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:
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. 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]
 Chart is adapted from How People Change, Paul David Tripp, P.??
 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 ___?