Understanding the Importance of Knowing You

Les Newsom is a former RUF Campus Minster and Area Coordinator, where he served for 24 years. He currently serves as Lead Pastor at Christ Presbyterian in Oxford, Mississippi. Originally posted December 8, 2015.

Growing up in a religious context, I was constantly being reminded of the struggle going on between my “head” and my “heart.” Zealous youth leaders would encourage me to “move 18 inches, the distance between your brain and your heart.” I understand what they were trying to say: it is not enough simply to have information in one’s head. That information has to enliven the life by making it into our emotions where real change happens.

However, I am now convinced that this explanation of how I change is, well…wrong headed. The Bible’s view of “me” is different in key points. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” So, the “heart” according the Bible is more than just the place where my emotions come from. Rather, the entirety of my life’s output finds its origin in this thing called my “heart.”

My thoughts come from my heart. In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that your “heart” will be enlightened that you may “know” the hope God has called you to. My emotions also come from my heart. Paul says in Romans 9:2 that he has “great anguish in his heart” for his unbelieving fellow Jews. My choices begin in my heart as well. In Romans 6:27, Paul is thankful that his readers have been “obedient from the heart” to the teaching they received. 

Here’s the point: if I am going to understand “me” then I have to hear how the Bible talks about me, and I am not, in the Bible’s estimation, a collection of thoughts that are trying to work their way into my emotions, the head/heart dichotomy. Rather, I am most deeply a “heart” that informs every aspect of my being. Tim Keller recently tweeted it this way:

“What the heart trusts, the mind justifies, the emotions desire, and the will carries out. Everything follows the heart. If real change is going to happen, it has to begin there.”

This begs the question: then what is my “heart?” The heart is that thing inside of you that you use to lock onto the things in life that you have found lovely, the things that you have found worth your time, your allegiances. Jesus says simply, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In other words, your heart is the mechanism that binds you to the things you treasure, the things in which you take joy, the places that thrill you. 

As technical as this all may sound, it’s absolutely vital to understand if we’re going for real change because when all is said and done, until God changes my heart, until he sets another more beautiful life-giving power there, until my treasure has become Him and Him alone, every attempt for me to change will be superficial and short-lived.

Has there ever been time in your life when the great thought of God, the person and the work of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit has delighted, thrilled, enthralled, terrified, preoccupied, or challenged you? If not, perhaps you missed something.