By James E. Cooper
The words of Proverbs 23:26 may be properly interpreted as those of a concerned father to his son, but there is a real sense in which God speaks to every person in every age and says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” We are all His offspring (cf. Acts 17:28-29), and He desires and calls for the hearts of each and everyone of us.
Satan also appeals to every person saying, “Give me throe heart.” He doesn’t come up in a red suit, with horns on his head and a pitchfork in his hand, and announce, “I am Satan, and I want to subvert your soul. If you will give me your heart, we will both spend eternity in Hell.” He really appears as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), and tells us that we can live as we please and still be acceptable in the sight of God. The Devil doesn’t mind if you take tune to spend an hour or two in the assembly of the saints each week, if he can actually win your heart.
We must determine which of these two masters will have our hearts. We cannot divide our loyalties; we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). There are too many who want to “honor God with their lips” while their “hearts are far from him” (Matt. 15:8). But, God will have all of us, or nothing at all. Jesus said, “Thou shaft love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). He does not want part of your heart; He asks for all of your heart.
What Is The Heart?
When God says, “Give me thine heart,” He is not asking for the physical heart, that lobe within our breast which pumps blood to the various parts of our bodies. It is a vital organ for physical life, but has no real relationship to the spiritual, or inner, man. The heart for which God asks is composed of one’s intellect, will, emotions and conscience. We deduce this from statements in the Scriptures in which the word “heart” appears.
1. The Intellect.
With the heart we reason. On one occasion a man who was sick of the palsy was brought to Jesus and, because of a throng about the door, the four men carrying him broke open the roof of the house and let him down through the roof. Jesus, seeing their faith, told the palsied man, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Certain scribes were sitting and “reasoning in their hearts” that Jesus had blasphemed; “Who can forgive sins but God only?” In His spirit Jesus perceived their thoughts and asked, “Why reason ye these things in your hearts?” (Mark 2:1-8). The scribes’ reasoning was faulty, and Jesus exposed it as such by healing the palsied man. If He had the power to heal, He had the power to forgive sin (Mark 2:9-12).
With the heart we understand. Isaiah (6:9-10) and Jesus (Matt. 13:15) spoke of those with hearts “waxed gross,” lest they should “understand with their hearts.” Only those with “honest and good hearts” understand the word, hold it fast and produce fruit (cf. Lk. 8:15; Matt. 13:23). Some do not understand the word and “the evil one comes and snatches away that which has been sown in his heart” (Matt. 13:19).
With the heart we believe. Paul said, “. . . with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. . .” (Rom. 10:9-10). One may believe “in his heart” something that is utterly false (cf. 2 Thess. 2:11-12), but that will not save him. In order for the believing heart to be acceptable with God, it must believe the truth (John 8:32).
Both God and Satan desire your intellect. God in His word has presented evidence to be reasoned upon, understood and believed (cf. John 20:30-31). Satan would corrupt your thinking and cause you to disbelieve and reject the truth. Before the Great Flood, he had been so successful that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
2. The Will.
Our intentions are exercises of the will, and the word of God is able to “discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). God is able to distinguish between a passing idea, a fleeting temptation, and the settled intention of the heart. David Lipscomb once illustrated the difference like this: “One cannot keep a bird from landing on his head, but he can prevent him from building a nest in his hair.” We may not always prevent an unwholesome thought from entering our minds, but we can exercise our wills to keep it from taking up a permanent abode in our hearts.
We purpose in our hearts. After news came to Jerusalem about the conversion of the Gentiles in Antioch, Barnabas was sent forth, “and when he was come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad; and he exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord” (Acts 11:23). In teaching us to give, Paul said, “Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart. . .” (2 Cor. 9:7). Again, Paul said the man who had “determined in his heart” to- keep his own virgin daughter unmarried under the temporary circumstances at Corinth “shall do well” (1 Cor. 7:37).
We exercise our wills when we “become obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered” (Rom. 6:17). Obedience is an exercise of the will. When we obey the commands of the gospel “from the heart,” we are made free from sin and become the servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18).
Both God and Satan desire your will. God wants you to purpose to obey him sincerely from the heart. Satan wants to undermine that purpose and secure your will for his own devilish ends. He doesn’t even mind if one “goes through the motions” of obeying God, just so it is not done “from the heart.”
3. The Emotions.
We desire in our hearts. Paul said, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is. . .” (Rom. 10:1).
We despise in our hearts. When Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s wife, saw David leaping and dancing before the Lord while they brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem, “she despised him in her heart” (2 Sam. 6:16).
We trust in our hearts. Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).
We love with our hearts. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. . .” (Matt. 22:37). Peter said, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22).
Both God and Satan want your emotions. Satan wants you to love the world (cf. 1 Jn. 2:15-17), to desire the pleasures of sin (cf. Heb. 11:23-26), to trust in your feelings (cf. Prov. 14:25; Jer. 10:23), and in effect, to despise God. But God wants your heart’s emotions. He wants you to love Him and trust Him with all your heart.
