Let’s start with a riddle: What two partners live less than two feet apart but never meet? They’re both CEOs of vast organizations with overlapping jurisdictions; yet they remain best of friends, communicate instantly and work in perfect coordination. Even the slightest interruption of their labors would be catastrophic, so they never sleep. Their combined efforts keep us alive and well.
I’m talking, of course, about your brain and your heart. They both oversee complex systems that are necessary for life: the nervous system and the circulatory system. From before our birth until the moment we go to be with the Lord, they’re on the job. Their first “day off” will occur at the moment of death; but then on Resurrection Day, they’ll be up and at it again in our new and glorified bodies.
The human brain is the single most complex apparatus of all God’s vast creative genius. It’s the center of our nervous system and contains billions of neurons, each having thousands of synaptic connections.
Our hearts are smaller than our brains, but no less impressive. In an average lifetime, the heart contracts and relaxes two and a half billion times without stopping to rest. Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
But the relationship between head and heart isn’t just physiological. The Bible speaks of the brain as the center of our thinking and has much to say about the condition of our minds. The heart represents our affection, emotion and personality. The first of the 987 occurrences of the word “heart” in the Bible is in Genesis 6:5, when the Lord “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Conversely, the Bible tells us to believe in our hearts that God has raised Christ from the dead, for “with the heart one believes unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10).
The Dachshund dilemma
But we’re often dogged by the “Dachshund dilemma.” Dachshunds are typically good-natured, but they scramble around looking like foot-long hotdogs on little legs. Well, there’s an anonymous poem about these dogs that says:
There was once a dachshund so long
It hadn’t any notion
How long it took to notify
Its tail of its emotion.
And so it was that while his eyes
Were filled with woe and sadness
His little tail went on and on
Because of previous gladness.
The point is that it’s sometimes hard to get the message from our heads to our hearts. It’s possible to have “head knowledge” of God and His Word without its filtering down into “heart knowledge.”
This was the primary point of the sternest sermon Jesus ever preached. In Matthew 23, He censured the scribes and Pharisees for studying the Law without applying it to their lives. In verses 27-28, He said graphically, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
To avoid the trap of the Pharisees, we’ve got to guard the interconnection between our thoughts and our attitudes.
That takes full-fledged Bible study. Whenever you read a passage in the Bible for your own nourishment or to teach others, your study must include observation, interpretation and application. Approach every passage in scripture with three questions: (1) What does it say? (2) What does it mean? (3) What does it mean to me?
It also takes prayer. Suppose you’re reading through Proverbs and come to chapter 15: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” One of the most effective ways of getting that verse circulating through your system is by turning it into a prayer: “Lord, teach me the secret of the soft answer. Remind me in advance that harsh words increase the anger in the one with whom I’m speaking.”
It also takes commitment. We have to use our mind to put the Bible into practice and to commit ourselves to trust its promises and obey its commands.
Salvation must be experienced. The Holy Spirit wants to convert the words of scripture into transformed personalities. Head knowledge without heart knowledge is worse than useless; when head and heart join forces, it changes our lives forever.
Do as the Bible says: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only!” (James 1:22).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.)