In December, my Mom was at home on a Sunday morning when she began getting an pain in her shoulder. This pain spread down her arm and increased in intensity until it became an excruciating pain that went all the way to her fingertips. When they checked out at her local hospital, tests indicated that she had had a heart attack. The same day they transported her to Edmonton where a couple of days later she had a stint put in her heart and she was back home before the end of the week.
The heart is vital to human life. Each of us only has one heart and we cannot do without it. If it stops working we die. So it is important for us to do what we can to take care of our heart.
We use the word “heart” to refer to our physical heart, but we also the word “heart” to refer to the core of our inner being. Our inner heart is who we really are deep down inside. Within our inner heart is our personality, our emotions, our memories and our motivation.
Just like our physical heart, our inner heart is very important. King Solomon was one of the wisest people who ever lived and he wrote this about our inner heart, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23) Solomon is telling us to be careful about what we allow in to our inner heart because everything thing that we do begins in our inner heart. And when there is a problem in our inner heart, it leads to problems in other parts of our life. At some level, all of us, whether we believe in God or not, whether we follow Jesus or not, we all know that this is true. Everything crime, every betrayal, every careless word spoken always begins in someone’s inner heart either with an evil thought or a false belief or some combination of the two. Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)
And if we are honest with ourselves, all of us will admit that we have these kinds of thoughts sometimes. That tells us that there is something wrong with our inner heart. One of the prophets of ancient Israel, Jeremiah, was referring to this problem we humans have in our inner heart when he wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) Another prophet from ancient Israel, Ezekiel, describes our inner hearts as being a heart of stone (see Ezekiel 36:26). Martin Luther captured our inner heart problem in this way, “Scripture describes man as so curved in upon himself that he uses not only physical but even spiritual goods for his own purposes and in all things seeks only himself.” We all have an inner heart problem.
But what we tend to do is ignore what is going on deep down inside of us. And that never works because the problems in our inner hearts always surfaces somewhere, somehow. It usually shows up as a problem in our most intimate relationships such as with God or with the people that are closest to us. And if we never admit that there is a problem in our inner heart, then those relationship problems keep repeating over and over again.
Dear friends, God is inviting us to open up our hearts to him and admit that we have a problem at the centre of our being and let him deal with it instead of trying to manage it ourselves. Because God wants to give us a fresh start and a new life with him.
When someone has a physical heart that has become diseased beyond the point of repair, they need to have a heart transplant. But before there can be a heart transplant, two things need to be in place. First, there has to be a donor heart available. This donor heart has to be healthy and strong and it also has to be a match to the person who needs the heart. Second, there has to be somebody who is willing to pay the cost of the heart transplant. One estimate that I saw online said that the cost of a heart transplant is about $1.2 million. Now there are not too many individuals who can afford to pay for such a procedure, so usually some kind of health insurance, either government or private, is needed to pay that cost.
The cost of replacing your or my inner heart is far greater than the cost of replacing a physical heart. First, it is not a matter of simply switching parts because all the hearts in the world are already diseased. An entirely new heart has to be created. Second, no human being can afford to pay the cost of getting a new inner heart because none of us has enough resources in our lives to pay the cost of re-created and replacing an inner heart. Then if you multiply the astronomical cost of replacing one inner heart by the number of people who have ever lived, are living or ever will live and an infinite amount would have to be paid for there to be any hope for inner heart health in the world.
But the Good News is that Jesus has provided the donor heart that the world needs. We read in the Bible that God is love (see 1 John 4:8). This means that love is at the centre of God’s being. We could say that God’s heart is full of love. And because he loves us, God wants to give us a new heart that is full of love.
So God the Son, that is Jesus, became human so that there could be a human heart full of love that could be a match for us. And Jesus paid more than the total cost of an inner heart transplant for every human being by going to the cross and willingly shed his precious blood. We read in the Bible that “…the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7b). The blood that Jesus shed was human blood because Jesus is human. But that blood was of infinite worth because Jesus is also God.
