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December 03, 2007

“YOUR HEART: IN ITS NATURAL STATE”

by Professor Robert J. Barth

We saw last time that our heart consists of our belief system. It includes our innermost thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and affections. It is what we believe to be true and is the seminal force behind our words and actions. It is the command center of our life. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks, and out of the heart come both evil and good attitudes and actions (Matthew 12:34-35).

Apart from a relationship with God, what is the condition of our heart?  Do we naturally have a “pure heart”?  Do we always think, speak, and do “good”? The Bible tells us that our heart has been, and is impacted by sin. The negative influence of others, our own lusts, and the temptations of the devil add to our already existing tendency to seek self and not God. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12).

When you read Genesis 1-2, you see how God created man to have close fellowship with Him. Being created in God’s image and having been given authority over the creation, Adam and Eve had a heart-felt relationship with God on a daily basis. But when Adam and Eve turned their attention and affections toward self and believed the lie of Satan, that close fellowship was broken. God still loved them as much as ever, but Adam and Eve’s hearts were changed from knowing only good to also knowing evil. By relying on their senses rather than God’s word, Adam and Eve were deceived into believing a lie rather than the truth. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).

The progression of evil in the heart of man only became worse until “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God destroyed man, except for Noah and his family, by the great flood and established through Noah the authority of civil government to punish those who do evil in the future (Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:1-4). Despite God’s commandments, and external sanctions for evil actions, man’s heart in its unregenerate state tends toward selfishness and pride.

One of the most often quoted verses concerning the heart is Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” It is only God who truly knows the motives and intentions of our heart. (See I Samuel 16:7, I Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 44:21, Proverbs 17:3, Jeremiah 17:10, and Acts 1:24.) Does this mean that we cannot trust our heart? Can we trust what we think in our heart, based upon reason and our own senses, to be true? The answer is “No.” In fact the Bible tells us, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26).

In its natural state, our heart cannot be trusted. Apart from faith in the truth of God’s word, a person will rely upon his five senses or the influence of others to determine what is truth.  A sensory or intellectual belief system will always lead to error and deception because man’s ability to know the truth apart from God has been permanently impaired. Sir William Blackstone, the renowned 18th century English jurist and legal scholar put it this way:

And if our reason were always, as in our first ancestor before his transgression, clear and perfect, unruffled by passions, unclouded by prejudice, unimpaired by disease or intemperance, the task [of knowing what the law of nature directs] would be pleasant and easy; we should need no other guide but this. But every man now finds the contrary in his own experience, that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding full of ignorance and error.

And if our reason were always, as in our first ancestor before his transgression,

The fallen or sin-prone nature of man manifests itself in heart attitudes and beliefs leading to pride, self-centeredness, envy, covetousness, and associated actions. In its natural state, there are many descriptions of a heart influenced by sin. These are several:

Proud heart: “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

Evil heart: “But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.” (Jeremiah 7:24)

Despiteful heart: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred.” (Ezekiel 25:15)

Hard heart: “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. (Mark 16:14)

Unbelieving heart: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12)

Froward heart: “They that are of a forward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.” (Proverbs 11:20)

Perverse heart: “A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.” (Proverbs 12:8)

Wicked heart: “Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.” (Proverbs 26:23)

Foolish heart: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21)

Rebellious heart: But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone. (Jeremiah 5:23)

Thanks be to God who answers us when we ask Him to search our heart and to reveal the evil in our heart. We know that God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse of all unrighteousness, if we confess our sins and have faith in Jesus as our atoning sacrifice (I John 1:7-9). Have you asked God to show you the condition of your heart? Do you have any attitudes, beliefs, motivations, or actions that are “commanded” by the “evil treasure” (Matthew 12:35) of the heart listed above? 

I encourage you to take time to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to convict you concerning your “heart condition.”  The Psalmist did this, and so did New Testament saints. May the following Scriptures be a guide: 

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139: 23-24)

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. (Psalm 66:18)

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (James 4:8)

Next time we will examine the “good treasure of the heart” and the type of heart attitudes, beliefs, and actions that God promises to bless. 

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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.

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