The Psychology of the Human Heart

January 31, 2010

Before we get to this post, I need to explain that we had a bit of a flub last week. I scheduled my article to show up on the web, but somehow the e-mail to Richard Terry, who prints our weekly bulletin, didn’t get to him. So, he ran this article in the bulletin. My article intended for last week should be running in today’s bulletin (January 31, 2010). So, for those who get our bulletin and keep up with the website, hopefully this will explain the confusion.

Now, on to Richard’s article and a special thanks to him for stepping up to the plate and filling in the gap.

The Psychology of the Human Heart

Psychology (lit. “Study of the soul” or “study of the mind”) is an academic and applied discipline which involves the scientific study of human or animal mental functions and behavior.

In the Bible the term Heart is used in at least 9 different senses. It represents, of course the bodily organ, while fear, love, courage, anger, joy, sorrow, and hatred are also ascribed to the heart.  This is seen clearly throughout the Old Testament.  Consequently, it came to stand for man himself (Isaiah 14:13)

The heart, as it represents man, himself, his personality, if you will, is considered the seat of the emotions, passions and appetites, and embraces the intellectual and moral faculties and is ascribed to the “soul” as well although that distinction is not always clear.

Interestingly enough, the term “heart” is never ascribed to animals. The heart, as a central organ, has come to stand for the center of moral, spiritual and intellectual life.  Particularly, the heart has come to represent the place where the processing of self-consciousness is carried out.  The soul is the home itself and conscious of all right and wrong. Consequently, Heart has become synonymous with the mind as in Numbers 16:28 and in Jeremiah 17:10 where it refers to “searching the heart”.

So, what is the psychology of the heart?  What makes mankind act or respond to different situations as they do?  Understand this and we will have come a long way to understanding how to “touch” the heart of man to bring him the Lord.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus states “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” In making such a statement there is much for our consideration.  First, we are told that they are blessed, in this word is a sense of praise, however, in the Bible, when speaking of man the word is more appropriately translated “happy.” So Jesus states that the man with the pure heart is a happy man.  This does not suggest that he is completely free of cares and concerns, but that his happiness overshadows the cares and concerns of this life. In Mat 6:21 Jesus reminds us “… where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The thoughts that occupy our mind/heart are the things that are most important to us. Whatever they may be these thoughts will dominate our lives, consuming our energy and our attention.

So, why is it that some people are pre-occupied with worldly thoughts and others with spiritual? Man is a dichotomous creature, with both body and soul. One cannot neglect one to exclusively pursue the other. The Bible tells us “If a man will not work neither let him eat.” While the spiritual side of man needs to be developed and nourished we cannot neglect the physical side. We are reminded that the Body is the dwelling place (temple) of the Spirit and neglect of the temple resonates with disrespect for the creator. David reminds us “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov 23:7 KJV) Those thing that occupy our time and thoughts are who we are. Who we are is the result of the elements and environment in which we are reared. So our surroundings play a major role in who we are, what we believe and how we respond to others.  As a child I remember a quote by Nikita Khrushchev in which he stated “Give me a child for the first 6 years of his life and I will make him a communist for life.”  Mr. Khrushchev understood the psychology of the heart, but do we?

It is vital to our success as Soul Winners to understand this psychology and to utilize the tools that are prepared for us to successfully achieve our goal in bringing Souls to Jesus.  It is a popular, albeit, mistaken idea that people do not change.  Realistically, many will not, but not because they cannot, but because they have never been presented with a compelling enough reason to make a change.  On the day of Pentecost as the 12 spoke to those assembled their message was clear and concise and at one point during that message the Bible records this statement “They were pricked in their hearts…” (Acts 2:37), something so compelling was spoken to them that it caught their attention and they could not disregard its impact on their lives.  Essentially, they were given information vital to them, information that impacted on their very lives, their “hearts (minds) were pricked. The word here translated “pricked” is one not used in profane Greek. It was translated in the Septuagint as “broken heart.”  Their sorrow was so profound, so deep that it penetrated the touch exterior and touched them in such a ways and perhaps nothing else could have done. Their response in Acts 2 was simple, yet profound “What shall we do?”

