Category Archives: Heart

How Does satan Influence Us?

Look around. See the evil. There can be no doubt that real, palpable evil exists in this world. There are child molesters, murderers, torturers, liars, cheaters, thieves, abusers of the innocent and helpless and so many more disgusting and abhorrent people and actions in this world. How did evil come to be in the world? The Bible clearly teaches that the devil is responsible for the evil that is in the world (Gen. 3). But how does the devil operate in this world today to bring about evil? How does satan work?

First, satan does not bring about evil through miraculous means. Maybe you’ve seen a movie which portrays satan taking over the mind and body of a person, causing them to do some terrible thing. While evil spirits have possessed people in the past (e.g. Matt. 8:16, 28-34), this does not occur today. The reason for this is that the age of the miraculous has ceased (Zech. 12:1,2; I Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:7-16). God does not now work miraculously in the world (i.e., invoking a superior law of God in a way superseding the laws of nature for to teach some spiritual truth). But if God does not work in this world today through the means of the miraculous, then neither does satan for, if he did, that would leave Christians without a viable defense. However, the Bible teaches that God has made a way of escape from every temptation (I Cor. 10:13; II Tim. 3:16; James 4:7; Eph. 6:10-17).

Second, satan does not act immediately. By “immediately” I mean he does not act directly, without mediation or agency. To be even more precise, satan does not act directly upon the human heart. Again, this question can be settled by understanding how God operates on us as Christians and on the unbelieving world. God does not act directly upon the heart of the alien sinner or of the child of God. If He did, then individuals would cease to be free moral agents but would become puppets instead. The false doctrine of Calvinism teaches that God operates directly on the human heart and some chosen few are irresistibly saved, but the Bible nowhere teaches this. In fact, many passages like the Great Commission teach just the opposite (Matt. 28:18-20; cf., Gal. 5:4).

In fact, clear examples can be shown where God worked on the heart of the alien sinner through the agency of His word. In Acts 8, God did not work directly upon the heart of the Ethiopian Eunuch but rather through the agency of His revealed word. Philip began in Isaiah 53, and, using others scriptures, preached unto him Jesus (Acts 8:35). This was even during the time when miracles were available to first century Christians. It was only through the agency of God’s written and spoken word that he learned what he needed to do to be saved (Acts 8:35-39).

Even in the case of Cornelius and his household, even when God allowed him to miraculously speak in tongues before he was forgiven of his sins, he first had to send for Peter to have him tell him words whereby he would be saved (Acts 10:6; 11:14). In Acts 2, those present for the Pentecost feast likewise were “pricked in their heart” when they heard the words of scripture Peter quoted and correctly applied (Acts 2:37). If God does not act directly upon your heart, then neither does (or can) satan.

The truth is, even I can move you to do things through the agency of words. If I tell you I would like you to come over because I have freshly baked, chewy, chocolate chip cookies, if you have any desire for freshly baked, chewy, chocolate chip cookies, you might be tempted to come over. If I, with an angry tone in my voice, called you a stupid idiot and told you I despised you, I think I would be able to incite an emotional, if not a physical, response from you. On the other hand, if a man whispers in a woman’s ear, among other sweet enticements, that she was a desirable, gorgeous creature with unsurpassed beauty, he might well move her heart amorously. These actions would all be precipitated through ideas conveyed through words.

Ideas conveyed through the medium of words have great power. Just as a man can influence another man through words, God influences us through the agency of His revealed Word. And, by the way, we also influence God through our words in prayer (Phil. 4:6).

Therefore, satan works through words and the ideas these words convey, to move us to act upon our own lusts. James said, “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14,15). Notice that it is our own lusts that entice us. When satan tempted Eve, he did so through the medium of words (Gen. 3:1 – “and he said unto the woman…”) because she saw that the tree was good for food and a tree to be desired (Gen. 3:6).

Observe how this works in the following examples. Luke states that satan entered into Judas’ heart (Luke 22:3). How did he enter Judas’ heart? Directly and immediately? No. Judas was already a thief at heart (John 12:6). When he saw the precious ointment being used to anoint Jesus instead of being used to line his own pockets, he balked (John 12:1-5). But notice, when he finally realized his own transgression, Judas said “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:1-5), indicating his own culpability. In the same way, Peter asked why satan had filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3). But in verse 4 he asks why they, themselves, had conceived this thing in their own hearts.

