The ‘Umpire’ of my Heart

The "prophet of doom" Jeremiah writes,

"The heart is a twisted thing, not to be searched out by man: who is able to have knowledge of it?" [Jeremiah 17:9 BAS]

In both Hebrew [LEB] and Greek [KARDIA] the word "heart" is used as a figure of speech. It means what is deep in the breast. It means what motivates. It means where affections lie. It means where desire, passion, disposition, spirit, and longing all originate. Jesus compared the heart to a treasure or storage place from which the real person emerges,

"Out of the good person’s heart comes a treasure of goodness; and expelled out of the wicked person’s wicked treasure comes wickedness." [Matthew 12:35 NCMM]

Good from the good treasure, and wickedness from the wicked treasure, was a Nazarene principle.

The word heart appears over 1,000 times in the Bible. Its first and second occurrences are in Genesis 6:5, 6 about a century before the Flood, "Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart." [Genesis 6:5, 6 WEB] So humankind made in God’s image possesses "heart" just as Yehowah does. This "heart" can influence evil thought as well as be "grieved" or hurt. But what does the Bible teach about such a "heart"?

The Nazarene and the Heart

The Nazarene taught much about the "heart." He said the "pure in heart" were blessed. [Matthew 5:8] A married man can commit adultery in his heart. [Matthew 5:28] One will find the heart wherever its treasure exists. [Matthew 6:21] The heart of a whole generation of God’s people can grow unreceptive. [Matthew 13:15] Satan can snatch divine seed from the heart. [Matthew 13:19] Human doctrine may indicate a heart far removed from God. [Matthew 15:8, 9]

Indeed, Jesus provided a list of those things that could defile the heart of even one who worshipped God. Our Lord taught,

"But the words pouring out of the mouth originate from the heart. Those are the things which defile a person. For it is from the heart these originate: evil dialogue, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, perjuries and slander, abusive speech. These are the things defiling a person." [Matthew 15:18-20 NCMM]

Despite these possibilities one must love God with the whole heart. [Matthew 22:37; compare also Mark 7:19-22]

Further Jesus taught that a trusting heart could accomplish enormous acts of faith. [Mark 11:23] The good Christian heart will produce fruitage from the Word. [Luke 8:15] Even close disciples of the Nazarene can have hearts slow to believe. [Luke 24:25] In some rare instances Satan can put wrong ideas into the hearts of those who are treacherous. [John 13:2] So Jesus had much to say about the heart. What about Paul?

Paul and the Heart

Paul referred to the heart often. He wrote that the heart could make stupid mistakes. [Romans 1:21] The unrepentant heart stores up wrath for the day of judgment. [Romans 2:5] The heart can be obedient to inspired teachings. [Romans 6:17] The heart can experience great pain. [Romans 9:2] A heart full of faith will lead to righteousness. [Romans 10:10] The heart is incapable of conceiving all that God can do. [1 Corinthians 2:9] At Christian meetings a person’s heart may receive illumination. [1 Corinthians 14:25] The heart can enlarge in human affection. [2 Corinthians 6:11] It is the resolute heart that is a cheerful giver. [2 Corinthians 9:7] Figuratively the eyes of the heart can be enlightened. [Ephesians 1:18] The clean heart is associated with the good conscience. [1 Timothy 1:5] In the congregation one should associate with those of clean heart. [2 Timothy 2:22] It is the wicked heart that lacks faith. [Hebrews 3:12]

God’s living Word can aid in revealing what is really in the heart. Paul writes,

"For the Word of The God is a living [thing], energizing, and sharper than a two-edged sword. [God’s Word] cuts through so deep as to separate psyche and pneuma, even joints and marrow. It is a judge of thoughts and inner heart motives. There is not a creation not exposed in His sight. Everything is naked and laid wide open to the eyes of Him with whom we have an accounting." [Hebrews 4:12, 13 NCMM]

Other inspired disciples write regarding the heart. James writes that one can deceive their own heart. [James 1:26] Peter urges that the heart should be filled with intense love. [1 Peter 1:22] There is a secret hidden person residing in everyone’s heart. [1 Peter 3:4] A person can train the heart to become greedy and covetous. [2 Peter 2:14]

Who Will Rule or Be the ‘Umpire’ of My Heart?

Because the heart deals with emotion and not intellect, as Jeremiah says, "who can know it?" Even the owner of this heart can not fully know itself. [1 Corinthians 4:4] Since the heart is what I really am as a human being – what God would see if he plumbed the depths – what others observe in outward manifestations – what I see in the mirror but often deny – this heart of mine needs someone higher, someone stronger, someone wiser, someone more loving, someone more just and fair, someone more compassionate, someone more forgiving – to act as the umpire of my heart. Who is this to be and what does that mean?

Paul writes about someone who can take up residence in the heart and become its "umpire" as it were? At Colossians 3:15, 16 we read:

"In addition, permit the peace and harmony of the Christ to be the controlling factor within your hearts, and by all means be thankful. Allow Christ’s word take up residence within you with all of its rich wisdom. Continue teaching and admonishing yourselves – in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs of thankfulness – within your hearts to God." [Colossians 3:15, 16 NCMM]

Now the phrase "controlling factor" is from a Greek word that means "umpire."

