“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
One of the more popular songs of 1975 was written by Morris Albert. The song begins with very prescient words: “Feelings, nothing more than feelings.” Since the day that Adam and Eve took the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and ate it, a new religion has predominated the human landscape. Gone were the days of innocence when Adam could walk with his Creator through the Garden. Now it was enmity with God and with each other.
What has taken the place of God in directing our thoughts, actions, AND feelings is a heart that the prophet tells us is “deceitful above all things…” It is quite easy for me to see this as I look at those in our culture around me, but I need to pause and look into my own heart first. And there I find a heart that accuses and deceives at every turn. It is not just that everyone else’s heart is deceitful, but my own heart is. I am tossed about by its whims and fancies, its pernicious nature leading me astray.
Ever since the Fall, the new religion has been Emotionalism, a default to “following our heart.” As we’ve already seen, this is a deadly course that only leads to destruction. Like the man whose heart is failing, I am in need of a heart transplant. I am grateful to God that through the instrument of faith in Jesus Christ, God promises this very thing. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules…you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:26-28).
Yet, though the testimony of Scripture is this, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17), there is an “already/not yet” distinction that we must consider. Though I am not what I used to be, I am not yet what I will be. There is a progressive sanctification that is at work in me by the Holy Spirit, knowing “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Rom. 8:28-29).
What that means practically is that I must first live out the prayer I make each week: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” It is a daily task to seek mercy and grace from God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. Then, and only then, can I begin to extend that same mercy and grace to my neighbor.
Given the monumental shifts that have shaken the foundations of our country in the last few years (and yes, I am well aware of what many would consider the most significant of these coming last Friday – but I’ll have more to say about that in the coming weeks), and the growing hostility boiling over as we become entrenched in our views, it is important to begin with my attitudes, feelings and reasoning first. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
As we live out this life in Christ, let us hold unswervingly to the God-breathed Scriptures, finding it “profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).