We go through life trying to revive our already dead inner hearts when Jesus has a new heart that he wants to give us for free. The cost of the heart transplant is already paid for in full, the donor heart is healthy, strong and full of love. The question is: Do you trust Jesus enough to let him do inner heart surgery on you? Do you trust Jesus enough to put your life in his hands, let him rummage around in your chest and expose the problems that are there and then make room for the new heart that he wants to give you? Because if you did, you would start to experience healing and growth in your life. You would have stamina, strength and determination that you did not have before. Because when you trust in Jesus, you not only have his heart within you. You have all of Jesus within you and Jesus is living his life through you. And it is Jesus’ presence within you that makes all the difference in life for he will help you to see and experience the world in a new way as you rest in his love and let him live his life through you.
Now at this point the heart transplant metaphor breaks down because what happens in a physical heart transplant is the old, diseased heart is taken out before the new heart is put in. But throughout life in this world, even though Jesus has given us a new inner heart, our old sin-sick inner heart remains. That means that there is always going to be, in this life, a struggle within us between our old heart and the new one that Jesus has given us.
And so I am setting a challenge before you today to be intentional in two very important ways. First, I am challenging you to be intentional about not feeding and not exercising your old heart. Let it atrophy and waste away. So when Jesus shows us that we have a problem in our inner heart, we ask him to help us to turn away from that. Second, I am challenging you to be intentional about feeding and exercising your new heart so that it can be healthy and strong.
Throughout Heart Month, the month of February, we will be reflecting on things that we can do to take good care of our new heart. And today we are looking at worship. Worship is adoring, praising or thanking God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in response to what he has first done for us. Worship does not earn us brownie points with God. It is because God already loves and accepts us that we worship him. Worship is spiritual in that there is spirit-to-Spirit communication between us and God. Worship is physical because our body is involved in our worship of God so worship can mean tears, it can mean lifting our hands, it can involve kneeling, it can be sitting in the sun or going for a run.
Today I am asking you to consider making a commitment to exercise your new heart through worship. This is not something that you have to do. This is totally voluntary. I am only asking you to pray and think about this. Perhaps you have already made a personal commitment to worship and you are already living that out. In that case, you don’t really need this exercise. If that is what you are doing, I want to encourage you to simply continue doing what you are already doing. If you have not made a personal commitment to worship, you could benefit by challenging yourself to worshipping on a regular basis. I am asking you to pray about whether doing so would be helpful to you or not.
If you decide to commit yourself to regular worship, then write down on a piece of paper that you could stick in your Bible, or in your journal if you use one, how many days a week you think you should read the Bible and how many days a week you think you should adore or praise or thank God when it is just you and him. Your private worship could be in your bedroom, in your car, in a coffee shop or some other quiet space. Then you could also write down how many times a month you want to challenge yourself to worship corporately with your brothers and sisters in Christ in a Christian church somewhere.
My Mom is now part of heart health therapy group that meets weekly to learn about heart health and then they go and exercise together. It is part of what the people in the group need to do to keep their hearts healthy.
In the same way, we need each other. This church is our inner heart health group. We need to continue to meet together weekly so that we can learn from God’s Word, so we can encourage one another in faith and so we can exercise our new hearts in worship.
Jesus has saved our lives by giving himself to us. It is his heart that beats within our chest.
Dear Jesus, we thank you for the new heart that you have given us. We pray that you would bring to our mind problems in our old heart. Please help us to turn away from those things. Guide us now on what we need to do to exercise our new hearts through worship. In your name we ask this. Amen.
(This message is based on Colossians 3:12-17. It was shared on Feb 4/18 at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC.)
 (Luther’s Works, vol. 25, p. 345, see also pp. 291-92) quoted in “Glossary: Incurvatus in Se,” Mockingbird (Internet; available at: http://www.mbird.com/glossary/incurvatus-in-se/; accessed February 3, 2018).
 “How Much Does a Transplant Cost?,” National Foundation for Transplants (Internet; available at: http://www.transplants.org/faq/how-much-does-transplant-cost; accessed February 3, 2018).