Tonight I want you to turn with me in the 23rd chapter of the book of Proverbs. How many have your Bibles? Lift them up! Way up! Wonderful!
I have two texts tonight, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. And this is the Old Testament text. It is found in Proverbs 23:7, "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he."
Then Matthew, the 12th chapter, and the 35th verse, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."
I want to speak tonight on the heart. What is the heart? Young people always use the heart as a symbol of love. I think almost every young person has had a love affair. If you haven't, there's something wrong with you. You had better check out. Most young people that I know have had love affairs of one sort or another, and you have fallen in love many times by the time you are thirteen.
I had a little girl come to me last night--a beautiful, golden-haired little girl--and she said, "Mr. Graham, I'm in love with you." I said, "Well, that's wonderful." I picked her up in my arms; she was only seven, but a pretty heavy girl for seven. But I have a daughter--I think she is about seven--and she told me the last time I was home that she had a boyfriend. I said, "Fine." I said, "Who is it?" She said, "Pat Boone." I said, "But he is married." She said, "That doesn't make any difference." She said, "I'm just playing like he's my boyfriend." So even in our childhood, we have our love affairs. And the symbol of love has always been the heart.
I can take you to some trees in Mecklenburg County that still have the imprint that I carved. "B.G. plus so-and-so"--with a heart. I will not tell you the name; there were too many. It would take a long time for me to list them all.
The heart has a great place in the Bible. Medical science tells us that the heart beats about 100,000 times every twenty-four hours, and it contracts 4,000 times an hour. Our blood weighs twenty-five pounds, and all of that blood pours through the heart every four minutes. The heart is considered one of the most important organs in the body.
The word "heart" is used all the way through the Bible, but it is considered far more than a bodily organ. The Bible indicates that the heart, used spiritually, religiously, morally, is even more important than that bodily organ in the chest that we call the heart. The Bible teaches that our heart is the seat of our emotions. When we become frightened or excited, we put our hands over our heart. It is the center of our emotions. When you salute the flag, you put your hand over your heart. Why is that? The Bible also indicates that the heart is the seat of decisive action. The Bible says, "The fool [has] said in his heart [that] there is no God" (Psalm 14:1). The Bible says, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). The heart is the seat of beliefs, as well as the base of doubt. Our heart is where life's greatest and basic decisions are made.
Now the Bible also says that the heart is the seed of life. The Bible says your heart shall live forever. Psalm 22:26, "Your heart shall live for ever." The Bible does not say that about your body. The Bible does not say that about your eyes. The Bible does not say that about your hands. The Bible does not say that about your nose. The Bible does not say that about your stomach. And you spend a lot of time on your stomach, feeding your stomach, taking Alka Seltzers, Bisodol, all these things for the stomach.
The Bible indicates that our heart is more important than our body. It is more important than anything else, because the Bible says the heart will live forever. Isn't it a strange thing that we spend all our time on our body, which is so temporary? Our body is going to die and go to the grave and decay, but our heart is going to live forever. We spend ninety-nine percent on the body and very little, if any, on the development of the heart. Yet the Bible says the heart will live forever. A thousand years from tonight your heart will be living. A million years from tonight your heart will be living--the seat of your emotions, the seat of decisive action. Your soul, your spirit, will live forever.
You say, "But, Billy, I don't want to live forever." You have no choice in the matter. The moment you were born you were destined to live forever. Your intelligence, your memory, your ego, your personality, that part of you that is the real "you" was made in the image of God and is destined to live forever.
The Bible indicates that we are to spend most of our time cultivating the heart, building the heart, strengthening the heart. By spiritual action, by study of the Scriptures, by prayer, by witnessing, by fellowship with other Christians, by living for Christ, we are to cultivate and fill the heart, and lay up treasures in heaven. Yet most of us spend our time on the body. Now, do you think that is good business?
