The prophet Jeremiah once said:
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”Jeremiah 17:9 NASB
God answered him, saying:
“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”Jeremiah 17:10 NASB
Furthermore, it was said of Jesus:
“But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”John 2:24-25 NASB
I am a woman, but these verses equally apply to me. Several Bible translations have updated their language to say “men and women” or “people” or an equivalent rather than using the term “man/men,” and some people find that helpful. I am glad for those who find it helpful, yet I personally have no need for it. It is common in many languages to use the masculine plural to refer to groups of both men and women. For example, in Spanish chico means boy and chica means girl. A group of all girls is chicas, and a group of all boys is chicos. A mixed group of both boys and girls is also chicos. Moreover the Supreme Court ruled that the term “men” lawfully applies to mixed groups of both men and women. This is good, for it means that the grand foundation of the USA – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” – equally applies to women as well as men.
Therefore, let us personalize these verses.
My heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. How can I understand it? The LORD searches my heart and tests my mind, even to give to me according to my ways, according to the results of my deeds. Jesus knows me and does not need anyone to testify concerning me, for He knows what is in me.
The One who searches and knows all hearts, including yours and mine, has said this:
“…and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth, and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.’”Genesis 8:21b NASB
The intent of my heart is evil from my youth.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived except for Jesus Christ, said this:
“…Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterward they go to the dead.”Ecclesiastes 9:3b NASB
My heart is full of evil and insanity is in my heart throughout my life.
Maybe that is why Solomon also said:
“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.”Proverbs 28:26 NASB
That’s a slap in the face of all the cartoons who told us to trust in and follow our hearts, isn’t it? “Be true to your heart” is the mantra of pop culture today, yet the Bible says its antithesis:
“[Jesus said,] ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.’”Matthew 15:19 NASB
Friends, trusting in and following and “being true” to our own heart is perhaps the most dangerous thing we can do. This is why we sing in the famous hymn:
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, emphasis mine
I know for myself, I am often unwilling to grasp how wicked I truly am. Perhaps you, too? This comes out most often after I have done something terrible – said something I regret or done something I am ashamed of – and I am simply horrified by it. I may even think, “I can’t believe I did/said that!” But what does that say about how I view myself? If I am startled by my own sin, it shows that I’m generally thinking that I’m not a bad person.
Some might interject here, “But you are a mostly good person! People are basically good!” I have to disagree. Morever, I emphatically disagree that saying so is for our good and that saying otherwise (saying that people are basically bad, for example) is detrimental to people’s spiritual, emotional, and/or mental health. On the contrary, recognizing our wickedness for what it is aligns us with truth, opens us to the depths of God’s love, and enlightens our eyes to the beauty and strength of His grace.
If I accidentally stub your toe and you forgive me, I will be grateful but likely think little of it. If, however, I intentionally murder your loved one and you forgive me, I will be rocked to the core by your love and grace. The truth is, each and every one of us is guilty of murdering the One and Only Begotten Son, whom God called Beloved. And He forgives us if we will accept His grace through faith (believing Him). This is why grace is amazing. This is why we as Christians praise God’s love for being unfailing.
My heart is naturally wicked and deceitful. This is why I need a Savior. He is not here to save me from the wickedness of others; He is here to save me from my own.
“…you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”Matthew 1:21b NASB
This so often gets mixed up in popular culture. We want Jesus to spare us from suffering, i.e. to save us from the sins of others, then to let us live our own lives as we see fit (trusting in our own hearts). This is the opposite of what is true – which is why so many get confused! Jesus promised us trouble, and the apostle Paul said that His sufferings are abundant in our lives (2 Corinthians 1:5). Romans 8:28 is a famous and well-loved verse:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”Romans 8:28 NASB
But what is that “good”? We want to believe that “good” means worldly prosperity, health, and ease with little to no suffering, but that is not God’s definition. God’s definition involves heavenly prosperity, spiritual health, and freedom from the chains of sin and lies, which cause so much devastation not only to ourselves but also to others. The verse which follows the one above is much less known or quoted. Romans 8:29 starts with, “For,” a word which links it to the promise given in Romans 8:28. To paraphrase it, Romans 8:29 states that “those” referred to in verse 28 are going to be molded (like clay is molded in the hand of a Master) into the image of Christ Jesus. That is God’s definition of “good.” He is using all things to make us like Jesus, who was sinless and beloved of God, who was well-pleasing to God, obedient to God unto death, and had a deep and abiding fellowship with God. That is part of God’s definition of “good,” for He has much more in store for us than we can even imagine.
Don’t trust in your heart. Trust in God’s.
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash