DON'T FOLLOW YOUR HEART

By ARTHUR MARICLE, Associate Pastor

LIGHTHOUSE BAPTIST CHURCH

1345 SKYLINE DRIVE

LEMON GROVE, CALIFORNIA 91945

We who have been saved from our sins by putting our faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ readily acknowledge that He who has saved us next calls us to be a soldier in His army. As you heed that call, you must study the Bible to learn what the Holy Spirit teaches about spiritual warfare.

One of your first major discoveries will be that the theater of war for the Christian is internal, not external. My fight is not outward, against the world; it is inward, against myself. More than that, the primary battlefield in which the spiritual test of arms will occur again and again is in my mind.

With that understanding, consider Genesis 11:1-9.

"And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

"So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."

The minds of these people were united to reach heaven by a means that had not been provided by, nor approved by, God. They imagined how wonderful their accomplishment would be, and they used their minds to devise a means to accomplish the ends they had imagined.

Their imaginations provoked their actions. But though they felt that their great scheme was the right things to do, God was displeased. His judgment not only obstructed their precious project, it also disrupted their beloved unity.

Where do ungodly imaginations like these come from? The source is revealed in Genesis 6:5.

"And 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."

Evil imaginations originate in the heart, but if they're going to come to fruition, the plan must be devised and executed by the mind. In your spiritual warfare, the battlefield is the mind. If you're saved, the Holy Spirit lives inside you. But you also have an old nature that is based in your flesh and allied to Satan.

Satan is constantly battling the Holy Spirit for control of you. Your heart naturally sides with your flesh. Your heart is a traitor living inside you that is ready to sell out to the enemy. Your flesh and your heart will work together to overthrow your mind. Your mind will then approve the sin that the body wants, create a justification for doing it, and devise a means to accomplish it.

Every sin is a conscious act that allows Satan greater control over you. That is why, in our spiritual warfare, the battlefield is the mind. That is where Satan will focus his energies. If he can overthrow your mind, or even just neutralize its opposition to his will, then he has won control of you.

The old saying is that the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach. The Devil knows that the quickest way to conquer a man's mind is through his heart. It is not strange, then, that the world's counsel for every dilemma of life today is, "Follow your heart."

Many Christians have heeded the world's advice. They read their Bible if they feel like it. They pray if they feel like it. They go to church if they feel like it. They volunteer to help in the work of the ministry if they feel like it. They will share the Gospel only if they feel like it.

Their marriage is built on their feelings, and it's predictably rocky. Their child rearing is based on their feelings, and the kids are, or will be, rebellious. They know little of commitment and nothing about perseverance. They know little of joy and nothing about fulfillment.

Their Christian growth will be stunted, the probability of their backsliding is great, and the potential of their actually being given over to a reprobate mind is dangerously high. They are modern Christians, the children of Laodicea. (If you don't understand my reference to Laodicea, please study carefully Revelation 3:14-22.)

If you are a Christian who makes your decisions and lives your life by following your heart, you are described many places in the Bible. David said of you, ". . . the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever." (1 Chron. 28:9)

Solomon warns you that: "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him . . ." One of those seven things so hateful to Jehovah is, "an heart that deviseth wicked abominations." (Prov. 6:16,18) Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord spoke out against ". . . This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart . . ." (Jer. 13:10)

Jesus Christ addressed a man who followed his heart, and took the safe and easy route in his service to the Master, as "Thou wicked and slothful servant . . ." (Matt. 25:27) Peter said of so-called Christians whose beliefs and practices are based on their feelings: "These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever." (2 Peter 2:17)

Jude reserved especially tough words for emotions-driven believers who want to devise their pet doctrines.

"But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever." (Jude 10-13)

You must not allow your heart to control your mind. Your heart will inevitably lead you astray.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, [and] according to the fruit of his doings." (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

The moment your mind quits fighting for supremacy over the heart, you will begin to live according to your feelings Ä just like you did before you got saved. You will be attracted to things that feel good, look good, or taste good Ä or to things that promise that you will have those sensations in the future.

Meanwhile, the Bible addresses your mind, and tells you what you are to like and dislike.

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."

