Life is heart. No amount of success in other areas of life can compensate for a heart that is cold toward God and people. The heart is the epicenter, for better or worse, of everything you’ll dream and accomplish in all of life. It’s where everything begins and ends. The person who doesn’t guard his or her heart, who is unaware of what’s growing in the garden of the soul, neglects the most important part of the journey this side of eternity. You must be intentional about the care and feeding of your heart, or your heart will wander, becoming cold, hard and indifferent – even hostile, toward God and people.
In speaking about the world condition just prior to His return, Jesus says these striking words in Matthew 24:12 (NIV): “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” In other words, Jesus calls His followers to behave as minority people when the overwhelming majority marches full-steam ahead in the wrong direction, embracing hatred rather than love. Prior to Jesus’ return, the world will be increasingly and overwhelmingly characterized by a lack of love toward people. Aren’t we seeing that become the increasing reality with each passing day?
What about you? Do you love God, or are you kidding yourself?
Love for God is not something that is difficult to measure. It’s actually reflected by our affection – or lack of it – toward people. To get the clearest picture of whether or not you love God, just look at your regards, commitment, and selflessness when it comes to how you view and treat people. It’s no mystery: how you treat people is the truest reflection of whether or not your heart is white hot or lukewarm toward God.
These days, where nonsense has replaced common sense and attention spans are shorter than ever, love for God is not something we can put on autopilot. It’s becoming harder and harder to genuinely love people. It can be done – but it’s not something that will happen by accident.
Loving others involves more than people skills. A person can learn skills in how to manage and lead people – but that does not mean he or she is cultivating a genuine love for God that is manifested by how we treat people.
The most beautiful garden will degenerate into a monstrosity if it is neglected. The smallest of weeds will grow, and absorb the nutrients and life of desirable fruits and vegetables if careful attention isn’t paid to the wellbeing of the garden. Your heart, and your affections toward God and people, are no different. Consider the weeds that will wreak havoc in your heart if you don’t recognize and root them up the moment they break through the surface.
We’ve all met people who look as if they’ve been licking lemons for a few days. The countenance on their faces reveals unresolved hurts that have metastasized, affecting every relationship in life. Left alone, unforgiveness leads to bitterness – and bitter roots produce sour fruit that will negatively impact nearly every area of life. Is there anyone you need to forgive?
Have you allowed yourself to become bitter? If so, do some soul-searching and see who you need to forgive. Unforgiveness is not your friend. It’s your enemy, and it will rob you of God’s best far more than you realize.
It is also unhealthy, being linked to a variety of physical and mental illnesses. The surest way of complicating and downgrading your life is to allow yourself to become unforgiving. By all means, if you have deep-seated struggles with forgiveness, seek professional and spiritual help so you can walk in freedom. Unforgiveness will enslave you.
Jealousy and Greed
In today’s world, it’s so easy to think other people have better friends, things and lives than you do. Social media has affected everyone, even if they don’t have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account. It seems that everyone thinks the most important thing in life is to be liked. The most important thing in life, however, is to love God and people and to trust God with the consequences. If do this, you’ll be liked by the people who really matter.
Do you in any way wish you had what other people have, thinking you’ve missed out on life’s best? Ephesians 5:5 (NIV) warns us with these words: “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a person is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
The truth is that no one who truly surrenders to Jesus Christ will ever live to regret it. Jealousy is a result of a heart that has stopped trusting God to provide for every need and desire.
With all the emphasis on looking good, it’s exceptionally easy to embrace the lie that you need to look and act like someone you really aren’t. We put our best faces forward, and in the process we miss out on having authentic, transparent and richly rewarding relationships with people. These are the things we’re really wired for, not phoniness.
Do you compare yourself with other people, suppressing the real you, in subtle or overt efforts to seek popularity and praise from people? By covering up who you really are, you miss out on developing quality friendships that are only possible when there is honesty, truth and vulnerability.
Deceit in little things leads to deceit in bigger things, to the point where our very character can become deceitful. Have you ever met a deceitful person you trusted and felt safe around? Deceit does nothing but wreak havoc. Do yourself and everyone you know a favor: avoid it at all costs.
Life in twenty-first century America is exceptionally busy, noisy and distracted. Just as computers and smart devices need their caches cleared, the human mind, heart, and soul needs to be emptied of all the clutter that automatically accumulates throughout each day. We hear, see and feel things that we need to process – and purify – before God.
Taking time to read the Bible each day, and to put its teachings into practice, is one of the surest ways to continually detox your heart and soul. Find a place where you can simply sit and clear your mind. Then, pour God’s word into it. You’ll find that the rest of your life will respond like a dry sponge to clean water.
Be intentional about the care and feeding of your heart. This is an endeavor that has tremendously positive benefits. You can do it – and when you do, you’ll find that it will have wonderfully positive effects on every relationship in your life.