This post is based on chapter 6, "Self-Examination". This is a small part of it, sorry I know it's long, but worth it!
The psalmist after self-examination of his heart says, "For my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was a beast before you." Psalm 73:21-22
After we consider this of our own hearts, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, "... What is it we discover when we have done all that? There can be no doubt at all as to the answer given in this Psalm. What this man found when he examined himself and really began to think correctly about himself was that the great cause, if not, indeed, the only cause of all his troubles was 'self'. That is always the trouble. Self is our last and our most constant enemy; and it is the most prolific cause of all our unhappiness. As a result of the fall of Adam we are self-centered. We are sensitive about ourselves. We are always selfish, always protecting ourselves, always ready to imagine offences, always ready to say that we have been wronged and dealt with unfairly. Am I not speaking from experience? May God have mercy upon us. It is the truth about us all. Self, this enemy that even tries to make us proud of our own humility. The Psalmist found that this really was the cause of all his troubles. He had gone wrong in thinking about the ungodly, he had gone wrong in thinking about God. But the ultimate cause of all his troubles was that he had gone wrong in thinking about himself. It was because he was always revolving around himself that everything else seemed to be so terribly wrong and grossly unfair.
I want to introduce you to the psychology taught in this verse ~ true biblical psychology. I wonder whether you noticed it. When self takes control of us something inevitable happens. Our hearts begin to control our heads. Listen to this man. He recovered himself in God's house; he has been put right about the ungodly and about God. Now he has come to himself and says, "My heart was grieved, and I was priced in my reins' - again a part of the sensibility - So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before you'. You notice the order. He puts the heart before the head. He points out that it was his heart that was grieved before his brain began to function wrongly - heart first and then head.
Now this is one of the profoundest bits of psychology we can ever grasp. The real trouble is that the self, when it asserts itself, causes this reversal of the true order and of the right sense of proportion. All our troubles are ultimately due to the fact that we are governed by our feelings and our hearts and sensibilities, instead of by clear thinking and the honest facing of things before God. The heart is a very powerful faculty within us. when the hearts gets into control it bludgeons a person. It makes us stupid; it takes hold of us so that we become unreasonable and unable to think clearly. That is what happened to this man. He had thought it was a pure question of fact - there are the ungodly, look at them and look at me! He thought that he was very rational. But he discovered in the sanctuary that he was not rational at all but that his thinking had been governed by his feelings.
Is this not the trouble with all of us? The apostle Paul puts the whole mater in a great word in Philippians 4:6,7. Observe the order of the words. 'Be careful for nothing [be over-anxious for nothing]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be make known unto God.' What will happen? The next verse tells us. 'And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your minds and hearts'? Not at all! 'The peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.' Hearts first, then minds in this matter, because here the trouble is mainly in the realm of feelings.
That is profound psychology. The apostle Paul was a master physician in treating diseases of the soul. He knew that it was quite pointless to deal with the mind until the heart was put right, so he puts the heart first. The trouble with anyone in this condition who feels that he is having a hard time and that things are not going right, is that he beginning to question God; whereas the root of the matter is that his heart is disturbed and he is being governed and controlled by it. His feelings have taken possession of him and have blinded him to everything else.
All troubles and quarrels and disputes in life are ultimately due to this. All family quarrels, all disputes between husbands and wives, all quarrels between relatives, all quarrels between classes and groups, all quarrels between nation and nation can be put down to the fact that self is being controlled by feelings. If we stopped to think we should see how wrong it is, because what we are really saying is that we are absolutely perfect and everybody else is wrong. But patently that cannot be true because all are saying the same thing! We are all governed by this feeling about ourselves and we all tend to say, 'People are not fair to me, I am always being misunderstood, people are always doing things to me.' And the other people are saying exactly the same thing. The trouble is that we are being controlled by self, we are living on our feelings, and in a most extraordinary way we are being governed by them.
We all know that this from experience. We take our stand and we say, 'I don't see why I should give in.' We hold on to it. We even put an emphasis on it unconsciously: 'I? What have I done? Why should I be treated like this?' 'My heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins'; it is always the heart. The principle I would emphasize is that when self is in the ascendant it always plays on our feelings. Self cannot stand up to a real intellectual examination. If, as I say, we only sat down and thought about it we should realize what fools we are. For then we would say, 'I feel like this, but so does the other person. I say this, but he also says this. Obviously we both think we are right. We must both be to blame and I am as bad as he is.' 'He that is down,' says John Bunyan, 'needs fear no fall, He that is low, no pride.'
We must learn to keep a careful watch on our hearts. It is not surprising that the Scripture says, 'My son, give me thine heart.' It is not surprising that Jeremiah says, 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.' How foolish we are in our psychology. We tend to say of people, 'Well, you know , he is not very intellectually; he does not understand very much, but he has a good heart.' That is quite wrong. However unintelligent we may be, our minds are much better than our hearts. generally speaking, people are not wrong because they think, but because they do not think.
This poor man in Psalm 73 was being controlled by his heart, but he did not know it. He thought he was reasoning out facts. The heart is 'deceitful'; it is so clever and subtle. That is why we must watch it. 'This is the condemnation,' we read in John 3:19, 'that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.' It is the heart that is wrong, so we end with the advice of the wise man in Proverbs 4:23, 'Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.'
Watch your heart, watch your self, watch your feelings. When your heart is sour everything will be sour and noting will be right. It is the heart that governs everything and there is only one final treatment for this sour and bitter heart. It is to come to God as the Psalmist came, and to realize that God in His infinite love and grace, in His mercy and compassion sent his Son into the world to die upon the cross that we should come to abhor ourselves, that we might be forgiven and once more have a clean heart, that David's prayer might be answered, 'Create in me a clean heart, Oh God. That prayer is answered in Christ. He can cleanse the heart and sanctify the soul;
'Tis thine to cleanse the heart,
To sanctify the soul,
To pour fresh life in every part,
And new create the whole.
Once a person gets to know himself and the blackness and deceitfulness of his own heart, he knows that he has to fly to Christ. And there he finds forgiveness and cleansing, a new life, a new nature, a new heart, a new name. Thank God for a gospel that can give us a new heart and renew a right spirit within us.