From the beginnings of my faith journey as a teenager Romans 12:1-2 has been a favorite. It was the one I first memorized and regularly prayed seeking the Lord to help me not to conform to the world by transforming me through the renewal of my mind. Even at that immature stage of my faith I perceived that we were supposed to be different. We weren’t supposed to conform to the world. What does not conforming look like?
It’s not necessarily about vocation nor how we spend our time but it starts within our heart. Heart? But didn’t I just mention ‘renewal of my mind’? I can do something with that? Read some books, listen to some podcasts, watch some of those great preachers on YouTube. I think that’s what I thought for so many years and so I hungered for knowledge. Don’t get me wrong knowledge is critical but what I’ve discovered is transformation only occurs when that ‘head-knowledge’ drops into our heart.
Let’s look at a couple of key verses that reveal this. Another of my go to verses is Proverbs 4:23 - “And above all, guard your heart, for everythingyou do flows from it” and then there’s what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 - “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Just from these two verses we can see the heart is fundamental to everything we do, say, and think.
If you’re not convinced let’s look at a couple more. The Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus and at one point asked him what was the greatest commandment. Jesus’ response was simply, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, body and soul.” (Matthew 22:37 NKJV). Yes, the mind is there to, but it falls behind the ‘heart’ in order of priority. The verse that was pivotal to the writing of my first novel, Angelguard, was another from Jesus in Matthew 12:35 – “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Once again, we see that all good and evil effectively comes out of our heart.
A Man after My Own Heart
But let me add one final verse, which is perhaps the most compelling. This one is in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. God has just rejected Saul as king which Samuel, the prophet finds devastating. God sends Samuel to find the one He has anointed to eventually succeed Saul. Samuel goes to Bethlehem to find the one. To Jesse who has many sons. On seeing how impressive the eldest one is, Samuel thinks he’s found the one. But God tells him it’s not that one, nor the next one, and nor the next 5 sons. Samuel on being guided by the Lord asks Jesse, who I expect is by this time thoroughly confused and probably a lot irritated, if there is another son. Indeed there is one of ‘ruddy appearance with beautiful eyes and handsome’ who tends the sheep. The youngest, David. What does God see in this young man that even his father doesn’t see? His heart.
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (v7 ESV) and later in Acts 13:22 the Lord describes David as such, “a man after mine own heart.” The criterion for reigning in life as far as God is concerned has nothing to with appearance, our status (for example, being the first born) or our achievements. It has everything to do with … the heart.
I hope that this is sufficient evidence to suggest the heart is essential to us being different to the world. But this can be hard for us, especially we men, to get. Men, particularly, like order and logic with a tendency to be analytical and want to be the problem solver. Heart matters can be messy, complicated and hard to solve quickly. So we tend to place less importance on the heart and rather emphasize what we know, what comes more easily to us, and also what doesn’t require us to be vulnerable and reveal what’s going on inside us.
How do we open our heart?
But it’s clear the Lord has given us the ability to “love Him [the Lord] with all your heart and with all of your soul, and all of your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) or why would He say to do it. And actually make it our number one priority.
So how do we do it? I know I don’t have all the answers but there are a couple of things that are essential to being able to do it.
- Talk to God. Ask Him about it. Ask Him to help you discover how to love the way He asks us to. He’s not mean, He’s not going to ask us to do something and not show us a way to do it.
- Get stuck into the Word. I’ve spent the last three years reading the Psalms. What I so love about the Psalms is we get to see the full gamut of emotions being played out, repeatedly. Plus you get to spend time with King David. This guy’s probably my all time favorite person in the Bible because he “has a heart after the Lord’s” so why wouldn’t you study the guy. He’s got what we all want.
A lot of men love David because he was the Goliath slayer. It was a heroic act of incredible audacity, slaying this nine-foot giant of a monster when David was still a skinny runt of a teenager. I think we often forget this aspect. I can see this pimply skinny kid who is full of bravado hurling this slingshot at the giant. But what many of us forget is that he was full of bravado because he knew God was in this. He knew he could trust God to deliver. He was purely the instrument by which the Lord would do it. It’s one of the great examples of faith.
But David is also a man who wrote poetry and sang love songs to God as he cared for his flock of sheep. Further, his heart’s desire we’re told in Psalm 27 is “to live with him [God] in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.”(v4 MSG)
Here is a role model. Certainly not the only one but may I encourage you to spend some time reading and re-reading the Psalms and meet this David. Discover the passion he has for the Lord. It will blow your mind.
Note: this is a snippet of a project I’m working on that examines the ‘heart’ and what intimacy with God looks like, especially for men. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here and trust you’ve found it of interest/useful. :)