Today’s post is the first in a series of guest posts centered around my church’s annual theme of “Healthy Hearts”. The first contributor is Wes Woodell. His full bio is at the bottom of the post, but here’s a brief intro…
Wes first came to my attention when I was working in campus ministry in Louisiana. He organised a new summer workshop for campus ministers at Harding University and I called him to let him know I couldn’t attend. 🙂 Since then that workshop has blossomed into a ministry known as Campus Ministry United, and their annual workshop brings in excellent speakers with a very evangelistic focus. (Audio from this workshop is available here.) I appreciate Wes’ passion and love for God and people, and hope you find this article on the heart encouraging to your faith.
According to the Proverbs related to God’s Wisdom & Sovereignty, God is sovereign over everything.
Stop – ruminate on that for a moment, because that idea has HUGE implications, and it’s all too easy to read over without digesting.
God is sovereign over e v e r y t h i n g!
Ultimately, there is nothing outside the influence of God’s power and control. This does not mean there are not certain things He cannot do, rather, it means there are many things He cannot do. For instance, God cannot make a mistake. God cannot speak untruth (by virtue of His saying something, it is true). God cannot be imperfect in any way.
We could add to this list, but you get the idea. God’s sovereignty and power extends over all things, and Proverbs highlights many.
SOVEREIGN OVER THE HEART
The Bible makes it clear the LORD’s vision into the hearts of men is pure and piercing, but just what is the heart?
In our culture, most think of the heart as the seat of emotion. Phrases like, “I love you with all of my heart” are descriptive of how we emotionally feel about another person, but in the Bible, the heart is much more than that.
The Hebrew word translated “heart” in the Old Testament is Lev, and it shows up close to 900 times in various forms. It can refer to 1) a person’s physical heart (the blood pumping organ of the body), 2) the physical mid-section of a person, or 3) a person’s inner self. More often than not option #3 – the inner self (i.e. inner person, mind, soul, spirit, will) – is what is meant.
The inner self is not simply the seat of one’s emotions – it includes that, but is not limited to it. The biblical concept of “heart” refers not only to feelings, but also to one’s thoughts, volitions, and motivations.
Simply put, the Old Testament concept of “heart” refers to who you are on the inside that no one else can see.
You’ve heard the old saying, “Home is where the heart is”, but that saying is misleading.
The truth is, “The heart is where the home is”, because your “heart” is where you really live, and no one else can really come in. People may catch glimpses of your true heart here and there, and those you are closer to will have more knowledge of your true heart than others, but even your best friend or spouse will never fully know your true heart – no one else but you really will.
No one else, that is, except for God.
IN YOUR BUSINESS
Whether you like it or not, and as I’ve heard college students say, God is “all up in your business.”
Proverbs teaches this truth, and it’s found throughout the rest of the Bible too.
In 1 Samuel 16:7b, God told Samuel that He’d decided to make David the nation of Israel’s next king because He sees much more than the human eye – God sees the inner self of a man:
“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart [inner self].”
David knew this truth well, and passed it on to his son Solomon (who would later write most of the book of Proverbs) in 1 Chronicles 28:9:
“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart [all of the inner self] and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”
No matter how much we might like to hide it, Proverbs 20:27 (in addition to many other Proverbs) teaches that the light of the Lord will illuminate every facet of our inner selves:
“The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.”
Nothing is hidden from the LORD’s sight, human hearts included.
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY EQUALS PERFECT JUDGMENT
As a result of God’s perfect knowledge, we can expect God to be perfect in administering judgment and justice.
Since the LORD knows all, His reward will be according to a perfect standard.
As Jeremiah 17:10 says:
“I the LORD search the heart [inner self] and examine the mind [inmost being], to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
Reward is in God’s hand, and it will be meted out according to His perfect knowledge.
This concept is repeated in the New Testament. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:4b-5:
“It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
There will come a day when we are completely laid bare – thoughts, actions, and motives – for all to see. Better to get your house in order now through the power of the Holy Spirit than to wait until that day to be exposed!
Lastly,1 John 3:19-21 says:
“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God …”
“For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything …”
When it comes to judgment, it will be our hearts that acquit us or condemn us (I spoke a bit about this at the end of the post on the sinner’s prayer and believer’s baptism).
It is the heart – the inner self, the person we are on the inside that no one besides God can see – that will acquit us or condemn us, because our inner selves – who we are at the core of our being – is what God expects to be in submission to Jesus.
Anyone can fake externals, and, frankly, many do, but when it comes to the heart, no one can “fake it” before God. He sees the real you, and will judge the real you according to His just and perfect standard.
Where is your heart?
Isn’t it wonderful to know that God is good? Isn’t it wonderful to know that He’s just and kind and loving, and has our best interests in mind?
God is for us, not against us, and we should both take comfort in and be challenged by the words of Proverbs 30:5 and 3:5-6:
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Wise words to be heeded and applied.
Wes currently resides in O’Fallon, MO where he, his wife, and their four children have joined other members of The Crossings Church in preparation to plant a new congregation the Greater St Louis area. Before moving to Missouri, the Woodells lived in San Francisco, CA where they established a campus ministry and were active in evangelistic outreach. Wes earned his BMin from Harding University in Searcy, AR, and is in the final hours of completing his first graduate degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. You can read more of Wes’ writing on his blog: http://outoftheoverflow.com/.
Please take a moment to encourage Wes by leaving a comment.
You might also like to continue the conversation by addressing these questions:
- “The Heart” is obviously a metaphor. Wes gave a definition above. How would you describe it to someone?
- How do you feel about God knowing your heart? Is it comforting or intimidating?
- If God’s knowing your heart allows him to administer perfect justice, do you trust God to make the right judgement about your life?