The “Real” You – Defined By Heart

August 17, 2017

Over the years God has revealed many insights as I approach my study of Scripture by asking, “Lord, what I have not yet seen?” One such insight is an understanding of the clear difference between what we are as a functioning being and who we are as a person. This truth has become one of the foundational concepts in my Relational Gospel Ministry.

With each new understanding, my custom is to continue seeking any further insight God may intend to share. So, a few years ago I spent time reviewing the understanding I’d received about the body, soul, and spirit’s functional relationship. While doing so, I came to understand the importance of our heart—it actually defines us.

As I asked for God’s insight and listened for further answers, I realized there is so much more to the human heart; remarkably more than you may have previously thought. I discuss this thoroughly in my book Created To Relate. It’s been said that the book’s “dissection of the human heart” is groundbreaking.

There is remarkably more to the human heart than you may realize.

I’m anxious to share nuggets of this insightful treasure with you. To do so, I must lay a bit of groundwork on God’s design of our human body, soul, and spirit.

Body, Soul, and Spirit

Before earth existed; mankind began as a thoughtful desire in God. After creating the natural universe, He formed a human body from a lump of clay and fused a touch of His eternal Spirit into the body. As a heart began to beat and a soul started to relate, a natural and spiritual consciousness emerged.

This relational composite of body, soul, and spirit equips each of us with a unique ability to partake of and interact with both the natural and spiritual realms, as well as with each other and with God. As relational people, God has gifted each of us with the ability to express ourselves, as a means of satisfying our built-in need to connect with Him and one another.

As humans, our primary purpose to exist is to be joined in loving and fruitful relationships. This is the ultimate mystery of our existence. God’s designed intention for us is to begin life as earthly beings, learn to relate with one another, and relate to God as our heavenly Father.

Scriptural Heart – The Real You

While our body, soul, and spirit describe what we are as a being, our heart defines who we are as a person. It will become apparent through the insights in this article that our heart represents who we are—the real us.

Our heart represents who we are—the real us.

The heart can be viewed in numerous ways. We initially think of our heart as an organ located in the center of our body. While our physical heart is central to our function as a human being, scripturally speaking, our heart represents something more.

Man looks at the outward [natural] appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Yes, the Lord looks at our heart. If our heart is what God observes, then we want to understand what God considers our heart to be, so we can give it suitable attention.

Confused Understanding of Heart

Everyone tends to associate our heart with our deepest feelings as well as what we really think about issues. We often hear phrases like, “His heart is not in it” and “You should follow your heart.” These common phrases show that we all sense our heart is more than just a physical organ, often making it difficult to understand or define.

Even Scripture can appear to confuse an understanding of heart.

At first glance, even Scripture can appear to confuse an understanding of heart because it associates the heart of man with nearly every part of what we are. Pick up any Bible concordance and skim through the verses that speak of the heart. You will find our heart is associated with our soul’s mind, will, and emotion as well as our five natural and spiritual senses.

Certainly, the list can go on and on, and yet, here’s a small sampling of scriptures to illustrate the point. The heart can be:

• Meek (Matthew 11:29)
• Pure (Matthew 5:8)
• Glad (Isaiah 65:14)
• Hard (Mark 3:5)
• Proud (Psalm 101:5)
• Troubled (John 14:1)
• Fearful (John 14:27)
• Trusting (Proverbs 3:5)
• Forgiving (Matthew 18:35)
• Circumcised (Deuteronomy 30:6)
• Angry (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
• Renewed (Ezekiel 18:30-32)

Our Heart Location

As I noted earlier, a few years ago I was reviewing the clarifying understanding I’d received about the functional relationship between our body, soul, and spirit. In order to better visualize these three components of “what we are” I placed them within a triangle.

While pondering the insights further, I found myself wondering just how the heart of man fits into this picture. “Where does our heart fit into the body, soul, and spirit’s functional design?”

This led to further questions. “Does our heart belong in the center of our ‘what’ triangle? Or as many assume, is it our spirit or maybe our soul?” Naturally, I asked God, “Where does our heart fit into this picture? Lord, how do You define the heart of man?”

God’s Definition of Heart

As I reexamined Scripture’s use of “heart,” additional insight came. I began to realize our heart is not our spirit or our soul, even though it is linked to each of these components. Neither does Scripture define the heart as one of our five senses or a sixth sense. It became clear that God defines our heart as the expression that springs from our whole being—body, soul, and spirit.

Ancient Greek scholars believed that everything is the sum total of its parts, and a description of the parts adequately describes the thing. This formula, however, fails to consider the added value that is created by function. When parts are assembled and function as a unit, they create something that adds tremendous value beyond the sum of its parts.

For example, when lamp parts are assembled and function as a unit, light is produced. The light is a much greater value than simply a pile of wires, bulbs, and bases. Similarly, when complex airplane parts are assembled as a unit, they can produce the added value of flight.

Our heart is our expressive self, which springs from the function of our entire being.

