I had a great discussion with one of our grandchildren a few weeks ago, while on vacation. The question came up of why Christians would make sinful choices, when based on the Bible, we ought to know better. So, here’s what I told him, but in more simple terms.
Our “heart” is the control center of our will – it is what gives orientation to everything we do. If our heart wants something bad enough, whether good or evil, it will tempt us to believe information, or make choices which help us get that which we want and reject information and choices which hinder us in that quest. Often we “want” two opposing things which fight for our attention – the thing we really want and the thing we know we should want.
The heart is deceitful.
Once we’ve set our heart on something that we know is wrong, or strongly suspect is wrong, our minds go into full swing to set up justification logic for the sole purpose of sweeping guilt out of the path to the thing we want. We then subconsciously form a theology or a belief system to fit the desires of our heart, rather than God’s heart and it morphs into new “truth” for us.
On top of that, the human heart has a way of giving itself “credit” for just wanting to do the right thing. We also give ourselves additional credit for good moral decisions we’ve made in the past. This moral bank account, often frees up our conscience to justify our sinful behavior.
However each of us do our own moral math, our eventual choice is the true indicator of the ruling passion of our heart. That’s why Jesus said flatly, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and “no man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:21, 24). Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy writes this, “Trying to serve any other passion and God and hoping to have the best of both worlds is nonsense, and in any case you cannot imagine God would endure it.”1 He won’t and doesn’t.
So, here’s the ultimate challenge; how does one change the desires of our heart? An act of the will is not enough. Without the Holy Spirit’s helping us, not only understand the problem, but empowering us with the solution, we’d have no hope at all. However, once that’s recognized and the sin confessed, the solution begins with an honest examination of the state of your heart. When you are all alone, thoughtful, and dead honest with yourself, what desires of the heart really govern your life? When you observe your life, how you occupy your spare time, how you use your money, who you want to be friends with and why, what and who angers you and what gives you pleasure, what conclusions can you come to about your heart? What do you really want, or value the most?
Last month I blogged on the topic “What’s Your Subtitle?” A subtitle is how we introduce ourself to people – it’s how we want to be known. Our heart is often the things we most crave, but hope no one ever finds out how much we do.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (I John 2:15-17)
My question for you: Based on how you actually live and what you think about the most when no one else is looking, what would you honestly say is the most important thing in your life?
That’s exactly why I wrote The 10-Second Rule. Like me occasionally, perhaps you’ve gotten off course through a series of small, poor decisions. You can begin re-shaping your heart and find your way back by reversing the process. Confess your sin, ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to want what God wants, and begin taking baby steps of obedience back. It works! “Then, just do the next thing you’re reasonably certain Jesus wants you to do.”
1. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (New York: Harper San Francisco Publishers), page 207.
Following Jesus in Real Life