Trimming the Sails of Your Heart

The heart is the heart of the matter.

Trimming Your Sails (2)

“The heart
is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17.9, 10

You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. 2 Corinthians 6.12

The heart of the matter
Everything in human life begins in the heart. I don’t mean the physical heart, which pumps blood throughout our bodies. Rather, I mean the heart as it is spoken of in Scripture, the immaterial and spiritual, affective aspect of the soul. While there is a good bit of functional overlap in the components of the soul – as there is also in the divine Trinity – yet three distinct aspects are mentioned in Scripture. These are the heart, the mind, and the conscience; and we are considering these as “masts” in our spiritual vessel, from which all manner of “spiritual canvas” drapes to catch the Wind of God.

We cannot speak of the heart in “scientific” terms, as though it were a material entity which could be observed, manipulated, studied, and controlled by physical means. But that does not mean we cannot speak of it truthfully and really. The heart is spiritual in essence, and it is the foundational aspect of the soul and, thus, of all of life. The heart is the heart of the matter where our lives and journey with the Lord are concerned. Thus, Solomon advises us to “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4.23). The sails of the heart capture the holy affections which the Spirit blows into our soul. Those affections steer and shape everything else in our life. We need to keep a close watch on our heart, to make sure that only the right affections are operating there.

That was the problem Paul had to deal with in Corinth. The churches in Corinth were plagued with all kinds of problems – immorality, schism, spiritual smugness, immaturity, vengefulness, and more. They were not experiencing full and abundant life, as Jesus promised; rather, they were slipping back into carnal and fleshly ways, and losing their identity as the Body of Christ. What was holding them back? What was restricting them from making progress in their walk with the Lord?

Their own misguided affections. They had allowed ill winds of self-interest, tribalism, doctrinalism, and more to settle in the sails of their souls. They sought glory for themselves rather than for God alone. To get back on course, they would need to recover those true affections which God sends to shape and direct us, chief among these being love (1 Cor. 13).

Watch what you love
We have said that the heart unfurls three primary sails to catch the Wind of God – desire, delight, and love. Many other affections can also be found on the mast of the heart, including fear, compassion, kindness, anger (righteous), and more. But these three – desire, delight, and love – are the primary sails. If we can keep ill winds of false doctrine from filling them, the other affections will function as God intends.

We must with all diligence keep a close watch on what we desire, what gives us delight, and what we love. The Wind of God – His Holy Spirit – intends that we should desire above all else that God be glorified in everything we do (1 Cor. 10.31; 1 Thess. 2.12). When God is glorified, His Presence becomes known, a glimpse of His beauty is realized, His wisdom comes to light, the fruit of the Spirit flourishes, evil and wickedness are banished, and Jesus presents Himself to the world, even in our smallest deeds or softest words.

We learn to desire the glory of God by concentrating on it, until we love the glory of God above all things, and thus desire to know and express it as often as we can. We see the glory of God in all His Word, of course. But we can also see the glory of God throughout creation (Ps. 19.1-14). In both God’s Word and His world, we may glimpse the majesty, greatness, grandeur, power, wisdom, and care of God, and know His Presence weighing against us fearfully yet joyfully. And especially when His Word and world enlarge our vision of Jesus, then we see more clearly, in human terms, what forms the glory of God takes.

The more we gaze to see the glory of God in these ways, the more desirable it will become to us. The more we desire God’s glory – especially as it presents in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4.6) – the more we will seek and know it. The more we know God’s glory, experiencing His Presence, the more we will delight in it. And the more we delight in it, the more again we will seek it, until desiring and seeking and delighting in the glory of God combine to set love for God and His glory as the defining affection in our heart.

But we must watch over our hearts with all diligence, making sure that lesser and perhaps even sinful desires are not finding a home there (Ps. 139.23, 24).

Love what is best
Since we know that the glory of God is the supreme good which brings fullness, righteousness, peace, joy, and grace into our soul, loving the glory of God must be our supreme desire.

But we’ll have to work at this, first, by understanding the glory of God and learning to experience His glory in Scripture and creation. This is the work of reading, meditation, conversation, prayer, waiting on the Lord, and increasing in the likeness of Jesus Christ. We’ll need to take constant inventory of all the other “loves” that compete for a place in our heart. Some of these, of course, will be legitimate, as for example, love for your spouse and children. But even Jesus taught us that love for these must not supersede love for God and His glory. We must put all our loves in proper perspective, asking, in effect, “How can I love this person so that the glory of God is evident in how I feel, what I say, and how I act?” We must look through those we love until we can see the glory of God coming to expression in our love for them; then we may act in confidence that God will be glorified by what we do or say.

But we can become deceived in our hearts, given that remnants of sin yet reside here. So if we cannot see God’s glory coming through in anything we might desire or delight in, then it may be that these are interloping winds of doctrine, ill winds which, should we continue to desire and delight in them, may cause our affections to go awry, thus diverting us from our course in Jesus and restricting us from His best for our lives.

What do you love? Do you know? Do you delight in things God delights in, so that you desire them increasingly? You will keep the sails of your soul well-trimmed as you watch over your heart and train it to desire, delight in, and love God and His glory above all else.

For reflection

1. God has made us to seek, know, and manifest His glory. Why?

2. How can prayer, planning, and preparation help us to trim the sails of our heart?

3. How can you know when your affections, rather than serving you for God’s glory, are restricting you from full and abundant life in Jesus? What should you do then?

Next steps – Preparation: Meditate on Psalm 139.23, 24. Wait on the Lord in silence as you follow the counsel of these verses. Set your heart to desire, delight in, and love the glory of God for everything you will do this day.

T. M. Moore

All the studies in this Winds of Doctrine series are available by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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