Peninsula Community Church
Strongholds – The Heart
April 24, 2016
Jeremiah 17:9-10 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.
As we continue our conversation on strongholds we will focus our attention on the heart today. Spiritually the heart has been defined as the seat of our emotions. Because of this, our emotions can be an area of our life that is ripe for strongholds to be established within us. The heart is that place where the enemy of our souls negatively influences until we are controlled by unhealthy emotional responses. Today, I would like to look at the susceptibility of the heart to errant emotions. We then will look at what we can do to have a new heart.
Let’s begin with the passage before us today. Jeremiah makes a definitive statement about the heart. He states the heart is deceitful and is desperately sick. The fact is without the Holy Spirit’s intervention our hearts will remain deceitful and sick. This happens because our hearts, as the seat of our emotions, can be wounded by past actions and by the words that have been spoken to us. Most of have used the cliche “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How many would agree that is a lie? Sticks and stones do hurt us but words also hurt us. Most of the time it is easier to heal from the wounds of the sticks and stones but it is much harder to heal from the wounds of spoken words. Why is this? It is because words go to the depths our psyche. Words wound us. Words negatively effect us.
When it comes to the heart, I would propose this morning that there are several kinds of heart we can experience and all of them can be deceitful and sick at the core. I would suggest that we can have a wounded heart. We can have a hardened heart. We can have a broken heart. And we can have a weary heart. Let’s look at these for a moment. First, the wounded heart. This is the heart that is effected by the hurtful and negative words that have been spoken into our lives or by the failures we have experienced. You know what I mean. We hear words like we are not good enough. We are a failure. We don’t deserve God’s love. We will never change. These words have the potential to wound our spirit and injure us for life. As a result, unless we change we are destined to failure and to fall short of God’s desire for us.
Secondly, is the broken heart. This comes when those we trust have let us down. The spouse we loved, left us. We lost our job. We have had bad medical news. Our children have abandoned the path we have set for them. We have been hurt by infidelity and mistrust. For others it is the loss of a loved one. Each of these create in us a broken heart and broken hearts are not so easily healed. And if they are not healed they can be the reservoir of deceit and pain as everything we do will be filtered through the broken heart. Now don’t misunderstand me please. Brokenness of heart is a real issue. I have lived it myself. I certainly do not mean to minimize any one’s pain but I am also cognizant of the fact that if we do not allow God to bring healing to us the enemy of our souls can use our brokenness as an opportunity for negative influences and for the possibility of strongholds to be developed.
Thirdly, is the hardened heart. The heart is hardened when we refuse to allow the truth to impact our heart or we have been deceived. We see this in the Book of Romans when Paul says that those in the Roman church and in Roman society had rejected not only truth and but they rejected the God of truth as well. Through a rejection of truth, their heart had been hardened. The result was that the truth of God could not penetrate the heart. This occurs in us as well when we either reject the truth or we are deceived. Hardened hearts can also be realized when we continue to suffer from brokenness and wounds. We harden our hearts so we will not suffer any more pain. But the opposite is actually true. Instead healing we receive more heart.
Fourthly, we can also have a weary heart. You know how it is. We can become tired and weary of the things that impact us. We are over worked, and emotionally overwhelmed. A weary heart causes us to want to give up. A weary heart occurs when we confront the same issues over and over again which never seem to be resolved. Our children are rebellious. Our work is topsy turvy. Our family seems to have unresolvable financial issues. On and on it goes. The result is that we feel we want to give up because we are too tired and we no longer have the energy or the will to keep going on.
As we look at the heart we find it is here that the enemy of our souls loves to influence us neagtively. You see even as believers, while satan cannot possess us, he can certainly influence us to make bad decisions and do things that make our life more miserable. He can influence us to hold onto the past and not let go of the emotional bonds that are not easily broken.
But what is the answer and how do we overcome this? How do we experienced a healed heart? First, we must recognize that we need help. We must understand that our heart is broken, wounded, hardened, or weary. We must understand that we need something to change and begin to identify what that is. The problem too often is that we have been convinced this is just the way things are going to be. We are confronted with the messages that there is no hope and there is no means to bring change. We settle for bondage rather than freedom. We are convinced that we will live this way the rest of our lives. But that is a lie from the very pit of hell.
The fact is there is hope. We have the promise for a new heart and new way of life. We have a promise that God will take our stony, broken, wounded, and weary hearts and He will heal them. It is noteworthy that throughout Scripture that God gives us a new heart. He takes our wounded, broken, weary, and stony hearts and gives us a new fleshy heart. Ezekiel understood this when he penned these words. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
And then in Ezekiel 36:25-28 we find these words. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Yes! it is true that within our hearts there is a battle that is raging but that does not mean that we have to continue to live that way. We can choose to allow God to break our stony hearts and renew us with a fleshy, sensitive heart. Why is this critical? It is critical because to have a stony or wounded heart means that God is blocked from doing His work in us. And we need Him to work. By having a fleshy sensitive heart we are empowered to follow God’s commands and to follow His will which leads to receiving all that He has to offer us.
Secondly, we have to hide the world of God in our hearts. There are three passages in Scripture that bear this out for us. First, David stated How can a young man keep his way pure? Notice that David answers his own question. He states we keep our way pure By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalms 119:9-16).
We also find that the temptation of Jesus comes to mind as he was confronted by satan directly (Luke 4:1-13). Notice that in His temptation that Jesus did not use positive thinking. He did not try to hide the problem. He did not justify his actions. What did He do? He used Scripture to counter satan’s ways. You see much of the temptation Jesus was faced was emotional. Notice that Jesus was hungry and satan offered him bread. He was playing with Jesus’ emotions but Jesus passed the test. Finally, the Scripture tells us that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. For this to happen we must know the truth and that truth must be applied in our life (John 10:10).
Thirdly, we must recognize that this is an ongoing process of healing and restoration. We can never rest on the laurels of the past or on what God has done in the past for us. We must always be aware of the tactics of the enemy. He seeks to capitalize on our weaknesses and our failures. He knows the hot buttons in our life and he knows exactly what will set them off. Have you ever noticed that we are attacked at the most inopportune times. We are attacked when we are tired! We are attacked when we are overworked. We are attacked when we feel under appreciated. We are attacked when we feel that we have been deceived. While I have overcome the enemy over certain things I must be aware that I must consistently resist the devil and his schemes and he has many.
Fourth, we need to shut the door of our heart to the works of the enemy. When we recognize that the enemy is at our door, we must slam the door shut. Remember Cain and Abel. God spoke to Cain and said that sin is crouching at his door. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:4-7). This is the sad part of this story. Cain was warned that the enemy was at the door of his heart and that he had a chance to block his work. The enemy who is a thief was at the door of Cain’s heart to steal his heart, and to rob his brother of his life. Let me ask you, if a thief were standing at your door at home would you open the door and allow him to come in. To do so would not be very wise nor would it be helpful. They would raid your home and take what does not belong to them.
That is why Jesus reminded us that The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We must recognize the thief for who he is. He is a thief. He is a liar. He is an accuser. The problem for us as Christians is that too often we give the enemy territory in our life that should never have been given to him. We open the door for him to come in and set up a residence which results in us being controlled by lies, distortions, and bondage that is unnecessary. The result is that we begin to die. We begin to become ineffective and we become weakened.
So let us resist the devil and he will flea from us. Stand your ground and be attired in the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Through Christ we have a new heart and a new way of living. We do not have to live in bondage or in the distortion that comes. Are you ready to live a new life? Are you ready to be free? After all we are promised an abundant life in Christ. It is a full life filled with promise, hope, and a new vision for what He can do within us.
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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom