Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:23-24, ESV)
How well do you know your heart? I'm not talking about your feelings, but your deepest motives, desires, corruptions, and idols. It is not as simple as some might think. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9) The heart is tricky, even for the Christian. For though we have been given a new heart that beats with love for God, corruption remains.
The human heart (even your heart, Christian) is a mess and needs to be watched, guarded, and kept. It is too easy to focus on our behavior while leaving the heart behind. And one part of the work of guarding your heart means knowing it, or clearly seeing your inner weaknesses and root sins. Ah, but you think you know your heart. Are you sure?
There is real danger when we neglect our hearts by remaining ignorant and insensitive to our corruption. By not examining ourselves, uncovering sin, repenting, and trusting Christ daily we can expect the pain of three heart conditions.
One way we neglect the heart is by dealing with our sin on the level of doing instead of being. Addressing your behavior without addressing the heart will lead to a sanctification as thin as a Christian t-shirt. In fact, by neglecting the heart you leave yourself exposed to the sticky and spreading nature of sin. "Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:15, ESV) Sin that remains unchecked will gain ground in your life. And to check it means to hit it at the heart level.
A neglected heart will not grieved by its sin. It grows a kind of callous that leaves it numb. This not only leads to the spread of sin, but also to a lack of joy. The deepest joy to be found is in the Savior who rescues us from our sin and guilt and welcomes us into his presence and Kingdom. Such joy is lost when we continue in sin unchecked. "Restore to me the joy of your salvation,and uphold me with a willing spirit." (Psalm 51:12, ESV) David lost the joy of the Lord and his salvation after neglecting his heart. The turning point was seeing and sensing the depths of his own sin and returning to God in humble repentance.
When we neglect our hearts we lose sight of how sinful we really are. Not were, but are. This not only leads to pride, but it also weakens our love for our Savior because we no longer see just what we have been rescued from, and how vast and unending is his grace toward us. It is the one who knows how much he has been forgiven that loves deeply. "He who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Lk. 7:36-50) The one who begins to understand the depths and dangers of his sin will swell with love for Jesus who laid down his own life to save the ungodly.
Do not neglect your heart. But keep it. "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." (Proverbs 4:23, ESV)
In a follow-up post I will offer some general and specific counsel on how we can know and keep our hearts.