Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Following Your Heart Will Only Get You Lost

This week I want to spend some time on certain beliefs that are wreaking havoc on the body of Christ today.  These are not actual doctrines, they are cliches that are popular in the world and are adopted into today's feel-good Christianity.  This isn't to say that Christianity is not a good experience, but these beliefs elevate the flesh over the spirit and give the illusion of happiness.  Today's topic is a statement we are all familiar with and that statement is "Follow your heart."  There is one problem with that belief.
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.  Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV
That certainly does not seem like something we should be following.  The heart will only lead us away from God.  The heart will lead us to satisfy our own desires.  If we are not in Christ, our hearts will lead us to destruction.  Some of the most evil things in the history of mankind were done by men who were just following their hearts.  Adolf Hitler was following his heart.  The hijackers on 9/11 were following their hearts.  Even less dramatic examples abound.  Homosexuals are following their hearts.  Pedophiles are following their hearts.  Adulterers are just following their hearts.  Philanderers are just following their hearts.  Following our hearts is living a life of self-satisfaction often with hurt and pain to so many others.  Perhaps you are thinking that is all different when we come to Christ, the Bible even says that God gives us new hearts.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV
The problem with that verse is that we define that new heart as our heart.  If that were true, we would all be perfect Christians, but it is not.  Even in Christianity, even today, great evils are done by men just following their hearts.  How many marriages were broken because men and women were just following their hearts to another man or woman.  How many churches allow the abomination known as gay marriage because they feel that those practicing homosexuality are just following their hearts.  With so much sin amongst the brethren by people just following their hearts, something must be wrong with the hearts of many Christians.  How is this possible?  This all goes back to discipleship.  The heart we follow unto sin is the heart of self.  Following our hearts is just following our selves and our own desires.  We are not to subject ourselves under our heart's authority, but we are to subject our hearts to Christ. 
Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.  2 Thessalonians 3:5 NKJV
And how is the Lord able to direct our hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ?
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.  2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NKJV
In Christ, it is not our hearts that we follow, but the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  When we come to Christ, the new heart we get is not a new heart unto ourselves, but the heart of God residing within us.  I say that because time and time again we are told to do things with a pure heart or to purify our hearts. 
Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  James 4:8 NKJV
If we had to rely on our own hearts, those commands would be impossible.  The only pure heart that ever walked this earth is that of Jesus Christ.  Not only that, but we can not purify our own hearts nor can we do anything with a pure heart.  Our hearts are impure, evidenced by the fact that we continue to choose to sin even though we have been freed from its mastery over us.  If we were capable of purifying our own hearts, Jesus would not have died.  If our own hearts were pure at salvation, the Holy Spirit would not have to sanctify us.  The purity of heart spoken of here is the purity of the heart of Christ.  We are not to act on our own hearts, but we are to act in submission to the heart of God.  It is not our hearts that lead us to righteousness, but the Holy Spirit that dwells within our hearts. 

Finally, we need to define what the heart is.  Our heart is not that bundle of muscle that goes thump in our chest.  The heart is symbolic for that inner self that drives all that we do.  It is our will, it is our "self."  And what is it the Bible tells us to do about our "self"?  We are to deny it.  Following our hearts means following our own selfish desires.  Following our hearts in inherently selfish because it literally is following our self.  Our self's desire is for preservation and pleasure of self.  Even charity done in the heart of self is done not because we truly care about others, but because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  Nothing done of our own heart is worth anything before God because nothing done of our own heart is done for God.  Self only knows to please self and if as a result others are blessed so be it and just as equally if others are hurt so be it. 

I think the greatest illustration of denying the desires of our hearts and subjecting ourselves to the heart of God comes from our Lord.  In the garden, the night He was arrested, the prayer of Jesus shows the desires of self vs. the desires of God. 
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."  Luke 22:41-42 NKJV
Jesus, as we know, was fully God and fully man.  He knew full well the pain and misery He was about to endure.  He knew full well that not only was He going to suffer miserably but he was going to clothe Himself in the sins of the world.  Jesus, as a man, did not want to go through all of that.  Who would?  Understand that Jesus did not desire to suffer and die for our sins because He desired to suffer and be tortured.  He submitted Himself to that because that was the only way.  In that, the man Jesus submitted his will to that of the Father denying his own will as a man to not have to suffer what he was about to suffer.  In that same spirit, we have to deny our own will and desires and submit them to God.  Just as Jesus did, we need to not follow our own hearts but deny them.  Once we deny them we need to, like Jesus, take up our cross in submission to God.  And once we do that, we are not following our own hearts but we are following our Lord. 

Jesus was fully God and fully man and going to the cross was a matter of forsaking the flesh that made Him man and embracing the Spirit that made Him God.  Now we are not fully God and fully man.  We are fully man, but we have God dwelling within us.  For us, we need to deny the flesh that only seeks to satisfy itself and embrace the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.  Following our hearts will always lead to self satisfaction and strive toward the impossibility of self preservation.  Following the heart of God leads to a selfless life free from the concerns of self and leads us to eternal life.  Jesus told us that if we desire to save our own lives, we will lose it, but if we give up our lives for His sake we will find it.  Many people follow their hearts because they want to live a life that they think makes them happy.  How sad for those people. The answer to becoming who you were truly created to be is not within our own hearts, but only in God.  Subject your hearts to God and He will lead you to where you were created to be. 
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 NKJV

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