Developing a “Heart” for God

In modern parlance, “heart” and “vision” are often distinguished. We tend to associate vision with the mind while the heart is concerned with emotions. However, in the language and logic of Scripture this is not so. The heart functions as the locus of thought, the place where vision is developed. For example, the Psalmist writes, “[I] remembered songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired” (Ps. 77:6). Or, the book of Genesis tells us that prior to the flood, God noted “how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5).

When the Bible conveys internal dialogue, whether it is prayer to God or personal reflection, it uses the idiom of the heart. Hannah prayed to God “in her heart” (1 Sam 1:13), and throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher’s mental processes are reported as something he “said in his heart” (e.g., Eccles 2:1, 15). Indeed, as Mary witnessed the events associated with the birth of her Son, Jesus, she “pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Here is the bottom line: in order to cultivate hearts of faith, we must apply our minds. The notion of developing a robust spiritually apart from theological thought is a fallacy. In actuality, such an approach to discipleship will leave you stuck in a sea of subjectivity, tossed about by the fleeting impulses of your emotions. Genuine gospel renewal necessitates a foundation and framework of biblical truth to govern our thoughts, decisions, and, by extension, our behavior. As someone has said, we are all theologians to one extent or another. The only question is whether we build our theology on pious sentiment or on divine revelation.

If you want to assess where you fall on the spectrum between these two poles, give some consideration to what you are reading, thinking about, and on the basis for your decision making. Such evaluation is not meant to be an occasion for self condemnation; rather, it is an opportunity to move closer to the biblical vision of godliness.

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