What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Can you remember a time when someone gave you some “wise counsel” to do something that ended up not being the best idea after all? You may not want to admit it, but you probably jumped into to something without thinking and regret that decision to this day.
Well, some of the worst advice I hear people doling out these days is to “follow your heart.” In fact, a friend got that advice in a fortune cookie this last week. “Follow your heart – it will never lead you wrong.” Is that a true statement? Do our hearts ever lead us in the wrong direction?
Mine has. I’ve gotten my mind so set on something that I start begging God for it. Pleading with God for weeks and months on end to give me this thing I want. Sometimes I’m sure that God gives me what I want just to show me that what I really wanted wasn’t what I actually needed. Because there have been times when I got what I wanted and it was devastating.
Our hearts are crazy things. No, I literally think they’re crazy. Sometimes they’re bipolar, other times they have multiple personality disorder. I’ve been in conversations with people who deeply want something for their lives like losing weight. Then a few moments later in the conversation they’re talking about wanting a cheeseburger. Wait a second, that was probably me talking to someone. I want to lose weight and I want a cheeseburger. Oh hey, I can just do Keto, right?
The prophet Jeremiah said: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) You’ve probably heard that verse before. Honestly, it’s one we need to memorize, because our hearts are not only prone to wander but we’re prone to following our hearts with all our hearts into disaster.
Prior to that verse the prophet says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord…but blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who’s confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends its roots out into the stream.” Then that verse about our deceitful hearts.
What’s the connection? Trusting in the Lord produces fruitfulness, trusting in man produces desert living. The result of one is vastly different than another for the tree. What kind of tree do you want to be. Do you want to be by a stream or by parched lands?
Okay, okay, that’s great. Don’t trust your hearts. So what? What’s that got to do with becoming love? Well, hang with me for just a second. You see, the tactics of the world are at work to short-circuit our brain and use either our hearts or fear to manipulate us in one direction. The news tends to use fear to try to affect the way we live our lives. Advertising companies and media moguls use stories to try to influence our hearts. Either way, the end result is often the same, bypass the logical parts of our brains to get us to make an impulsive decision.
In fact, smart devices (like smart phones) are running algorithms on us as their subjects all the time to determine the time of day when we are the least self-controlled versions of ourselves so they know when to pitch that product our direction that we might impulsively purchase. Supposedly, our storehouse of willpower is limited. With smartphones, we may even use up our willpower reserves very early in the day. So by the time we get into the afternoon and we’re tired or when we’re scrolling on social media at midnight, we’re more likely to make an impulse purchase because it tugged our heart strings in one way or another.
Well, not one way or another, three specific ways. But that’s for tomorrow. For today, let’s look at the problem of the heart when it comes to love. I mean, we want to become love right? Shouldn’t our hearts play a critical role in that process?
Well, kind of. Genesis 6:5 says that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Thus, God flooded the earth and started over with Noah. What is the “evil” that was taking place? Well, we would like to point our fingers at specific sins. However, that would be like the nail in the head video that was popular a few years ago. In case you don’t remember, there was a video with a man and a woman, and the woman had a nail in her head. “I can just feel it, literally feel it in my head, it’s relentless. I don’t know if it’s ever going to stop.” The guy says, “Well, you do have a nail in your head.” To which she replies: “It’s not about the nail, stop trying to fix this…” They go back and forth for a while about how she needs him to listen but he wants to take the nail out. But, she wants to keep talking about the pain the nail is causing. He finally concedes and says: “That must be really hard.” And she says with relief, “It is.” They go in to kiss one another and he hits the nail with his forehead.
My wife and I have gone back and forth over that video since it came out. “It’s not about the nail.” She will say, to which I reply, “But it is about the nail, because all the stuff she’s complaining about would go away if the nail was gone.” I guess that’s just because I’m a guy. Or, it could be that I’m right. 🙂
Now, I’m aware that I’ve probably ticked off any female listening to this podcast, but roll with me. The problem of our hearts isn’t that we do the sin, whatever the sin is. The problem is that we WANT to do the sin. We want the cookie. We know we shouldn’t, we know it would be better if we denied ourselves and didn’t follow through on that urge, but we want it a lot. And the more we think about it, the more we convince ourselves that we want it. And, because we are masters of our own minds and hearts, we’re really good at convincing ourselves that what we want is the right thing and that we should do the thing we really want to do.
So we do it. We give in to it. Because our hearts deceive us. Our wants deceive us all the time. The pain the nail causes is nothing compared to the damage the nail is doing to the woman’s head. The same is true of sin. The pain that sin causes is nothing compared to the damage that rebellion is doing to our hearts. Our constant giving in to our hearts only perpetuates, adds fuel to our desire to please ourselves. Our hearts become hardened, stuck in their ways because we consistently resist God’s prompting away from our selfish natures and indulge in the nail one more time.
Becoming love can only be accomplished with a new heart. As we will see later this week, God’s definition of love varies greatly from the worlds definition of love. Becoming love sounds good and nice, but who’s love are we going to become, God’s love or the world’s love? The two are mutually exclusive.
What do we do? Well? We need a new heart. We need God to write his law of love on our hearts so that instead of being ruled by our heart of stone, the one we were born with, we can be ruled by God’s soft, beating heart of love. Primarily, this is a work that God does. God changes our hearts by his power. But we do have a role to play. We have to give him access to our hearts on a regular basis.
You see, it’s going to be hard to listen to God’s voice speaking to the desires of your heart if you never learn what His voice sounds like. That’s one reason why, we’re asking you to consider giving another 7 minutes this week to God. That’s a total of 12 minutes a day. And, It’s really important that we not try to squeeze an extra 12 minutes here or there. Because of our Lent journey, we need to actually deny ourselves something to make time for the most important thing.
Jesus isn’t something you add to your life. Jesus is your life. But Jesus won’t become our life by force. Jesus becomes our life by our complete surrender to Him. In other words, Jesus becomes our life when we deny ourselves whatever it is we think life is. Squeezing in 12 minutes a day with Jesus is possible for most. But, that’s only half the battle. We need to strength our denying muscles. We, as a society (myself included) need to remind ourselves what it feels like to be hungry so we know what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We need to deny ourselves instant access to everything so that we can remind ourselves what it’s like to seek the Kingdom of God. The convenience of our society has numbed us to the pursuit of God. We’ve so numbed our hearts with convenience that we need to start reminding ourselves what it is to follow hard after God.
So, what can you give up to find 12 minutes a day to spend time with God? If you do, you’ll start to notice the desires of your heart start to change. It may not be much. Just a few minutes surfing craigslist or a few less minutes perusing the deals of the day on Amazon. Maybe you give up 12 minutes of sleep so you can spend those 12 minutes with God to start your day. (By the way, the sun is rising about 3 minutes earlier every day right now, so if you just got up 3 minutes earlier per day you’d have 15 more minutes per week.
We have to let the Spirit retrain the way our hearts work so that we can become like Jesus who’s heart was moved with compassion on the pain and heartache he saw in the world. Our hearts don’t see it anymore. We’re numb to it. We need a fresh work of the Spirit of life to resurrect our cold, hard hearts.