A Good Heart
A GOOD HEART
If your life is to withstand the storms of life, you must have the heart for it. Our Lord comes to the matter of the
heart in this closing part of His famous sermon. He would focus our attention on the necessity of a good heart.
What does Jesus mean by "heart"? Obviously, He did not mean the physical organ that pumps the blood through
your body. Rather He referred to that inner you, the center of you as an intelligent, volitional, and emotional being.
It is that part of you that decides, thinks, and feels. It is eternally important that that inner you be filled and
overflowing with goodness.
We need this word of Jesus. Many of us have been guilty of some rather shallow thinking about ourselves. If we
can comprehend this word of Jesus, it could lead to a new life.
I. THE HEART DETERMINES CONDUCT
This could be called THE LAW OF THE HEART. Jesus states it in the absolute form. He sets this forth as something
that will always be true.
A. The Example from Nature
Our Lord viewed nature as being filled with spiritual lessons. He turns to nature for an example of this law of the
heart. "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit." The law of nature is that the
nature of the tree will determine the fruit that it bears. Jesus can state it emphatically that "a good tree does not
bear bad fruit." The reason He is so sure is the working of this irrevocable law.
If you have a tree in your yard that is bearing faulty, sour, useless fruit, you do not hold the fruit responsible. You
do not take the fruit in the house, and doctor it. You know automatically that the problem is with the tree. The
nature of the tree determines the quality of the fruit.
B. The Application to the Heart
"A good man out of the good treasures of his heart brings forth what is good." Man is like the tree. The condition of
his heart determines his conduct. Just as the nature of the tree is so critical to fruit so the nature of the human
heart is critical to conduct.
This insight should help us. We often blame our conduct on our circumstances. While circum¬stances can
definitely influence conduct, the conduct is ultimately determined by the heart. This is demonstrated by the fact that
not everyone responds to the same circumstance in the same way. The heart determines the response. I became
painfully aware of this as a young pastor. I was called on to minister to a family when a teen age girl died with a
brain tumor. It was a real time of testing for the family. The Christian mother in the family responded to the crisis
with faith and hope. She rose up to be a comfort to many who came to offer her comfort. But I watched an older
brother respond with bitterness. I heard him curse God for the tragedy that had befallen his family. The
circumstances did not determine the conse¬quence, but the heart did.
We cannot blame our conduct on others. We do what we do because of what we are. Others may influence our
conduct, but ultimately our heart determines it. The reason we can be so easily influenced to do evil is that we have
a heart problem. Judas cannot blame his conduct on the priests who bribed him to betray the Lord. He responded
to their offer because of the condi¬tion of his heart.
So, the law of the heart would say to us that if we are to ever do good we must be good. Our heart determines our
II. OUR CONDUCT REVEALS OUR HEART
This is the part of our Lord's lesson that becomes painful when we apply it. It is a sobering truth to realize that our
words and deeds actually reveal our hearts.
A. The Example in Nature
Again, Jesus uses that law of nature to illustrate this truth. "For every tree is known by its fruit. For men do not
gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush." The fruit identifies the tree.
When we moved into our home in Lubbock, we made some tree discoveries. Neither my wife nor I could qualify as
horticulturists. Indeed we know very little about trees. I am especially ignorant of the special trees which you buy at
the nursery to use in landscaping. To our surprise one of the trees in our yard began to put on fruit. At first we
could not tell what kind of fruit it was. We thought it might be plums, but it soon became obvious that they were not
plums. In a few weeks we discovered that we had an apricot tree. The fruit enabled us to identify the tree. We know
the tree by its fruit.
B. THE APPLICATION TO LIFE
"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth what is good; and an evil man out of the evil
treasure of his heart brings forth what is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." You
determine the heart of a man by observing his deeds and listening to his words. Or better, you determine the
condition of your own heart by considering your deeds and listening to your words. These reveal the conditions of
In the context of the sermon Jesus may have still been speaking of the critical, judgmental spirit which He has
forbidden. Truly a censorious spirit reveals a heart that is void of love and mercy. Our conduct reveals our heart.
Do we dare accept this as truth? This would trace your immorality to your heart. It would trace your dishonesty to
your heart. It would trace your blasphemy to your heart. This was an insight that shattered the pride of the young
Saul of Tarsus. As he reported on his conduct in the Roman letter, he wrote, "For I know that in me (that is, in my
flesh) nothing good dwells." (Rom. 7:18) "Flesh" is just another word for the human heart apart from the influence
of God. Saul was forced to admit the condition of his heart as he evaluated his conduct. So it is with each of us
our conduct reveals our heart.
III. A CHANGE OF HEART BRINGS A CHANGE OF CONDUCT
If conduct reveals a bad heart, a change of heart is the only remedy. It would be foolish to focus your attention on
the bad fruit from the tree. To change the fruit you must change the tree. To improve the fruit you must improve the
tree. To get different conduct from your life you must have a different heart. To get different words from your lips
you must have a different heart.
A. THE POSSIBILITY OF CHANGE
Jesus does not discuss this in our text. Rather His words are designed to help us acknowledge our need of change.
But the scripture surely confirms that there is the possibility of experiencing a true change of heart.
The Old Testament prophets often spoke of this possibility. Ezekiel admonished, "Rid your¬selves of all the
offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit.'' (Ezekiel 18:31) Jeremiah made such a change
of heart a basic part of the new covenant. The Lord promised, "I will put my law in their mind and write it on their
hearts.'' (Jeremiah 21:33) In another place the Lord declared, "I will give them a new heart.''
Jesus presented this possibility when He spoke to Nicodemus of the new birth. The change brought about by the
new birth is essentially a change of heart. While in nature change may not be possible, a change of heart is
possible for man. The Creator of man is able to give him a new heart.
B. THE PLAN FOR CHANGE
How does this change take place? Since it is a work of God, what can man do? The only thing man can do is admit
his need for a change, and ask God in faith for it. David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, 0 God, and renew a
right spirit in me." When you come to God with a genuine desire for a new heart, the great Redeemer Creator does
a supernatural work in the heart. He gives you a new heart.
The truth we need to see is that this is the only possibility of changing our conduct. The heart must first be
If you are to be ready for the storms, you must have a "good heart." The sign that you have such a heart is in the
word and deeds of your life. if you need a change of heart, do not delay. Let me urge you to come to the Great
Heart Specialist, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will give you a new heart today.