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What is the heart?

The heart is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible. But what exactly is our heart, spiritually speaking? What is the significance and importance?
The heart in the Bible

What is “the heart” in the Bible?

We read a lot about the heart in the Bible, because in Biblical times it was thought that our decisions, feelings and thought processes came from the heart. The heart in the Bible was thought to be a sort of “control center” from which all of our decisions were made. So when we read about the heart in the Bible, it is about the place where you have your will, your attitude and intentions, and which is the source of your thoughts, actions and words.

This heart is the core of who you are as a person. Your heart is, essentially, you.

With your heart you choose between good and evil. Your conscience sends out a message of whether something is right or wrong, and your heart is what drives you to choose. The heart that is in connection with God is able to choose the good every time. The heart that opens itself to other, impure influences becomes blind and confused when it comes to discerning between good and evil. “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” Psalm 119:9.

Pure or impure hearts

We are all born with clean, pure hearts. Your heart becomes impure when you willfully sin, again and again. For example, when you keep going back and doing something you know to be wrong, repeatedly, without repenting. It can be things like dishonesty, envy, watching impure things, holding a grudge. It happens when you don’t want to stop doing it, even though you are aware it is evil.

But when you decide to give up your own will and ways and give your life to God, He cleanses and purifies your heart. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10. In this way a new “you” is born. This means that you get a new attitude, a new will – which is a desire to always choose the good and do God’s will. This renewed heart is clean and pure from the start. Then, you don’t have to fight to repeatedly purify your heart. But you do have to fight to keep it pure.

Read more here: The pure in heart shall see God

Your heart doesn’t become impure because you are tempted.  It becomes impure when you allow that temptation into your heart. That is, when you repeatedly, willfully sin without repentance. That causes your heart to become blemished and hardened.

Sometimes you fall in sin, but a fall in itself doesn’t mean that your heart becomes impure. Your reaction to your fall proves what is in your heart. If you fall and you regret it, you sorrow and repent, then you have a pure heart that is open to God, and He immediately forgives you. But if you shrug it off, if you don’t care, and there is no repentance, then you are hardening your heart – your heart becomes impure. Your heart closes itself to God.

Guard your heart

It is written in Proverbs 4:23:Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

In other words, do your utmost to keep your heart pure, because you are your heart – all of your life comes from your heart. The issues of life are your decisions, your actions and reactions, the way you feel, think and reason about things, your words. These can be pure or impure, depending on the condition of your heart, and the decisions you’ve made there. They affect your relationship with God.

If your heart is pure, then everything stemming from your life is pure. If your heart is impure, then everything stemming from your life is impure. Your actions are a result of what is in your heart. Jesus says this very clearly in Matthew 12:34-35: “A good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” We could also say that not only does his mouth speak, but his mind thinks, and his body acts.

That’s why it says it so strongly in Proverbs: “Keep your heart with all diligence.” Because what is in your heart becomes your life.

If you were inspired by this article, you may be interested in reading more on our topic page about purity, or in the following articles:

Are you catching the “little foxes?”

What is the benefit of being pure in heart?

Watch this interesting video on the heart by The Bible Project (external link).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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