“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” Proverbs 4:23.
If you ate junk food every day never minding portion control, calories, serving size, and nutritional information you’d end overweight and at risk for heart disease. Eventually, you could suffer a heart attack and die. In my last blog I wrote about a serious spiritual disease that can lead to destruction and death. It’s called a hardened heart. Our spiritual condition is even more important than our physical condition because our souls are eternal. If we aren’t careful about our daily spiritual walk then we can easily suffer from this disease.
To review, a hardened heart keeps pace with the world more than it does with Jesus. It doesn’t seek out or listen to Godly counsel or wisdom from the Bible. It stops rhythmically communicating with God and seals off the work of the Holy Spirit. It loses faith in God’s abilities to bless us and work miracles. It is selfish and sows bitterness, anger, resentment jealously, malice, discontent and other evils. It causes more harm than good. It calls evil good and good evil and justifies evil actions. It silences the conscience and suppresses truth. It does not desire forgiveness, healing, faith and hope in God. It substitutes pleasure for righteousness. A hardened heart, without treatment, could fall away from God entirely and be left spiritually corrupted and bankrupt, deprived of spiritual nutrients and every good and amazing thing God had planned for it.
What a sad spiritual state in which to be found! We all know people with hardened hearts. Perhaps you even remember when your heart was once hardened before you opened it up and let Jesus inside. Maybe you even remember a time as a Christian where you heart was hardened and God had to get out His spiritual defibrillator to jump start it again. This could even describe your spiritual condition at this very moment. So then, how do you treat a hardened heart? It is easier than you think. The good news is that a hardened heart has a proven and effective treatment regimen. This is a daily regimen and the results will show over time as our hearts begin to soften and open up to God. God can change any heart, no matter how hard, if we let Him.
First, ask God to search your heart. You need to recognize that your heart may have a problem with it. Heed the warning signs and check for symptoms. We are often spiritually blind to our own issues. Just as an EKG can reveal a heart condition, God can reveal a spiritual condition we need to address. Proverbs 16:7 is one of my life verses. It says, “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Pray that God will show you where your heart is vulnerable and weak. ”Search me, O God, and know my heart: test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” Psalm 139:23-24. “Let us search and try our ways and turn again to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:40. “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart” Psalm 26:2. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5. Before we partake of Communion we are instructed to examine ourselves: “But let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup” 1 Corinthians 11:28. I love 1 Corinthians 10:11-13. It lets us know that we’re human, we mess up but God helps us get out of our mess: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” There is hope for all of us yet!
Second, ask God to change your heart. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10. God can fix your heart, no matter what its spiritual state. You just need to be repentant. “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” 2 Chronicles 16:9. David lost his son after committing adultery and murder and then asked God to change his heart: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge” Psalm 51:3-4. This would be a good prayer for us to prayer too when we know we’ve screwed up. Stormie Omartian in the book “Power of Prayer to Change a Marriage” says that David spoke of his heart often in the Psalms (38:10, 40:12; 55:4; 61:2; 109:22; 143:4 and 69:20). She goes on to say that repentance and worship are key to preventing and changing a hardened heart, as was the case for King David. 1 Kings 3:12 lets us know that we should ask God to replace hardened hearts with wise and discerning hearts. In 2 Chronicles 9:23 we read how God put wisdom in Solomon’s heart because he asked God for it. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” David asked for God to direct the hearts of the people towards Him (1 Chronicles 29:18). Perhaps you know the song “Change My Heart Oh God” by Eddie Espinosa. As well as a song, it’s a good prayer too! It goes like this: Change my heart oh God/Make it ever true/Change my heart oh God/May I be like You. You are the potter/I am the clay/Mold me and make me/This is what I pray. The scriptures say that God can and will change our hearts if we let Him. He wants to mold our hearts into His image. ”The LORD said . . . ‘I will sprinkle you with clean water, and you will be clean. . . . I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart. . . . You will have only pure thoughts, because I will put My Spirit in you” Ezekiel 36:16, 25-28. “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh” Ezekiel 11:19.
