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The King of Hearts

According to an online news source, a couple of regular customers of a Loveland, Colorado, fast-food restaurant, ages 52 and 85, ended up in court after disagreeing over a parking space. Assault charges were filed after the younger man swung open the door of his vehicle knocking the older to the ground.

As in all criminal trials, the issue before the court was not only what happened, but why? If the knockdown had been merely accidental, there probably wouldn’t have been a case. What mattered was whether there was evidence for intent and malice, willful recklessness, or undue negligence.

In this instance, there were indications of more than an accident. Witnesses said that while the 85-year-old man was still on the ground, the other man grabbed him and, with a clenched fist, asked if he wanted to fight.

Jurors, therefore, found the accused guilty of felony third-degree assault. Their verdict reflects an important legal principle. Degrees of judicial responsibility are found not only in a hurtful act, but in the state of mind that gives birth to it.

A similar idea shows up in the moral and legal considerations of the Bible. Jesus, for example, describes scales of justice that are sensitive enough to weigh personal motive and intent even when no law appears to be broken. According to the teacher from Nazareth, those who harbor sexual lust are like those who commit adultery; those who have hatred in their hearts are like those who commit murder; and those who take oaths to reinforce their promises are like those who cannot be trusted to keep their word (Matthew 5:21-37).

What is most unnerving about Jesus’ comments, though, is that He didn’t seem to be talking moral idealism and theory. He went so far as to tell His disciples that unless their rightness exceeded the rightness of the religious leaders of their day, they would not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

Why would Jesus make such a severe statement? If He was only looking for a few good people who hadn’t broken the laws of God even in their hearts, where on earth would He find them? If He was going to be that restrictive, why would He present Himself as a friend of sinners, heal all kinds of diseases, and declare the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23-25)?

We don’t have to look far for an explanation. Before Jesus made His case that both guilt and innocence begin in the heart, He made it clear that He had come to bring good news. Consistent with His acts of physical healing, He showed that He had come not to judge but to rescue.

Even though the teacher from Nazareth was not ready to declare Himself the long-awaited King of the Jews, Jesus was giving those who came to see Him reason to know that He was doing more than deepening their sense of morality. By the power of His miracles and by the way He put Himself at the center of His teaching, He was giving them reason to hear Him saying something like,

Only when you lose confidence in yourself will you see your need of Me.

How can I comfort you unless you begin to mourn your attempts to live apart from Me?

Only when you stop fighting Me and give Me permission to begin reordering your inner world will I give you more than you ever hoped for.

I will fill your life to overflowing when you begin to hunger and thirst for the kind of rightness that comes from My heart rather than your own.

Being right with Me will give you a heart of mercy for others.

Mercy will wash the windows of your heart and enable you to see the reassuring presence of God, above, beneath, in, and around you.

Once you begin to see that the battles of your lives are in the hands of your God, you will see why I’m changing your self-protective ways to the heart of a peacemaker.

If this paraphrase of Matthew 5:1-12 captures Jesus’ intent, it shows His desire to be the Savior and King of our hearts. Its progression of thought also reflects a plan. Here we find the wisdom and path Jesus uses to transform our hearts.

The implication of such good news is that none of us need to hire an attorney to defend ourselves in His court. Neither do any of us need to worry about pleading guilty to countless sins of the heart. Our hope and confidence is in His mercy and in giving Him permission to patiently transform our self-centered nature that can no more change itself than a leopard can change its spots.

Father in heaven, in Jesus’ name we want to thank You for so patiently helping us to realize that the intent, plans, and purposes of Your heart are infinitely better than our own.

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13 Responses to “The King of Hearts”

  1. poohpity says:

    I could never imagine anyone any better or more trustworthy to give my broken life and heart to than Jesus. He will not abuse or desecrate but bring transformation of life with peace and joy to give the ability to live abundantly and overflowing with His love. This is a beautiful article about the King of Hearts. Thank you, Deb

  2. poohpity says:

    It probably would have been more to point to say, “This is a beautiful article about the King that changes hearts.”