Howard Butt(?) has a very successful business. I don't think he would say that it is good business to give so much time to the body. And yet a lot of you fellows are doing it, and you claim to be top businessmen. The Bible calls you a fool. The rich man had gathered bonds. He had gained an estate. He had big insurance policies. He had everything, a lot of money in the bank. And he said to himself, "Soul, take thine ease, drink and be merry. You've laid up many goods for many years. Why don't you take it easy now? Go down to Florida and relax awhile. You've got plenty of money." That night, the Bible says, his soul was required of him. Jesus told the story; I didn't tell it. He said, "Thou fool, this night thy soul is required of thee." That night God struck him down, and God said he was a fool. (See Luke 12:16-21.)
Any man who will spend most of his time on things of material value, and little on the soul or heart, the Bible says he is a fool. Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).
Suppose you became the richest man in North Carolina. Suppose you went to the top of the social ladder. Suppose you could look down your nose at the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers, and suppose you could look down your nose at the queen. That is how far up the social ladder you have gone, but you have lost your soul. "What would it profit you?" said Jesus. Yet you call yourself a good businessman. I tell you, the Bible says you are a fool.
Some little old lady here, and some little old man, haven't made much of an impact on the business world and on the social world. But they have made a tremendous impact on heaven by the godly lives they have lived. God says that is the wise man. He has built his life on a sure foundation. (See Matthew 7:24-27.) What shall it profit a man if he has gained the whole world, and lost his own soul? "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:37).
The heart is the seat of life; it will live forever. The Bible says that "man looketh on the outward appearance, but [God] looketh [upon] the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).
When God looks at you tonight, He does not see the color of your skin. God does not say, "Well, there is a white man, there is a Negro, there is a Chinese, there is an Indian." Oh no, God does not look at you to see how you are dressed. He does not see this policeman's uniform, or the bus driver's uniform. He does not see the type of suit I have. God is not interested in my labels. God does not pick up my pocketbook and see how much money I have got. Almost every night I have had to borrow money for the collection. I put one dollar there tonight.
But God does not look at all that. He does not look at the outward appearance. Where does God look? He looks upon the heart. God wants to see the condition of your heart--not the condition of your checking account, not the condition of your home, not the condition of your clothes. God wants to see the condition of your heart. The fact is that the Bible indicates God is a great physician who looks upon the heart to see how you are inside. The heart is considered a symbol of the entire man.
When Stephen [Stefano] at Colonna fell into the hands of his assailants, and they asked him in derision, "Where now is your fortress?" Stephen placed his hand over his heart and said, "Here is my fortress." They could kill his body, but they could never get to his soul. They could never get to his heart.
Helen Keller, the blind, deaf, and dumb woman, wrote: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, but are just felt in the heart."
When Sir Walter Raleigh had laid his head upon the executioner's block, the officer asked if his head laid right. "It matters little, my friend," Sir Walter said, "how the head lies, provided the heart is right." It did not make any difference to Sir Walter Raleigh if his head was chopped off as long as his heart was right.
You won't care about dying or death if your heart is right. Give your life to Christ, and you have the glorious hope of the resurrection. And you can say with Paul, "To die is gain"
Can you say that tonight, or do you live in dreaded fear of death constantly? Afraid of your own shadow, afraid that they are going to say it is cancer, afraid they are going to say it is heart trouble. How different it is when you can say, "To die is gain, blessed be the name of the Lord. I am ready to go because my heart is right." Is your heart right tonight?
Heart disease is the number one killer in America tonight, and yet the Bible teaches that our spiritual hearts also have a disease. The Bible outlines that disease. The Bible teaches that our hearts are sinful.
First, the Bible says our hearts are full of evil imagination. Proverbs 6:18, "[A] heart that deviseth wicked imaginations." We have imaginations that are evil. Sometimes when somebody does something against us, we might smile at him on the outside; but inside we are sticking a knife in him. You sit and plan traps and snares for your enemy. Or you may have evil imaginations by dreaming daydreams and allowing your mind to wander, or lustful situations where you can give vicarious vent to your lusts. Or you sit and dream how you might make more money, no matter what it costs your soul. Evil imaginations--the Bible says our hearts are filled with it.
