Right now you may be suffering from the worst type of heart disease! But there is a cure!
Dr. Christian Barnard and his 30 — man surgical team electrified the world on December 3, 1967. Some said it couldn't be done. Yet, 55-year-old Lewis Washkansky became a man with a new heart, the recipient of the world's first heart transplant. His diseased heart was replaced with a healthy heart from a donor mortally injured in an auto accident. Today, heart transplants again excite the world as man-made mechanical hearts such as the Jarvik-7 are implanted with growing success. The world excitedly followed the mechanical heart implants of Barney Clark in 1983 and William J. Schroeder in 1984. Heart disease is a top concern today. More North Americans die each year from heart-related problems than from any other cause. That's tragic, but Christians know that Jesus Christ will return to earth very soon now and heal everyone suffering from any health problems. That miracle will be easy for Him! But did you know that, right now, Jesus Christ is working to correct a spiritual heart disease that is far more serious and widespread than any physical heart problem medical science has tackled? In fact, this disease involves your heart! What is this spiritual heart disease? Before we can answer, we must understand what is meant by a spiritual heart.
What is the "heart"?
The Bible uses the metaphor of the heart to refer to the seat or center of our affections, emotions and attitudes. For instance, Proverbs 3:3, speaking of God's commands, directs, "Write them on the tablet of your heart." Matthew 6:21 tells us, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." A biblical reference to the heart, in other words, is a reference to our motives, our personal reasons for doing what we do. What does God consider a healthy spiritual heart? Jesus Christ Himself answers this question in Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." A diseased spiritual heart, then, is an impure heart. Did you know that, among God's people, spiritual heart disease is the No. 1 killer? God cannot and will not allow anyone into His Kingdom with this deadly disease. Editor-in-Chief Herbert W. Armstrong has described a godly life as one lived with a giving attitude. The opposite way — the way of sin — produces a life that is lived in a selfish, getting attitude contrary to the way of God. The attitude behind our actions is sometimes more important than the actions themselves. When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint David as the next king of Israel, He had to remind Samuel that knowing a person's attitude was paramount in choosing him as king. God told Samuel, "The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). God right now is choosing human beings for future offices as kings and priests — positions in His spiritual government in the soon-coming Kingdom of God! (For more information on whom God is choosing and when they will take their offices, write for a free copy of our astounding booklet Your Awesome Future -How Religion Deceives You.) God has not changed the way He decides who His kings and priests shall be. God is still looking upon the heart — upon our hearts! The condition of our hearts will determine whether we are chosen to reign with Jesus Christ beginning at His Second Coming.
An insidious disease
A person with a physical heart disease can seem healthy enough, for a time. His symptoms may seem mild — a little shortness of breath, a little pain in the chest. In the same way, someone with spiritual heart disease can look or act all right for a while. He can seem fine on the surface. But God looks upon the heart, and God is not fooled. Eventually the spiritual malady becomes apparent. Eventually any spiritual heart disease, unchecked, will destroy the whole person. In Deuteronomy 6:5-6, God tells us that He wants us to love Him with all our hearts. God wants us to have our affections, our hearts, locked into Him and His way of life — devoted completely to God and His way.
More than deeds required
Why are our motivations and attitudes so important to God? Why does our spiritual heart condition make so much difference to our whole eternity? The answer goes back to one who was very great, but who wrecked his potential — the archangel Lucifer. We can read the tragic story of this former cherub in Isaiah 14. What caused Lucifer to turn against God in a spirit of assassination? What went wrong? What is the first thing mentioned? Isaiah 14:12, Authorized Version, asks, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer!... For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven." The first thing that went wrong with Lucifer was spiritual heart disease! His whole attitude changed (Ezekiel 28:17). His hateful heart drove him to rotten actions. God puts so much emphasis on our attitude because if our heart isn't set right, nothing else will be right, either.
A person with a pure heart wants to please God. He doesn't want to see how many of God's commands he can get away with breaking and still be considered a Christian.
In Matthew 15:19, Jesus makes it clear that every evil deed originates in an evil heart: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." The lesson is to clean up the heart, then proper deeds will follow. Of course, we can have many impressive works to our names and yet still lose out. The deeds mean nothing if done from a wrong heart or motive. Job performed wonderful deeds — he "feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1) — but vanity and self-righteousness were also in his heart and had to be corrected. I Corinthians 13:1-3 lists some pretty impressive actions and abilities. We might think that one who has the faith to move a mountain, to give all he possesses to charity or to sacrifice his very life must be spiritual. Yet Paul says that it all counts for nothing if the heart isn't right. It profits nothing (verse 3)! The religious leaders of Jesus' day never quite learned this. They thought all their good deeds by themselves earned them a great reward. But their attitude was wrong. Their motivation was one of get or self. They wanted others to think well of them. They made long prayers for a show and pretense (Matthew 6:5), not because they truly wanted to talk to God. They were, in short, hypocrites who wanted people to think that they were righteous and special. In Matthew 23:28 Jesus soundly condemned their motives: "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." They might have fooled some people, but they never fooled God, for God looks upon the heart. We today can take a lesson from those religious leaders. Is our religion nothing more than an attempt to make ourselves look good to others? Remember, God is looking on your heart.
