Tag Archives: heart

Change of Heart, Change of Mind

What do you think of when you hear or read the word “heart?” I guess that feelings come to mind. Perhaps an afterthought is “my heart hurts” or “you have my heart” or “it warms my heart.” That’s fine. After all, we’re emotional creatures. But what about a change of heart—especially that transformation God desires of us? And how does ancient Christianity primarily view the ‘heart’ anyway?

You’ll find that heart, mind, and intent are very closely related and can be synonymous in the Bible. For instance, “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.” (Acts 8:22)

An intent to do something is to have a heart, or mind, for action. We behave accordingly when our mind (heart) is set on a course of action or thing. The pure heart (mind) will see God (Matthew 5:8). On the other hand, the heart (mind or intent) is closely related to what we pursue. It could be things like money, love, stuff, sports, etc. (Matthew 6:21). So, why is the word ‘heart’ (Greek cardia) often used to represent our thoughts or intentions? It is the core of our being and where everything we do begins:

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matthew 15:18-19)

Those who God knows have a heart (mind) for Him and have devoted all to Him: “. . . if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes . . .” (Romans 19:9-10), And we are of one mind (Acts 4:32).

Yet, some intend to continue rebellion against God; it won’t end well: “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5)

Finally, a right mind (heart) makes possible a deep and lasting understanding of God’s Kingdom: “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Luke 8:15)

It’s nearly springtime. So, let’s continue to talk about soil and seed and growing spiritual stuff next week in “White Robes & Green Thumbs.”

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Intent Matters!

Jesus taught that our reason for doing a particular act matters a great deal. For instance, He said there wouldn’t necessarily be a reward, other than perhaps a feeling of personal satisfaction, for being kind to someone just because they’re kind to you (Matthew 5:46). The flip side – showing kindness to those who mistreat you – will yield heavenly reward. On a related note, Jesus also taught as read in Matthew 6:1-18 that doing religious things (e.g. fasting, praying, or giving) for the purpose of being spiritually elevated in the eyes of others’ is equally pointless. So, intent will determine whether an action will be fruitless or rewarded.

Intent – the reason for doing a particular deed – can be as important as the act itself and is a key ingredient to sin! In fact, Jesus reported that the intent to do something can be as bad as the intended action – even if it isn’t carried out. In the following passage, He informs us that if we intend to commit adultery, we’ve done it even if the act wasn’t completed. I know that some people have exclaimed that the passage implies we’ve committed adultery if we privately acknowledge that a woman is ‘hot’ in a fleeting thought, but that wasn’t Jesus’ point.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her [desires to have her] has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” —Matthew 5:27-28.  (The comment in brackets was inserted by me and is based on the Strong’s definition of ‘lust’)

Again, Jesus’ point was to teach that once we intend do take sinful action, it’s as good as done.  Understand that a thought in itself isn’t wicked as long as it doesn’t give way to an intention to take action.

How do we ensure a thought doesn’t mature into lustful intent? Internalize God’s ways through study, prayer, meditation, and fellowship so that they become a force greater than physical desire.

Jesus also taught that the heart (mind) gives birth to all kinds of sinful things; this serves as a reminder that rebellion/sin is intentional and begins the mind.

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” —Matthew 15:18-19.

We must always be aware of our intentions and how what we’re going to say or do will affect others. Having a good understanding of God’s ways will help us to know whether something we intend to do or say can result in sinful behavior. That understanding is gained through physical exposure to God’s instructions and spiritual communication through His Spirit.

How do you maintain righteousness and a pure intent?

What’s in Your Wallet?

A wise man once prayed something like: “God – please provide enough for my family and me so that I’m not tempted to steal, and not so much that I’m tempted to forget what it’s like to be in need.”

Our spirit was created by God for fellowship with Him and for good works (Ephesians 2:10). One day, we’ll be judged on how well we used that spirit to guide our flesh toward doing good deeds for the “Father of Spirits” and our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments with two statements: treat our God appropriately and our fellow man charitably (Matthew 22:35-40). We get to choose how we’ll use our resources (e.g. time and money) to please God and satisfy His desires. But, that freedom comes at a cost: give now to live later, or live it up now and suffer later.

We find two extremes in benevolence: those who give generously for their fellow human and those who love wealth. In the former group, we find the likes of Jesus and other servants who have given their lives for people they often don’t know. You’ll also find people who give generously to help feed, clothe, or house others. These people reflect the face of our God who created the spirit within us; they’re focus isn’t on self and material things.

What about the latter group? There, you’ll find people who horde resources despite the suffering around them. They love money and stuff and that’s where their focus is. Perhaps they’ll give a dollar to charity and spend a thousand on a new shiny bobble or the latest electronic thing. These people reflect not the face of our creator but the passion and self-serving nature of flesh and emotion.

If we want to look more like the former than the latter we need to be content with what we have. We also need to avoid the love of money, which is the “root of all sorts of evil” according to the Apostle Paul (1Timothy 6:6-11 and Hebrews 13:5). It also helps if we stay out of debt to avoid becoming a slave (Proverbs 22:7) and not store up treasures for ourselves on earth, but be benevolent (Matthew 6:19-21). In this passage, Jesus also reminds us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

What’s in my wallet? There, you’ll find a balance of things – some for me, some for others. I give to the hungry and helpless on a regular basis. Much of my resources go to children, rescue, and ministry. But, I don’t neglect my family. We’re comfortable and satisfied.

So . . . where’s your heart? What’s in your wallet? Money earmarked to help the needy? Or would we discover bountiful plastic or lots of cash destined for food, drink, and the latest shiny thing?