Not too long ago, Christian comedian John Crist (@johnbcrist) released a video of himself highlighting activities or questionable decisions Christians make that some consider “taboo,” like skipping church to watch a football game, slowing down after passing a cop on the highway, or (my personal favorite) checking to see how many “likes” you got after posting a photo with the caption: “He must increase; I must decrease.”
At the end of each video, Crist sarcastically looks into the camera encouraging the culprit to “check their heart.” Soon after these videos went viral, social media exploded with examples of #CheckYourHeart situations, which – despite their good-natured humor – probed me to consider this concept deeper.
When was the last time I checked my heart? …If I am honest, probably around the same time I deep cleaned my fridge. It’s been a while. There are some things in there that need to come out, be examined, and probably tossed.
The Bible has a lot to say about the condition of our hearts. We are commanded to “keep your heart with all vigilance” (Prov. 4:23), to love God with all your heart (Deut. 6:5), and to store up God’s Word in your heart to keep you from sin (Psalm 119:11). When Scripture speaks of the heart, it refers to the center of a person’s moral and spiritual life—your will, emotions, and reason. All of your actions, attitudes, and passions ultimately stem from your heart. It is the part of you with which God is most concerned (1 Sam. 16:7).
Apart from the straightforward command for us to keep a careful watch over our hearts, Scripture also informs us that God tests our hearts frequently, and that, more often than not, the testing is done through trials, suffering, and difficult circumstances (Prov. 17:3).
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were led in the wilderness for forty years, eating food that they did not particularly enjoy, all the while knowing that they had missed their opportunity to enter the long-awaited Promised Land because of their failure to trust God’s plan. Yet even in their wandering, God was most concerned with their hearts and tested them to see if they would keep His commandments (Deut. 8:2).
Checking our hearts for wrong attitudes, motives, and actions sounds easy enough…except that it is not.
Scripture enlightens us to the fact that the “heart is deceitful above all else” (Jer. 17:9). The Psalmist writes: “Who can discern his errors?” (Ps. 19:12). When we refer to checking our hearts, we are not referring to simply scanning for the obvious things that immediately stand out to us. We are creatures of false appearances and know how to mask or overlook our faults effortlessly. We have applied filter over filter over filter so that the product is so far from the original, it has become a false image entirely.
God is not so easily deceived. He knows when we are honoring Him with our lips, our tweets, or captions, yet still keeping our hearts far away from Him. The prophet Jeremiah writes: “But you [God] know me, see me, and test my heart toward you” (Jer. 12:3). There is nothing that you have buried so deep or concealed so well that God does not see it. Nothing is hidden from His sight.
If checking our hearts ended with the humiliation and guilt of confronting the depravity of our choices, motives, and actions, then I would encourage you to never do it. The pain and depression would be more than any person could bare.
Fortunately for us, however, Scripture does not tell us to check our hearts so that we can gauge how “good” or “bad” we have been. As the Psalmist writes: “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand?” And then he brings us to the climax, the purpose behind checking our hearts: “But with you [God] there is forgiveness,” (Ps. 130:3-4a).
After King David committed adultery and then murder, he was confronted with his sin. His heart was broken over what he had done. Instead of hiding it away, pretending it never happened, or being too busy in the moment to purge it from his life, he prayed: “Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:10).
The Bible would later refer to David as a “man after God’s own heart.” What made David such a man? He was constantly aware of the fact that God’s main concern was not in his abilities, accolades, intelligence, or prosperity, but in having a right relationship with Him. David fervently pursued a clean heart before God.
When was the last time you had a chance to sit down and really #CheckYourHeart? Is there something you have tucked away, perhaps for years, that has brought you shame, guilt, and grief? Are you simply layering filter upon filter over your heart so that it has become numb and insensitive to the things of God? Have you asked Him to dig deep and pull out those things in your life that are keeping you from experiencing the joy of your salvation?
Ask God to search you and show you the depths of your heart. He is ready and waiting to offer forgiveness and grace.