November 26, 2023 | Duane Roberts
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“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 (NIV)
In this passage, Samuel is looking for the next king of Israel and God told him it would be one of Jesse’s son. The first son Samuel saw was Eliab. We don’t know much about Eliab other than Samuel clearly thought he was the obvious choice. One would think God would want a leader who would strike fear in the hearts of his enemies; someone who looks like a king. But God’s criteria was completely different. Eliab might’ve been the obvious choice to lead by worldly standards, but God chose David—the youngest and smallest in the family. He was chosen to be king because he was “a man after God’s heart” (1 Samuel 13:14)
According to the Bible, the condition of the heart is a big deal to God. The biblical authors use the heart as a metaphor for the very thing that drives all our thoughts, actions, and desires. If the heart is toxic, then everything that flows from it will be toxic as well. This is why the Lord told Samuel not to judge by outward appearances or accomplishments, because these things can be distracting and deceiving. Ultimately, the heart is what drives all other parts of one’s life—and God looks at the heart, not works. God cares more about who we are than what we do.
Jesus has this in mind in when He says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21 NIV). The same idea is echoed in Proverbs 4:23 (NIV), “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” The heart is the engine that drives us and the compass that guides us. All of life flows from the heart.
There’s a seemingly innocent message we hear repeatedly from childhood: Just follow your heart! Nearly every children’s story/movie has this as a core message. You may read that and say, “What’s wrong with that?” The answer is . . . everything. If I followed my heart every day, I’d follow it to a giant bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch—probably multiple times a day. As one of the Reformers famously points out, we can’t trust our hearts because “the human heart is a factory of idols.”
The heart shows us our deepest desires and dreams. The heart shows our imagination, not just our intellect. The heart shows us what we truly believe about the world around us and what we believe about ourselves. We live life from our hearts, not our minds. This is why we must regularly and intentionally reorient our hearts around Jesus. The gospel message gets down to the very depth of who we are and transforms us from the inside out. Through the gospel, God trades our old heart for a new one (Ezekiel 36:26-27). As Christians, our outward actions will always present differently to the world because we’ve experienced an inward change when we were given a new heart.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”—Saint Augustine
Pause: Where does your heart tend to lead you?
Practice: The gospel changes you from the inside out. The best way to reorient your heart around Jesus is to regularly remind yourself of the gospel. Reading Ephesians 2:1–10 is a great place to start.
Prayer: Jesus, my heart has been broken and damaged by sin and evil. I don’t want to live from my old heart, I want to live from the new heart given to me through Your love and mercy. Continue to change and shape my heart that I might grow in Your likeness. Amen.
Jimmy Purchase serves as the Groups Development Director at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Church Planting from Capital Seminary & Graduate School. He has been in full-time ministry since 2006, has helped plant two churches, and is passionate about seeing South Florida changed by the gospel of Jesus. Jimmy and his wife, Erin, have been married since 2008 and have three children.