We talk about our hearts a lot.
• “I know it in my heart.”
• “She gave him her heart.”
• “They worked with all their heart.”
• “I’ve invited Jesus into my heart.”
Of course, we’re not talking about our physical hearts. That would make any of these statements bizarre and maybe a little macabre. But what exactly are we talking about?
We use “heart” as shorthand for the seat of our emotions and the place where certain types of decisions are made. It’s really part of our mind, but it operates far from the rules of logic. I’ve tried explaining the concept of the heart to children, and it’s very challenging. Before they develop the ability to think in the abstract, the idea of putting Jesus in your heart can seem very threatening.
Here’s a metaphor that helps clarify. Our hearts are places with many rooms. In these rooms, we put the people and things that are most important to us. Sometimes those people and things are good and worthy of a room in our hearts, but sometimes they aren’t. We allow our friends and our family members places in our hearts, and that’s good. We make room for things that we care deeply about, like poor children or the elderly or the homeless, and that’s good.
But sometimes, we allow things into our hearts that aren’t so good – things like a love for money or pornography or jealousy or anger and resentment. These things can become so important to us that they take up space in our hearts. If we don’t do something about it, they can become more important than the other people and things we put into our hearts. Eventually, they will steal the space in our hearts that those good people and things once occupied.
All of us are susceptible – Christians and non-Christians. The Enemy is constantly trying to rent space in our hearts. He knows that if he can get a foot in the door (so to speak), he can leverage that into a small room. Once he gets a small room, he’s going to start looking for a larger one. He won’t be satisfied until he has rented the entire place, and he’s not known for keeping up the property.
Here’s where Jesus comes in. He says in His Word:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
The door He’s referring to is the door to your heart. The main entrance. He knocks and waits, knocks and waits, knocks and waits. He won’t come in unless invited. There’s no door handle on the outside of your heart. You have to open it from the inside.
Sure, He could break the door down or jimmy the lock – He is all-powerful, after all. But He won’t. It’s one of the greatest paradoxes of all time. An all-powerful God who has made Himself powerless in regard to whether or not we choose to love Him. But it’s also how He shows exactly just how powerful He is. It’s the power of self-restraint.
Parents will understand. How often have we resorted to consequences or force or “Because I said so, that’s why!” when an unruly child won’t do what we want them to do? How often do you think God might have wanted to do the same thing with us as we do whatever we please whenever we please? And then consider the price Christ paid to buy us back from the Enemy. He standing at the door and knocking, and He’s brought a very expensive and precious gift. But still He waits for us to answer.
Open the door, and invite Him in, and Jesus brings the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But don’t just leave Him standing in the entryway; give Him the tour. He wants to be invited into every room in your heart. Just a quick survey of the Bible shows that ten percent of all references to “heart” are about our “whole heart,” our “undivided heart,” our “heart fully devoted,” our “singleness of heart,” or “all our heart.” When I teach kids about this, I have them memorize this rhyme:
Jesus wants our entire heart!
He’ll be like Nehemiah, who threw out the evil Tobiah from the storerooms of the temple (Nehemiah 13:4-9). Nehemiah didn’t just throw out the enemy. He got out the bleach and cleansed the room, and then he filled it with the equipment of the house of God, grain offerings and incense.
When you let Jesus into one of those rooms in your heart – the ones with the stuff you didn’t really want Him to see – He gets rid of the bad stuff and replaces it with godly stuff. This should come as a relief to some of us who’ve been struggling to get rid of the evil in our hearts. We don’t have to do it – can’t do it, in fact. Jesus does it all. We just have to invite Him in.
A pastor of mine once said that though our heart is good once we’ve accepted Christ, there are still dark rooms inside. Many of us deal with that darkness by taking in a bucket and trying to shovel bucketfuls of darkness outside, but this never works long-term. When you turn around, the darkness has returned.
A better approach is to simply turn on the light. Invite Jesus into that room. Ask Him to show you what needs to go, and let Him do the heavy lifting. Then fill that room with God’s Word. The more Word you put into your heart, the less room you’ll have for darkness.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)