How exactly satan initially prompts people, the Bible does not explicitly say. He used Peter’s fears to tempt Christ not to go to Jerusalem (Matt. 16:23). In His response, Jesus said Peter did not savor the things of God but the things of man. We also know that God works in this world through His divine providence (i.e., using natural laws to bring about His purposes) to aid us, otherwise there would be no efficacy in prayer (Matt. 7:7). The working of satan in this world could never be anything more than what God is doing.  The Bible says that angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will be the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). There is spiritual activity going on at a level we do not normally or naturally comprehend (Rev. 12; II Kings 6:16,17; etc.). As Christians, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).  But one thing is clear: neither the Holy Spirit nor satan work directly upon the human heart.

 

(More on this issue later)
Eric L. Padgett

Pricked in the Heart

Recently, the president of the Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OWU) reported that a student complained that a sermon on Love from I Corinthians 13 offended him because “it made him feel bad for not showing love.” This student felt the speaker was wrong for making him feel that way. As this story might seem too outlandish to be believed, the president of the OWU assured us that he was not making it up. It really did occur.

He wrote a response to this incident in which he observed: “Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them ‘feel bad’ about themselves, is a ‘hater,’ a ‘bigot,’ an ‘oppressor,’ and a ‘victimizer.'” His whole statement can be found here.

He further stated: “I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience…The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization. So here’s my advice…If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place.” Thankfully, this university president seems to get it.

However, what is true for that university, is especially true for the Lord’s church. Jesus did not come to this world, suffer and die on the cross so that you and I could feel good about living in sin. Jesus came preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). He came not to send peace, He said, but a sword and division (Matt. 10:34; Luke 12:51). He told the Scribes and the Pharisees that they were hypocrites (Matt. 23:13). He said not everyone that claims to be one of His disciples was going to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21-27).

The examples of this kind could be multiplied over and over again where individuals were challenged to think and do better. I am sure that those who heard Jesus felt convicted of their sins. Many felt so bad that they, much like the student mentioned above, were offended (John 6:60,61). The apostles were afraid on one occasion that the Pharisees were offended by what Jesus had said and subtly warned Him to control His speech (Matt. 15:12). Some were even so offended that they “went back, and walked no more with Him” (John 6:66). Truth has this affect on the dishonest and insincere.

It is true that one can preach a sermon out of a hateful and malicious motive. Paul encountered those that preached out of envy strife and contention, intending to add affliction to his bonds (Phil. 1:15,16). But even a sermon preached out of love–love for the truth, love for God and love for the souls of men–can prick the honest and sincere heart.

The first gospel sermon preached after the ascension of our Lord back into heaven was preached out of such love. Nevertheless, it was a hard sermon. “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain…Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:22-23,36).

Who would dare say that Peter had no love in his heart? This is the same Peter who said see that “ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (I Pet. 1:22). This is the same Peter who said “honour all men. Love the brotherhood” (I Pet. 2:17). This is the same Peter who said “have compassion one of another, love as brethren” (I Pet. 3:8). Peter loved and cared, even in his sermon on Pentecost. But love sometimes, often times, requires painful honesty.

The result of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost was discomfort. The Bible tells us when they heard Peter’s inspired sermon on their involvement in the crucifixion of the Christ, they were “pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37). Their conscience was pricked and they felt bad and they understood that the were culpable in the rejection and murder of the very Son of God! This was exactly the intended result. Peter wanted, indeed, God wanted, them to feel bad because he wanted them to repent.

Too many preachers today tickle the ears because men love to have it so (II Tim. 4:3). Many will serve their own belly by speaking smooth words and giving fair speeches, deceiving the heart of the simple (Rom. 16:18). Sermons that say nothing, but make you feel good generally are nothing more than pablum. If what you hear from the pulpit is what you can hear from any denominational preacher, then maybe the preacher is not speaking the truth that saves.

Here is a suggestion. From now on, when you hear a sermon you disagree with, have the courage to engage the speaker (at the appropriate time and in an appropriate way, of course. Always act in Christian charity!). If the speaker does not offer proof for his contentions, ask for it, honestly, respectfully, but ask. If the speaker is sincere, he will be glad to help and enlighten. If he is not sincere, there may be more friction than light. But if you hear something and it challenges you, that is, it makes you feel guilty, examine sincerely both what you have heard against the scriptures (Acts 17:11) and your own heart. If you hear a sermon and feel uncomfortable, then maybe you have heard the truth and it is having the desired effect. Then, you ought to be thankful that you have learned the truth.