For example Rotherham’s render this phrase: "the peace of Christ act as umpire." And Goodspeed chooses: "let the ruling principle in your hearts be Christ’s peace." The Greek is BRABEUETO [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #1018, umpire, determine, direct, control, rule] and literally means "umpire" - one who referees. So Darby says "preside" while Weymouth gives the rendering, "let the peace which Christ gives settle all questionings in your hearts."

So, though there is much danger residing in the human heart, disciples of the Nazarene can invite him to come and make his home there. And once there, to be the umpire of our heart’s motivations, inclinations, and affections. Paul says something similar at Ephesians 3:17,

"I pray the Christ will reside within your hearts because of your faith and love." [NCMM]

Further, Jesus promised that both he and his Father would make their residence with the heart of the "genuine disciple. Jesus offers this promise:

"If anyone continues to love me, he will observe my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come toward him and we will make an abode alongside him." [NCMM]

Paul echoes this very idea of a divine residence in the heart of the faithful saint, or holy one:

"But, if the Pneuma [Spirit] of the One who raised up The Jesus from the Dead resides within you, the One who raised up Christ Jesus will also make your mortal bodies alive by His indwelling Pneuma in you." [NCMM]

It is interesting to read how others phrase this: KJV: dwells in you; TCN: lives within; GDS: taken possession of you. The disciple is possessed of divine thinking, spiritual mindedness because God resides within. But how does this happen and with what affects?

How Christ Resides as an Umpire of the Heart

In his next breath, Paul explains how Christ may act as an "umpire" in the Christian heart. In Colossians 3:16 Paul writes,

"Allow Christ’s word take up residence within you with all of its rich wisdom." [NCMM]

So one of the primary ways Christ actually resides in the heart is through his word, or message, or Sayings. Therefore, Christ cannot actually reside as an ‘umpire’ in the heart unless the disciple first has begun to absorb this "word." That would require at least a reading of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Upon reading these – prayerfully meditating on them – making an application of them in one’s own life – Christ becomes the ‘umpire’ of the heart. The more the Friend of the Nazarene does this – followed by obedience to his commandments [John 14:15; 15:14] – the more Christ feels at home within such a heart.

A Calm Heart

Now, Paul uses the word "peace" as the controlling factor of Christ’s indwelling as the heart’s ‘umpire’. It is the "peace of the Christ" that rules, directs, and determines the disciple’s motives, leading to action. This can have several meanings. At least three come to mind: First Christ’s own inner tranquility or peace of mind, for this is something he promised to leave his disciples at John 14:27,

"Peace I leave you. I give you [apostles] my own peace. I am not giving it to you as the world of humankind gives it. Do not let your hearts be troubled nor cowardly." [NCMM]

Thus this "peace of Christ" involves a calm heart despite danger or fear.

The Bible elsewhere counsels a "calm" or peaceful heart. [NWT] Proverbs 14:30 encourages: "A tranquil heart is the life of the flesh." [ASV] Another renders this: "A relaxed mind makes for physical health." [BER] Such ancient wisdom has been confirmed by modern medicine. Having Christ reside in our heart will relax our heart and cause a spirit or atmosphere of inner calm and tranquility.

Peace with God

Second, the controlling and ruling "peace of the Christ" must involve "peace with God." Such a peaceful harmony would involve an intimate relationship with God as friends. This would mean that there is nothing in the heart of the saint that God abhors as shown in Psalm 15.

The Peace of Unity

Finally, such peace must involve unified harmony among the members of the Body of Christ. For any kind of contentious spirit or adversarial attitude born of egotism and self-centeredness never issues from God and Christ. Indeed, the disciple James writes,

"However, if you have in your heart bitter jealousy and selfishness, do not boast and continue to lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom which descends from above, but rather, is earthly, soul-like, demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness there is disorder and the practice of every kind of evil." [James 3:14-16 NCMM]

No, such internal peace among the Nazarene community is the result of heavenly wisdom

This analogy or metaphor is similar to the picture created in Psalm 15, where it is asked, "Who will reside in Yahweh’s tent?" Such an experience with God is not something automatic based upon mere lip service. Rather, based on Psalm15, there are a number of things our Father requires before He will become so hospitable as to invite someone into His tent. In like manner, though Christ can reside in the heart of the disciple, there are reasons why he may not continue to reside there.

Like most of us, there are some people we can meet socially, but could not abide living with them. Likewise, the Nazarene freely associated with all manner of persons – from prostitutes to Jewish royalty. And, and yet during the last week of his life he chose isolation in the hills around Jerusalem rather than stay in some fine home. Just as we might tolerate a person for awhile, but after that feel impelled to more peaceful and suitable quarters, so also Christ will not dwell where he is not wanted.