So, how do we “prick” the hearts of those with whom we come in contact?  May, I suggest that there are 5 basic needs that all humans share in common. Every one of us is motivated by one of these 5 basic needs.  One needs only to touch the “right” need to “prick” their heart and help them to understand how Jesus meets that need. Consider them briefly, with me:

Every one of us have physiological needs, these needs may best be summed up in the word “Satisfaction”. We need food, oxygen, water, etc. When these needs go unmet they an individual will do whatever he/she believes they have to realize them, i.e. steal, lie, cheat, etc.  History records how desperate individuals under desperate circumstances will revert to activities they might otherwise, themselves consider offensive and illegal when they are unable to adequately provide for their families. Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 5:8 that is a man does not care for his own he is worse than an unbeliever. Does this justify such activities, absolutely not, but an understanding of this underlying principle may help us to “prick” their heart.  I am reminded of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” wherein Ebenezer Scrooge is approached by two men looking to help the needy and are rebuked by Scrooge with the words “Have they no poor houses…” In my mind there is no genuine justification for stealing or lying or cheating, but having said that we need to look into the mirror of God’s word and examine ourselves. Are we not like Scrooge if we take the position “the government takes care of them?”  In James epistle he addressed such attitudes when he wrote “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder! (Jas 2:14-19,esv).

The second basic need is that of Security. In the past 48 months. Since 2007 there have been over 1,500,000 foreclosures. People displaced when, in some instances, through no fault of their own, they are unable to meet their financial obligations.  This past December the Bureau of Statistics revealed that 1 in 10 individuals are currently out of work.  There is no segment of our society that has not been touched.  In Spring Hill, TN., in November, 4700 people were faced with losing their jobs. Some have chosen to relocate North, a few remain at the local plant to provide support, but the vast majority understand what it means to lose their security. Having said all that, it is important for us to understand that there is more than one kind of security.  In 2Chronicles 32:8, we are reminded that real security is not in flesh and bones, but in the Lord “With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.” Solomon encourages us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverb 3:5, 6)  Those suffering from loss of Jobs, displaced from their homes, etc. need to understand the beyond the flesh that our genuine security in found in the Lord. As I have grown older one scripture has come to have a special meaning to me. Psa 37:25 “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”  A number of years ago, due to illness, I was unable to work, my children stepped in as did the brethren from the congregation where I worshipped and assisted me during a most difficult time. I know that times are rough, but I know also know as Paul wrote in Eph 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” Philippians4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

The third basic need is love, affection and a sense of belonging.  One might assume that being part of a family automatically means that they are loved, but time and again this has proven to be an erroneous conclusion.  In the field of science they have empirically demonstrated that children that are deprived of being held, talked to and cuddled grow up to be antisocial and dysfunctional.  Many of the cult movements have capitalized on this absence of love, affection and belonging and have used it to recruit followers.  Not in frequently, when interviewed, the new converts will verbalize that this was one of the primary reasons that they were attracted to the cult. 

I learned a long time ago that “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If we want to tell people that we care, that we love them and they are valued we cannot not do it from our easy chairs or by paying someone to do it for us.  One of the principle lessons taken from James  is the lesson taught in chapter 1 verse 27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Christianity is a contact not a spectator religion.

The fourth need is that of Esteem.  People need to know that they have value to someone. Much like the need for love, people need to feel that they bring value to the lives of others. I remember going to a PIP printer in Melbourne, FL many years ago and on the counter there was a 81/2 x 11 piece of paper with a graphic on it of a young boy with his chin on his hands and the caption was “I know I’m somebody, cause God don’t make no junk.” Dean Martin used to sing a song, “You’re nobody till somebody loves you…” If you want to reach the “heart” of an individual then let them know they are important to you. Take time to learn about them, their interests, their likes and dislikes.  Make them more than a personal evangelism assignment.  Jesus taught just a lesson in Matthew 19 “but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 19:4).

The final need is that of Purpose. Statistically, 1 in 8 individuals in the US suffer from some form of depression.  Depression is both medical and emotional.  Having worked in the field of psychiatry for the past 8 years I am acutely aware that many people presenting with depression are in need of competent medical attention, yet there are many others who suffer from this devastating problem simply because they do not see any purpose in life.  They feel unwanted and unneeded.  They lack direction and purpose in their lives. I do not suppose to tell you who needs medical help and who does not, but I can tell you that as a Child of God I know who I am; I know that I am important to God and that He loves me.  I know I have a purpose in life, seeking the Lost and I know that I can always depend on God. Paul writes in 2Ti 1:12 “…which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”  I know that children brought into this world and then abandoned lack self esteem, so why would it be any different for a babe in Christ to feel abandoned and lack self esteem if after their conversion we abandon them and leave them to their own devices.  Much of the problem that I have seen with attrition in the Lord’s church over the past 40 years may well be attributed to the fact that once we convert someone we think our job is done.  Would we bring a child into this world and then leave them to their own devices, absolutely not?  For the first 5-6 years of their life, we feed them, change their diapers, and rock them to sleep, etc. why, because we love them.  Why then, would we abandon the babe in Christ, leaving them to fend for themselves? Leaving them, as the young grass of the field to be strangled by the care of the world?  It is to our shame that our focus has been so much on converting as many people as we can to Christ that we have neglect the babes and as a result they have fallen through the proverbial cracks and are lost again to Satan.

-Richard Terry

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