King of Hearts
In the famous children’s novel, Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts is an interesting character. Overseeing the kingdom with the King of Hearts, she changes from pleasant to enraged every other minute. At the slightest offense, she shouts, “Off with their heads!” It seems ordering executions is one of her hobbies. However, as the story goes, very few were actually beheaded. The kind King of Hearts quietly pardoned many of his subjects while his foul-tempered wife wasn’t looking.
This story makes me wonder about how people see God. Do they view Him as a quick-to-judge King who enjoys shelling out punishment like the Queen of Hearts? Or do they see Him as the kind King of Hearts pardoning the offenses of His subjects?
The Apostle Paul asked,
“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” Romans 2:4 (NLT)
It’s hard to determine exactly how people form their opinion of God – maybe they had a hard father or a moody mother. If those cases, you can almost understand a misguided view of God since our earthly parents are sometimes the only example we have – right or wrong.
When I was growing up, I had a friend who was raised in a very strict Christian home. She often wanted to spend the night at my house because our rules were quite different and she could do what she wanted without consequence. Years later, when we were in college and I had become a Christian, we bumped into each other and I was very excited to share my new-found faith with her. To my surprise, she had abandoned her beliefs. She explained that if God was as hard as her parents made Him out to be, she’d rather spend this lifetime enjoying herself. I didn’t know the harsh “God” she spoke of, so I left our conversation very sad.
The God I met and fell in love with is a King of Hearts. Despite all my failures and extreme sins, He pardoned me. And the more realization I had of how much He actually pardoned, the more I loved Him and wanted to serve Him.
“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But — when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:3-5 (NLT)
If I were to compare someone to the Queen of Hearts, it sure wouldn’t be God. I’ve yet to hear Him say, “Off with their heads!” His kindness is generous and His love is unfailing.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (NLT)
However, if I were to reject His kindness and remain hard-hearted, there would come a day when instead of standing before the King of Hearts, I would have to give an account before the Judge of Hearts. And in His righteous judgment, He would have to declare me guilty and cast me from His presence. What a sad day that would be! Some have said, “If God is so kind, then why would He send people to hell?” These are mistaken… Because God is kind, He provided a way for people to AVOID hell and eternal separation from Him. He is the King of Hearts and
… with undeserved kindness, He declares that we [who put our trust in Him now] are righteous. [paraphrase mine] “He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty of our sins.” Romans 3:24 (NLT)
There was a penalty. But there was also a payment. When the order should have been, “Off with their heads!” – a new and superior order was made: “Restore them to Me!” The King spoke it, and the Word was fulfilled. Not based on anything we have or have not done, His grace covers a multitude of sin.
“And since it is through God’s kindness [that we are saved], then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is–free and undeserved.” Romans 11:6 (NLT)
He is the King of kindness and for that reason, He is also the King of my heart.
How’s Your Heart?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
Recently after a 2-1/2 year battle with cancer, Scott – my friend and coworker – went to be with Jesus. I miss him, and selfishly, I need to hear his loving question: “Boyd, how is your heart?”
To me, Scott was a spiritual doctor who cared about my heart’s condition. He knew the quality of my life depended on the health of my heart. He reminded me of my need for the Great Physician.
Today’s key verse says everything flows from your heart – your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your anxieties, your anger, your forgiveness, your humility, your peace, your greed, your generosity, and your love. Yes, everything that makes you who you are is in your heart. So above all else, your heart needs a guard – and God is your guard.
When the Holy Spirit fills your heart by faith, He flushes out sin and leaves enough room for the Fruit of the Spirit. Only a heart guarded by God can bear up under the influence of ungodliness. A heart submitted to Christ in prayer is protected by Christ with peace.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, NIV).
Unhealthy heart conditions include:
- Loss of heart
- A broken heart
- A foolish heart
- A hard heart
The remedy for these spiritual ailments is a whole heart for Jesus.
You may feel fainthearted today – weary in your faith and work. If so, take time to slow down,
rest and allow the Holy Spirit to restore your heart to wholeness.
A loss of heart is a reflection of hope deferred, which creates a sickly soul condition. But hope in
Christ gives your heart peace and reassurance.
