Hey everyone, it’s David. I hope and pray that all who read this are recognizing the blessing, providence, and love of God our Father in every trial, circumstance, and victory in your lives. If I were to categorize what I want to discuss in this article in some sort of teaching series, I would title the teaching series, “Things David thinks about while lying in bed at night”. That is a joke, but not really. I conclude that if I am reasoning through something when it comes to following and knowing God, then other people are too. So I conclude that “things David thinks about while lying in bed”, may be things that you would be interested in understanding, too. Not that the full understanding comes to me while lying in bed, but thoughts begin to form, Scriptures begin to come, and honestly I simply get bothered enough by not having some sort of conclusion that I begin to go looking in the Bible. So here it goes…
Lately, on social media, I have seen some memes circulating that say things like, “Jesus never said to follow your heart” and “Following your heart is terrible advice”. I get where this is coming from and I am not saying there is not some truth to those types of phrases, but my question is then what do you follow? Many would say something like this in response, “You follow the Word of God” or “You follow Christ and not your heart”. Okay, but if I don’t follow my heart, but I am to follow Christ and the Word, then what part of me is following Him if my heart is not in the equation yet because it is too deceived and depraved? My mind!?!? How is that any better?
If someone was trying to make a big decision or even a small one and asked me if they should follow their heart, I would say, “yes and no” OR “it depends”. In my opinion, saying a definitive yes or no is too generalized and does not bring an understanding of the heart’s role in our journey of knowing and following God.
So what I want to share with you are some thoughts that I believe are Scriptural that could help you come to your own conclusion about this all-too-common phrase “follow your heart”.
I think the first point of confusion is that most people are not even on the same page as to what the definition of our heart is. We could be saying the same words and perceiving two very different things. The world tends to define the heart as more feeling and emotion-based. So when they say, “follow your heart”, most would be saying, “follow what makes you happy, feels good, avoid pain, and is generally self-centered”. The word for heart in Hebrew is the word, “lev”. In looking at how it is used in context and looking at Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons, I have a very simple definition of the heart. Simply, put the heart is the very core of a person. What is in the heart of a person is what they will do and what they will focus on. The heart is not some faculty that is separate from you as a living being. It is you!
Maybe this example can bring clarity.
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. Psalm 22:26 KJV
This verse says your heart shall live forever. What that means is the meek that praise the LORD shall themselves live forever. In this Scripture, the eternal core of a living being is referred to as a heart. Also known as our spirit.
This is complicated, though, by what I believe to be well-meaning, but not thought out teachings by many preachers and teachers. They focus on the heart as being deceitful, and depraved, (which it is in an unredeemed state that comes as a result of the entrance of sin into the hearts of man through the disobedience of Adam), but give little to no understanding about how God works with the heart to bring us back to Himself. For example, I was looking at what different people were saying on this topic and a common saying was this, ‘Your heart cannot be trusted and that you first must turn to God, THEN your heart will change’. If that is true, my question is, what turns to God before my heart does in order for it to change? Do you see what I mean?
The greatest commandment says,
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [is] one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: Deuteronomy 6:4-6 KJV
The first part of our being that we love God with is our heart. So how could I love Him with some other part of my being first so that my heart can change?
Similarly, the LORD says this about turning back to Him in repentance
And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call [them] to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; Deuteronomy 30:1-2 KJV
It is clear to me that the first part of who we are that turns back to God is our heart. So how is it that we could turn back to God so that our hearts can change? It appears as though our heart has to come to a place of change in decision and desire to turn back to Him and follow Him.
So the question “should you follow your heart”, should really actually be rephrased to “should you do what is in you (your heart) to do?”. It appears to me from Scripture that rather than following your heart, your heart is a driving, motivating force in what you do and say.
O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. Matthew 12:34-35 KJV
So now we are in really interesting territory because now we can forget about the question, “Should you follow your heart?” Or even the way I phrased it, “Should you do what is in your heart to do?” You and I WILL do what is in our heart. The Scriptures say so. In fact, it is what is in our heart that determines all the issues of life for us.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it [are] the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 KJV
So here is where I am at…
The important question is not whether or not I should “follow my heart” or “how do I come to God and follow Him so my heart can be changed”, but rather what is the state of my heart (me), and am I (my heart) soft or hard toward God and His Word? If the right things are in my heart I will have a much better chance of doing the right things and knowing and doing God’s call for me specifically.
