When I purchased my last car (a Mazda 6) there was a tense battle between my head and my heart. My heart wanted the luxury model with leather seats, sunroof, and Bose sound system. My head said the mid-range classic version was better economic value. In the end, my head won. The 6 is a great looking car and a pleasure to drive. However, every time I pull up to the lights next to a luxury Mazda 6, my heart beats… “that could have been you.”
The heart is a curious organ. Physically, we know that the heart is central to life and the pumping of blood throughout the body. However, in spiritual terms the heart is also home to our emotions and desires. While we cannot see our heart, its passions are visibly evident. Just take an inventory of how we spend our time, what we think about, read, watch, and eat. These actions give us an accurate picture of our heart.
For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. –Mark 7:21-23
At age 11, my head came to the realisation that I need to be redeemed from the penalty of my sins. I mentally realised that Jesus was the answer and accepted him as saviour and Lord immediately. As I was raised in a fairly sheltered Christian home, my heart also agreed. My head and heart both knew that I must repent of sins and that God would change my desires. However, my heart’s journey toward loving Jesus as Lord has been a much rockier journey than for my head.
As I grew through puberty at around 13, I began to experience new sexual desires. Once I began to earn money at 16, I found that my heart had to deal with greed for the first time. When I left home at 18, and without the protection of parents, I found that other people were offensive and vengeful. My heart struggled with forgiveness and bitterness. As I experienced career success, I was tempted with arrogance. So as a young adult (who had been saved for 10+ years), my heart found itself dealing with desires that did not seem to be part of the original 1987 repentance “deal.” The conflicting schizophrenia between what my head genuinely wanted and what my heart was tempted with, confronted me daily.
In its early stages, this dichotomy had me questioning my salvation. How much did I really mean it when I prayed the sinners pray? Am I really chosen by God if I struggle with sin more now, than before I was saved? These questioning times were not pleasant. However, I thank the Lord for revealing to me the present reality of the verse John 3:16. that whosoever believeth (in the ongoing sense) in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. My salvation is not based on how well I remember my sincerity 20 years ago. I simply need to ask my head and heart, what they believe now… today. This ongoing present tense of believing has helped dispel the lack of assurance doubts that the devil used against me.
So back to the issues of the heart. My heart must put Jesus on the throne of my life daily. While my head mentally repented many years ago, my heart needs to repent regularly. It is the reality of old nature, which will challenge us until we enter eternity. At one level, as I grow in Christ, it seems that I sin less often. However, at a different level, the older I get, I realise how much more of a sinner that I am. I can never tame my heart on my own, which is why I must pray with the psalmist David, to “change my heart, O God.”
I wish I could clean up my act on my own. I can’t. So reading Mark 7 keeps me humble. Mark 7:12-23 shows me that as my heart battles with each and every sin, I can rejoice so much more in the power of God’s grace and what he has saved me from. Prayer is so necessary to reconnect my heart with the truth and love that God has saved me to. The next time I face temptation at life’s traffic lights, my focus will be on the road that God has ahead for me.