Recently a man I deeply respect who was at one time my pastor posted this:
“When your heart’s desire contradicts Scripture, betray your feelings. Don’t follow your heart.”
Upon reflection, I am going to humbly dispute this; as Elishah’s disciples said, there is death in that pot (2 Kings 4:40). First, some scripture:
23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.
(Proverbs 4:23, NASB).
17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed…
(Romans 6:17, NASB).
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:36-40, NASB).
The fact that our heart’s desire is in conflict with scripture is actually the very central problem we have. It does no good to dismiss it. There is no such thing as an obedience which is not from the heart. You cannot simply avoid adultery; you must not desire a woman in your heart. It amounts to coveting, every time. The heart’s desire is absolutely tantamount; in fact it IS the sin. You can’t obey unless you change the heart. There is no obedience or adherence to scripture if the heart resists or is disengaged. As Jesus says, it is the heart itself that is the seat of evil:
17 “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?
18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.
20 “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
(Matthew 15:17-20, NASB).
Just a minute, you may say! This is impossible! We are only human! No one is that good! Doesn’t C.S. Lewis say that if we will only make an attempt at obedience, our heart may follow? Perhaps he did, but until the heart follows, it despises the imposition of the behavior, and this resentment is the sin.
The law always destroys us (Romans 3:19,20). It demands perfection, it demands the impossible. It requires a perfection of desire. It demands, not simply that we do not kill, but that we do not be angry. It demands not simply that we don’t steal, but that we don’t covet. It demands a perfection of heart, of action rooted always in love for God and neighbor.
It is this perfection of law that always leads us to the need for this central truth:
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
(1 John 4:10, NASB).
So, we must not betray our heart’s desire. We must confess our heart’s desire (1 John 1:7,8,9,10). We must attend to our heart’s desire, and watch it closely, for apart from it we have no zeal and no holiness and no obedience at all. Since Adam we have a morbid fascination with the forbidden. Apart from the grace that is in Christ there is no cleansing and no hope at all. Clearly the aim of the gospel is not a veneer of good behavior but a newness of life in the Spirit. We are wholly dependent on the grace and mercy of God in Christ at all times in every circumstance, to lead our hearts to obedience.