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Priority on the Heart - Part 1


Note: This post is part 1 of a 3-part series. Click here to read part 2.


In a previous post, I wrote with the premise that those who have been touched by the Messiah are given a missional mandate to have restorative and generational impact, as found in Isaiah 61:1-4. If we aren’t careful, we can conclude that this “touch of the Messiah” is a single, comprehensive touch. But the reality for those in Christ is that they have been touched by the Messiah, are being touched by the Messiah, and will be continually touched by the Messiah. Because our sanctification is ongoing, we will continually experience freedom and healing in our lives as a result of Jesus’ work and the present ministry of the Holy Spirit. The ongoing nature of this experience is important because we don’t communicate things with which we have little-to-no experience. So, as we experience the work of Jesus, we are able to share it with those around us because it is personal, meaningful, and ongoing. In other words, as we are progressively healed and restored by Jesus, we get to show a hurting world what it looks like to experience healing and restoration (2 Corin. 1:3-4). A lot of the continual healing and restoration we experience results from the process of uncovering, unpacking, and dealing with the idols of our heart. 

At a recent training, I was introduced to a helpful process to allow the Holy Spirit to uncover, unpack, and deal with the idols of the heart. This post is the first in a series that will explain what I learned during this training, which includes an analogy, accompanying principles, and an exercise to apply it all.

Before explaining the analogy, I want to clarify what I mean by “idol of the heart”. This refers to something that is constructed as an object of worship to which we bow down in order to find value, meaning, or control. Other common references are sinful lusts of the heart, sinful cravings of the heart, solutions to problems without God, or distorted affections. I will often use the term “distorted affection” in the following articles. I do this because we all have desires, longings, and affections that are good. However, if we are not careful these affections can be easily perverted and twisted into the driving force that informs our beliefs about God and ourselves. My aim in this series is to provide a framework where we can more easily identify and deal with the idols, or distorted affections, of our heart. 

Priority on the Heart Analogy

Before going to work I get into an argument with my wife. My workday is full of stressful circumstances and events. On my way home from work I get a flat tire, and when I finally get home, my children are quarrelling. To top it off, I don’t like what we are having for dinner. As a result of these trials, I reach a breaking point and shout at my children and become harsh towards my wife. I justify my responses because of the day that I experienced. 

Let’s consider for a moment three things: hot water, a tea bag, and the brew from the tea bag. Hot water represents the circumstances of life, most often noticed in difficulties and trials. The tea bag represents our heart. And the brew represents our responses to the circumstances and difficulties of life, which ultimately reflect what is in our heart. We can take this analogy one step further by identifying where the hot water, or circumstances of life, comes from. God is the ultimate hot water pourer, meaning that he is sovereign over all of the circumstances of our life, including the trials and difficulties. 

In the example above, the hot waters of my day include the argument with my wife, the stress from my workday, the flat tire, my quarrelling children, and the not-so-great dinner. Throughout the day, my tea bag, or heart, is continually bulging with difficult circumstances until finally my response to those hot waters causes the condition of my heart to come on display. The sour brew of anger and harshness reveals the contents of my tea bag and the reality of my heart condition. 


The goal of the priority on the heart analogy is to aid us in uncovering, unpacking, and dealing with the distorted affections of our heart. The process of being continually touched by the Messiah is connected to our engagement with and proper acknowledgement of our heart conditions. So, we must become more fluent in addressing the conditions of our hearts. A helpful starting point is to identify the hot waters in our lives. This initial step is important because it helps to separate the circumstance from our response to it. Notice from the above scenario that my justification for the blowup towards my family incorrectly associated the circumstances of my day as the reason for my response. 

This week, take time to begin the process of uncovering, unpacking, and dealing with the distorted affections of your heart by identifying the circumstances that prove to be hot water for you. In the next post, we will take the next steps in the process by considering five principles that help us further uncover, unpack, and deal with the idols of our heart. 

Further Reflection 

The tea bag analogy is not the only way to think about the condition of your heart. In fact, there are other really helpful tools and ways to think about the same process. The following are resources for further exploration:


Click here to continue reading part 2.

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