Proverbs 4. 20 - 27 (NIV)|
As I look at this audience I wonder, are you all unregenerate sinners? I should say not–you all look mighty angelic to me. True, you’re not perfect–you know this because I often like to talk of flaws and imperfections. One calls them ‘shortcomings’, another, ‘just a little slip’. There’s really no need to feel as sinful as we sometimes do when we describe ourselves in prayer.
On the other hand, maybe you’re not as good and innocent as you appear. In a personal example, pretend you are in my head for 24 hours. How would you react? You’d be yelling, “let me out of here”. You’d never speak to me again. Same with you? How about this analogy: Here I stand in my new suit. I seem like a decent fellow, like a porcelain, enamel pot, gently warmed and bubbling along. What’s really the case? The lovely pot is a defective pressure cooker, the inside a seething witch’s brew. The cooker blows and the hideous mess flows down the sides of the pot, and we find we have had liars and deceivers in our midst. To change the figure, if you are the ultimate hypocrite like the Pharisee–you are a beautiful whited sepulcher, but inside you are full of dead mens bones.
What happens when the pot boils over? When you behave badly? You defend yourself saying, ‘it’s not my fault. I didn’t ask to be born.” No. It’s not your fault. It’s mother’s fault, teacher’s fault. You’re a victim of the system. We detect the victim mentality and we’re affected by it because we see there’s truth in it. “Oh, wretched man that I am” Paul said. So it’s Adam’s fault–therefore it’s God’s fault, a fact observed by Solomon who said that a man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against God. (Prov 19. 3).
So what’s the problem? It’s in that heart of yours whose meditation we now examine. Well, let’s get some definitions straight: concepts of slipping (sin) and subjective abstractions like heart, mind, thought, soul are all obvious feelings. We tend to make simplistic compartments. We say that emotions come from the heart, and that razor sharp, unemotional, logical thinking, from the mind. This is the apparatus with which you’ve been blessed. But such easy analysis doesn’t stand up. Our thoughts evoke emotions and conversely, our emotions evoke thoughts. It’s impossible to think without some sort of feeling being involved. You can’t separate them. They are a seamless garment.
So what is the heart as that word is used in the Bible? It is where the word of God lies domiciled, if you will.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Prov 4.23)
The heart, in biblical language, is the center of the human spirit from which spring emotions, thought, motivations, courage, action. It is your being. It is you. The Messianic Psalm 45 begins, My heart is inditing a good matter. The word indict means a bubbling up, characterized in Matthew, who says,
A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things:
and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. (12. 35)
And speaking of the untamable tongue, James wrote that out of the same mouth proceeds cursing and blessing–these things ought not so to be, can the fountain from the same source send forth sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree bear olives? Or a vine, figs? No fountain can yield both salt water and fresh. (James 3. 10 - 12).
It is what shows, like it or not, if not to each other, then to God.
Perhaps the greatest of the beatitude blessings is Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. As Christians we will come through the ‘refiner’s fire’, a vivid metaphor for our lives having come forth as purged gold–24 caret gold. Gold is valuable because it is rare, scarce, and must be mined. Gold is soft and malleable–easily entreated, and therefore precious. Fire can do two things with gold: it can refine it and make it pure, or it can make an alloy fusing it with base metals, making it impure and hard.
How do we get to pure gold–incorruptible gold? The answer lies in how we view our fellows. We must rid ourselves of the attitude that you will help them even if they don’t deserve it. Stay your mind and heart on Jesus Christ as in Phil 4. 8:
Whatsover things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report
Think on these things. You can’t cure yourself by scrubbing outside the seething pot. It is the virtues instilled by you into the pot itself that will cause your heart, your being, and you yourself--like it or not–to bubble up, out of the wellspring of life, where no more stench of the witch’s brew abides, but only a pleasant odor gently wafting upward as a sweet savor.