Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
When I was young there was a common way to encourage people who were unsure of their life, “follow your heart”. This phrase indicated your heart could never steer you wrong, if you remained true to what you thought was right, you’d end up where you should be in the end. From the position of a casual observer this idea sounded quite favorable.
Why trust in anyone or anything other than yourself? No one has your best in mind more than you, at least the ones quoting this phrase want you to think that is true. But is this sound advice? Is your heart trustworthy? Has anyone asked the question of whether this was good advice or not?
Taking a quick survey of God’s Word gives us a different perspective.
The Hearts Condition
Jeremiah warns us of that the condition of our hearts is not what we think it is. What the world calls good or worthy, the Lord reveals a right perspective.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”
No matter how trustworthy following our hearts may seem, the final judgement dates back to Adam and Eve. It was their heart change that separated them from God and brought a legacy of death within the human race. This darkness of heart continued for generations until the earth became so wicked it was unbearable.
When God witnessed the extent of mankind’s wickedness during the days of Noah, He recognized the fullness of mankind’s depravity.
Genesis 6:5 “And GOD 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.”
This ancient people who were so corrupt and ignorant that they wouldn’t heed the warnings of impending destruction may seem far removed from where we are at today.
Matthew 24:37 “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
We are living in that era today. The culmination of all Jesus predicted is being fulfilled now, and that includes the depravity of the world. We live in the midst of the same people who were judged in Noah’s day, our society is progressing in the same manner that Sodom and Gomorrah did during the time of Abraham.
What signs have God given us that we have missed?
Because true righteousness is hard to find, it’s much easier to compare our level of depravity and think of ourselves in a better light.
The problem with comparing our level of righteousness with others is not found in how the world judges us but what God sees within. God doesn’t change, nor do His standards change with the culture. We must look to the Word of God and see the original foundation and hold ourselves to God’s intended purpose for His people.
Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
As David cried out to the Lord, we too must get on our knees and repent of our sin. If we draw near to the Lord, He promised to draw near to us. A repentant people found faithful is heard by God, He turns from His wrath, and He promises to heal our land.
We have to be honest about our position and go from there.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Jesus also knew what was in the heart of man, He didn’t entrust Himself to others for a very good reason.
John 2:24-25 “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”
Prior to Jesus calling His disciples, He had followers listening to Him teach and watching Him act. Later we see large throngs of crowds following, often after Jesus fed them, or healed them.
The hearts of people who are focused on the flesh will inherit corruption, regardless if they are in the church every week or not.
The wickedness of man’s heart has been on full display for the past 6000 years. Why people today think it has suddenly turned for the better can only be relegated to a lack of knowledge regarding God’s Word.
What is it about the heart that is so evil? Jesus gives a more detailed explanation for his disciples.
Mark 7:20-23 “And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
The pattern of flow from man’s heart is inherently evil. In other words, the heart has to already be sinful for sin to originate within it. Our sinful nature prevents us from doing anything that is good. Even Paul recognized this tendency for evil within himself.
Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”
So what is the answer? If there are none who are good, if no good thing dwells within us, then how can we ever do anything that is good?
We see what seems like good things all around us but are they truly good? Truthfully, we can’t know for sure from an external perspective.
Why can’t we measure the heart via science or psychology?
Because we can’t see the motivation of the heart!
The Measure of your Heart
Someone may knock an elderly woman down in the street, and what looks like cruelty was actually that person trying to save her from death. Another may hand out food to the poor only to find out later it was a required assignment or attempt for promotion. We cannot judge a person’s heart simply from observation.
1 Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
The heart that is turned toward the flesh will be corrupt regardless of how much the world proclaims it good. The heart that is turned toward the Lord will recognize it’s depravity and humbly repent.
This reminder of the nature of our hearts is why Paul says in Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, and why we are all condemned to die a second death in Romans 6:23 and Rev. 20:14.
So the question of the heart is….who rules in it?
Do you make decisions off of hunches, by questionable counsel, cultural and social expectations, politically correct manipulation or how you were raised? All of these patterns can be evil or at best unreliable. We may receive good counsel, we may of had honorable parents or culture may seem credible, but where did they all build their foundation of morality?
Anything that originates from mankind is founded in corruption, only God is good and therefore only good things come from God.
Romans 8:12-14 “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
The heart that is filled with the Spirit can now demonstrate the qualities of God’s goodness. Out of a heart that is led by the Spirit come good works and God says He will reward those works.
Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Our responsibility is for obedience to God, not to our hearts. The Spirit of God is found in every true believer. We who have been born again and have been sealed with the signature of God can now walk according to His will. In our natural state, there is no good that dwells and likewise no decision we make on our own can be good. When we trust in the Lord, we listen to His call, we follow His lead, and heed His instruction, then we act on His goodness and our path is ordered by Him.
He sees the end from the beginning therefore His way leads to life and godliness. God’s actions toward us are founded in love and He will be the one to ultimately bring judgement for the decisions we have made and how we made them.
How do you want to stand before Him one day? Judged by the way He led you or the way you followed your own path?
Has the path of following your heart really been that wonderful or has it ended up like you thought it would go? If we truly love the Lord we will seek His will and not our own. Our prayers will reflect our desire to follow Him.
Psalm 26:2 “Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.”
When we pray these kinds of prayers, we may hear something that’s difficult to receive. It’s not easy finding out we aren’t as good as we thought we were.
Jesus doesn’t say His way is easy, just that it is good.
Do you trust You Lord with your heart?
That is the question we should all ask ourselves today.