What is the “heart”? Definition: The heart is the biblical word used to describe the inner man. The heart is the immaterial (non-flesh) part of a person that includes our thoughts,
beliefs, desires, mind, feelings, intentions, and emotions. It is often referred to
as the control center of our being.
We are made of two parts. Material / Immaterial. What we think, believe, and desire in our immaterial part (mind, heart, soul, feelings), is what our material part (body) does. For example, when we think we are thirsty, we get up and get a drink. If we believe we are in danger, we run. If we desire an ice cream cone, we get one. We are used to our bodies automatically responding to these commands.
We also automatically respond to other kinds of thoughts and desires. When we become angry, we may curse or hit. When we desire escape from problems, we may drink or use drugs. When we want something and don’t have the money to purchase it, we may steal or put it on credit. When we are in trouble, we may fear exposure so we lie. These things may have become automatic for you too.
Through repetition, various actions become a habit or pattern. We refer to these habits as automatic behaviors. They become the default position we assume when angry, sad, upset, or lonely. The basis for these sinful patterns are found in the heart.
Usually, however, our sinful actions stem not from a failure to achieve but from an inner urge to fulfill our own desires. What this amounts to is that we have trained ourselves to respond in certain ways when confronted by a circumstance or situation.
For example, for years I bit my fingernails when I was nervous or upset. It was something I was not even aware I was doing much of the time. When I was fretting about something, my fingers went right to my mouth, and before I knew it, my fingers were bleeding. Many people have learned to comfort themselves with food when sad or upset. Some who struggle with pornography cite loneliness as their trigger for self-gratification as an automatic behavior.
When helping a person in the process of change, the most critical aspect of change is showing a person the importance the heart plays in life and in behavior. Careful use of the Scriptures will bring the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to bear in a person’s life.
As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man. Proverbs 27:19 (NKJV)
As water acts like a mirror and shows what we look like on the outside, the heart reflects and reveals what we are like on the inside.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (NIV)
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV)
Because heart change is centered on conviction by the Scriptures, we must look to God’s view of the heart found in Jeremiah 17:9:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV)
The deceitful heart is bent on satisfying “me,” having my own way, living life for my pleasures, with “me” at the center of my universe. Because the heart has been referred to as the control center of our being, what we think, believe, and desire in our heart is what guides us and can determine our actions. We do not naturally think about our heart being wicked. Many times people are referred to as having a good heart or a big heart. It is possible we have never before heard someone say that our heart is deceitful and wicked and evil. If we are honest with ourselves, we may see that we have some of the sin habits found in Matthew 15:18-20a.
But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things that defile the man... Matthew 15:18-20a, NASB
If we are honest with ourselves, we will begin to realize we tend to minimize our sinful heart attitudes; as we read Jesus’ words, we see our biggest problem lies within our own hearts.