This Sunday's text is from the end of Matthew 18. And the last verse of that chapter can really point a person in another direction. Here is that verse, verse 35, the words of Jesus, in the ESV translation: 'So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.'
The first thing to note is that this phrase, 'every one of you', does not occur too often in the Scriptures, at least as much as one would think. A recent speaker called the age we live in one of 'hyper-individualism', and I concur. All too often we forget about the people around us. All too often people are going off on their own, and that is usually not a very good thing--keeping in mind what the Scriptures (along with the Small and Large Catechisms) say about our own sinful nature.
I think that this entire fourth discourse of Jesus really helps to keep us thinking as a group, a 'church', a people who are called out of the darkness, into his marvelous light.
The second thing to note is that the heart is not, in the Scriptures, simply the seat of one's emotions. Emotions are, simply put, not that important. According to the Bible, the heart is essentially the seat of everything in you. The people of old realized that when the heart stopped beating, then the pulse stopped, then all the rest stops--the emotions, the will, the mind, and the body.
An encounter with God is not, necessarily, just an emotional encounter. It is an encounter with the one who made your center and everything around that center. He is the one who knows you better than you know yourself. And sometimes that thought can be a scary one.
It is interesting that God is called a 'heart-knower' two times in the Bible (Acts 1:24 and 15:8) and that this term only appears in the Bible and in early Christian literature. I like it when the Christians make up a new or slightly different word to describe the God of the New Testament. The things that happened at the time of Jesus were indeed so 'new'.
These two times that God is a 'heart-knower' are significant times in the Bible. The eleven disciples are picking a twelfth one, and that is something that really Jesus should have done. And, in chapter 15, the followers of Jesus are debating the importance of good works. This, also, is something that is better left in God's hands ... the nail-pierced ones.
The writer of Acts makes sure that, in chapter 15, he quotes Peter (not Paul) as saying that hearts are cleansed by faith, all because of those nail-pierced hands (v. 8). And Peter certainly sounds like Paul when he says that '...we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus...(v. 11).'