You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. (Mark 12:30)

  A pious but cranky lady was greatly annoyed because her neighbors forgot to ask her to go with them on a picnic. On the morning of the event they suddenly realized that they had neglected to invite her, so they sent one of the children to ask her to come along. "It's too late now," she snapped. "I've already prayed for rain!" (Our Daily Bread, March 21, 1964). That incident reflects the nature of the human heart.

  "Heart" can refer to a number of things. The unbeliever's heart is deceitful, desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9), and foolish, darkened in willful refusal to honor God (Romans 1:21). It may be dull, refusing to comprehend (Acts 28:27). In constantly ignoring God's wooing grace the unregenerate person's heart is stubborn and unrepentant, storing up judgment from God (Romans 2:5).

  Heart also refers to moral decisions: the unbeliever's heart is trained to be greedy (2 Peter 2:14). Or it may reflect desire: the man who looks on a woman with adulterous thoughts has committed sin in his heart (Matthew 5:28).

  The heart may also express the will-for good or evil (Matthew 6:21; 12:34). The Lord moves upon the will of the believer by "opening the heart" (Acts 16:14), and there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles-God cleanses both their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9). The heart reflects moral decisions when believers love one another (1 Thessalonians 3:13). The regenerate heart shows emotion by rejoicing at the resurrection of Christ (John 16:22). But the apex of the regenerate heart is the ability to love God (Mark 12:30). That is the supreme service of the heart.

  How can I have a heart that responds righteously? First by believing in Christ as an act of the will (Romans 10:10). Christ then comes to "settle down and be at home in my heart" (Ephesians 3:17). He not only takes up residence in my heart-He makes Himself at home. That means that in my thoughts, desires, moral decisions Christ is at the forefront. Above all else, my heart's desire is to please Him.

  LESSON: The unbeliever has a heart dominated by sin and the old nature, whereas the believer has a regenerate heart that desires to please God.