key to understanding your heart

Have you ever had a set of keys that you just did not know what they unlocked? I use to have a small box of mysterious keys I no longer knew what they unlocked. I still keep many of them around just incase I have a door or padlock that I cannot open. Hopefully you are not missing a key to something important that I’ve borrowed and forgot to give back to you? It is frustrating not having a key to unlock something valuable to you [i.e. home, car, safe, etc.]. Sometimes it might feel like your heart is locked and you do not have the right key to understand.

In review, last week was a discovery of what is the matter with your heart. Luke 6:43-46 describes your heart like roots. Whatever you root yourself in that is the fruit you will grow. If you are rooted in evil you will bear evil fruit. If you are rooted in Christ you will bear Christlikeness. The only way you can change your heart is to understand what rules it. According to Ezekiel 14:1-5, your heart is infected by idols. The Bible is like a locksmith that opens the door to your heart and remedies its perilous condition. Today, let’s allow the Bible to be like a locksmith.

An examination of the condition of your heart shows a serious inner conflict [James 4:1-10]

James 4:1-10 is an expansion of the fruit and root illustration. James begins with the fruits and makes his way down the tree trunk to the roots. James reveals the fruit that hangs from everyone’s life is: conflict. Humans have a huge amount of conflict in their lives. You might not realize the amount because you are so used to it. Conflict might be as casual as who gets to use the bathroom first, who gets the last donut in the box, or what pizza toppings you want. Or the conflict might be as colossal as an abusive spouse, disgruntled boss, or rebellious children.

James calls you to do something radically different with your angry responses to human conflict. Rather than looking outside yourself to explain your anger, look inside your heart. James says your fights and quarrels “are at war within you.” You are angry and fight because that is what you desire and what you allow to rule your heart [i.e. idolatry]. Desires come from your heart. Desires of the heart are not all wrong nor are the fights always evil. The ability to desire was designed by God for good. However, human desires have become distorted through sin because you exchange worship of Creator for creation, which is spiritual adultery [4:4]. You give away your love for God to something else.

The heart is your control center. Your heart thinks, remembers, feels, desires, craves, experiences, makes choices, and acts. In other words, your heart is the base of operation for your cognition, affection, and volition. What your heart believes will affect your attitude, behavior and actions. Relationships, society, and culture might all influence your heart, but they are not the cause of your hearts control. You are in control of your internal responses to what is happening externally. What should your response be to sinful external influences? “With confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” [Hebrews 4:14-16]

There are a few common influencers on your heart that if not examined carefully can cause damage swiftly: anger, foolishness, despair and fear. Anger is like a like a hot flame that can inflict pain in its path and forgets about forgiveness and service. Foolishness does not think about the consequences of immediate satisfaction and forsakes seeking wisdom. Despair is like a wandering vagabond that gives up too soon on the path to paradise and foregoes trusting Gods promises. Fear has a firm grip on the opinions of man and an eye on the trial, rather than being unleashed by the love of God. How do desires take control of your heart? Let’s discover a deeper look at how our desires can be influenced towards sinful responses. Here is the digression how desires take the escalator downward:[1]

Changing your desires does not begin with controlling your temper, watching your tongue, or 4-step conflict resolution. Change is initiated when you “submit to God.” [4:7] You have to give up bowing your heart to foe-gods. Smash those idols and restore your allegiance to the One True God. Wash your hands clean and purify your hearts. When you radically destroy your idols and humbly restore with your Creator by drawing near to Him, He draws near to you [4:8].

Your heart problem can only be remedied by the power of Christ [Galatians 5:13-26]

God is like a master physician who knows your greatest need, gives your heart a true diagnosis, and provides you ultimate healing through the gospel. Do not be swayed by the allure of an alternate gospel, cheap grace or self-help. These will wreak havoc on your heart filling you with bondage, darkness and desperation. It is only the power of Christ that will remedy the sinful condition of your heart and give you the motivation for future healthy heart change. Christ does not desire you to be conformed to the image of this world, but to be transformed in the renewing of your mind. How does this transformation take place?

