.