So it is with us. When God combined the body, soul, and spirit components into the first human being, He created a functioning unit. The function of our collective parts produces the added value of expression. This added value is our expressive heart. A close examination of Scripture clarifies our heart is our expressive self, which springs from the function of our entire being.

Our Expressive Heart

We find the general confusion about heart is a hold-over from the ancient perception that we are a two-part being—one visible and one invisible. This is still a widely held view, often spoken of as our spirit man and our natural man. However, as we can see, Scripture confirms we have two unseen components—our spirit and our soul.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Closely connected to every aspect of what we are as a being, our heart is the added value produced by the function of our collective components-creating who we are as a person. Our heart displays our godly or ungodly values in everything we say and do.

Heart displays our godly or ungodly values.

Quality of Our Expressions

Beyond being involved in what we say and do, our expressive heart infuses into each of our actions the quality of our personal values. God appears to consider the quality of our expressions, our heart values, to be the most significant aspect of our life experience:

I, the LORD, search the heart… even to give to each man according to his ways [expressive activity] (Jeremiah 17:10).

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me… and lead me in the everlasting way [godly activity] (Psalm 139:23-24).

He [God] also testified and said, “I have found David… a man after my heart, who will do all My will.” (Acts 13:22).

Scripture makes it clear that God looks beyond our composite make up (body, soul and spirit) to consider the quality of our expressive activity. If this is how God sees us, then we want to become more aware of our heart response to His guidance.

Projected Persona

Persona is another way to describe our expressive heart. When somebody asks, “Who are you?” or “Whom did you see?” we automatically assume a body with spirit and soul is involved. The expressions that come from us disclose our persona, our personhood, who we are as an individual person.

The expressions of our heart are only partially revealed to the physical eye. It is the eye of our spirit that enables us to observe expressive realities such as attitude and character. Everyone has spiritual senses; we can all see one another’s heart expression. However, we do not always understand what we see and perceive. Heart reveals our unique significance as an individual person, who we are.

Heart reveals our unique significance as an individual person.

The features we project as expressions are categorized as character, attitude, and personality, or CAP. These expressive features help define our heart and allow us to view and understand who we are as a person.

More Than What We Do

God created us as functional beings that radiate with expression. When you say someone’s name, for example Suzy, an image pops up in your mind. It includes how Suzy expresses herself and how she communicates, not just what she looks like or what she does for a living.

We often confuse our occupations or achievements (what we do) with our identity (who we are). One of the first questions that comes up in conversations is, “What do you do for a living?” We may honestly answer, “I’m a doctor,” or “I’m a minister,” or “I’m retired.” But this only scratches the surface. These answers are about what we do, not who we are.

What we do or have is not who we are.

KEY POINT: Our occupation is not our identity; our ministry is not our identity; nor is our family status our identity. What we do or have is not who we are. Our value as a person does not depend on these things! We are much more than what we are and do as a being.

A pastor once suggested that we answer the occupation question like this, “I’m a follower of Christ who does ____________.” This answer puts the emphasis on who we are relationally and not on what we do. Our jobs and situations may change, but our persona continues with us into the next job and situation. How about answering like this, “I’m a loving husband and devoted father who is employed as a ___________.” Or, “I’m a student of life who attends ____________ College.”

Let’s put this into context. What we are as a being is not who we are as a person. The function of our what components produces the added quality values of heart. Our heart expression illustrates who we are as a person and provides a context for defining our real self.

Heart Expression Emanates From Us

We want to visualize our heart not so much as something that is in us, but as the expression that emanates from us. Three quite different features of our heart make up our relational persona: Character, Attitude, and Personality (CAP).

Rather than something “in us” our heart emanates “from us.”

Character traits speak of our dominant moral fiber. Attitude traits speak of our temperament. Personality traits speak of our social behavior. Each feature of our CAP, our relational persona, is worth a closer look. However, for the sake of time, I’ll need to dig deeper into these important features in another blog. (If you’re anxious to know more now, you’ll find a detailed explanation in Chapter 4 of Created To Relate.)

Yes, the Lord looks at our heart. Every person is born with a heart that is ready to develop. As the physical heart pumps either life-giving or tainted blood to our body, so our expressive heart emits either blessings or curses upon our self and on one another, to inspire or discourage. God wants to influence our heart so we are better able to bless and encourage one another.

Keith Carroll, Relational Gospel Founder

More resources about our relational God:

The Real You - Defined By HeartThe Real You - Defined by Heart
Created to Relate, Insights Into Our Design and Purpose, and The Christ Culture, A Way of Life Like No Other are available on this site and on for purchase in printed or eBooks. We provide the first two pages of each chapter on this site for your introductory perusal. Please check them out!

Many folks are finding my books to be insightful and stimulating. They are excellent for personal understanding, for new believers, and to share in small groups. We provide a Leader’s Guide to facilitate discussions and a “free” study guide that can be downloaded as a pdf.

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