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Proverbs 3:5-6-Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

It’s great to see everyone here today.  I’m starting a new series called, “The Truth Is…” The goal of this series is to combat what I’m going to call, “Hallmark Theology.” I’m not throwing shade at the card and gift company directly, just the idea that people have bought sentiment as truth.  Like if it sounds good, if it warms the heart, if it brings a smile or a tear, then it must be a sign to follow and words to live by.  One of the current cultural directives is this:  Follow Your Heart.  It’s expressed in many different ways, but the sentiment is everywhere.  I googled “Follow Your Heart” quotes, and here are the leading responses:

“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind.  Be led by the dreams in your heart.”  Roy T. Bennett  I like the idea of not allowing fear to be what drives us, but I’m not sure it is any healthier to be simply led by our dreams. 

“If it excites you and scares you at the same time, it probably means you should do it.”  What on earth kind of logic is that? That doesn’t even make sense to me. I guess if you have strong emotion surrounding something, it must be a sign?

“Believe in yourself and follow your heart.”  This one doesn’t even attempt to camouflage the real agenda which is to get us to move away from trusting God to trusting self.  It’s the oldest trick in Satan’s book.  He wants us to fall for thinking we know better than God so that we disengage from Him as our Source.

“Follow your heart.  It knows the way.”  How can it know the way when it feels one way one day and another way the next?  There can’t be multiple paths to travel at the same time.  Why would you follow something as fickle, something as unpredictable, something as undependable as your heart?

“Follow your heart because if you always trust your mind, you’ll act on logic, and logic doesn’t always lead you to happiness.”  Oh yeah, who would want to follow logic?  Didn’t we throw that out the window a long time ago?  Silly me.  And, oh, whatever makes you happy is what you need to follow in order to be true to yourself, true to what’s in your heart.  Got it.

“Follow your heart and you will never get lost.” Are you kidding me?  More and more people are asking, “Where am I and how did I get here?” because they followed their heart.

“There is no reason not to follow your heart.” -Steve Jobs  How about all of the reasons I just listed? 

The truth is, Our hearts can’t be trusted.  Our hearts can be misleading. Has anyone here ever messed up big only to say, “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time?”  Our hearts can easily be manipulated.  We’re easily flattered.  We are easily flustered.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

That isn’t a very glowing report on our heart’s ability to discern and prompt us to do the right thing.  Our hearts, the Bible says, are deceitful, misleading beyond all other sources.  If we are looking to our hearts to help us navigate and succeed in life, we are putting hope in something that is broken from the get-go.  Our hearts are broken from birth because of sin.  If we are going to live a righteous life, if we are going to discern what is best, what is holy, we are going to need a higher authority than our own hearts.  When we let our hearts lead, we get into all kinds of sinful, complicated stuff that comes with a heavy price tag.  Just read Romans 1.  It’s pretty plain. 

Matthew 15:19 says our hearts can house some pretty nasty stuff.  Many evil things that happen in this world, things we could all agree are evil, like human trafficking, child porn, armed robbery, the destruction of property, terrorist activity, these are things that are carried out because someone let their heart lead them.  Our hearts cannot be trusted.

That sounds like bad news, but we aren’t without hope. Instead of allowing our hearts to lead us, we can learn to lead our hearts.  We can learn to look into our heart and be honest about and deal with what is there.  We can ask God to show us who we really are.  We can ask God to put a spotlight on those places in our heart that aren’t fully committed to Him.  We can ask Him to expose the places where we are tempted to lean on our own understanding. We can ask Him to help us restrain and submit our heart’s impulses to Him. 

But we have to be intentional about it if it is going to happen. Life is busy.  It is hard to slow down and take time to reflect on what isn’t working, to acknowledge what is broken, to repent from going our own way and forging our own path because we have followed our hearts instead of following after the Lord.  Because our hearts cannot be trusted, our hearts must be tried.  We need the guts to open our hearts before the Lord and give Him permission to do an internal work in us so that our hearts are aligned with Him and His desires for our lives instead of being in alignment with our fleshly desires.

In Psalm 51, King David, the guy who messed up royally by following his heart, by having an affair with a married woman, having a child with her, and having her husband murdered to try to cover up the whole situation, that guy, became someone later God called “A man after His own heart.”  Did you catch that?  God didn’t call him adulterer.  He could have.  He was.  God didn’t call him murderer.  He could have.  He was.  God didn’t call him liar.  He could have.  He was.  Instead, God called David a man after his own heart?  David was someone who learned to trust God with His whole heart because he allowed God to pry his heart open so that it could be examined.  Leaning on his own understanding, following his heart had gotten him into a world of hurt, and the way forward, the way forward to wholeness and peace with God, involved putting his heart on trial.

