Be True To Your Heart
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he [in behavior] Proverbs 23:7
What do you spend most of your time thinking about? Many of us never step back and analyze what’s running through our minds; we just go with the flow. But when we stop to take notice, we may find that our thoughts are dominated by dreams of success and worries if failure. A snapshot of our thoughts gives us a picture of the content of our hearts, and what we hold in our hearts serves as the ground, seed, and fertilizer for what grows into our attitudes and actions.
A good analysis of our thoughts includes looking at both what we think about and how we think. We may be preoccupied with concerns about our children, conflict with our spouses, the expectations of a boss, or a hundred other worries. Or, we may daydream about escaping our problems by taking a cruise, playing the perfect game of golf, or finding a thrill in a secret affair.
All our thoughts, including our worries and desires to escape, can be filtered through faith, hope, and love. When we’re worried, we can refocus our thoughts on the goodness and greatness of God so that we find faith to trust Him for wisdom. When we’re bored and want to escape, we can choose to rivet our minds on the hope of God’s purpose for us. And when we are thankful, we can let our thoughts roll on in gratitude and love for our Lord.
Some would say that we can’t control our thoughts. To some extent, that is true, but Martin Luther once said, “We can’t keep a bird from flying over our heads, but we can keep it from building a nest in our hair!”
A man is what he thinks about all day long.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
We have heard it said that the battleground for the soul is the mind and we know that to be true. Our actions are conceived in our minds before they become realities. In the Old Testament, as the children of Israel were traveling through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, they were given the Ten Commandments which were to govern their conduct. These laws were to govern outward actions but did nothing to transform the heart. One could presumably practice all these laws outwardly while at the same time have a mind and heart filled with ungodly things. We read in Malachi that the Israelites practiced the rituals reluctantly and begrudgingly. Isaiah tells us that the outward practices of fasting was not at all what God wished. “God,” he said, did not want the rending of garments as much as He wanted the rending of the heart.” Jesus told the religious in His day that they were as sepulchers- beautiful on the outside but filled with deadness on the inside.
In the Beatitudes we find Christ moving the relationship with God back to where it always really was- in the heart and mind. One of the Commandments that is often ignored says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength.” It begins in the heart- the inward spirit that is transformed by the Holy Spirit when we are saved. That transformation changes our desires and moves us in our thoughts. No longer do we let our minds wander wherever they please but we ask the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts toward godly things. We reject entertaining the thoughts of the world and center our focus on Christ. And when we allow Christ to capture our hearts and our minds, our actions become those pleasing to God.
This means that we have to be aware of what things we are allowing to enter our minds through our eyes and ears. There is a phrase in the computer world that says, “Garbage in, garbage out.” In other words what we let go through the portal of the eyes and ears become the outflow of our minds. David, who knew the power of what entered through the eyes, said, “I will set no evil thing before my eyes.” He knew that his failure was because one day he began to look at Bathsheba and that look turned into desire and desire led to an affair and the affair led to murder and the downward path became almost irreversible. It all begin with the mind.
Paul in Philippians gives us the cure for a wandering mind that leads to sinful conduct:
“Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”
So I challenge us today to do the acid test of our thoughts. Are they about true or untrue things? Are they honorable or unhonorable? Are they thoughts of respect or disrespect? Are they right and confirmed by the Word of God or are they thoughts generated by the devil or the world? Are they pure and wholesome or impure and unwholesome? Are the lovely or unlovely; admirable or disgusting? Do they bring peace or conflict? Paul concludes the test by saying, “if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things.”
We are barraged by all kinds of evil, and ugly and worldly things, sometimes unavoidably but when our hearts are chasing after God, we filter our thoughts through His Word and while we may not be able to keep it all out, by grace we choose not to entertain them.
Dr. John Thompson