  3. ml3d says:

    Thanks for the reminder that instead of increasing our morality, He increases our dependence – on Him.

  4. niac says:

    Mart – this “summary” of the points Jesus wants to get over to us about our need for Him so resonates with me that I wish I could have articulated it as well as you have here. Thank you! I have shared your article with several fellow Christians in hopes that they will “get it.” God bless you!

  5. Artle says:

    Seems to be a recurring theme, but then the heart is a recurring focus of scripture. The word heart is used (I think) more in the bible than any other when talking about our relationship with God.

  6. Artle says:

    The word heart pops up in 55 books of the NASB 1995. It is used significantly more times when speaking of our relationship with God than any other word I searched to find (mind, soul, hope, faith, love, pray, believe, etc).

  7. Artle says:

    The expression “all your heart” is sometimes used when telling how we do things. A list of things to do with “all your heart”:

    Search for Him Deuteronomy 4:29 NASB

    Love the LORD your God Deuteronomy 6:5 NASB

    Serve the LORD your God Deuteronomy 10:12 NASB

    Return to the LORD 1 Samuel 7:3 NASB

    Trust in the LORD Proverbs 3:5 NASB

    Rejoice and exult Zephaniah 3:14 NASB

    Love the Lord your God Matthew 22:37 NASB

    Believe Acts 8:37 NASB

  8. Renee Prociw says:

    Only when you stop fighting Me and give Me permission to begin reordering your inner world will I give you more than you ever hoped for.

    I love that and could not say it better. Thanks for this article. Very timely and relevant.

  9. cplus0 says:

    The critical point to convey is that nobody can live up to the standards of “the law” of God. Whether in action or in thought, we all fall short. It is for that very reason that Christ sacrificed himself as a blood atonement for all humankind. Now matter how much we try or how intentional our motives, we fall short. The great lie is that by accepting Christ into our lives we are somehow able to live up to the expectations of God’s commands. If that were possible it would not have been necessary for Christ to die on our behalf. As Paul teaches, we must “believe”. Believe Jesus is who He said he is. Believe He came for the purpose He said He came for. Believe we need to accept His free gift of salvation. Having believed, although our priorities and motives will change, we will still fall short of the measuring rod of righteousness (Christ). We need to understand that we cannot “become” righteous thru our own efforts. We are only viewed as righteous through the blood of Christ. It is critical we not mislead ourselves or others. Rather than guilt, it is freedom God bestows to us when we “believe” and accept Christ.

  10. poohpity says:

    Amen, spoken as one who truly understands God’s grace. 1 John 3:23-24 NIV

  11. cplus0 says:

    Thank you. I had the good fortune to cross paths with a “grace” based ministry in my search for the God I had heard about, but had never discovered. At age 53, after cancer surgery and job loss. We recently lost our oldest son in an auto accident. Thank God, Christ is real, especially in times of trial.

  12. poohpity says:

    Yes, I know for myself I lived under grace whole heartedly for the first many years of my relationship with the Lord then after focusing so much on myself through law based teaching which lead to self righteousness lost my way. God being as faithful as He is and praying brought me back to grace where our eyes are focused on Jesus. Just like Peter focusing on Jesus was able to do something against the natural in walking on water, as we focus on Jesus we can do things against the natural. Anger, malice, hatred, condemnation, judgement, depression and so many other things are what is natural to man that which is not natural is patience, kindness, gentleness, humility, joy, peace, resting, trusting and dependence on the unseen but that is what happens when our hearts, minds and all that we are is focused on Jesus, “The King of Hearts”.

  13. poohpity says:

    The law demands righteousness looking to self to live under them while Grace supplies righteousness looking to Jesus. In the Arc of the Covenant were placed the Ten Commandments written on cold stone and above, over that was the seat of Mercy or Atonement and now the Law of Grace is written on our warm hearts. One can see that difference in the lives of those who believe, there are those who have cold stone, condemning hearts or those who have been touched by God’s grace with merciful, welcoming warm hearts.

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