“God knows your hearts,” Jesus says (Luke 16:15). The Father knows the person inside, the one we really are. And so, when Jesus refers to our “heart” in his teaching, the Lord is appealing to and talking to our inside conscious self.
He tells the Pharisees, for example, that they should focus less on “the outside of the cup and of the platter” and “cleanse first that which is within” (KJV Matt. 23:25-26). And in another place he says, that impurity or purity “come from the heart” (Matt. 15:18). It is there that the angry words and self-centered actions and destructive distractions originate. It is there that change and regeneration must occur.
And we Christians know this—most of the time. But, what we also have learned is that focusing on the “doing” of Christianity, putting on the outside garb of being a good Christian, is far easier for us than changing the intentions of our heart. Learning to love more and judge less is a heart change (Luke 6:37). Not storing up “treasures on earth” requires another heart change (Matt. 6:19). Meekness and mercy, purity of heart and peacemaking—these are heart changes (5:1-10). And there’s nothing easy in the gradual, transformational demand that these beatitudes contain.
Which is why it is so important to realize that Christ also lives in our heart. His is the Spirit that can govern what we do and what we think. His is the light that floods and cleanses our heart, pushing out the selfish clutter that the natural life builds up. When we get out of the way, when we surrender, the Lord makes us better at being who we truly are. Jesus yielded to his Father when he said, “I can do nothing on my own” (NRSV John 5:30). And that is true for us as well.
Please, Lord, Cleanse my sad heart with your spirit; Light it, fill it with your peace. So when you speak, I can hear it—Selfish distractions all cease. (living Calm, 2016)