Eric L. Padgett

The Heart of A Christian

There is a part of man that lies deep within him, which controls every aspect of his life. The Bible calls this the “heart.” The Biblical use of the term “heart” is comprehensive. The term heart covers the realm of all emotions from love and hate (Ps. 105:25; I Pet. 1:22) to joy and sorrow (Eccl. 2:10; John 16:6) to peace and bitterness (Ezek. 27:31; Col. 3:15); It covers all mental processes from thinking (Esth. 6:6) to reasoning (Mark 2:6), from imagination (Jer. 9:14) to remembrance (Deut. 4:9), and purposefulness (Acts 11:23) to intention (Heb. 4:12); And it controls all character traits such as purity to wickedness (Jer. 3:17; Matt. 5:8), sincerity to hardness (Ex. 4:21; Col. 3:22), and maturity to rebelliousness (Ps. 101:2; Jer. 5:23). The Apostle Peter calls it the “hidden man of the heart” (I Pet. 3:4). The question before is, What are we to do with our heart?

First, we are to “commune with our own heart” (Psalm 4:4). We are to take a good, long, serious look into the mirror of God’s word to see deep into our own soul (James 1:22-26), and to reflect on a host of issues like: are my motives right, am I doing all I can do, is my conscience clean, etc. In short, we are to examine ourselves, and prove our own selves, whether we are in the faith (II Cor. 13:5). Will we be able to do as Paul did when we come to the close of our life, as he did his, and say I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished my course, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness (II Tim. 4:1-18)?

Second, I am to keep my heart with all diligence (Prov. 4:23). God created us with a cage (the rib cage) surrounding our physical hearts to protect it from external injury. We regularly watch our diet and exercise to keep our hearts healthy. Why wouldn’t we take at least the same precautions to protect our spiritual heart as we do our physical? The things that come out of an unguarded heart are things like evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies (Matt. 15:9). If we do not guard our hearts they can become blinded (Eph. 4:18) and hardened (Heb. 3:15). Satan can raid the heart (Mark 4:15). We must guard our hearts to keep these tragedies from occurring.

Third, we are not to regard iniquity in our heart (Ps. 66:18). Sin begins in the heart. Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed (James 2:14). But lust is clearly a function of the heart (Prov. 6:25; Matt. 5:28). If a man will be good, therefore, he must not regard iniquity in his heart (Matt. 12:35; Mark 7:21). We need to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Philip. 4:8). What do we watch on television? What kind of music do we listen to? What sites do we visit on the internet? What places do we physically frequent? If we continue to regard iniquity in our hearts, how can we expect God to hear us when we cry unto Him (I Pet. 3:12).

Fourth, we are to love God with all our heart (Matt. 22:37). That the heart of man is not the mind or the soul or the strength of man is evidence because Jesus separates them in this statement. But it is evident also that God is not pleased with half-heartedness; He does not like lukewarmness (Rev. 3:15,16). Mere half-hearted efforts at service are to no avail (Hos. 10:2). God does not want feigned service (Jer. 3:10) but a heart prepared to serve (II Chron. 20:33).

Fifth, we should sanctify God in our hearts (I Pet. 3:15). This means God should have a place in our hearts unparalleled by any other one or thing. Jesus said we should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Do I sanctify God in worship by being there for worship every time the doors are open (Heb. 10:25)? Do I sanctify God in my speech, keeping my tongue pure and being prepared to talk to others about Christ (Col. 4:6)? Do I sanctify God in my manner of dress, so that I bring glory to God and do not seek merely my own comfort (I Tim. 2:9,10)? Does God have a special place in my heart?

Sixth, we should trust in the Lord with all our hearts (Pro. 3:5). Do we really trust in God? Really? When things don’t seem to be going like we want them to, or like we think they should, do we continue on the course that God wants and has commanded? Or do we, like the children of Israel coming out of Egyptian bondage, grow restless with God’s pace of advance? Do we, like Sarah, in giving Hagar to Abraham, try to force God’s hand? (How did that turn out?) Do we have the attitude of our Lord Who, when He faced the agony of the cross, prayed “Not my will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42)? It is not easy, because we would rather trust in weapons (Ps. 44:6) or wealth (Ps. 49:6,7) or men (Jer. 17:5). If we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He shall direct our paths (Prov. 3:6).

