If we have been in the church for any time at all we have probably heard about the wickedness of our hearts, often in reference to Christians. It is generally some version of these verses from Jeremiah.
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:9–10 (NKJV)
When we read a message in scripture proper exegesis is required. We look at who it was written to and the context and culture. In this case Jeremiah was speaking to his fellow Israelites and confronting their idolatry and failure to trust Yahweh. What Jeremiah spoke was true, in the context in which he spoke it. For our situations we need one of those maps that says, ‘You are here.’ I do a lot of hiking and the national parks have small maps in the backcountry but they are of little help if that little dot that locates your position relative to the rest of the map is not there.
For our spiritual walk we need that dot on the map of our journey with Jesus. To that end let us look at what the scriptures tell us about our hearts and where we are. We will start with what Jesus had to say.
43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43–45 (NKJV)
Notice here that Jesus was addressing people who had not been born again by the Spirit. Yet He stated that people could bring forth either good or evil from their hearts. His point was that what was dominant in our hearts is what would come out of our mouths and be reflected in our lives. So those who were not born again but were committed to the Lord could bring good things out of their hearts. Our next step is looking at the hearts of those who have been born again. Here is some of what Peter and Paul had to say about our hearts at conversion.
7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Acts 15:7-9 (NKJV)
6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV)
At conversion our hearts encountered Jesus as we were born again and our hearts were purified and made new. Paul did warn about the dangers about what we could fall back into if we did not guard our hearts (see also Proverbs 4:23).
17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Ephesians 4:17–19 (NKJV)
While Paul presented this as the way in which unbelievers in general lived, and warned that Christians could fall to this, his regular practice focused more on encouragement and how to walk with Jesus. One of the more practical teachings Paul gave to keep our hearts anchored in Jesus is in Colossians.
14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:14–17 (NKJV)
Paul informs us that if we choose to walk in Jesus love and engage in a lifestyle of worship and encouragement we can learn to live out of hearts that are at rest in His shalom. This creates a continuous circle of looking to His peace, leaning into it, our hearts being full and overflowing with worship, then leaning into His peace and so on. So let us live lifestyles of worship and intimacy that out of the abundance of our hearts others will encounter Jesus.