What is the heart? Why do we have so many expressions about hearts with so many different meanings? In the introduction to his new book, With All Your Heart, Craig Troxel gives an example of how we intuitively understand the different shades of idioms used with the word heart,
If you have a change of heart, you think differently now. If you say, “She gave me her heart!” she’s in love with you. If you say, “She broke my heart,” then she no longer is. If your heart was in the right place, you messed up but meant well. When our friends speak from the bottom of their hearts, they’re telling the truth. When our children say, “I cross my heart,” they might be telling the truth (this time). Sometimes we do not have the heart to tell someone the truth. If we take it to heart, we’re listening well. If we know it by heart, we’re remembering well. If you have a heart of gold, you are kind. If you have no heart, you are mean. If your team lost heart, they gave up. If they showed heart, they rallied. When you wear your heart on your sleeve, you are transparent. When you put your heart into it, your passion is obvious. The lionhearted are courageous, while the chicken-hearted are spineless. Sometimes we are coldhearted, and other times lighthearted. We work halfheartedly on Monday and wholeheartedly before a deadline. We can be callously hard-hearted or cowardly fainthearted. Everyone important to you is dear to your heart. Everything important about you is secured in your heart of hearts. (15)
Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Mark 12:28–33; cf. Deut. 6:5). since that is the case, the better we know our heart the better clarity we will have to obey. Troxel shows how when the Bible speaks about the heart, the mind and will are often included too. Speaking about our hearts isn’t a -touchy-feely thing. The heart speaks of our whole selves. The heart includes:
- what we know
- our knowledge, thoughts, intentions, ideas, meditation, memory, imagination
- what we love
- what we want, seek, feel, yearn for
- what we choose
- whether we will resist or submit, whether we will be weak or strong, whether we will say yes or no). (20)
But because we are sinners, we are corrupted. We are not as evil as we could be, but we are corrupted through and through—our minds, our desires, and our will. But The Lord in his threefold office of prophet, priest, and king, ministers to our hearts—to us. Troxel writes, “There is nothing in our heart that the Lord of our heart cannot make right” (21).
We know and understand with our minds, and we sin when we fall short of what we know (and don’t know, too). But Christ the Prophet teaches and assures us. We love what we desire, and we more often than we realize twist what is good to satisfy us. But Christ the Priest redeems and renews. We choose and make decisions with our will, and we sin by actively choosing and rebelling against God’s good commands. But Christ the King subdues and strengthens us to follow him.
- Knowing (with the mind)
- Loving (through our desires)
- Choosing (with our will)
- Keeping (how we guard our mind, eyes, hears, mouth, and selves from evil, and how Christ preserves and protects us).
In the first chapter of the first three sections, Troxel shows how your mind/desires/will relate to your heart. In the second chapter, he shows how you sin in those three areas. In the final chapter, he shows he Jesus leads us to look at and glorify him instead through our mind/desires/will.
He writes that because we are sinful by nature, “our mind is unable to see, hear, or believe because the heart, by nature, is hardened by sin. A veil covers the eyes of the heart (2 Cor. 3:14)” (46). As humans, “The mind, whether fallen or reborn, is always biased, motivated, and impassioned by the state of the heart in general” (47). So as sinful humans, we want to discover more about what our heart enjoys. We desire it, which fuels our will to act. The more we love Christ, the more we know him, the more we will desire and act in ways that glorify him instead of those ways where we sin against him.
One implication is that our actions form our character, and what we put into us shapes who we are. I grew up often hearing the woes of certain television shows and music artists/bands, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Or, as with food, “You become what you eat.” What we watch, listen to, think about, desire will shape who we are. If you let your thoughts wander, they will grow legs and run away from you. Who can stop us from ourselves? Only Christ.
God commands in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Troxel writes, “It determines everything in your life” (191). He notes from Psalm 121 that “we cannot keep our feet from slipping and stumbling” (191). We have neither the all-knowing wisdom, the all-powerful strength, nor the pure desire or indefatigable will to keep ourselves upright. The Lord is our keeper (Ps 121:5), and Jesus prayed in John 17 that the Lord would keep us from the evil one and close to himself (vv. 6, 11, 15). God keeps us so that we can keep the faith.
Even though I grew up with phrases like, “You become what you eat,” seeing how this comes from Scripture and how it plays out in my life and in your life is eye-opening. Troxel takes the knife and makes the incision to show how we are imperfect and that we live out that imperfection. But there is an answer, and it is Christ, one who teaches us, cleanses us, and strengthens us. I highly recommend this work.
- Authors: A. Craig Troxel
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Crossway (February 4, 2020)
- Read Chapter One
Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.