The secret state of your heart

 
 

The private lives of humans have captured the attention of TV audiences for decades. We hungrily devour shows that reveal the ‘unscripted’, secret moments we aren’t supposed to see and discuss them at length with our fellow fanatics.

These shows (however entertaining) paint a picture that is far-removed from reality. But what if the cameras really were there permanently - recording every word and action for a lifetime? Imagine if your life was aired, unedited, for the world to see.

It’s a dreadful thought.

We spend so much time and energy carefully crafting public personas that boast of lives packed with purpose and excitement. Our generosity hinges on the likelihood of it being noticed and our social media profiles are bloated with evidence of our good deeds. At church we deliver eloquent prayers and compelling soundbites about our ‘spiritual growth’ and we convince ourselves that all of this self-coverage is our humble attempt to inspire others. But, just like our favourite shows - ‘reality’ is nowhere to be seen, and at the heart of it all lies personal ego, glory and pride.

Throughout the Bible we find that the emphasis isn’t on our public personas, but on our private actions and the secret state of our hearts. In Matthew 6, Jesus extols privacy in giving, prayer, and fasting.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.

When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.

When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
— Matthew 6

Jesus didn’t just say it - He lived it. He made it a priority to pursue solitude and devote the early hours to pray alone with his Father. His actions with the crowd were rooted in the private times of rest and devotion.

The disciplines we form alone, in quiet places, away from voices and distractions, don’t just guard our hearts - they shape them. But our hearts are so susceptible to the false promises we’re bombarded with every day that even in our solitude we must exercise discipline in contemplation. The things we choose to fill our minds with are responsible for crafting our characters and determining our behaviours.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
— Philippians 4:8

When Samuel was guided by God to anoint the next King of Israel, the Lord said to him:

Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
— 1 Samuel 16:7

With an exquisitely manicured outward identity we can win the favour of everyone we encounter. We can be loved, respected and valued by our peers. It is even possible to fool the whole world into believing we’re worthy of fame, recognition and acclaim - ‘But the Lord looks on the heart.’

If we don’t invest in our character through time alone with our Father, the adoration and recognition we’ve accumulated over a lifetime can be lost in an instant.

God knows us intimately. He’s counted the hairs on our heads and hears the words we speak before we say them. The discipline of allowing God to shape our character and to rule our hearts is essential and best learned in secret. When we begin to learn to live for an audience of One, everything starts to fall into place.

If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself. 
— D L Moody

Beyond this is the magnificent truth that because of Jesus we don’t have to polish perfect personas to earn God's love - all He desires is our hearts. We so readily crave earthly love, but the desire fades when we spend time alone with Jesus and encounter the Father’s love again and again. We need to abandon the labour of our manufactured identities and give ourselves fully to the One who created us, pursues us, and is intimately familiar with the secret state of our hearts.

 
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