David went from being an adulterer, murderer, and liar to God’s man by allowing his heart to be tried. His heart was laid bare in Psalm 51. He said in verses 3-4: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.”

He had tried to cover up his sin, and it made the circumstances worse. The cover up was causing him physical problems.  Sin can do that to a person.  The guilt was overwhelming. Read Psalm 51 when you have a minute.  He felt like his bones were crushed.  Who could live well feeling like that? In order for his heart to be unburdened, to be cleansed, to be repaired, he had to expose it completely before God.  He confessed what he had done.  He didn’t try to minimize it.  He didn’t try to excuse it.  He didn’t try to defend it.  He didn’t try to blame anyone else.  He acknowledged the evil that had led him to do what he did.  He confessed that he had followed his heart instead of following God, and it cost him dearly.

It wasn’t the first and last time David willingly put his heart on trial. It became a habit. Listen to Psalm 139:23-24-Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

David asked God to put his heart to the test.  It was because of that vulnerability…it was because of that confession that God had the necessary room to work in David’s heart.  What happened after that in David’s life happened because David sought to trust God instead of trusting his own heart.  Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.”  It’s entirely different to trust in the Lord and follow Him than it is to trust in and follow our hearts.

Our hearts cannot be trusted.  They must be tried.  Third, Our hearts must also be trained.  No one will ever trust in the Lord with their whole heart if they haven’t trained their hearts to grow in devotion to Him.  If your heart is conflicted, if in your heart you are chasing the things of the world, you are training your heart to want and pursue the things the world wants and pursues.  Like, you will train your heart to love those things.  For example, if you are exposing yourself to images that aren’t godly, to things that aren’t holy, you are training your heart to want those things. The bottom line is this:  You can grow your heart for the things of the world, or you can grow your heart for God.   

In order for your whole heart to belong to God, you have to expose it to the things God wants for your life.  Your heart for God will grow in an atmosphere of faith, in corporate worship, in times of private prayer, in Christian fellowship, as you listen to Christian music, as you read the Word, as you talk about the Lord with other people.  Where you invest your heart will determine where your heart’s affection and trust will lie.  When you train your heart to trust God, He will become your go-to instead of yourself being your go-to.

Part of training your heart is using and offensive strategy.  Do what you can to foster a love for God in your heart, and there is a lot you can do.  Psalm 119, verses 9-11 say, How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Verse 11 here about hiding God’s Word in our heart so that we won’t sin against God, seems to be the culmination or end of the whole passage, when in reality, it is the foundation to this person’s success.  The Psalmist is talking about the path of purity.  When God directs our path, it is a path of purity for sure.  God isn’t going to lead us down a path of evil, a path of sin, a path that gratifies the flesh in an unholy way.  But the basis, the foundation for being able to know where that path is and the courage and power to walk that path come from the last verse.  “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you, God.”  Part of our offensive training is taking in and tanking up on the Word of God.  Reading and learning the Bible’s content will grow your love for God, I guarantee it.  It will transfer affections from self and from the flesh to God, and it will also empower you to do the right thing as you grow.

So, part of our heart training is offensive, but part of training our hearts is defensive.  You have to guard your heart.  Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” How are we doing with the guarding of our hearts?  Have we let down our guard?  Are we allowing things into our hearts that are crowding out our love for God?  Have we accepted things into our lives we would never have accepted ten years ago, all because more and more people are doing it, and well, they seem to be decent folks?  Have we been tenaciously guarding our hearts? How careful are we on the internet?  What are we allowing ourselves to watch? We need to look away when we are tempted to compromise.  We need to get away when we are tempted to compromise.  We need to not put ourselves intentionally in situations that would cause our hearts to be confused about our where our loyalty lies. 

We can’t follow our hearts.  We have to cultivate and train them and guard them so that they stay focused on trusting in the Lord at all times. 

Even the most diligent person in this room, the one who does the most training in righteousness, the one who reads the most and prays the most for God to inspect his or her heart, cannot trust in the Lord with their whole heart until their heart has not only been tried and trained, but transformed.  Point number four is this:  Our hearts must be transformed.  There are things we can do to invest in the quality of our hearts, but no one can transform their heart.  That is God’s job.  And that is what He has been after since He created humanity.  God’s desire is to have a relationship with us that involves having our hearts belonging to Him and set on His perfect will.  No amount of training can produce that kind of faithfulness.  It has to be a God-thing.  It has to be a supernatural thing.  It has to be a miraculous thing.