Seventh, we must believe in the Lord with all our heart (Rom. 10:10). This belief is not a blind leap in the dark, but rests upon solid evidence (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:1). This is the kind of faith that God rewards when it causes one to diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6). To have it otherwise is to be unpleasing to Him. This is the kind of heart that leads to obedience (Acts 8:37).

Finally, we must obey from the heart (Rom. 6:17). Going through mere ceremony does no good (John 4:24). When our obedience comes from the heart, it comes from the deepest part of man, the part of man that controls all of life, and it is then and only then that the obedience is genuine and effectual. We may be able to fool men by our actions, but God knows our hearts (Acts 1:24; Rev. 2:23). We cannot mock God (Gal. 6:7). On the first Pentecost after our Lord’s resurrection, when the assembled masses heard the word of God, they were pricked in their hearts (Acts 1:37). Their heart was not a stone, wherein the word could not send forth deep roots, but was tender enough to receive the truth. What about our heart? Is it hardened or is it receptive to God’s word? Have we truly obeyed from the heart?

Eric L. Padgett

Memorizing God’s Word

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).

The heart is the very center of man, the deepest part, which involves our thoughts, our feelings and our volition (I Pet. 1:22; Prov. 4:23; Matt. 5:8; Heb. 4:12; etc.). It is the part of man to which God appeals when He speaks to us through His revealed will (Acts 2:37). This intimate core of our being is the part of us in which God’s word is to find a permanent, undisturbed lodging.

God’s word is to be hidden in our hearts. Just as baby Moses was hidden from Pharaoh or as the two Hebrew spies were hidden by Rahab, so God’s word is to be hidden in our hearts (Ex. 2:2; Josh 2:4). It is to be hidden from the reach of satan who will gladly snatch it out of our hearts that it cannot influence us any longer (Luke 8:5,12). It is to be so deeply rooted that no weeds can choke it out (Luke 8:7,14). It is to be meditated upon daily (Psalm 1:1-3). It should ever be our delight and our counselor (Psalm 119:24; Rom. 7:22).

Some people can recite quite from memory a letter or a statement from loved ones now removed from their presence. Each word is like a beautiful note and all notes together like a beautiful melody. These words are so easily remembered because that person touched their heart. They remember not the words of the grocer nor the orations of public officials but they remember those simple, unremarkable words which reached their heart because that is where that person lived–in their hearts.

How much more should the word of God so impact our lives so that it is ever on our tongues and our meditation all the day long? We must let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). Timothy knew the Scriptures from a child, instilled in him by his precious mother and grandmother (II Tim. 1:5; 3:14-17). What a precious jewel it is when a family, united in love, studies God’s word together.

It is said of Thomas Campbell that:

“The holy oracles were not only always on the table, but daily in the hands of his family, children, and servants. They were read in the family every morning; a portion was memorized every day, and recited every evening. They were, again and again, reviewed and recited at special intervals; whole epistles were committed to memory, and repeated especially on Lord’s day evenings. Thus the Divine word became, as it were, incorporated with the minds of his household.

‘Attending church,’ or ‘going to meeting,’ as it happened to be called, was, in his family, a rather grave and serious matter. Every member of the family, child or servant, that attended church, “went to meeting” with the understanding that he or she was to give an account of what was spoken; not only of the text or topic, as it was called, but also a sort of synopsis of the discourse. In fact, this review was a miniature of the sermon or lecture, as it happened to be called.” (Alexander Campbell, Memoirs of Elder Thomas Campbell, together with a Brief Memoir of Mrs. Jane Campbell (Cincinnati: H. S. Bosworth, 1861), 265-267.)

Oh, that the word of God were so adored today by those professing faith in Christ. If it were, there would be no unwanted efforts to memorize it, just as one does not set out to memorize a letter by a loved one. It cannot help but be remembered, when it is in the heart. This is what God wants of us.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8:10-11).

Does the Word of God abide in your heart?

Eric L. Padgett