By Pr Ay Nee Ng
Besides our spiritual condition, another area in our lives that needs revival is our our heart condition (Neh. 8:1-9, 9:1-5), our purpose & direction (Neh. 8:10-12), and our commitment to God (Neh. 9:2-5)
2. Our heart condition (Neh. 8:1-9, 9:1-5)
According to a medical study, the human heart beats continuously around 70 times a minute, all day for around 80 years. That is nearly 3 billion beats. It pumps nutrients and energy to every part of the body and helps to clear waste products. But is this what God is talking about when he refers to our heart in the Bible? The biblical reference of the heart is not about the heart as a vital organ, which pumps blood throughout the body, or romantic, philosophical, and literary definitions.
The human heart is mentioned 835 times in 775 verses in the King New James Version of the Bible according to E-Sword. In essence, the Bible refers to our heart as the spiritual part of us where our will, emotions, and desires dwell. The heart is the core of our being, and the Bible sets high importance on keeping our hearts pure and contrite.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23).
“O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?” (Jer. 4:14).
“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:12)
a. God knows our heart. Do you know our own heart? How many times have we questioned ourselves and doubted over the years? Are we being honest with ourselves or religious in what we do? Is helping a front for us to be accepted in society?
“If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves with someone else” (Gal. 6:3-4).
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (Jas. 1:26-27).
Our heart is important to God and to us. Our hope is to know ourselves better and improve our heart condition with God.
b. God has emotions and desires. We have a heart because God has a heart too. David was a man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). Also, God blesses His people with leaders who know and follow His heart (1 Sam. 2:35; Jer. 3:15). Yet, the human heart, in its natural condition, is evil, treacherous, and deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Sin has affected us at the deepest level of our soul; our mind, emotions, and desires have been tainted by sin.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isa. 64:6) We are all infected and impure because of sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags until we come into His saving grace. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall; our sins sweep us away like the wind. This verse does not mean that our effort to be righteous is despised by God. Yet, we need to have our heart right with God. Jesus came to redeems us from sin and save us from destruction so we can be right with God.
Our heart governs our thinking and is linked to our spirit man.
“The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD that sheds light on one’s inmost being” (Prov. 20:27; NIV).
“The LORD’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive” (Prov. 20:27; NLT).
“The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart” (Prov. 20:27; NKJV).
When our spirit man is low; in other words, when our relationship with God is cold or lukewarm, our senses are dull and our emotions fluctuate towards cynicism, scepticism, doubt, confusion, and depression. Our thoughts are negative and we are dormant because our spirit man is far away from God.
“But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding” (Job 32:8).
“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11).
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:19-21).
Let us be honest to ourselves and ask to ourselves the following questions. Who is the real me? What is my identity in Jesus Christ? What is the true state of my heart now? How am I feeling towards God? We may not understand our own hearts, but God does. He “knows the secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:21; 1 Cor. 14:25). Jesus “knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). Based on His knowledge of the heart, God can judge righteously. “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” (Jer. 17:10).
Jesus pointed out the fallen condition of our hearts in Mark 7:21-23: “From within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean”. Our biggest problem is not external but internal; all of us have a heart problem.
How do we tune our heart condition then? Like the Israelites, we need to hear and to understand God’s Word so that it penetrates deep into their hearts and makes a difference in the way we live, act, love, and serve. We need transformation by applying God´s Word (logos) and the revelation (rhema) given to us by the Spirit of God. Our lives will be different from before.
c. Through true repentance, we obtain a new heart. When the Israelites heard God’s Law, they experienced deep sorrow for having ignored and betrayed their sovereign Lord, and each of them turn their heart back to God (Neh. 8:1-3, 5-6, 10, 17-18; 9:1-5). They had a contrite and humble heart, and that is what God looks in His people.
Our soul consists of our emotions and desires (heart), intellect (mind), and will. The hardest thing is to touch the very core of our heart. When you ask anyone for help, instead of giving their time and strength to help, they simply take out their wallet. This is because when you help someone less fortunate than you, it does something to our emotions; it touches the very core of our heart, our mind, and our will as we respond to that need. God wants to touch our heart so that our compassion grows for His word and His people. Before our love for God touches someone else, our heart must undergo deep repentance; we must learn to forgive and to forget before moving forward. Remember the power of life is available to each of us through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Israelites sob at the thought of their sin (Neh. 8:9-12). They were grieved, but understanding came to them through their leaders. Instead of continuously mourning for their sins, they were encouraged to turn their mourning into celebration and joy as they were redeemed and freed from their past and sins. Likewise, we also need to repent of our sins, but we do not have to stay in mourning but move forward. When we understand God’s Word and the redemptive work on the cross and accept His mercy, we too can celebrate with overflowing joy, remembering the words of Nehemiah to the Israelites: “This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
In order for a person to be saved, his or her heart must be changed. This only happens by the power of God in response to faith because “with the heart one believes unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10). God promises to “revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15). In His grace, He can create a new heart within us (Ps. 51:10; Ezek. 36:26), which involves testing our hearts (Ps. 17:3; Deut. 8:2) and filling our hearts with new ideas, new wisdom, and new desires (Neh. 7:5; 1 Kings 10:24; 2 Cor. 8:16).