Perhaps your heart is broken by past hurt or present rejection. Seek your heavenly Father to be
forgiven and to forgive.
Be on guard! A foolish heart forgets God or even stops believing God. Excessive worry can act
God does not exist. So, we must guard against a foolish heart by gaining a heart of wisdom.
Most disturbing is a hard heart – someone jaded by injustice and/or the lack of integrity in
heart from the Lord gives us a heart for the Lord.
So, in honor of Scott, let me ask you, friend, “How is your heart?”
What if, for one day, Jesus were to become you? What if, for twenty-four hours, Jesus wakes up in your bed, walks in your shoes, lives in your house, assumes your schedule? Your boss becomes His boss, your mother becomes His mother, your pains become His pains? With one exception, nothing about your life changes. Your health doesn’t change. Your circumstances don’t change. Your schedule isn’t altered. Your problems aren’t solved. Only one change occurs.
What if, for one day and one night, Jesus lives your life with His heart?
Your heart gets the day off, and your life is led by the heart of Christ. His priorities govern your actions. His passions drive your decisions. His love directs your behavior.
What would you be like? Would people notice a change? Your family – would they see something new? Your coworkers – would they sense a difference? What about the less fortunate? Would you treat them the same? And your friends? Would they detect more joy? How about your enemies? Would they receive more mercy from Christ’s heart than from yours?
And you? How would you feel? What alterations would this transplant have on your stress level? Your mood swings? Your temper? Would you sleep better? Would you see sunsets differently? Death differently? Taxes differently? Any chance you’d need fewer aspirin or sedatives? How about your reaction to traffic delays? (Ouch, that touched a nerve.) Would you still dread what you are dreading? Better yet, would you still do what you are doing?
Would you still do what you had planned to do for the next twenty-four hours?
Pause and think about your schedule. Obligations. Engagements. Outings. Appointments. With Jesus taking over your heart, would anything change?
Keep working on this for a moment. Adjust the lens of your imagination until you have a clear picture of Jesus leading your life, then snap the shutter and frame the image. What you see is what God wants. He wants you to “think and act like Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
God’s plan for you is nothing short of a new heart.
“You were taught to be made new in your hearts, to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God – made to be truly good and holy” (Ephesians 4:23-24).
God wants you to be just like Jesus. He wants you to have a heart like His.
I’m going to risk something here. It’s dangerous to sum up grand truths in one statement, but I’m going to try. If a sentence or two could capture God’s desire for each of us, it might read like this:
God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.
If you think His love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong. If you think His love would be deeper if your thoughts were, wrong again. Don’t confuse God’s love with the love of people. The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are. To quote my wife’s favorite author:
God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn Him. Ignore Him. Reject Him. Despise Him. Disobey Him. He will not change.
Our evil cannot diminish His love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it any more than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn’t love us less if we fail or more if we succeed.
When my daughter Jenna was a toddler, I used to take her to a park not far from our apartment. One day as she was playing in a sandbox, an ice-cream salesman approached us. I purchased her a treat, and when I turned to give it to her, I saw her mouth was full of sand. Where I intended to put a delicacy, she had put dirt.
Did I love her with dirt in her mouth? Absolutely. Was she any less my daughter with dirt in her mouth? Of course not. Was I going to allow her to keep the dirt in her mouth? No way. I loved her right where she was, but I refused to leave her there. I carried her over to the water fountain and washed out her mouth. Why? Because I love her.
God does the same for us. He holds us over the fountain. “Spit out the dirt, honey,” our Father urges. “I’ve got something better for you.” And so He cleanses us of filth: immorality, dishonesty, prejudice, bitterness, greed. We don’t enjoy the cleansing; sometimes we even opt for the dirt over the ice cream. “I can eat dirt if I want to!” we pout and proclaim. Which is true – we can. But if we do, the loss is ours. God has a better offer. He wants us to be just like Jesus.
Isn’t that good news? You aren’t stuck with today’s personality. You aren’t condemned to “grumpydom.” You are tweakable. Even if you’ve worried each day of your life, you needn’t worry the rest of your life. So what if you were born a bigot? You don’t have to die one.
Where did we get the idea we can’t change? Jesus can change our hearts. He wants us to have a heart like his. Can you imagine a better offer?