The Heart of the Problem

Bible Book: Proverbs  4 : 27
Subject: Heart

The Heart of the Problem

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Here is an interesting passage, for here God tells us that every single issue of life comes out of the human heart. There is an old mountain saying in North Carolina, “What’s in the well comes up in the bucket!” That means that whatever is in a person’s heart will eventually come out in word or action. That is exactly what God is telling us in this passage from Proverbs.

When we think of the heart, we usually think of it in one of two ways. First, we think of that organ in our chest that pumps our blood. Indeed, that human, physical heart is a creation of God – and, it is a wondrous one. Weighing less than one pound, your heart can fit in the palm of your hand, yet it pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through 6,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries every single day. Your heart beats 100,000 times a day. As important and amazing as that organ is, that is not what God is talking about in this passage.

Second, we often think of the heart in terms of romance. (Tell story of the boy wanting to kiss his girlfriend – “Sinner, sinner down below, pucker up and let‘re go.”)

Actually, the Lord is saying so much more here in this passage and throughout the Bible about the heart. Let’s begin by looking at…

I. A Description of the Heart

The Bible often speaks about the heart, but just what does the Scripture mean when addressing this subject? The heart involves three distinct things, all separate from the pumping organism called the heart, when spoken of in Scripture.

A. The Heart involves the Mind

Note Proverbs 23:7a, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” NKJV

Here the Bible speaks of thinking in the heart. There is no question but that God is speaking of your mind, for you don't have thoughts in your physical heart.

Note Matthew 9:4, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?” NKJV

Here we note that Jesus spoke of the evil "thoughts” as being in their hearts.

So, let’s get one thing very clear. When God speaks of the heart, He is often and almost always speaking of the mind – your thinking processes. We are being told to guard our minds.

There is a passage even more impressive when it comes to seeing how important the heart and mind are. Look at Mark 7:20-23,

"20 And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man." NKJV

The first thing Jesus mentions in that list from Mark regarding that which comes out of the heart of man is “evil thoughts.” Clearly God is stating that the heart involves our thinking process. If you guard your heart, it will mean that you are guarding your mind.

But, the mind is not the only thing involved when God speaks of guarding the heart.

B. The Heart involves the Emotions

Jesus said that you are to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart. Certainly, we are aware that the heart speaks of emotion. In fact, the Bible speaks of emotions ranging from heaviness of heart and sorrow, to love and affection. Don’t miss the fine point of what is being stated here. The heart that we are to guard is that part of our being that involves our thinking and feeling. You will hear someone say, "I can't help how I feel!" God says you can and He says you better

Emotions are very dangerous. Think of people who have ruined their lives through misplaced emotion. We have all seen people who “love” money, sex, power, or who love the wrong person and it ruins their lives. What about anger? That is an emotion that can kill. Depression, loneliness, pride, etc., are all emotions. And, as one author once said, “You can’t trust your emotions.” I promise you that following your emotions will lead you over a cliff and into a pit of destruction.

You must guard your heart – your emotions. You can’t let them control you!

(Use illustration of argument between husband and wife. Then someone comes to the door and the couple changes their attitude immediately. They greet the guests with smiles. Many people do the same thing on the phone. Anger disappears and they answer the phone with kindness. So you can control your emotions, if you want to!!!)

Even beyond the mind and emotions, there is yet another aspect to what the Bible calls the heart ...

C. The Heart involves the Will

The heart also involves the human will, the decision making process in human life. You surely remember the story in the Book of Acts regarding the lies told by Ananias and Sapphira. When Simon Peter confronted Ananias, he asked in Acts 5:3, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?" Notice that Satan had filled the 'heart' of Ananias and this affected the will, so that Ananias decided to lie to the Church, and by doing so lied to the Holy Spirit of God. Again, clearly, the heart involves the will of a person.

Now put these three together and see what you have. The intellect or mind, the emotions or feelings, and the will or decision making process are all involved in the word 'heart.' This means that we must view the issue of guarding the heart as a matter which incorporates thinking, feeling and deciding (doing).

With that description firmly in mind, let's look at the second part of our message.

II. A Danger to the Heart

When one is told to guard something it is because that which is to be guarded is valuable or important, and it is necessary to take every precaution. I love the story of a young soldier who had been placed on guard duty at a military post. He was on sentry duty at the main gate of a military outpost. His orders were clear: No car was to enter unless it had a special sticker on the windshield. A big Army car came up to the gate with a general seated in the back seat and a young driver seated in the front. The sentry said, "Halt, who goes there?"

The chauffeur, a corporal, said, "General Wheeler, let us pass."

The young guard replied, "Sorry, I can't let you through. You've got to have a sticker on the windshield and you don't have it."

The general said to the young driver, "Drive on, son, pay this man no attention."

The sentry said, "Hold it. You really can't come through. I have orders to shoot anyone and everyone who tries to enter this base without the proper sticker on the windshield, and you don't have it!"

The general repeated to the driver, "I'm telling you, son, drive on."