First, serve one another in love [5:13-14]. It is much easier to stir up a conflict that to serve another in love. “I want that donut,” is a natural response fighting for the right to eat the lonely donut in the empty box. It shouldn’t sound so Sesame Street to share that donut because you desire to serve someone else. To serve is the reason Jesus came. He did not come to be served. That makes Jesus strange. What King would stoop so low as to be a servant? Jesus did.

Second, understand the conflict is between your flesh and the Spirit [5:15-23]. Your flesh still desires to be rooted in the old dirt of your former sinful life [vs.19-21, 26], but your new life desires to be rooted in Christ [vs.22-25]. The fight is over the sacred territory of your heart. Who will you allow to be king, captain and champion of your heart—you or God?

Third, if you serve only yourself you will destroy all your relationships [5:14, 26]. Living in the flesh will crush others faith, break others hearts, crush their spirits, and grieve the Holy Spirit. The way you respond to conflict can either devastate or rejuvenate your relationships. Use your conflicts as an opportunity to influence others towards restoration.

Fourth, saying “no” to sinful desires is possible through the cross of Christ [v.24]. As a follower of Christ you have been united with Christ through His crucifixion. In other words, you died with Christ. When Christ rose you were raised to new life. In Christ, you have been given a Samurai Spirit, which in whom your have the daily help and power to resist the control of your sinful desires.

It is wise to ask yourself tough heart questions as if you are getting a thorough examination from the heart doctor.[2] You would not want to be careless because your condition could be as serious as an impending heart attack. When you ask questions of the heart do not rebuttal. Willingly accept the facts as they are and use them to motivate you towards change. Heart change sometimes seems like you are rowing upstream, but don’t stop midstream because you will swiftly drift backwards [cf. 1 Peter 3:18].

In conclusion, the gospel, particularly the cross, is the only remedy for your sinful heart condition. If you have never opened up the door to your heart to God today is the day. He holds the keys to your kingdom. He is the door to new life. Only He can give you a new heart that is fully satisfied in Him. Make Christ the passion of your heart today.

For further reading on the heart check out:

Idols of the Heart and “Vanity Fair” [David Powlison]

Understanding Influences on the Human Heart[Mike Emlet]

4 Common Heart Themes [Garrett Higbee]


[1] Chart is adapted from How People Change, Paul David Tripp, P.??

[2] 5 Heart Revealing Questions to Ask Yourself: 1) How important is ____ to you? 2) What do you like about ____? 3) How does ____ help you deal with life? 4) How is ____ helping you with God? 5) How can God and other help you with ___?

jealousy

Jealousy is as old as Cain and Abel (cf. Genesis 4). Man has often displayed jealous behavior to get what he wants, when he wants it; usually in spite of a person or situation. Jealousy is a strong response that can be used for extreme harm or extraordinary good. The letter of James (4:5) touch’s on the topic of jealousy with reference to a certain Old Testament quotation. What is jealousy? Is jealousy godly? Is the jealousy of God in the OT the same or different as that seen of God when mentioned in the New Testament?

James 4:5 says, “Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that He has made to dwell in us”?” James 4:5 specifically states he is quoting Scripture, but when scanning the OT, one observes there is no passage that it directly quotes. However, there are many OT texts that it could be alluding or echoing.

The God of the Bible is a jealous God. Theologically speaking, the theme of God’s jealous love for His people is tied to the exclusiveness of his claims like the exclusiveness of a spouse’s claims in marriage. This claim is ratcheted up because God is not only the metaphorical husband of His people but also their God. He alone is God. Since He is personal, God is jealous when His followers commit adultery because of the betrayal of idolatry. God longs for His follower’s faithfulness with a jealous longing.

Teaching God’s Jealous Character from Exodus 20:5 & 34:14.

From the decalogue and the Law we see teachings of a jealous God (Exodus 20). God is jealous within a concrete context of covenant infidelity (Exodus 34). James describes a jealous God who has not changed in His demand of absolute devotion to Himself by obedience to His commandments. The Hebrew word for jealous [קַנָּא] is used only of God with the focus on punishing those who hate Him (Ex 20:5; 34:14; Dt. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15) and demanding exclusive service (Ex 34:14).