Third, fill your heart daily with God’s Word. “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:1-11. You’ve heard the expression that people are only as good as their word. In many cases, people don’t live up to their word. God always lives up to His Word. God’s Word is very powerful – more powerful than anything. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12. God’s Word never changes, but it has the power to transform us. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. God’s Word will keep us spiritually grounded. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers” Psalm 1:1-3. We must spend time in God’s Word day and night, not just when it’s convenient for us. Otherwise, Satan will make sure it’s never convenient for us. It’s a commitment we need to stand firm on every day or our enemy will easily gain a foothold. 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 says that Satan’s workers disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Satan wants to destroy us. ”Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Part of the armor of God we use to ward off Satan is the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). This is the Bible. God’s Word can be used to accomplish His purpose in each of our lives: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11). Finally, God’s Word gives us wisdom. “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise” Colossians 3:16.
Fourth, spend time in prayer. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:1. Prayer helps keep us centered on Jesus Christ and the line of communication open with Him. It give us intimacy with Him, just as it would if we had a deep and personal conversation our spouse, loved one or close friend. Jesus prayed often to God and expressed His innermost feelings (Luke 22:39-46, John 17). Prayer has the power to transform our hardened hearts. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14. Prayer comes to our aid when our hearts need help and healing. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” Hebrews 4:16. We are to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This means that whenever we think about praying for something or someone, we should do it. God will hear our prayers and if our hearts are aligned with God, He will give us our desires. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him” 1 John 5:14-15. “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4. Prayer needs to be a daily part of our routine, just as reading God’s Word should be. “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” Psalm 55:17. “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” Luke 6:12. “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” Acts 6:4. Finally, prayer is a powerful weapon against our enemy, Satan. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” Ephesians 6:18.
Fifth, be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who dwells inside of us (1 Corinthians 3:16). God actually put the Holy Spirit in our hearts. “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” 2 Corinthians 1:21. The Holy Spirit will keep our hearts from wandering astray. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. . . . If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” Galatians 5:16, 22. We are strengthened through the Holy Spirit and can better understand God. “That He [God the Father] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” Ephesians 3:16-19. The Holy Spirit fills us with what is good and pleasing to God. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” Galatians 5:22, 23. “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth” Ephesians 5:9. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts and helps us to accomplish His ministry to others (1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Acts 2:4; 6:3; 7:55; 11:24; 13:9, 52).
Sixth, surround yourself with people whose hearts seek after God. “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17. We should be careful who we let influence our lives. ”The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” I went to college with someone who shared the same birthday as me. He was on the basketball team and did well in school. He died at age 24 from an accidental drug overdose. His mom said he never did drugs until he began to hang around the wrong crowd. We need friends who can give us Godly counsel. God often uses our friends to tell us what we need to hear. “The godly offer good counsel, they know what is right from wrong” Psalm 37:30. When we are going through a spiritual battle, our friends can help us fight. We simply can’t do everything alone without other Christians. We need each other to fend off Satan and his followers. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” Proverbs 11:14. “A wise man is strong, yes, a man of knowledge increases strength; for by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety” Proverbs 24:5. “Every purpose is established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war” Proverbs 20:18. “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established” Proverbs 15:22. “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.” Proverbs 19:20. “Cease listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” Proverbs 19:27. This is why God tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Who we chose to listen to can powerfully impact our hearts and our actions.
Seventh, meditate on how God has blessed you. “The LORD bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” Numbers 6:24-26. We must never forget that it is God who gives us good things in our lives. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” James 1:17. ”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” Ephesians 1:3. Blessings come when we live righteously before God. “Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked. The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot” Proverbs 10:6-7. ”For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield” Psalm 41:1. ”Blessed are those who keep justice, and he who does righteousness at all times!” Psalm 106:3. Blessings remind us just how much God loves us when we follow Him. They always help us to maintain faithful hearts in the storms of life and give our hearts hope for the future.
I hope and pray this daily regimen will work for you! All this being said, the best thing we can do is make Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives and our schedule each and every day. We need to keep Him our number one priority and focus our efforts on praising Him and worshipping Him in our words and our actions and especially in our hearts!
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).