Attitudes and Actions Repelling Christ

There are dispositions and attitudes – if habitually and continually practiced – will force Christ out, no longer feeling welcome. Some of these are:

Christ truly becomes the umpire of the heart AFTER we have absorbed his Sayings and Teachings. How does this work so that I make myself walk ever and ever closer to my Master?

Letting the ‘Umpire’ Speak His Mind

Above Paul has made it clear that the "word of Christ must reside richly in our hearts." So, for example, when confronted with cares and anxieties we may reflect - or draw to the surface – the very words of the Umpire regarding such anxieties. Consider the following words spoken in the Mountain Sermon:

MT6:25 For this I tell you: Do not be overly concerned about your soul as to what you might eat or what you might drink. Nor about your body as to clothing. MT6:26 Look well to the birds in the sky, they do not sow or reap. Nor do they gather into storage barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you that much different? MT6:27But, who among you can add one minute to your life-span by being overly concerned? MT6:28 And, why are you overly concerned about clothing? Learn something from how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. MT6:29 But, I tell you: Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as one of these. MT6:30 But, if The God clothes the fields of grass, here today and tomorrow tossed in the oven, how much more you, ones of little faith? MT6:31 So, do not be overly concerned, saying, "What will we eat?" Or, "What will we drink?" Or, "What will we put on?" MT6:32 For all these the Gentiles overly seek. Your heavenly Father knows you need all these. MT6:33 But, you, seek first His Kingdom and righteousness and all these will be added to you. MT6:34 So, do not be overly concerned about tomorrow. For tomorrow will have its own concerns. The hardships of each day are enough! [NCMM]

Reflect on the Nazarene’s urgings to faith and trust in the Father who cares for the "flowers of the field" and "the birds in the sky." Cope with one day at a time for "tomorrow will have its own concerns." But, I hear someone say, "I just don’t have that kind of faith!" Behave as though you had the faith, and the faith will come as a dear friend to comfort and strengthen you over and over again. There is a good reason for this attitude, for the opposite may lead to great harm. Consider, another Saying of Jesus on the subject of anxiety:

"Now, the one sown among thorns -- this is the person who hears the message but the anxieties of that Period and deceptive riches choke the message and the person is unproductive." [Matthew 13:22 NCMM]

Yes, anxieties may choke the very "word" that is acting as the Umpire of your heart. This will lead to a Christian life devoid of fruitfulness and productivity. [2 Peter 1:5-11]

Finally, there is a particular warning given to those by the Umpire of our hearts who will be living just before the Return of the Messiah,

"Pay attention to yourselves that some how your hearts become heavy because of overeating, drunkenness, and anxieties and suddenly that Day rise as a snare! For that Day will come upon everyone who lives on the surface of the whole earth." [Luke 21:34, 35 NCMM]

Being overly anxious can distract the Nazarene disciple from a keen anticipation or expectation of the Parousia of the Bridegroom, Jesus.

So this serves as an example of how our Lord may act as the Umpire of our hearts. When you find yourself overcome with anxiety – deluged with misgivings, doubts, apprehension, confusion, and nagging worries – take that simple deep breath and meditate on these words above as they rise to the surface in your heart. It is the Lord talking as the Umpire of that heart. "Calm yourself," he says. "Come rest here with me for awhile and let us think together about these concerns of yours. What will your anxiety and worry change? Will it make you stronger or weaker in coping with today’s ‘hardships’? Is it possible that in the long term a simpler life-style might save you much of these anxieties that cause harm to body, mind and spirit? Relax, and meditate on these things. "

Christ may also become the Umpire of your heart when confronted with temptations. The married Christian man may find himself looking and thinking too long on the attractive wife of another. Here the Umpire of the heart can speak again with a caution:

"I tell you: Anyone looking at a woman, desiring her in his heart, has already adulterated her. But, if your right eye stumbles you, cut it out and throw it away. Better to lose one body-member than your whole body be thrown into Gehenna. cut it out and throw it away. Better to lose one body-member than your whole body be thrown into Gehenna. And, if your right hand stumbles you, cut if off and throw it away. For it is better one of your limbs be lost than your whole body go to Gehenna." [Matthew 5:28-30 NCMM]

To such a man growing weak in his resolve, the Umpire of his heart may say: "Now come here with me for a moment before you do something rash. Train yourself not to look as though you had removed an eye. Control that hand that wishes to reach and touch as though you had cut it off. For I assure you, you will only trade one set of problems for another, and the latter may be even worse. You will spend your final days in deep bitterness and regret. And, then, because you did not listen to me both of you and her will only end up in Gehenna. Learn, my brother, when these thoughts come into your mind – and they will – to mentally say, ‘No.’ Say it under your breath – ‘No.’ And the more you learn to say ‘No’ the easier it will become."

And thus, in so many ways, under so many circumstances, our Lord can become the Umpire of our heart – always leading it in the way of truth and honesty – always leading it in the way of right and fairness – always leading it in the way of virtue and integrity – always leading it in the way of empathy and compassion – always leading it in the way of charity and hospitality – and, always leading it in the way of humility and selflessness. May such a godly Umpire lead your heart always.

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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