It is true, everything we do flows from our hearts; our words, actions, thoughts, desires, emotions, will…beliefs, how we behave, and our view of others. The Message translation of Proverbs 4:23-27 offers these words of wisdom, “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all side-show distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.” But it all begins in the heart.
The beauty of the heart is it will eventually show its true color. It cannot lie. Follow the actions of the person and you will discover whether they live in bondage, or in the freedom Jesus provides. Take children for instance, they are like Jack in the Boxes, wind up their hearts and they will say what they believe; the good, the bad, and the embarrassing. For some of us we are “prisoners” of our own thoughts and experiences which stifle love flowing to and from the heart. These thoughts can be released towards others as bitterness, hatred, anything but love. What we believe, and dwell upon, will be tightly coiled in the heart, ready to spring forward when we least expect it.
This is why God brings attention to our thoughts in Philippians 4:8-9 from the Message, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Speaking of harmonies and working together, how about those sweet folks at the churches, people like me, the Christians. You may know one of them, heck; you may be one of them. They are there every time the church door opens, volunteer for all committees, and distribute can goods to the needy. Some of them may distribute the love of Christ a little more judiciously, perhaps more self-righteously. They choose to love one person, but not the other, and may even talk about that person behind their back. So what’s wrong with this picture? How can a person who displays some great values outwardly be so resentful and bitter inwardly? Work your way backwards and you will find there is an unresolved heart issue eating at this poor parishioner. Their heart needs to be set free, ASAP.
Here’s the cold hard truth; the lost people of the world are reading us, the Christians, and we may be the closest thing to a Bible they read. We are their memory verse! Are we producing a loving Christ-like memory, or are we demonstrating that we are just like the world, sarcastic, selfish and bitter? Life may not seem that simple, but a kind word spoken at just the right moment may offer hope to a heart in distress. Christian church leaders must be mindful to carefully and prayerfully select their front line personnel for the loving attitude and empathetic aptitude of their hearts. The hearts of the world are depending on it!
This may sound contradictory, but to experience true freedom, we must be willing to give up everything. Let’s consider Saul. He believed he was doing all the right things. He was a well respected church member and vehemently opposed to the rebels trying to disrupt the higher calling of the spiritual leaders of the law. He was very good at his work, chasing down these “Christians” to either imprison, or kill them. It took a heart to heart encounter with Jesus Christ for Saul to become the Apostle Paul. You can read all about it in Acts 19:1-9.
Saul had a choice to make. Doesn’t it always boil down to the choices we make? Saul had to make a radical decision, one that forced him to give up his high paying position and prestige. But by choosing to give his heart completely to Jesus, his bitterness, anger, and hatred for Christians, was washed away by the blood of the Lamb. True freedom found a home in his heart.
While Saul’s heart was being shaped into Paul, the other Apostles, and Christians, were still a little nervous about the new convert. Who could blame them, he was smart and effective. But God did what only God could do; he helped Saul become Paul, and Paul gave God all of his heart. After some time, Paul became a welcomed leader for the Christians.
Paul spent a good portion of his life in prison, but you would not know it by his attitude or his service. Many of us have never spent a day in prison but seemingly live a life held captive by the things of this world. We squander thoughts on fearful imaginings. We contemplate Godly justice by means of earthly revenge. Finally, we sacrifice God inspired discernment for political correctness, unable to separate opinions from facts.
God inspired Paul to write these words for a day such as this. Romans 12:2 says “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
How do we break the chains that limit our freedom? When we trust and obey God in all areas of our life, true freedom reigns!
Theresa Rowe is the Founder of Shaped by Faith, Author of Guideposts’ Shaped by Faith, 10 Secrets to Strengthening Your Body and Soul, a Motivational Wellness Speaker, and Host of Shaped by Faith Radio every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 am on 99.1 FM and 1490 AM WOMI.