A Matter of the Heart

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…

Ephesians 6:14

Having addressed the need for their lives to be enveloped in truth, Paul admonishes the Ephesians to stand firm against the enemy with the “breastplate of righteousness” in place. This body armor protects the most vital organs of the body, but especially the heart.

If you want to learn something about the heart, read through the Psalms and the Proverbs. They are chalked full of wisdom about the power and passions, evil and righteousness that can flow from the heart. The Psalms are themselves the heart-cries of the psalmists. The Proverbs are wisdom born from the heart. Here’s an example:

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
    shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know what makes them stumble.

My son, pay attention to what I say;
    turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
    keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
    and health to one’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it

Proverbs 4:18-23

So much of our life flows out of our desires, so we must protect what influences our desires. We get the picture in this Proverb of our heart being the headwaters of a river. If we allow our heart to receive polluted influence from any and every source, we will find our whole life contaminated.

What our eyes, ears and thoughts absorb will pour directly into the headwaters of our heart. If we absorb what is good, holy, righteous and loving, we will find that same fruit in our lives downstream. If we absorb what the rest of the world absorbs, our life will look just as chaotic, angry, bitter, and harsh as everyone else’s. This is why our heart must be protected with a breastplate of righteousness. There are consequences to the condition and purity of our hearts.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”(Matthew 5:8).

He also said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”(Luke 6:45).

We know that God is a heart-reader not a lip-reader. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “God knows your hearts”(Luke 16:15). And we all know the famous story of how David was chosen as the next king of Israel:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

This is why God has given us armor to protect our hearts. We are to “put on” righteousness like a garment, like a breastplate. This is why Paul wrote to the Romans, “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh”(Romans 13:14). The righteousness of Christ is something we must choose to put on.

We are to filter out the things that pour into our heart, the headwaters of our life, so that downstream is full of purity, life, hope and love. Paul said it this way to the Philippians:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

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