4. The Conscience.
John speaks of it like this: “And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:19-21). That which approves us when we do right and condemns us when we do wrong is the conscience. What the conscience approves or condemns depends on what one has been taught. A properly functioning conscience is one that has learned the word of God and approves and disapproves in harmony with its teachings. In the above context, the heart approves us when we do what we understand God wants of us. If we feel guilty because we don’t serve Him perfectly, “God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things.” Among the things God knows is whether or not we have really tried to serve Him aright. God knows whether we are “putting our hearts into it,” or whether we are “double-minded and unstable in all our ways” (cf. Jas. 1:8).
Christ tells sinners how to obtain a good (or approving) conscience. There are three passages in the book of Hebrews that should be considered here. In Hebrews 9:9, we learn that the gifts and sacrifices made under the first covenant “cannot, as touching the conscience, make the worshiper perfect.” The reason is very simple: “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). But animal sacrifices did suffice to “sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh” (Heb. 9:13).
The second passage we wish to emphasize says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). How is that accomplished? How is the conscience cleansed from dead works? It is cleansed from guilt when one realizes that, having met the terms of pardon announced by Jesus (cf. Mk. 16:15-16) from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18), he has received the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). God has forgiven him, and will never remember those sins against him again (cf. Heb. 8:12; 10:18). Realizing that God has forgiven him, the now forgiven sinner realizes he doesn’t need to feel guilty about his sins any longer. He has been “made free from sin” and has become a servant of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18).
Hebrews 10:22-23 exhorts Christians: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water, let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.” Our hearts are sprinkled (an allusion to the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice) and our bodies are washed (the allusion to baptism is “unquestionable,” B.F. Westcott, Hebrews, pg. 323). When one is baptized in water, “obeying from the heart,” the blood of Christ is applied to remove the guilt of sin from the heart. In this way one is baptized as “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Pet. 3:21, NASV).
Who Has Your Heart?
The children of the devil and the children of God are distinguished by their deeds. The children of the devil act like the devil (cf. John 8:44), while the children of God “doeth righteousness” (1 John 3:29).
The character of one’s heart is manifested by his conduct. Jesus said, “The tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33). “The good man out of his good treasure bringeth forth good things: and, the evil man out of his evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matt. 12:35). Further, the character of one’s heart is manifested by his speech: “. . . for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34; Lk. 6:45).
When the disciples of Jesus were criticized for eating with unwashed hands, Jesus taught it was not that which entered the mouth that defiled a man, but that which came from within. “For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-22; cf. Matt. 15:19).
The Heart Is Changed At Conversion
In remorse over his sin with Bathsheba, David prayed, “. . . Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa. 51:10). God commanded sinful Israel to “cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel” (Ezek. 18:31). The “new heart” for which David prayed came as a result of his “turning” from sin unto the Lord. Through Ezekiel, God said, “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye” (Ezek. 18:32).
The gospel, “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16), is the power of God to change every part of the heart. The intellect is changed from unbelief by testimony, or evidence (cf. John 20:30-31; Acts 15:7-9). The emotions are changed in response to the motivations of the gospel. God first loved us, and gave His only begotten Son; we love Him in return (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:19; 2 Cor. 5:14). By learning and appreciating the commandments of God, we hate every false way (cf. Psa. 119:1-4, 128). The will is changed by a proper appreciation of the holy attributes of God. “Godly fear leads to repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10), and repentance leads to a change of conduct (cf. Matt. 3:8; Matt. 21:28-30). The conscience is changed from an “evil” conscience to a “good” conscience when one realizes he has met God’s conditions of pardon, and the saving blood of Christ has cleansed him of every sin. God has forgiven him. Therefore he doesn’t need to feel guilty about the sins he has committed in the past.
Conversion involves the heart all the way. It involves understanding with the heart (cf. Acts 16:14; Matt. 13:19), believing with all the heart (cf. Acts 8:37), and obeying from the heart (cf. Rom. 6:17-18). Before a person is baptized, he is “out of Christ,” but at baptism his relationship is changed. He becomes a “child of God by faith” when he is “baptized into Christ” (cf. Gal. 3:26-27). In Christ, he is a “new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). As a Christian he loves God “with all his heart” (Matt. 22:37), and “loves the brethren from the heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:21).
Both God and Satan are standing before you right now. Both have outstretched arms. Both are saying “Give me your heart. ” You must decide right now to whom you will give your heart. Any hesitation in giving your heart to God means you have yielded to Satan. All Satan has to do is to persuade you not to give your heart to God “just now.” But “today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2); you may never have another opportunity. Procrastination is the thief of souls. Don’t take a chance with your soul.
Even if you obey the gospel today, you must “keep your heart with all diligence” (Prov. 23:7). Satan won’t give up easily. But an “honest and good heart” will resist the devil and cause him to flee (cf. Jas. 4:7).
Give God your heart – immediately, completely and eternally.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 5, 129, 150-151
March 3, 1983