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it [is] not hidden from thee, neither [is] it far off. It [is] not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither [is] it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word [is] very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 KJV
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11 KJV
Many other Scriptures share the same message as these two above, and that message is this:
We need to get God’s Word in our heart, so that we may do His Word from the heart.
But how does that process begin? I have thought about this and thought about this, but at the end of the day, I only have one answer.
Because of the sin of Adam we all have been born into this world separated from God. The first thing that sin affects is our hearts. We are not sin, but sin changes us from what God intended us to be when He made man in His image. Simply put, this has put us in a condition that we cannot turn to God or even believe apart from a sovereign work on His part. The question is, do we reject and harden against that work or do we yield to it? In the Tanakh, it appears as though God used His prophets as a sovereign work of His Spirit to draw Israel back to Him. In the New Covenant, He says that He will.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31:31-33 KJV
I remember when I was 14 years old, I went to a camp where the Gospel was presented. It was amazing because by the Spirit of God I understood the gospel for the first time. What it meant for Yeshua / Jesus to die for me and for me to be forgiven. But, I had no root in myself, little discipleship, and my heart became hardened again to God because of sin and worldly pleasures. But, when I was 20 years old, I began to have this draw, back to God. I could not explain it at the time, all I knew was that I was becoming more interested in God and less interested in sin and worldly pleasures. This was the Spirit of God drawing my HEART, not my mind (I didn’t understand what was happening), and this time I did not resist Him and harden my heart. So, yes, I had a part to play, but if God tried to draw me any other way than by my heart I would not have returned, because we will do what is in our heart.
Now, sometimes we have things in our heart to do and we may not be sure that it would be God’s will to do it. Let’s look at two examples from scripture and see if we can learn something from them.
The first is the story of Jonathan attacking the Philistines in 1 Samuel 14.
And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for [there is] no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few. And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that [is] in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I [am] with thee according to thy heart. Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto [these] men, and we will discover ourselves unto them. If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them. But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the LORD hath delivered them into our hand: and this [shall be] a sign unto us. And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves. And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel. 1 Samuel 14:6-12 KJV
Jonathan had it in his heart to defeat the Philistines, and his armourbearer encouraged him to do it, but Jonathan understood that what was in his heart may or may not be the will of the Lord. So he went ahead with it but subjected what was in his heart to the circumstances that would play out. If it worked out one way He knew it was God’s will and if it worked out another way he would conclude it was not God’s will, even though it may have been a noble cause in his heart. I know I have had to do this. I had something in my heart, and took a step or two in that direction, but would not know if it was God’s will until certain circumstances worked out. If what was in my heart to do turned out not to be His will it would not necessarily mean my heart is evil, but that I just need to be aware if God is with me or not in it.
The next example is from when King David wanted to build God a temple in 1 Chronicles 17.
For time sake I will just tell the story. Basically, King David wants to build the LORD a temple and Nathan says to do what is in his heart because God is with him.
Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that [is] in thine heart; for God [is] with thee. 1 Chronicles 17:2 KJV
But then the LORD goes on to tell King David that, yes, it’s a good thing that he wants to build him a temple, but that it won’t be him building it. The LORD tells King David that it will be His seed (King Solomon) that will build it. So, sometimes there may be things in our heart to do for God, but we need to seek His guidance on the timing and if we are even the ones to do it.
When it comes to doing what is in our heart, we must heed the warnings of Scripture.
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. Proverbs 28:26 KJV
But we cannot allow the warnings of where our hearts (ourselves for that matter) may wander to do away with the absolute importance our hearts play in knowing and following God and His will for our lives.
To sum it all up as to whether you should “follow your heart”, I would simply say this,
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these [things] God will bring thee into judgment. Ecclesiastes 11:9 KJV
Do what is in your heart to do, but always subject what is in your heart to do to prayer, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God. Also, be consistent in getting the Word of God into your heart, and although we may not always do it perfectly, you will walk in your way safely if you do these things.
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