Second, the Bible says our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" You tonight are capable of doing things you did not dream you were capable of doing. Why, a young man in New York committed murder last summer when we were there. And he said, "I don't know why I did it." He didn't dream he was capable of taking a knife and plunging it in another man, but he did it. Outside of Jesus Christ your heart is so deceitful that it is capable of anything, and you cannot control it. You do not have will power enough to control your heart, once it gets out of hand, because it is so deceitful it will fool you. At a moment when you think you have control, it will get out of control.
The Bible, thirdly, says our hearts are far from God. Matthew 15:8, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." You go into church on Sunday morning and you sing, "All hail the power of Jesus' name." And then you betray Him during the week because your heart is far from God. "This people," said Jesus, talking about religious people, "This people draw nigh unto me with their lips."
We strut into church like a saint on Sunday morning. We sit down and a halo is on our heads, the wings are sprouting, and we look like an angel sitting there. We get home, we start lashing out at our wives or our husbands, or our children, or our parents. We pick up the pitchfork, the horns begin to grow, and all week long we are like the devil. We lie, we cheat, we engage in immorality. We do all of these things, and then go right back to church on Sunday morning. The Bible says, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart"--because, you see, God does not care what you say. It is the heart, what is in the heart. God sees you as you really are. I see you as you want other people to think you are, but God sees you as you really are.
Jesus said, Mark 7:21,22: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, . . . blasphemy, pride, foolishness." Jesus said, "These . . . things come from within" (verse 23).
The Bible also says that our hearts have been darkened. Romans 1:21, "Because . . . when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were [they] thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." The Bible indicates that sin has darkened our understanding. That is the reason many of the intellectuals in our universities cannot understand the Bible. They throw it aside. They call it foolish.
Some of you who are outside of Christ tonight, who have never really had an experience with Christ, think this Bible is foolish. You laugh at the Bible, you sneer at it, you make fun of it. Why? Because your mind has been darkened by sin. The Bible teaches that you are blind. You can have 20/20 vision, but you are blind toward God. You cannot understand spiritual things. I want to tell you something. If you wait until you can understand the Gospel, you will never come to Jesus Christ. You must come by faith.
I spoke at Wake Forest today, to a great student body in that beautiful new chapel. I told the students, "If you wait until you can understand the Bible intellectually, until you have an intellectual comprehension of God and Christ, you will never come to Christ. You must come by faith. The whole Bible is written about faith." Ninety-two times in the gospel of John it says believe, believe, believe; faith, faith, faith. You must believe.
And faith goes beyond feeling. Some people say, "I don't feel like going forward and receiving Christ." If you wait till you feel like it, you may never come. Some say, "Well, I am going to wait until I can understand more." Then you may never come. You must come by faith. By faith you receive Christ. Thank God, there will be feeling and there will be understanding; because, you see, the Holy Spirit will open up your minds. He will help you to understand.
The Bible teaches that sin defiles the heart, it paralyzes the will, it dulls the conscience. But when you give your life to Christ, the defilement is removed, the conscience is resensitized so that--. The things that used to bother you when you were a child, no longer bother you. When you told a lie, when you had an evil thought, that used to bother your conscience. Now your conscience is so hardened and dead that it does not bother you at all. When you come to Christ, He will resensitize your conscience and make it tender again, so the Holy Spirit can use it in Christian living.
The Bible teaches that our hearts are proud. Psalm 101:5, "Him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer." This is the greatest stumbling block to the kingdom of God--pride. The thing that sends more people to hell than any other sin is not adultery. It is not drinking. It is pride. Pride keeps more people out of the kingdom than any other sin. It was the devil's sin. It was the original sin. It was the sin that was first committed. It was the sin of selfishness and pride, and God hates it. Pride will keep you from coming to Christ.
