Teaching kids about their spiritual “heart” is tricky business. Kids are usually quite literal until their teenage years, so it’s easy for them to misunderstand a statement like “ask Jesus into your heart.” I’ve struggled with this for a long time in children’s ministry, but I think I’ve found a way of talking about the heart that they understand.
Your spiritual heart is different from your physical heart. Your physical heart pumps blood throughout your body and keeps you alive. It’s very important. But believe it or not, it’s not quite as important as your spiritual heart.
You can’t actually find your spiritual heart in your body. It’s part of your mind, but no one is really sure what part. Most likely, it’s a combination of parts that work together. In your spiritual heart, you store the things that are most important to you. These can be people, places and things, and each one gets its own special room.
Everyone has a door on the outside of their heart. Sometimes people decide what important things they let into their hearts through this door, but sometimes things force their way in. Anything that is very emotional for us has a way to get past the door to our heart and take over a room on the inside.
More than anything, Jesus wants to come into our hearts, but He will never force his way in. He stands outside and knocks on our door, and even though He is powerful enough to come in without our permission, He always waits to be invited. In the book of Revelation, Jesus says:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in… (Revelation 3:20)
If we open the door to Him, He comes into the first rooms in our heart, which are the places God reserved for Eternity when He created us.
Every human being was created with these rooms in his or her heart, because God didn’t want us to be satisfied living without Him. Unfortunately, many people don’t ever answer the door when Jesus knocks. Instead, they try to fill these rooms with other things (like money, relationships and things) so that they won’t feel so empty.
But if we do allow Jesus to come into these rooms, the first thing He does is turn on the lights. This gives us hope and excitement for the things Jesus is ready and willing to do in our lives. Often, this leads us to invite Jesus into other rooms, like the one that determines who (or what) we worship.
Once Jesus enters that room, He starts to show us what we’ve been worshipping instead of Him. He starts to “rearrange the furniture” in our rooms. In other words, He evaluates what’s in there and either asks us to get rid of it (if it’s junk) or to put it in the right place (if it’s worth keeping but getting more attention than it deserves).
When those rooms are in pretty good shape, Jesus will knock on doors to other rooms. He never barges in. We have to open the door for Him.
Sometimes opening the doors is very scary for us. We worry about what Jesus will think of us when He sees what we’ve put in the rooms, and we worry that He will make us get rid of some of the things we really, really like. As a result of our fears, we don’t always let Jesus into all our rooms.
We may only let Him into a few rooms at a time, and He might have to do a lot of knocking to get into them. While He stands on the other side of the door, we sometimes have a conversation with Him that goes something like this:
JESUS: “I would like to meet your friends. Will you let me into that room?”
US: “Oh, uh, my friends? Well, some of them aren’t the kind of people you would like very much.”
JESUS: “Really? Why would you think that?”
US: “Well, they use bad language and do things they shouldn’t do sometimes.”
JESUS: “So did you before you let Me into your heart.”
US: “Hmmm… well, that makes sense. Okay, I’ll try to find a good time to introduce You.”
JESUS: “Thanks for introducing me to them. I’ve been knocking on the doors to their hearts for years, but I think they are just now starting to hear Me.”
US: “Yeah, that wasn’t so tough. I’m going to start praying for them every day.”
JESUS: “Say, what about the friends in that other room?”
US: “Oh, I can’t introduce You to them. They hate it when anyone talks about You. They make fun of Christians, and they definitely will make fun of me if they find out I’m one.”
JESUS: “Still, I would really like to meet them, and I wish you weren’t ashamed of Me around them. If they don’t like you because of Me, maybe you should find some other friends. Why don’t you introduce Me, and we’ll see how it turns out?”
US: “Okay, but that scares me to death. Please give me courage.”
US: “That wasn’t easy, but I can see now how those friends were hurting my spiritual growth. I’m glad I let You in that room.”
JESUS: “Keep praying for them. I’ve got plans for their lives, too. You’ve taken a really big step by opening that room to Me. Now let’s talk about all these other places you could open up.”
And the conversation continues, Jesus knocking, us choosing whether or not to respond to His knock. Sometimes we have a major spiritual breakthrough and start throwing many doors open to Jesus. We let Him into our family relationships, our crushes and dating relationships, how we spend our free time, how we spend our money, our habits, the things we desire for ourselves and others…
Jesus sanctifies each room (that’s a big word that means setting something aside for God). He claims each room for His purposes and begins to show us His will for those things that are so important to us. Sometimes He completely empties a room and replaces what was in it with something better, like when He introduces us to new people and helps us care for them or like when He shows us the ministry where He wants us to use our time, talents and treasure.
Room-by-room, Jesus brings light to our heart. He will go anywhere we invite Him, but He knows that some rooms will take more time for us to open. The rooms that hold our Fears, Disappointments, Hates and Hurts are particularly difficult. We didn’t invite these things; they forced their way in and claimed rooms in the deepest, darkest corners of our heart. Over the years, they have become strongholds for Satan. He uses them as his bases of operation as he leads us into sin and prevents us from becoming all that God wants us to be.
It takes incredible courage to open the doors of these rooms to Jesus. Each one is filled with so much fear and pain that the doors can only open a fraction at first. If our courage fails us, we slam them shut again, but if we release these rooms to Jesus, He enters boldly, throws the light switch and evicts the Enemy!
In the light, Jesus shows us the lies that Satan has been telling us about these rooms while we were too afraid to open them and inspect them carefully. Under His loving care, we begin to see how we can turn these Fears, Disappointments, Hates and Hurts into New Hope, New Acceptance, New Love and New Strength.
Jesus is patient, but He isn’t satisfied with only part of our heart. He’ll keep knocking until we open every door to every room. He’s persistent with a purpose. Jesus wants us to know that those things we don’t release to Him end up owning us. They lead to unhappiness and failure, and they give Satan a hold on our hearts. It’s only the heart completely open to God that can fully shine His light.