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Be careful what’s in your heart

Before the birth of our first child, I noticed some changes taking place in my wife. No, I’m not referring to her expanding tummy or her sudden craving for salsa and chips. I’m referring to the changes she wanted to start making in our house.

It started with the nursery. She wanted to get that room just perfect for our little one. But then her project began to expand to other rooms. It was like she wanted to change the whole house.

Well, what my wife was doing is commonly called “nesting.” Her mothering instincts were taking over, and she wanted that house to be just right for the children. Therefore, she devoted extraordinary attention to building the nest.

There is another nest that all of us need to pay extraordinary attention to, and it is our heart. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” In other words, the rest of life all flows from the heart.

In Mark 7 the religious establishment criticized Jesus and his disciples for ignoring the ritual washing of their hands. Their concern was not about hygiene. They believed that because God is holy, we cannot come into his presence unclean.

Well, Jesus totally agreed with them about that. What he disagreed with them about is what makes us unclean, and what can make us clean.

First, what makes us unclean? Jesus made this very clear: “And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23).

By focusing on external rules about hand washing and diet, the religious leaders were looking at the wrong thing. What they should have been looking at was the condition of their hearts, for everything else flows from it.

That leads to an obvious question? What can cleanse our hearts? God says, “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” (Ezekiel 36:26).

You see, God is able to give us new hearts. He can give us new life, a new birth. In fact, he tells us that such a new birth is not only possible, but necessary.

Jesus says in John 3:7, “You must be born again.” How does that happen? John 1:12-13 says, “But to all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The old hymn has it right: “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” You see, Jesus died in our place, taking all our sins on himself, as he died for us on the cross. He then conquered death in our place, rising again.

Turn to Jesus and trust him. He can give you a new heart, a new life. Forgiveness and transformation are found in him.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.