If you run around with a gang at the high school and you want to come to Christ, but you are afraid of what the gang will say, you are afraid of the price you will have to pay when you go back to the gang, your pride is keeping you from Christ. You've got a boyfriend, and you know that if you come to Jesus Christ you may have to let go of that boyfriend because he is not the right kind of guy. Pride and selfishness keep you from the Savior.
There are some of you who know you ought to come down here and give your life to Christ, but you are an outstanding businessman in this town. And some people may turn up their nose a little bit and wonder at you. So pride keeps you from coming.
There is a woman here who is a social leader. You know you ought to come. God has been speaking to you during the past few weeks. You know you ought to come and give your life to Christ, but pride of your position keeps you from coming.
There are others here who have gone to church for a long time, and your minister does not really know your heart. He cannot see your heart. You are like the person we were reading about of whom Jesus spoke, who served Him with his lips but his heart was far from Him. You are like that person. You know that you are a hypocrite. You know that you have not lived a Christian life. You know you are in a backsliding condition. You know that your heart is cold towards God. But your religious pride will keep you from coming to the Savior because you do not want to admit to man and to God that you have failed, that you are a sinner, and that you need a Savior.
No wonder Jesus said, "Before you can come into the kingdom of heaven, you must become as a little child and become converted" (see Mark 10:15). A little child is a humble child. For you to stop and go back to your childhood and come to Jesus is a hard thing, because you have come a long way since you were a little child. You have grown up. But Jesus said you have to go back to childhood. You have to become humble as a little child to come into the kingdom of God. He said our hearts are proud. He said our hearts are rebellious. Jeremiah 5:23, "This people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone."
Isn't it strange how people today will try anything but God? Why? Because our hearts are rebellious. You see, we rebelled against God in the beginning, and God told us we could not build our world without Him. He told us we could not build a safe society without Him. But we said, "Yes, we can, God. We don't need you." So we set about to build our own world in our own way. And so we built Babylon, and we built Persia, and we built Greece, and we built Rome, and we built Germany, and we built all the nations of the world without God. However, every one of them has fallen. But we still say, "We can do it, Lord."
In 1917 we saved the world for democracy, and we set about through the League of Nations to build a wonderful world. There was going to be no war. "We don't need you, God. We've got it this time, and we have got it licked. The Kaiser is dead." Yet twenty years later the world was at war again. And after World War II we said, "Now Lord, we don't need you anymore. We've got the United Nations now. We're going to build a wonderful world, Lord."
Now fifteen years after the war, we stand on the brink of racial suicide. We have got bombs. We are shaking our fists at each other across the ocean and saying, "There, don't you cross this line, buddy. If you do, you're going to get it." We stand there with our hydrogen bombs and our missiles, glaring at each other, shaking our fists at each other, and shouting denunciations at each other. How long do you think that is going to go on without war? We are just like little boys.
That is what the Bible says. You cannot build a world without God. You cannot build society on a cracked foundation. Our society is built on the cracked foundation of the human heart. The heart has got to be changed. The heart is rebellious against God. As long as it is, we are going to have war. You are going to have a war in your own soul. You are going to have your troubles, your tensions, and your problems, till you get a new heart. The Bible says our hearts can be hardened. The Lord said unto Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is hardened" (Exodus 7:14). You can harden your heart. The Bible warns us not to harden our hearts (see Hebrews 3:8).
When God, the Holy Spirit, speaks as He does at a meeting like this, you had better yield to Jesus Christ, or you will be in danger of hardening your heart. That is a dangerous and a terrible sin. It would have been better for you not to have come here tonight, than to come and listen and go away and do nothing about it, because you put another ring of hardness around your soul and heart.
What is God's attitude toward the heart? The Bible tells us. The Bible tells us in Psalm 44:21 that God knows the heart, "Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart." In Jeremiah 17:10 the Bible says, "I the Lord search the heart." The Bible teaches that God searches the heart. He knows your heart. You cannot hide anything from Him. He knows all the secrets you have got down there. It is out in the open before Him right now.
The Bible says that God ponders the heart. Proverbs 21:2, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts." Think of God holding your heart up now--pondering it, weighing it, studying it, evaluating it, analyzing it. How do you stand up tonight? Is your heart right? What does God say about your heart?
