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.
With respect to my former pastor and great scholar Wayne Stiles, I love you man! I just had to reflect on this one, I mean no disrespect. Iron sometimes sharpens iron. I love you man!
Jim, I wish everyone who disagreed with me did it as graciously as you! Actually, I think we may be talking about two different aspects of the heart. (Brandi is correct, as usual.) From your perspective, Jim, I couldn’t agree more. We shouldn’t disregard our heart’s inclination to sin, but we should challenge it. The renewal of the mind is the assignment there.
I wrote from the perspective of decision making. “Don’t follow your heart” as a guide for decision making, especially when it contradicts the Bible. I’m weary of the Disney notion that preaches “follow your heart.” The problem with FaceBook and Twitter is that they don’t afford a lot of space for context. The line I wrote came from this post, which is only half of the original letter I wrote to my daughters. Here is the other half.
You both raise good points, and I think this is an important issue. I might posit that in a situation where our heart’s desire conflicts Scripture, a sincere wish to obey God might in itself constitute a change of heart. We might still desire the forbidden thing on some level, but we want to desire the righteous choice. You might say we want to want to. Maybe this is what Lewis meant. In any event, I think that obedience done in opposition to inclination, but accompanied by a humble wish for a change of heart, is a far cry from the smothered rebellion that only pretends to obey. I’m thinking of something on a level with the heart cry, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!”
You guys both rock! I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see two God-loving men whom I respect engaging in rational discourse that is motivated by love and an earnest desire for the truth.
The thing I’m getting at is that the whole secret to the gospel and to our problem in general is the very fact that we are disinclined in our heart to obey. It does no good to throw this out the window in the interest of any level of feigned obedience. Feigned obedience is disobedience. A very very hard and deep and unbending view of the law in this fashion brings us quickly to our need for grace, and for spirit-led living. Always we are living out Romans 7 and running back to Romans 8:1.
We have a fantastic Freedom Ministry at my church (Gateway Church) and this is one of the many points we discover throughout the process. I think you would really enjoy the book written by the Freedom pastor, Bob Hamp:
Blessings and give my love to your lovely wife!
Candice (Baugh) Phillips