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Diagnosing Heart Disease


      According to the American Heart Association, “71,300,000 American adults [have] one or more types of cardiovascular disease.”[1] In fact, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. In like manner, the number one destroyer of Christians today is spiritual heart disease. As we fight our battle against Satan, he is taking aim for our hearts. Sadly, it is easy to get distracted by symptoms and work solely on band-aid solutions when the real problem is in the heart (Acts 8:21). Sin is almost always a manifestation of spiritual heart disease and until the heart is fixed, nothing else will help.


I.         Seven deadly diseases of the heart.

A.      The doubting heart—In Hebrews 3:12, the Israelites lacked faith in God’s power and promises. Because of their doubt, they tested God, complained against God and turned to idolatry. Moses could have taught against murmuring, rebellion and idolatry, but the root problem was a heart problem. They had doubting hearts. How many of our sins are caused because of doubt?

B.     The dirty heartMatthew 23:27-28 shows that the Pharisees tried to clean up their actions enough to look righteous. However, they allowed all manner of impurity to remain in their hearts. As Peter taught, they had hearts trained in evil practices (II Peter 2:14). As Paul taught in Ephesians 2:1-3, when we were in the world, we were trained in evil. Jesus could simply have listed the actions of the Pharisees and taught against them, like devouring widows’ houses. But, the real problem was a heart problem. They had dirty, unclean hearts. How many of our sins come because we allow uncleanness in our hearts?

C.     The distracted heartJames 5:5 rebukes the wealthy oppressors because their hearts had been fattened by pleasure and luxury. Their hearts were distracted from God because they were focused on material goods. Jesus described this in Matthew 6:19-21. Those who are distracted by material goods will find their hearts bound up in this world. James could have condemned those men for being oppressive. But, he pointed out that the real problem was a heart problem. They had distracted hearts. How many of our sins are based out of a distracted heart?

D.     The distant heart—In Matthew 15:3-9, Jesus said these people honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. Their hearts were distant from God because they were stuck on themselves, doing what they wanted to do. Amazingly, they did not say, “Who cares about God’s law?” Instead, they looked at the law of God, read it to go along with what they wanted and then acted as if they were serving God. They deceived themselves. Jesus could have simply condemned the Pharisees for not honoring their parents. But the root issue was a heart issue. They had distant hearts. How many of our sins come because we deceive ourselves into believing we are following God, when really our hearts are distant from Him?

E.     The discouraged heart—Paul speaks of this disease twice in II Corinthians 4:1, 16, saying that he and his companions had avoided it. It is also mentioned in Galatians 6:9, when Paul said we should not grow weary of doing good. The discouraged heart is one that simply gets tired of fighting the good fight and keeping the faith. It sees the pain we endure, the rejection we face, the injustice with which we are treated and simply wants to back off and blend in. Paul could rebuke these Christians for being like the world. But the real problem was a heart problem. These people had discouraged hearts. How many of our sins are caused by discouragement?

F.      The dead heart—John speaks of this disease in I John 3:17. One brother sees another in need, but closes off his heart against him. His heart is without feeling and compassion—it is dead. This disease is different from the others in that it more directly relates to our relationship with one another. But it also impacts our relationship with God. As John further reveals in I John 4:20-21, we cannot claim to love the Lord, if we do not love our brethren. John could simply rebuke these Christians for being materialistic. But the real problem is a heart problem. These Christians had dead hearts. How many of our sins come because we have closed our hearts?

G.     The dull heart—This disease is spoken of more than any other. It is called the uncircumcised heart, the impenitent heart, the blind heart, the hardened heart. When any of the other heart diseases are allowed to continue for any length of time, this disease will creep in. It is the heart that has become so affected by disease that it is not to be penetrated by the Word of God. In fact, the preaching of the word, instead of curing this disease makes it even more diseased. Jesus spoke specifically of this in Matthew 13:14-15. When you read the original context of this quote in Isaiah 6:9-10, you find that the preaching of God’s truth was actually dulling the people’s eyes, ears and hearts. Because they were erecting their defenses, they learned how to ignore the heart prick of God’s word. The more it was preached, the more they defended themselves, dulling their hearts to God’s pleas. These people could be rebuked for so many sins. But the root problem is a heart problem. They had dull hearts. How many of our sins continue because we have dulled our hearts to God’s message?

II.       Overcoming these diseases.

A.      We must ask God to cleanse our hearts. In Psalm 51:10, David sought God’s cleansing. The reality is, without God we are destined to die of heart failure. But God will work in us and with us to cleanse, purify and heal our hearts. Further, we must constantly seek God’s strength and help to maintain that purity asking God to incline our hearts away from evil and to His will (Psalm 141:4; I Kings 8:58).

B.     We must start with the heart. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they did not concern themselves with cleansing the heart. The extent of their work was on making the outside look good (Matthew 23:25-26). But before the outer man will truly be pure, we must purify the inward man.

C.     We must have purpose of heart. In Acts 11:23, Paul encouraged the brethren to have “purpose of heart” (NKJV). We must purpose in our hearts to do what is right. We must make plans to do what is right. Too often, heart disease continues because people never make plans about how to live, they simply live in the moment and do whatever they feel like doing right then.

D.     We must have singleness of heart. In Acts 2:46, the early disciples were described as having singleness (KJV) of heart. We cannot serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). We cannot serve both God and anything. We must not let our hearts be divided between two masters, but devote our hearts wholly, singly, simply and sincerely to God (Matthew 22:37).

E.     We must spend time in the Word of God. According to Ephesians 6:14, the breastplate of righteousness protects our hearts. But righteousness comes from the discipline of God’s word (II Timothy 3:16-17). Further, faith, which overcomes doubt and discouragement, comes by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). We will never cure heart disorders separate from the Bible. Colossians 1:9-12 demonstrates that God strengthens us through knowledge.

F.      We must renew our hearts. Instead of having a heart that is fashioned after and trained by the world, we are to be different, transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:20-24). Acts 13:22 describes David, providing the picture of what we need to do with our hearts. We must fashion our hearts after God’s. We must think as God thinks, view things as God views things and maintain the standards that God maintains.

G.     We must filter what goes into our hearts. Mark 7:18-23 said that the foods people eat do not matter because they enter the stomach, not the heart. This demonstrates that we do need to be concerned regarding what goes into our hearts, because what goes into our heart will come out (Proverbs 4:23). Philippians 4:8 provides great advice for what we should allow to enter our hearts—things that are true, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, etc.

H.     We must open our hearts to one another. In II Corinthians 7:2, Paul directed the Corinthians to open their hearts to them. We are to accept one another (Romans 15:5-7). That is we should have feeling for one another, compassion for one another, comforting one another. We should be looking out for one another. As Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4, we should view others as more important than ourselves, looking out for their interests. Further we need to be encouraging each other, helping each other overcome the diseases of the heart (Hebrews 3:13).


      Heart disease is the number one killer in America—but spiritual heart disease is the number one killer in Christ’s church. May God strengthen us to overcome, making our hearts whole. May we incline our hearts to God and grab hold of His promises without doubting.


Glory to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Franklin Church of Christ