Well, I want to tell you that God says you can have a new heart. You can only have a new heart because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was willing to have a broken heart for you. You know there is an expression all the way through the Bible called "the blood of Jesus." All the way through the Old Testament, you are struck by the fact of how much blood was shed. The Bible says that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (see Hebrews 9:22). Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, there is no remission. Blood must be shed. "It is given to you upon the altar for an atonement [of] your soul," says the Bible in Leviticus (see 17:11).
Blood had to be shed. Why? Because blood is symbolic of the life of Christ. Christ shed His blood from a heart that had been broken by our sins. Because He loved us--and we see the love of God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself--Jesus literally tore out His heart on the cross so that we could have new hearts. And God said, "I'll meet you, but I'll meet you only at the cross." Jesus had to die for our sins. He had to shed His blood.
I have studied this book for twenty years, and I do not see how anybody can get to heaven whose heart has not been washed in the blood of Jesus. "There is no more sacrifice remaining for sin," says the writer to the Hebrews (see 10:26). None. Only in the cross do I find forgiveness and salvation. God makes clear in His Word that if you are to come into the kingdom, if you are to be forgiven, you must come by faith and receive Christ. And if you do that, He will give you a new heart.
Now, the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit has to prepare your heart. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:1, "The preparations of the heart in man . . . is from the Lord." Now, tonight, God is preparing your heart. Your own heart is being prepared. The Holy Spirit is speaking to you. There is a little voice down inside of you right now, speaking. That is the voice of the Holy Spirit. He is warning you. He is rebuking you. He is pointing His finger at you. He is making some of you uncomfortable. It is God, the Holy Spirit, preparing your heart for the entrance of the Gospel of Christ.
Now, the Bible teaches that after your heart has been prepared by the Holy Spirit, such as He is doing tonight, and then you give yourself to Christ tonight, God will give you a new heart. God says that your old heart will not do. He must give you a completely new heart. So the Bible teaches that God does not patch up the old heart, but He gives you a new one. That is the reason Jesus said to Nicodemus, even though he was a religious leader, "Nicodemus, ye must be born again" (see John 3:7).
Have you been born again? Are you sure of it? Have you traded hearts? Have you given God your old heart and received a new heart?
Now, when you come to Christ and receive this new nature and this new heart, the Bible teaches that old things are passed away, that all things have become new (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). You enter into an entirely new dimension of living. You enter into a brand-new life. Christ changes the entire pattern of living, and life becomes one glorious grand adventure. Full of problems and troubles, yes, but peace and joy in the midst of them.
Howard Butt [businessman] told you that he is a new person. Christ has transformed him. Christ has given him a new heart. Has Christ given you a new heart? Are you sure of it? Oh, the joy of a new heart, the song of a new heart! You can be tired and weary, but your heart sings. You can be standing at the grave of a loved one, and the tears may be in your eyes, but your heart is singing. You are like Paul and Silas in prison after they had been beaten. They were singing praises unto God. They could sing in prison. They had hope. They had faith. (See Acts 16:25.) They had everything, because they had new hearts. I ask you tonight: Do you have a new heart?
Jesus said, "A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things" (Matthew 12:35). Which kind of a heart do you have tonight? Let Jesus come in tonight and give you a new heart. He can do it right now. I tell you, there are many of you here tonight who need a new heart. You know it. It would take a lot of courage for you to get up out of your seat and walk down here and stand here.
"Well," you say, "Billy, I don't understand how if a person gets up out of his seat and just comes and stands there, how they can have a new heart." I don't understand it either. I only know that it happens. I only know that Christ can change you. I only know that He has promised to give a new heart. I believe it because it happened to me. It happened to Howard Butt(?). It happened to Cliff Barrows. It has happened to thousands here. You need a new heart. You ought to have a new heart. You are not sure you have a new one. You come and receive Christ tonight. Let Him change you and make you a new person.