The sentry walked up to the rear window, laid rifle barrel on the door, pointed his rifle in the car at the general and asked, "General, I'm new at this: who do I shoot first, you or the driver?"

Now I would say that this young guard took his job of guarding the base seriously. That is the way you and I have to be when it comes to guarding our hearts. Look with me at Proverbs 4:23 and note the instruction of the Lord to us today.

Since we are told to guard the heart, we must realize that the heart is valuable and is in danger of being entered by an enemy. In fact, you are never told to guard anything that is not valuable and vulnerable. Something must be important and at risk in order to need guarding. We need only guard that which we consider very good and which, if not protected, may soon be gone. So, God tells us to guard the heart. Why? Because the heart is valuable and the heart is vulnerable. The heart is a battlefield.

A. A Battleground Beneath Us

Certainly we are in a battle with Satan. He is after your mind, your emotions and your will.

Listen to how Paul described the efforts of the devil in Ephesians 6:10-18,

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

Let me tell you, this passage contains battle language, full of military lingo and war euphemisms. We are in a battle from beneath us, from the halls of hell.

Look at the teens who are shooting teachers and students at schools around our country. Satan has invaded minds, emotions and, finally, their wills – the results are horrible.

Look at the child molesters who are abducting children, abusing them and then killing them. How do you explain this behavior without realizing the power of Satan and the vulnerable nature of the human heart.

Look at the man who recently went on a shooting rampage in Alabama. It was the worst mass murder in Alabama history. How do you explain such things? An evil in the heart – the mind, emotions and will are prompted by a powerful force – it is Satanic is nature.

Look at mother’s who are killing their children or the men killing their wives and children only to turn around and commit suicide.

Who is prompting all of this craziness? You have to be a few bricks short of a full load not to see the Satanic influence everywhere. People will almost laugh in your face when you talk about a literal devil and demonic spirits. But, they are not laughing when they see the horrible things that humans are doing to one another. They are not laughing in their families when they see family members lives turn apart by actions that cannot be explained. We have opened our hearts to almost any visitor - any thought, any emotion and any decision - and we are reaping the consequences. One must guard the heart and only allow to pass through the gate of the heart that which God says is proper, helpful and safe.

But we don’t have to look at others. Look at yourself. Have you not done things and said things that are out of character for you? Surely you have. We all have. You have become so angry that you stopped and asked yourself, "Where did that come from?" We have said things that caused us to stop and appraise it by saying, "That was not like me to say something like that." If we allow any thought or emotion to simple walk into our hearts, we should not be surprised by the awful results that follow. We are on the battlefield with Satan everyday. That is why Paul was inspired to use battlefield language in the Bible. That is why God told us to Guard the Heart.

B. A Battleground Around Us

Likewise, there is a battle around us, for the world system is under the sway of the evil one and is used to convey his message and persuade people away from God. Listen to Paul from Romans 12:2,

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

When Satan tempted Jesus, he showed Him the kingdoms of this world and offered them to the Lord, if He would bow down to him. Believe me, there is a battle in this world.

The word “conform” means to be “formed with.” We are not to allow our minds, wills and emotions to be shaped with or by the world around us. This is a constant battle. If we are not on guard, we will be shaped by the world and formed with the world. A friend of the world is not a friend of God.

The purpose of advertisers is to get into your mind. There is not necessarily anything evil about that. Someone who is trying to get you to buy their soap to wash your dishes is not likely trying to corrupt your mind. However, the subtle message of television programs, movies and advertisers involves greed, sex, money, power, egotism, and many other forms of thought which can build up over time. A recent automobile commercial on television shows one neighbor terribly jealous because his friend next door bought a newer, better car than he had. Another shows a man getting the girl because he wears a certain suit or wears the right jeans. Advertisers are working on our 'hearts' when they advertise. The same is true in movies, music, books and culture in general. If we do not guard our hearts, we will be slowly but surely led away from point of having the Lord as King of our hearts.


C. A Battleground Within Us

There is a battleground within us. "I have found the enemy and he is us!" The greatest enemy I have is the man looking back at me in the mirror every morning.Satan is work is this world, and he uses the images, culture, words and scenes of life to invade our hearts. But, the biggest problem is the battle each of us has within our own heart.

Look at Jeremiah 17:9-10. Wow! Only God can know the heart. Our hearts are exceedingly deceitful, so much so that we cannot really know ourselves. We have to bring our hearts to God and have Him examine us. Look at Psalm 129:23-24. David knew that he needed God to examine his heart – so do you and I! You really don't even know yourself. You don't know the evil you are capable of doing. There is only One who knows your heart completely - and that is the Lord. When we submit our hearts to Him, we open the door to being the best we can be. When we leave the door open to anyone and everyone, we have the potential of being the worst that we can be!

Let’s face the facts. There is a war going on. There is a prize which the enemy wants from you. It is your heart. It is your mind, your emotions and your will. He will strive to get that and, thus, control your life as a weapon against God. You must guard your heart!

III. A Defense for the Heart

How do you put up a defense for your heart? How do your guard this valuable piece of property?