One of my all-time favorite Scripture passages is in Ezekiel 36:26-27:  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. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Notice, it isn’t a better heart that is being discussed.  It’s not a good heart that is being promised.  It’s a brand-new heart.  It’s a complete heart transplant.  It is a removal of a heart that longs to sin, a heart that wants to be in charge, a heart that wants to go its own way, a heart that is resistant of to the spiritual promptings of the Holy Spirit.  It is a heart that is moved by God to want the things He wants us to desire.  What a gift.  You don’t have to manufacture it.  You don’t have to fake something. You don’t have to pretend to like this thing called Christianity.  Walking with Jesus will become your heart’s desire because God will give you supernatural godly desires.  It’s a total transformation.  It’s a brand-new heart.  I’m down for that!  I’ve experienced that.  Jesus is the best thing that has ever happened to me.    

Romans 6:17 is a verse I think I have overlooked until now:  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

What a transformation!  There is a pattern, a way of being, that claims the allegiance of a person’s heart when they have been transformed by the power of God.  That’s why a true Christ-follower can claim Psalm 37:4 which says, “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” We will have our heart’s desires met because our hearts will desire what God desires for us to desire!  This is what it means to be born again.  It means we are born with a new heart for God instead of with a heart for the evil desires of sin.  When we are born into this world, we want our way, and we are drawn to the broken ways of the world which have terrible consequences.  People who follow that heart, the heart they are born with, walk into all kinds of unnecessary pain and sorrow.  There are broken relationships, broken reputations, a loss of integrity, financial ruin, physical consequences in your body and so much heartache and loss to suffer.  There isn’t anything positive we can say about the heart we are born with in terms of where it can lead us. 

But the person who has truly been born again, been given a new heart, will begin to pursue the kinds of things that Jesus did and the consequences of that kind of living are wonderful.  Other people will be helped, healed and inspired.  And for the person with a transformed heart, there is peace and joy.  There is contentment and fulfillment.  There is a sense of wholeness and wellness.  That person will be established and prospered in ways that the person with a sinful heart could never be established.

Christianity isn’t just about believing something, but it is about receiving something.  It is about receiving a new heart, one that beats with the heart of God.

If you thought it was all about church attendance or dressing a certain way, if you thought it was about ascribing to a certain version of the Bible or a list of rules and regulations.  It’s not.  It’s about the condition of your heart.

Have you received a new heart? If you haven’t, you can do so today. You don’t have to get on a transplant list somewhere and wait for a donor.  One has already been made available.  The perfect heart of Jesus, one without sin, has been made available for you.  Just as in a transplant when someone’s life has expired and a heart is made available, Jesus has given His life to pay the price for our transplant.  His perfect heart and life met the requirement to pay the price for the sins of the world.  We only need to receive Him into our hearts by faith and the new heart is ours.

Maybe you did that at one time, but your once new heart has gotten compromised from relying again on self instead of God.  Maybe that once new heart has some clogged arteries.  Maybe there is work God needs to do to restore your heart for Him to the place it once was when you first received salvation.  Maybe you haven’t guarded it like you should have.  Maybe you haven’t regularly put it on trial and confessed the sinful tendencies that started to creep back in.  You can do all of that this morning.

How is your heart?  What is it attached to?  What motivates your heart to live the way you are currently living?  Have you been following your heart instead of seeking to wholeheartedly follow the Lord?  Do you know that God is directing your path or are you living on impulse and what feels right in the moment? Let’s look at the opening Scripture one more time: Proverbs 3:5-6-Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

How straight is the path you are walking today?  When you look back at your recent steps, can you honestly say, “Yes, I know I’ve trusted and sought God to get me where I am in this moment?”  Can you say with all honesty, “The path ahead of me, is one that God has asked me to walk?”  Did you seek God’s wisdom to know what to study in college?  Did you trust God to lead you to the person you need to spend your life with?  Did you inquire of God before you took your current job?  Is the way you spend your time and your resources the way that God has instructed you?  Is how you talk about people on social media in step with the direction God has given you? 

The truth is, you can’t trust your heart.  You have to lead it.  You lead it by putting it on trial.  You lead it by training it which includes guarding it.  You lead it by allowing God to completely transform it.  This I know:  Your heart will either be transformed by the world and Satan or it will be transformed by God.  Whoever determines the transformation will determine the path you will walk.

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