The second Commandment expands and explains the first commandment. It deals with the heart, rather than the object of worship. This commandment becomes the gauge that measures the spiritual vitality of God’s people. God desires worship above all else. Commands against idols and pagan gods appear throughout the OT. Although James is so practical in structure, the doctrine of God is vital to the teaching of the letter. Throughout James’ letter there is an emphasis on a monotheistic God who is One (cf. 2:19). Within the doctrine of God is the doctrine of His character. James emphasizes His jealousy. God is jealous because He desires His people to adhere to the law and likewise abstain from being worldly. God’s jealousy is seen in the Law and through James’ command to His people to obey Him exclusively through their faithfulness and denial of worldly pleasures.

Analogy of Worldly Friendship from Deuteronomy 6:14-15.

The character of a jealous God who desires faithfulness in His people continues throughout the OT Torah. God is jealous for His people and desires them to worship Him exclusively. In the Septuagint [LXX] the word for jealousy is ζηλωτής–where we get our English word ‘zealous,’ or better translated ‘envy’. Within James 4:4-5, a discussion exists of worldly attitudes rooted in fights and quarrels among believers. These attitudes were from envy and selfish ambition in the pursuit of worldly pleasures (cf. James 4:2a, ζηλοῦτε). These selfish motives led to worldly lifestyles (cf. James 3:14-16). Selfish living is the antithesis of a faithful relationship with God. Selfish ambition is considered rebellion and adultery against God (Deut. 6:14-15).

The call to reject pagan idolatry in the OT was primarily against the cultic worship and gods of other nations like Babylon and Assyria. However, the idolatry in the NT brings friendship with the world to the level of being an enemy of God. Worldly living is against that which God teaches and expects of His people. One either loves God or loves the world. Loving the world to James means not only that you don’t love God, it means you are His enemy

The idea of friendship in OT and NT culture was not the shallow depiction that we see in today’s culture. God intended friendship to encourage spiritual unity and accountability against idolatry and worldliness. With a deeper understanding of friendship it becomes clear that—as James says—love for God and love for the world are mutually exclusive (cf. Luke 16:13; 1 John 2:15-16; Matthew 6:24). To be friends with the world is to be God’s enemy. Love for the world or other gods is treason toward God. God is a jealous God and does not tolerate compromising relationships, especially with the gods and idols of this world.

Analogy of Adultery from Ezekiel 16:38, 42.

Ezekiel continues the theme of the Law by echoing that God is jealous for His own honor. Ezekiel compares the rebellion of his day to that of the Exile during Moses’ day (cf. 20:1-26). Ezekiel pleads for God’s grace and restoration in the light of His jealous dealings throughout time (20:42-44). Ezekiel also touches on the adultery of his people and the jealousy of a God who desires their faithfulness (16:38, 42). God keeps His covenantal wedding vows and expects His bride—the nation of Israel—to uphold them too.

Ezekiel continues in the vein of James by relating God’s jealousy to that of an adulterous relationship. It is very likely James is thinking of the OT view that God—the jealous lover—is married to His people and His bride is adulterous and unfaithful. The reference to women in Ezekiel adheres to God’s people being His bride. James’ readers are the church, which is the Bride of Christ. Jesus also used this marriage analogy to call His followers to faithfulness.

In a godly marriage, there is a healthy form of jealousy which a husband should have for his wife. If he found out that she was having affections for another man he would rightly be jealous of her love. If he did not, one would question the husband’s love for his bride. James and the OT reinforce this analogy. God loves His people though they have committed spiritual adultery. God is gracious to restore them if they repent and turn back to Him.

James 4:5 demonstrates in the NT that God desires total allegiance as He did in the OT. God is a righteously jealous Husband who tolerates no rivals. We cannot be friends with the world without provoking the jealousy of God. We cannot claim to be the bride of Christ and then run to the worldly “man next door” for comfort. James supports the OT texts that command His people to turn from all spiritual adultery and be exclusively devoted to God. Living for self and seeking pleasure apart from God is to commit spiritual adultery. To James, active faith is tested by the world and God expects His followers to be faithful to Him alone.

To view a more technical paper with sources see JEALOUSLY intertextuality paper [James 4.5]