A. Confess your Need

Listen to David in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me."

We can never be right with God if we don’t strip ourselves of pride and tell God that we need our hearts to be clean. Think about it, what good would it do if a person’s arteries were clogged with plaque but he or she was unwilling to get help? Jesus is the great physician. He will help you, but you must tell Him the truth.Take your heart to Jesus!

B. Cleanse You Hearts

James 4:7-10 teaches us, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” NKJV

How can I purify my heart? Submit to God. Release pride. Let go of self. Then, resist Satan. Tell him right now in your heart, “Get away from me Satan. I am tired of you controlling my thinking and actions.” Lastly, ask the Lord to cleanse your heart!

Ask God to create a clean heart in you. He is the only one who can do that. I can wash a stain out of my clothes. I can clean a stain on my carpet. I can clean by body with soap. But, I cannot ever cleanse one impure thing from my heart. There is no power, no spray, no liquid, no soap and nothing available that a man can use to cleanse the human heart from the outside. Cleansing the heart is an inside job and only Jesus can do that! How does He do that? Jesus shed His blood to cleanse our hearts. “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission (forgiveness, cleansing) of sin.”

C. Commit Your Life

Tell God that you want to live with a pure heart. A spring of water is no good if it is poisoned, or dirty. If I offered you a drink of water and said, “Now, don’t worry about this water. It does have a drop or two of poison in it, but it is not enough to hurt you,” would you drink it? NO WAY!

God wants us fully committed to Him. It does no good to lock your doors if the thief is hiding in the closet. It does no good to make a commitment to the Lord unless we get the dirt out first and then LOCK the doors. The commitment is an act of asking Jesus to lock the doors of your heart so the evil one, and even your own nature, cannot pollute you in the days to come. When Jesus fully occupies our hearts, we can let Him answer the door when the devil comes calling!


Let me tell you something important. God will not fill a dirty vessel with His Spirit. We are praying for an awakening to take place in our churches. We need a move of God. We are in trouble in our country and in many our churches and homes. Dear friends, let us come to Him now. Draw near to God. Resist the devil. Ask Jesus to cleanse you. And make a commitment to Christ to allow Him to keep your heart full of God stuff. A wellspring is no good if it is empty. Keep your heart full of Jesus. Ephesians 3:17 reads, "So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." The word 'dwell' in this passage means 'to be rooted, established; it means to habitat.' Let Jesus fill your heart with His presence. The songwriter penned it like this,

"Here’s my heart on take and seal it, Seal it for thy courts above!"

In this world, you will face many hardships. But you can keep your heart from becoming hard and cold. The following story is about a handicapped high school student. Although the crutches on which he hobbled kept him from being physically active, he excelled in his studies and was well liked by his peers. They saw the problems he had getting around, and they sometimes felt sorry for him, but for a long time nobody asked him why he had this difficulty. One day, however, his closest friend finally did.

"It was polio," answered the student.

The friend responded, "With so many difficulties, how do you keep from becoming bitter?"

Tapping his chest with his hand, the young man replied with a smile, "Oh, the polio touched my legs, but it never touched my heart."

I preached this message in a revival some years ago in Georgia. A few weeks later I was eating in a restaurant with some preachers with a woman walked up to our table. She looked at me and asked, "Are you a preacher?" I admitted that I was. She asked if I had preached a revival in her church, and she gave me the name of the fellowship. I told her that I indeed had preached a revival there. Then she said, "You preached a message on the heart in that revival. I just want to tell you that I had been having some very difficult problems. I was thinking, saying and doing things that were not at all like the Christian I was supposed to be. I asked Jesus to cleanse my heart and I cannot tell you how wonderful it has been these last few weeks. Jesus is in control of my heart and my joy has returned."

As she walked away, I breathed a sigh of relief. When someone walks up and asks if you have preached in his or her church, you never know what they may say to you. I could just imagine her saying, "That was the worst revival I have ever attended in my life." But, watching her return to her friends, tears welled up in my eyes. How wonderful! A heart returned in full to the Master.  A person who has a heart where Jesus is truly in control! Oh, my dear friend, that is what we need. Clean hearts. Pure hearts. Hearts where the mind, will and emotions are under His control. Jesus will never harm you. He will never lead you astray. He will never 'break' your heart. Let us, this very day, bring our hearts to Jesus. Ask Him to clean out the thoughts, ideas, words and deeds that should not be there. Then ask Him to spread the fragrance of His love and grace inside.

And there could be someone here today who has never invited Jesus into your heart. What does it mean to do that? First, you must believe with your mind. Second, you must accept His love with our emotions. Third, you must decide with your will to accept Him as Lord and Savior. Admit that your are a sinner. Your heart is not pure, and you know it! Ask Him to forgive you. He died on the Cross to offer His life and blood to make that cleansing possible. He is the only one who can do that for you. Give Him your heart. He will come into your life and will never leave or forsake you.

We need to bring our hearts to Jesus today, for if we fail in the matter of the heart, we fail entirely! Let’s give our hearts to Jesus afresh today.