By Michael C. Lewis
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Probably one of the worst pieces of advice given to those looking for direction is the counsel to, “Follow your heart”. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard this proverb offered as guidance to a young character in a popular movie. But, the discerning student of Scripture should consider the implications of such worldly advice.
The Old and New Testaments teach that the heart is the place where the intellect, emotions, will, and moral consciousness reside. The word, “heart” (“leb” in Hebrew, and “kardia” in Greek) is often interchangeable with the word, “mind” in Scripture, and as such, it is the seat of reason and volition. In other words, the “heart” motivates us to behave in certain ways according to its reasoning.
The problem with “following your heart” is that it will deceive you because of the infection of sin. Your “fallen” nature guarantees the deceitfulness of its counsel, and if you are unconverted, without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, your heart will lead you on a treacherous path to eternal damnation. The Holy Bible is clear; the unbelieving heart will take you to hell.
Even the person, who has embraced the salvation offered freely by God through His Son, Jesus Christ, has a daily choice. He remains a free moral agent and even though his conversion has begun changing him to “Christ-likeness”, he will choose daily to submit to the word, will, and way of God, or he will endeavor toward the yearnings of his old sinful heart, which always seeks to fulfill his selfish desires. His spiritual growth is measured by the occasions he denies his heart’s natural inclinations, as he submits to the supernatural instruction of the Holy Spirit who resides within him.
Total conversion, or change into Christ’s image (the ultimate goal of the Christian) is a supernatural process that transforms the will of natural man, and conforms his mind to that of Jesus Christ. It is a change that manifests itself from the inside as it changes the heart, and works its way out in Christian activity. Salvation supernaturally forms a “new creature” out of an old, fallen sinner. In the Scriptures, the Apostle Paul assures us:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
II Corinthians 5:17
In other words, a definite change has occurred for the man who is “in Christ”. He is instantly changed in his “position” (in other words, his sin is no longer applied to his account; he is now “justified” and in right standing with God) but he is only beginning the process of transformation into the holy image of Christ.
This “new creature’s” reasoning and his will have begun a marked process of supernatural transformation and conformity into a sanctified creation of God. As his will is yielded to God, his heart is changed. But, until total sanctification (holiness) is attained (in heaven), following the heart’s natural inclinations, or God’s supernatural instruction remains the Christian’s daily choice. And, the unsaved person has no choice. The selfish and deceptive yearnings of his sinful heart are his only guidance for life!
The standard to follow should never be the human heart—for the Christian or the non-Christian! Our standard must exist outside of our sin-filled experience. And we’ve been given the ultimate standard: God’s Holy Word! The writer of the book of Hebrews declares:
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
The living word of God pierces the human heart, and reveals its evil inclinations and motivations. Its truth reveals the lies and deceptions of our sinful natures. As it becomes reality to us, and we accept its precepts (see Hebrews 11:6), we are transformed, and our Christianity is revealed as light in the darkness. It is an inward change that manifests itself in outward behavior!
Can a person who is unsaved live an outwardly moral and benevolent, even religious life? Of course the short answer is “Yes!” But, the Lord, Jesus Christ, Himself, made this sobering declaration about the true state of such people:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
Matthew 23:27, 28
Mankind’s resolutions to behave in certain benevolent ways will eventually give way to his sinful condition. True rehabilitation for the alcoholic, drug addict, or career criminal must begin at the innermost, and darkest part of his being—his heart—to be effective, and lasting. The Gospel is truly his only real hope for transforming deliverance.
The redemption of mankind through the cross of Jesus Christ is the only route to eternal change available to man. It is an eventual total transformation that happens from the inside out! Follow Jesus Christ for eternal life, or “follow your heart” to your destruction. The choice seems obvious.
Dear Christian reader,
The captive audiences found in the local jails, prisons, rehabs, nursing homes, etc. are fertile grounds for the Gospel to be shared. Many of the incarcerated are at rock bottom and ready to accept its transforming message. Please prayerfully consider becoming involved.)
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