A very wise man once said, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man” (Prov. 27:19). Our heart is not just one particular part of who we are — it is the deepest indication of who we are in total. But far too often today, we treat the heart as little more than emotionalism or a flurry of feelings. We have a small view of what God has intended to be our “governing center,” the “control room” where the mind and the desires and the will are melded together.
We cannot pay too much attention to our hearts, at least when we consider the Bible’s focus on it, addressing it over a thousand times. God’s jealousy for Israel was their heart. Christ’s request from His disciples was their heart. The Spirit’s work in us happens in our heart. Whether you’re in Deuteronomy or 2 Kings or Job or Mark or Philemon, you will find that over and over again, God’s Word is speaking about and to our hearts.
This has important implications for pastors. The longer I have served as a pastor, the more I have come to realize that the core of ministry is “heart-work,” and, as John Flavel put it, “Heart-work is hard work.” Too often pastors cut corners, calling people to pursue holiness, grow in spiritual disciplines, serve one another, and share the gospel without doing the first necessary work of raising their affections for Christ. Sin-sick people don’t mainly need new perspective or new tools for spiritual growth. They need new hearts. Nothing short of the Holy Spirit can give them such renewal. But preaching and pastoring to the heart is critical to the vitality of the Church — “for from [the heart] flow springs of life” (Prov. 4:23).
This is why a book like A. Craig Troxel’s With All Your Heart is essential reading, not only for pastors, but the Church in general. Troxel rightly notes that the heart reflects both the unity and the complexity of our inner being (21). This book is like a miniature systematic theology on the heart of man with its consistent appeal to Scripture, yet extremely easy to read and digest.
There is one chart in the book, at the end of the introduction, that visualizes the book’s outline and summarizes Troxel’s theses. It was paradigm-shifting for me, a resource I found so helpful:
Troxel’s argument is that the heart is composed of “a trinity of spiritual functions: the mind, the desires, and the will” (20). Troxel, in other words, does not see a clear split between the head and the heart and the hands that we often argue exists. This may come as a surprise to those (like myself) who have been impacted by James K.A. Smith’s work, particularly in Desiring The Kingdom, who essentially argues the opposite. But in the opening chapter, Troxel’s biblical support for his conclusions is compelling. Though I largely agree with Smith’s work on the heart, I think Troxel’s corrective here is necessary.
Along with a trinity of spiritual functions, it follows that there is a “trinity” of sinfulness, differing aspects of disobedience before God. To see our sinfulness through these different lenses helps us unravel some of our heart’s complexity. It helps us clarify what’s really going on inside.
Finally, praise God, there is a trinity of the offices of Christ, each role providing a decisive answer and comfort for our various forms of sinfulness. The offices of Christ are significant, then, not only for their fulfillment in redemptive history, but in how these offices apply to our particular sinfulness. Christ, in His offices, deals with our sinfulness the way a doctor deals with a patient: the specific sickness is identified, and the specific treatment is prescribed. Each chapter works through this table in greater detail, with a final, very helpful section on keeping our hearts.
With All Your Heart helps us demystify what’s going on inside of us to better understand both our sin and our Savior. What a gift to have a resource that so clearly helps us understand our real selves. Taking time to better understand our hearts can make all of the difference in our spiritual formation. “The heart of man reflects the man.” Thanks to With All Your Heart, the heart-work we need does not seem impossible. It’s still hard work. But it is a work that the Spirit is capable and qualified to do in us. I know that this book will help me not only better understand my own heart, but help me understand how to minister to the hearts of the people I serve.
*Thanks to Crossway for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.