The engine light. Its presence, when lit up on the dashboard of my car, almost instantly causes my stomach to churn and my blood pressure to rise. When that light goes on nine times out of ten it’s a problem, and that problem means time, money, and hassle. I want so badly to ignore it, to pretend it will just go away on its own, but it’s only a matter of time before my wife or children see it and ask, “What are you going to do about it?”
Keeping our vehicles in good shape is a necessity. They are expensive, and they are necessary in our busy lives that require us to travel several miles every day. A broken-down vehicle places us in an interesting dilemma- we may not be able to afford to fix it, but we also can’t afford to live without it!
Proper maintenance of a vehicle requires discernment in recognizing the signs of an internal problem. Generally speaking, there are three ways we know there’s a problem. First, we might see the problem, as in noticing the engine or other dashboard warning light come on. We might see smoke coming from the hood, or a flat tire. Second, we might hear something. It might be a rattling noise when driving, or a squeal when starting the engine. Third, we might feel something. We start feeling more bumps or shaking while driving and wonder about the suspension or shocks.
Being vigilant about the condition of our vehicle is important, but how much more infinitely important is vigilance over the condition of our souls? If the stakes are high for ignoring the warning signs of a problem with a vehicle which will inevitably be replaced, how much infinitely higher are the stakes for ignoring the warning signs of a problem with our souls?
This brings us to the relevance of our theme at Oak Grove for the 22-23 school year: “Keep your Heart with all Vigilance.” This theme comes from Proverbs 4:23, and the full verse provides further clarity: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” The word “heart” here translated from the original Hebrew word לֵב (pronounced like “lave”) refers to the inner man, the soul, the seat of appetites, emotions, passions, the will, the character. Clearly, it is the source, the fountainhead, from which everything about who we are and what we do, flows.
The Lord Jesus Christ expands on this insight when speaking to his audience about discerning who is a true servant of God:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:33-34, ESV)
Jesus uses the metaphor of the produce from a fruit tree to explain how to recognize the condition of the heart. Like a tree, you can discern the condition and health of a heart by the quality of what it produces.
Circling back to the vehicle metaphor, I believe that in Jesus’ teachings and throughout Scripture we are given clues for discerning the heart (the condition of our souls) from what we see (our actions), what we hear (our words), and what we feel (our emotions).
For the next three articles, we will take some time to carefully consider each of these clues. Certainly, we cannot afford to ignore these indicators for the condition of our hearts. There’s much more at stake than a broken car- there’s an eternal soul.