The Heart of the Matter

heart

The Sermon on the Mount is probably the most well-known and most read sermon in the history of Christianity.  Jesus teaches many important and ground-breaking spiritual concepts which the world had never heard before the Sermon on the Mount.  One of the most important aspects of the sermon was Jesus’ concept and view of the heart of the individual.  Jesus states in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

The late Dallas Willard speaks about the heart in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, when he states: “It is the “will” aspect of personal/spiritual reality that is its innermost core.  In biblical language the will is usually referred to as “heart.”  This it is that organizes all the dimensions of personal reality to form a life or a person.  The will, or heart, is the executive center of the self.” (Willard, 80)  The heart is not simply an organ, or a symbol of love, rather the heart is a representation of one’s entire spiritual core and focus.

Willard also explains that the term “heart” is also more than just one’s spiritual core, but also one’s actual spiritual foundation, our entire Christian internal focus: “The heart, or will, simply is spirit in human beings.  It is the human spirit, and the only thing in us that God will accept as the basis of our relationship to him.  It is the spiritual plane of our natural existence, the place of truth before God, from where alone our whole lives can become eternal.” (Willard, 81)  Our heart, being our spiritual center and source of self, then becomes the source of motivation and desire for the Lord in our Christian lives.  Overall, spirituality does not have it’s origin in the mind or in what is physical; rather it derives from our internal core, or heart.

Jesus, in Matthew 6:19-23 (ESV), says:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Our heart follows our treasure, which means that our spirituality will follow our focus, priorities, and core concerns.  The Christian is to set their heart on the kingdom of God, therefore in every word, deed, and thought one should be promoting and advancing themselves and others in the name of Jesus Christ.  There are to never be separate times when the building up the kingdom of God is not our focus, for in everything we do, we are to live for our Father in Heaven.

Willard states: “Remember that our heart is our will, or our spirit: the center of our being from which our life flows.  It is what gives orientation to everything we do.  A heart rightly directed therefore brings health and wholeness to the entire personality.  To bring this truth home to us, Jesus compares our “heartsight” to our eyesight.  We know how our eyesight affects our body in its environment.  “The eye is the lamp of the body.”  If the eye works well, then the body easily moves about in its environment.  As Jesus puts it, “Our whole body is well directed” is “full of light.”” (Willard, 206)

The direction and focus of one’s heart will result in the same direction and focus of one’s spiritual goals, actions, and destinations.  Our physical actions do not evolve from nothing at all, for they faithfully disclose what is in our heart, and we can know what is in the heart by the way one speaks, acts, and lives.  It is the internal life that Christians must intend to transform, for then one’s behavior will naturally begin follow and mimic that of the heart.
Faith and works must compliment each other in one’s Christian lifestyle.  It is through faith that we acquire our Christianity, and it is through faith that our works derive.  Our works do not make our faith, for it is our actions that naturally come from our faith.  It is our heart that therefore controls our actions.  It is through faith that we begin to spiritually transform our heart, and through our heart that we begin to change our physical actions.

“The person who treasures what lies within the kingdom sees everything in its true worth and relationship.  The person who treasures what is “on earth,” by contrast, sees everything from a perspective that distorts it and systematically misleads in practice.  The person who is addicted to a drug or to some activity is but an extreme case.  All else is seen only in its relation to the object of the addiction and enjoyment of it – even one’s own body and soul.” (Willard, 206)

A Christian’s treasure is that of the kingdom of God.  The treasure is not just the eternal life one receives in Heaven, but also the present life one lives in Christ Jesus.  This must be so, for if we are constantly living for the future, then we cannot effectively live in the present.  Our treasure is the kingdom of God now, and into forever.  Having a present treasure in our lives, allows us to work hard and show dedication for the building up of the kingdom of God, actively spreading it around to the lost and showing it in our daily words and deeds.

Jesus also calls us to pay attention to more than just our verbal dedication and commitment to the Lord, as well as the habitual memory of doing and not doing certain religious activity.  What truly matters is one’s heart, the overall spiritual core of the human being.  It is not through what we say verbally or our works physically that God judges us.  Rather, we are judged by our internal being, which is exclusively that of our heart.

A Christian with a heart focused on the teachings of Jesus, the commitment to the kingdom of God, and a dedicated, committed, intimate relationship with our Creator is a Christian with a strong spiritual heart.  It is a heart committed to the kingdom of God which will reflect the teachings of Jesus and actions of a true Christian witness and lifestyle.

The Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls believers to begin living for more than just the physical law and what can become habitual.  Believers are called to live lives of entire purity of heart, completely focused on God in every aspect.  One should do or not do something completely, and that means much more than just doing or not doing it physically in action.  Our minds and emotions must also match that of our actions, something a focused heart does easily.  A heart transformed by Jesus Christ will resonate throughout every aspect of the believer’s existence.

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