Yesterday, I told you that from our heart, our emotions escape us (most often out of our mouths, but in other ways too).
In the same way that we can follow emotions from the heart to our outward expressions, we can trace every behavior and expression back to the heart. In this way, every sin or foolish act is a heart issue. If we want to deal with that sin or folly, we have to examine the heart.
A murderer first sins in the heart, usually by allowing anger to dwell there. An adulterer first sins in the heart, by not repenting of jealousy or lust. A thief first sins in the heart, coveting; a glutton, maybe by allowing sadness to take up residence in the heart. By not evicting negative emotions, we sin.
In fact, Jesus said that anger in the heart is akin to murder (Matt. 5:21-24); that lust in the heart is equivalent to adultery in the flesh (Matt. 5:27-28). By allowing negative emotions to reside in our hearts, we pollute our bodies and minds, and our lives become tainted with them.
However, it is not sufficient to address the behavior or sinful action (as many behavioral counselors attempt to do)–we must consider the heart. To rehabilitate a murderer, it is not enough to say “don’t murder again.” That sinner needs to know Jesus because only God can cure the rage in the heart. For the adulterer to have any hope at all, that sinner needs to know Jesus, as only God can reorient the heart back home. You cannot simply tell the glutton to stop eating so much; the glutton needs Jesus to change the heart, so that the sinner seeks God instead of food, for comfort!
I struggle with sin in my life, but I know that I cannot help myself. I need Jesus in order to have a change of heart (a phrase used too loosely today). Without God, I can do nothing to save myself. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s grace covered me and gave me a new heart. Amen!