Should You Follow Your Heart?

In Christian circles we often talk about “sharing our heart,” by which we usually mean sharing our passion, that which is especially meaningful to us & drives us, or being open & transparent. These are good & biblical.

A popular saying in TV shows & movies in contemporary society is “Follow your heart.” It might be good for romance stories, but is it wise biblical counsel for life? Should we trust & follow our heart? I studied “the heart” throughout Scripture & came up with nearly 10 pages of notes. Here is the Reader’s Digest condensed version:

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HEART

  • We reason in our heart: Mark 2:8
  • We decide in our heart: 2 Cor. 9:7
  • Our heart has purposes: 1 Cor. 4:5
  • Heart & spirit often overlap & seem to be synonymous, but the Word of God alone can distinguish between heart & spirit: Heb. 4:12.

THE BAD NEWS: OUR PRE-CONVERSION HEART WAS DECEITFUL: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9)

THE GOOD NEWS: GOD HAS GIVEN US A NEW HEART: “I will give you a new heart, & a new spirit I will put within you. & I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh & give you a heart of flesh. & I will put my Spirit within you, & cause you to walk in my statutes & be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezek 36:26-27).

THE BAD NEWS: THE RESIDUE OF THE OLD UNRENEWED HEART CAN STILL AFFECT US:

  • Our hearts can be double-minded: “Purify your hearts, you double-minded (lit., (double-souled”)” (James 4:8). A double-souled person has doubts, not faith, is unstable, & cannot receive wisdom from the Lord (James 1:5-8)
  • The natural inclinations of our unrenewed hearts are evil: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matt 15:19)
  • The heart can negatively affect the spirit: (Prov 15:13, 17)

THEREFORE, BOTH GOOD AND BAD NEWS FOR OUR HEART:

  • Our heart can be glad or sad (Prov 15:13)
  • Our heart is with what we treasure, for good or bad: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)
  • The heart can be joyful or crushed & dried up: ‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Prov 17:22)
  • We can be pure or impure in our heart: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8)
  • We can have a wise heart or a foolish heart.“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Eccl 7:4)
  • The heart can be corrupted: “Surely oppression drives the wise into madness, & a bribe corrupts the heart.” (Eccl. 7:7)
  • You can walk in the ways of your heart, but they may bring judgment. “Walk in the ways of your heart & the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” (Eccl 11:9)
  • The plans of the heart belong to man, not God: “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from theLord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, & your plans will be established.” (Prov. 16:1)
  • Our heart can fail us: “My flesh & my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart & my portion forever.” (Ps 73:26)
  • Our heart can condemn us: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, & He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; & whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments & do what pleases Him.”(1 John 3:20-23)
  • Our heart can be troubled & a troubled heart is a fearful heart: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled [agitated, stirred up], neither let them be afraid.”(John 14:27). If our heart is troubled, the source of our lack of peace is not from the Lord, but from fear.
  • Our heart can be self-righteous: “Do not say in your heart, after theLord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ . . . Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land.” (Deut 9:4-6)
  • Our heart can be arrogant: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the lord” (Prov 16:15)
  • Our heart can rage & can rebel against the Lord: “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the” (Prov 19:3)
  • Our heart can be crooked: “A man of crooked heart does not discover good, & one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.” (Prov 17:20)
  • The devil can put things in our heart: “During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” (John 13:2)
  • We can lose heart: “He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
  • Our heart can be faint or sick: “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” (Isa 1:5)
  • Our hearts can be weighed down/burdened with the cares of life & feel trapped: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation & drunkenness & cares of this life, & that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke 21:34)
  • Our heart can be hasty: “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven & you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Eccl. 5:2)
  • When our hearts are not pure, we don’t have vision to see God clearly: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt 5:8)
  • Our heart can turn away from the Lord: “Thus says theLord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man & makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jer 17:5)

FOLLOWING YOUR HEART IS UNPREDICTABLE, IT IS THEREBY NOT TRUSTWORTHY. Therefore we are admonished:

  • Don’t follow your own heart, but follow God’s commandments: “Remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart & your own eyes.” (Num 15:39)
  • Direct our heart, not be directed by your heart: “Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.” (Prov 13:12; also Jer 10:23)
  • Don’t trust in your heart: “Whoever trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” (Prov 28:26)
  • Trust in the Lord with your heart, not trust your heart: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Prov 3:5-7)
  • Keep your heart with diligence: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov 4:23)
  • Be a person after God’s heart, not your heart: “. . . a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” (Acts 13:22)
  • Seek the Word of God to discern the thoughts & intents of our heart (Heb 4:12)
  • Direct your heart, not be directed by your heart: “Hear, my son, & be wise, & direct your heart in the way.” (Prov 23:19)
  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deut 6:5; Mark 12:30)
  • “Meditate in your heart and be still” (Psalm 4:4; 77:6)
  • “Remove vexation from your heart”(Eccl 11:10)
  • Store God’s Word in your heart as a preventative from sin.“ I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Ps 119:11)

HOW TO DEAL WITH OUR HEART: THE ULTIMATE GOOD NEWS!

  • Recognize that God is greater than our heart: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”(1 John 3:20)
  • Ask for a wise & discerning heart: “Behold, I have given you a wise &discerning heart” (1 Kings 3:12)
  • Seek God with all our heart, & we will find Him: “You will seek me & find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13)
  • Declare that God can strengthen our heart: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
  • Let our heart hold fast to words of wisdom: “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, & live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, & do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” (Prov 4:4)
  • Train your heart to keep God’s commandments: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days & years of life & peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love & faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor & good success in the sight of God & man.” ( 3:1-4)
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, & do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5)
  • Believe: A believing heart is not a troubled heart: “Let not your hearts be troubled [agitated, stirred]. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1).If our heart is troubled, agitated, stirred up, we are not believing, not walking in a state of faith.
  • Let the peace of God guard your heart: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)
  • Purify your heart: “And purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)

There is much more, but this should give us enough to meditate on, chew on & digest throughout this week! Let our prayer this week be:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139:23-24

See also John Piper: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dont-follow-your-heart

 

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