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; they communicate instantly, and work in perfect coordination. One would perish without the other. One specializes in intellectual pursuits all day while the other pumps iron. These two allies work tirelessly for a lifetime without ever taking a vacation or a day off. Even the slightest interruption of their labors would be catastrophic, so they never sleep. They’re both exactly the same age, inhabit the same territory, and never rest. 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.
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. Sometimes it is 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.” We are reminded in Proverbs 4:23 to “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
We read about joy in the Bible, but we meander throughout the day with low spirits. We hear a sermon about patience; but before the day is out, we’ve lost our temper. We become engrossed with the study of biblical prophecy about the End Times, but somehow we don’t share the Gospel with those in our neighborhood should He come today. We read a book on Christian parenting, but we can’t find time to read the Scriptures to our children or pray with them at bedtime. We teach a Sunday school lesson about stewardship and tithing, and then overspend on our credit card for something that we’ve been wanting.
In Matthew 23, Jesus 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! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones . . . 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. In other words, always 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? Application requires meditation. We have to contemplate specific verses, pondering them and ruminating over them until they inform our thinking and affect our perspectives and personalities.
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. Keep me from overreacting today, from speaking with irritation. 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 Bible has to saturate our personalities. The Holy Spirit wants to convert the words of Scripture into transformed personalities. Head knowledge without heart knowledge is worse than useless; but when head and heart join forces, it changes our lives forever.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point for God, and serves as Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.