Have you ever heard someone tell you that you should follow your heart? That phrase is very descriptive of the worldly philosophy which says, “ let your heart guide you.” No matter how major the decision we have to make in life, we are encouraged to do what we “feel” our heart tells us to do. We are told that we are being “untrue to ourselves” if we do not follow the yearnings of our hearts. Even in Christianity we are told that God speaks directly to our hearts, giving us direction for life. Are we instructed by God to follow our hearts? What does the Bible have to say on this subject?
I believe Jeremiah describes our heart best:
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?The Bible is replete with passages warning us of the evil of our own hearts.
Eccl 9:3 ...The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.
Ps 10:2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. 3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. 4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
Matt 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slanderRom 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts...
Our hearts are wicked and as Jeremiah said, deceitful above all things. It is, according to Jeremiah, beyond cure!
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?There is nothing man can do to cure the evil within his heart. His heart is deceitful and no amount of therapy, medication, or religion can cure it. But what about Jesus? When a person is saved, does Jesus cure their evil heart? No, the Bible says we are given a new heart and a new spirit.
Ezek 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
The New Testament often refers to this change. We are told that when we are saved we are not creatures with repaired hearts but rather we are a new creation!
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ; the old has gone, the new has come!Eph 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness
While there is a new heart and spirit within us, the fleshly desires of our hearts still remain. We will continue, as Paul did, to battle between the two (Rom 7:14-25). We must decide, each and every day, whether or not we live by the Spirit or give into the flesh.
Gal 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law...25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.So, how do we know which one we are following? How can you be certain that the tugging or desire of your heart is coming from God rather than the flesh? Is there a certain way we feel, a certain sign we will have, or a miraculous gift such as tongues that will confirm it for us? NO! The only way to be sure you are following the Spirit is to compare what you desire with what God's Word says. In this same passage Paul tells us what the acts of the flesh are and what the fruit of the Spirit will be. We are constantly reminded of what is and is not acceptable behavior for a Christian.
Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
If your heart tells you to divorce your spouse, have an affair, have premarital sexual relations, be involved in a homosexual lifestyle, to have an abortion, to abuse our spouse, or anything that is contrary to God's Word we can know that is not the Spirit leading us! That is a desire of the flesh! We can NOT trust our feelings, emotions, or the desires of hearts to be our guide in life. Our hearts are deceitful above all things, do not let it lead you into hardship. That is why God gave us His Word. It is useful for teaching us what is right and what is wrong.
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.The word follow appears 189 times in the NIV. In the Old Testament we are told over and over again to follow the commands of God and to follow the Lord. Between all four gospels, Jesus is recorded as saying “follow me” 18 times. Not one of those verses tells us to follow our hearts. There is no indication in Scripture that we are should be guided by the feelings, desires, or tugging at our hearts. The only way we can follow Jesus is to know what He said. To do that we must read and study God's Word.
Jude warned us well. He told us we must contend for the faith that was entrusted to the saints. How can we contend for that faith, if we do not know what the saints believed? He then warned us that in the last days, instead of following that faith, many would follow their own evil desires, their own ungodly ways, and mere natural instincts. We are warned that people would be following these things (as so many are today), but Jude instructs us not to do so.
Jude 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord... 16 These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. 17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." 19 These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
We can only know if we are following the “most holy faith” by comparing our faith with what the Bible teaches. If your heart is deceitful above all things, then you cannot trust it to guide you in life. That tugging in your heart could simply be a mere natural instinct. The strong desire you have could be an evil and fleshly one. The decision you feel “led” to make could be an ungodly one. We do not have to be in the dark about these matters. While the world tells us to follow our hearts, God gives us something more reliable and stable to follow. Something that will never pass away. His Word is the lamp that sheds light on the path we are to follow.
Ps 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Trust in His Word and let it be your guide.