Can I take a moment of your time and ask you a deeply personal question?
When was the last time you examined your heart?
With a whirlwind of self-help gurus, life coaches and self-appointed experts, chances are that somewhere between the true state of your heart and your perception of the state of your heart, lies your well-meaning ability to manage your heart.
To put it another way, your skillful ability to manage the state of your heart conceals the true reality of what is truly going on underneath the surface.
Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.Luke 6:45
It is not a comfortable realization to discover that there are things in your heart that you have concealed.
But consider this: How many times a day do you stop yourself from reacting to a situation that has stirred you up? Or how often do you hold your tongue from saying something you shouldn’t? Perhaps you catch yourself speaking words that aren’t kind?
You may have crafted skillful techniques for concealing your sinful nature, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He knows your inner most thoughts and desires, even more than you know your own heart (Psalm 139).
Read more about God’s purpose for you.
Your Worship Reflects the State of Your Heart
At the very center of why the state of our heart is not as good as we think, lies an issue of worship.
Paul makes a very clear distinction between “those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires [and] those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). We worship what our minds are set on.
As much as we would like to believe, we often fool ourselves into thinking that God is the center of all our worship. In reality, there are areas of our life where the opinions of others or our own desires take precedence over our desire to please God.
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose.”William Temple
Hope for a broken heart
But dear Christian, I have some relief for your concerns.
God does not want you to stay stuck.
He has given you a way out of the trap and weight of sin.
When we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us for our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). However, in order to confess your sins to God, you must first be aware of the sin.
God has given us his Word and is ‘exposes our innermost thoughts and desires’ (Hebrews 4:12). Immersing yourself in the Word of God allows him to bring to the surface the concealed sinful desires that linger in our hearts.
God isn’t just looking for a correction of behaviour, but rather he wants to fully transform and renew your mind.
Do not conform 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.Romans 12:2
I took a year off ministry to examine my heart. Read about it here.
4 Questions to Help you Examine your Heart.
So how do you examine your heart?
Here are 4 questions to help you examine your heart.
1. Ask God to search your heart.
Inviting God to search your heart is a deeply intimate request.
God already fully knows you. Nothing is hidden from him (Hebrews 4:13-15). So when you ask him to search your heart, you are trusting that he will reveal what is hidden and that he has the wisdom and grace to deal with what is found.
You don’t have to examine your heart on your own.
Search your heart with God. He is not surprised by what is to be found. But rather he has the remedy for what is to be found.
Start by praying Psalm 139:23-24 as a prayer:
God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting way— the path that brings me back to you.Psalms 139:23-24 TPT
Read Amy’s story about discovering the freedom that God promises us.
2. Are you Motivated by your Flesh or the Spirit?
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.Romans 8:5-6
As with each of these questions, it can be easy to glance over each one, thinking that it does not effect you. But to truly examine the state of your heart, don’t rush ahead.
‘A mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace’ is a great place to begin when examining your heart. Are there areas in your life that you don’t have life and peace?
The places where comparison, insecurities and fears dwell in your heart, reveal the deeper issue. It reveals that our motivation is to please others. We cannot serve both the flesh and God.
So ask yourself, where are you motivated by your flesh, rather than the Spirit?
3. Where causes you to React rather than Respond?
Throughout your everyday life, you are constantly faced with situations that cause you to either react or respond. A reaction is an emotive response to a situation. It is an impulsive reaction that is usually driven by past fears or experiences. On the other hand, a response is a conscious decision to respond to a situation.
A reaction could be as small as letting some words slip that you didn’t wish to say or as big as a highly emotive physical and verbal reaction to a situation.
Each reaction is a window into the state of your heart.
In Luke 6:45, Jesus says that ‘out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.’ So don’t neglect to question your reactions. When you notice a reaction, invite God to search your heart and reveal the motive behind it.
You may just find some places where God wants to bring truth and healing to something that is yet to be restored.
4. What Sin have you Left Unattended?
This may be the easiest question to answer, but the most difficult one to respond to.
Where have you let sin make home in your heart?
Being aware of your sin is one step, but repentance takes action.
People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.Proverbs 38:13
The patterns and ways of the Kingdom are unlike that of the world.
Dear Christian, you sinful nature is not always easy to let go of.
But God has made a way. But it requires a letting go of your sinful nature and taking on your new nature that he has given you. It is his kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
If there is sin that you are struggling to attend to, seek help. Whether it’s a friend, pastor or counsellor, you don’t have to do it alone.
Examine and Guard your heart
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.Proverbs 4:23
So dear Christian, don’t neglect the state of your heart.
God cares so deeply about your heart, and so should you.
The state of your heart affects all you do. Your relationships, ministry, work, how you use your words, thoughts and actions, everything.
God sees the the hidden, concealed, dark places of your heart and he loves you the same. But he also loves you enough to not leave you there.
Ps. I’ve written another open letter for you to read – Dear Christian, Stay Curious.