THE FUNCTION OF THE HEART
The soul is the person himself, but the heart is the person in action. This means that whenever you act, you act by your heart. Therefore, we may say that our heart is our representative in action. We have something in our inner being that represents us, and this representative is our heart. When a brother says to his wife, “Dear, I love you,” this means that his heart loves her. Likewise, whenever we hate something, it is our heart that does the hating. Whenever we enjoy something or dislike something, it is our heart that enjoys or dislikes. Thus, our heart is our representative, the acting commissioner or ambassador, of our inner being.
Because the heart is our representative, Solomon says in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” To keep our heart is actually to guard it. The Hebrew word rendered “keep” means guard. We should guard our heart above all because out of it are the issues of life. “Issues” here implies sources and springs as well as issues. Thus, the heart is related to the sources of life, the springs of life, and the issues of life. First we have the source, then the spring, and then the issue.
Out of the heart come all the issues of our daily life. As human beings, we have life, and this life acts through our heart. Using the illustration of electricity and a switch, we may say that the heart is the switch of our inner being, of our human life. As the flow of electricity depends on the switch, so our daily living is dependent on what our heart switches on and off. Our heart is the switch of our human life, of our daily life, of our being. The word “life” in Proverbs 4:23 implies an organic element, the element of life; it also implies our daily living and activities, in fact, our entire human life. Hence, the word life in this verse is inclusive. As human beings, we have a human life, and this human life has an organic element and also a daily living. The switch of this life is the heart.
Suppose as a brother is studying the Bible he is disturbed by the barking of a dog. Bothered by this sound, he shouts at the dog. The thought and intent of shouting at the dog has its source in his heart. It also springs from the heart and issues from it. As he is reading the Bible and is disturbed by the dog’s barking, something within this brother’s heart motivates him to shout at the dog. This shouting is an issue that springs out from the source of the heart. This is an illustration of the heart as the acting representative of our entire being.
The activities and movements of our physical body depend on our physical heart. In like manner, our daily living depends on our psychological heart. The way we act and behave depends on the kind of heart we have.
A RENEWED HEART
Because we are fallen and sinful, our psychological heart is corrupt and deceitful. According to Jeremiah 17:9, our heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. A better translation of the Hebrew would say “incurable” instead of desperately wicked. Our heart is corrupt, rotten, to such an extent that it is incurable. This is the condition of the psychological heart of all descendants of Adam.
Turning to God
But God in His salvation promises to give us a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” The new heart in this verse does not refer to another heart; it refers to a renewed heart. The first characteristic of this renewed heart is that it turns to God. The turning of our heart to God is a very healthy sign that He has renewed it. A corrupt heart is always away from God. If our heart is away from Him, that is an indication that our heart is still corrupt. Some may ask how they can know if their heart has been renewed. The sign of a renewed heart is that it turns toward God. The sign of a corrupt heart is that it turns away from Him. Therefore, we can know if our heart has been renewed by whether it is turned to God or away from Him.
In God’s salvation the renewing of the heart is once for all. However, in our experience our heart is renewed continually because it is changeable. Perhaps when you were saved, your heart turned to God in a very strong way. But after a period of time, your heart may turn away from Him somewhat. To a certain extent at least, your heart may turn away. Then by God’s mercy your heart may turn fully to Him once again. Through fellowship with a saint, through coming to the meetings, or by some other gracious means, your heart may turn to the Lord once again. When your heart was turned away from Him, it became somewhat corrupt. But when your heart came back to the Lord, it was renewed. We need to say, “Lord, I thank You that in Your mercy You have visited my heart and turned it back to You.” This turning to the Lord is the first characteristic of a renewed heart.
(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Chapter 21, by Witness Lee)