God's own heart
Mr. Armstrong has stated that the cause of all the world's problems is spiritual in nature. It is a problem of spiritual heart disease — of hearts set against God's way — unconverted and unchanged hearts. Before we can help God establish His way of life on earth, we have to have a complete change of heart, spiritually, just as Lewis Washkansky and others did physically. Our hearts have to become like God's heart — perfect. King David was called a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). I Kings 11:4, Authorized Version, says David's heart was perfect. What does this mean? David made big mistakes. But when he did, his heart, or conscience, made him see his errors. David's basic drive was to obey God. We read of David's murder of Uriah and his adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11), but we also read of how badly David felt when the enormity of the sin was shown him (II Samuel 12:13). From deep inside, David wanted to go God's way. Since he was still flesh and blood he sometimes failed, as we all do. But in his heart he wanted to totally obey and please God. God knew He could still work with David, even after he sinned, because David's heart was right. By contrast, David's son Solomon had his heart turned by his many wives and concubines (I Kings 11:1-6), and his evil heart resulted in evil deeds, of which he apparently did not repent (verses 9-10). A person with a pure heart wants to please God. He sees the intent behind God's laws. He doesn't want to see how far he can go in ignoring God's way — how many of God's commands he can get away with breaking — how close he can get to this world's evil ways and still be considered a Christian. Instead, he understands more fully every day that God's law is a positive principle to be applied, a way of life that produces every good. That is why Jesus magnified God's law and said that a man lusting after a woman "has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Even though a man might not physically commit the act, since his attitude is that of wanting to commit adultery, the lust becomes the same as the actual deed of adultery. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As he thinks in his heart, so is he."
What does God see?
When God looks on you, does He see a pure heart? What does your attitude say about you? How can you tell what your attitude and your heart are like? Remember that we can fool even ourselves if we are not careful. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Proverbs 28:26 states, "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool." Proverbs 21:2 tells us that "every way of man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts." We need to know how to see what God sees when He looks at our hearts. To find out what God sees, we need to go to His Word. Hebrews 4:12 says God's Word is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." We can use God's Word as a mirror to show us where our hearts, motives and attitudes are falling short of the mark.
What is uppermost on our minds? If physical pursuits — job, home, wealth — occupy first place rather than God's work and our calling, we have a spiritually diseased heart.
What is uppermost on our minds? If physical pursuits — our hobbies, job, car, home, material wealth — occupy first place in our minds rather than God's work and our Christian calling, we have a spiritually diseased heart. What do we talk about most? What fruits are we producing in our lives (Matthew 12:33)? Maybe we do often fall short. But all is not lost. When David came to full repentance after the incident with Bathsheba, he made some significant statements. In Psalm 51:1-9 he fully admitted the horror of his sins and begged God to purge him from them. We, too, need to come to full, deep, heartfelt repentance and ask God to clean us up. In verse 10 (A V) David stated: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." Deep repentance involves a change of heart. Without a change of heart, we cannot truly please God. To acquire a pure heart, we have to go to the source of all purity and righteousness — God Himself. We cannot make our hearts pure by ourselves. We need God's help through His Holy Spirit. When it comes to purifying our hearts, God does not do repair surgery. He does a spiritual heart transplant! He wants us to have a brand new heart — a pure heart. That is accomplished by the gift of the Holy Spirit upon repentance, baptism and our decision to follow God's lead through the Holy Spirit. In a physical heart transplant, both the patient and the surgeon have important roles to play. The surgeon has to be thoroughly skilled. The patient has to have a positive attitude and his body has to accept the new heart. Unfortunately, in many human heart transplants, the patient doesn't live long because his body rejects the new heart. In the same way, we have to want the new, pure heart from God and accept it. We must let our new, godly heart lead us and give us new life. Remember what Jesus said? "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). In one sense, once we are converted and have received our new heart — once we have God's laws written in our hearts and minds — we can already "see God" now. We can understand more about the way He thinks and operates (Job 42:5), and we can begin to think and operate that way ourselves. But in the ultimate sense, we will literally see God in His coming Kingdom, when we are changed to divine spirit beings (I John 3:1-3). Notice especially verse 3: "Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." Blessed indeed are the pure in heart, for they, and only they, shall see God!