Your flesh is enticed by the lust, and it recruits your heart with promises of pleasure. Your heart goes on a campaign of subverting your mind to pursue the object of the lust. If the mind agrees, your spirit will be alienated from the Father. That does not mean that your eternal salvation is lost Ä our eternity is forever settled Ä but temporal fellowship with God will be lost.

If the mind rejects the offer, but allows the heart to retain that lust in its imagination, the temptation will surface again later and must be fought all over again. That is why so few Christians today are winning the victory over specific sins of the flesh.

And this is why the Old Testament book of Judges is such a powerful treatise on spiritual warfare. You have to be just as merciless toward the sin that lives in your heart as Old Testament Israel was to be toward the trespassers who were living on their land. You will either be a "Book of Joshua Christian" or a "Book of Judges Christian".

The book of Joshua records the warfare and victories of God's people, and states in the closing verses of the book:

"And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel."

The book of Judges records in the subsequent generations the complacency and confusion of God's people, and the book ends with these words:

"In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

Are you a"Book of Joshua Christian", or a "Book of Judges Christian"? You better make sure that King Jesus is ruling your life through your mind, or that usurper the Devil will rule your life through your heart.

If the mind insists on doing the will of God, and brings the heart into subjection, then God is pleased. Fellowship with the Lord is strengthened, and a reward is laid up in Heaven. But if your mind surrenders to your heart, the heart will begin to rule your mind, and may well continue to do so for the rest of your life.

A heart-ruled life is described in the book of Ecclesiastes. It's a pitiful picture of a miserable man.

"And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit." (Eccl. 1:13-14)

"And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit." (v.17) "I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity." (2:1)

"I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life." (v. 3)

"And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun." (v. 10:11)

"Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit." (v. 17)

Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit says:

"For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it." (1 Peter 3:10-11)

But refraining the tongue, hating evil, doing good, and embracing peace are choices of actions that must be initiated by a mind that is given to the control of the Holy Spirit. If you're waiting for the heart to "feel like it" first, it will happen inconsistently at best Ä certainly not enough to create a good life.

The Apostle Paul said:

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

Notice that unbelief springs from an evil heart. The evil heart usurps the authority of the mind, and the mind having surrendered to it.

The Christian who has developed an evil heart of unbelief has allowed himself to grow weary of fighting his natural impulses. The mind becomes docile, while the heart dominates this Christian's life.

Being driven by his emotions, this believer will be vacillating and unfruitful, frustrated and unfulfilled. "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8) The heart of unbelief is evil because it does damage to the life of the one it controls, and tends to adversely affect the hearts of others, influencing them to behave according to its own perverse example.

If in your battle against the heart, you allow yourself to faint Ä that is, to quit struggling against your emotions and natural desires Ä you'll fall into the arms of the enemy. You will lose your desire to ". . . stand against the wiles of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11)

You may someday become exasperated with the demands of Biblical Fundamentalism, and get offended at the tendency of our preaching to expose your sin. You'll leave a hot, Bible-preaching church that promotes high standards of personal conduct, but you won't be comfortable yet in something that is decidedly cold. So you'll settle for something that's lukewarm.

You will have entered the shadowy realm of Laodicean Christianity, in which good and evil, right and wrong, spirituality and carnality, light and darkness, and Christ and Belial are forced to coexist. The world calls it diversity. The Bible calls it depravity.

If you decide to maintain a pretense of spirituality, you'll drift into Contemporary Christianity, which makes few demands, causes little discomfort, and offers lots of entertainment-based emotional appeal. Once you break the ice, and begin visiting such a ministry, you'll quickly discover the features of the contemporary Christian church.

You'll find a positive atmosphere in which offensive labels, like "Baptist" and "church" are often removed so that no stigma or reproach can possibly attach itself to those who attend the "fellowship", "assembly", "worship center", "faith center".

A contemporary church also features a seeker-friendly environment in which sin, death, hell, the Devil, the fear of God, and all Biblical absolutes either disappear, or are dramatically diminished.

It offers carefully choreographed worship that is sure to appeal to the flesh.

It provides worldly music instead of the dry, dusty old hymns that had nothing more to offer than spirituality, grace, devotion, soulwinning zeal, fundamentalist militancy, the sweetness of Heaven, and the breath of the Holy Ghost.

And contemporary Christianity gives its adherents a reader-friendly Bible like the New International Version. For the following information, I'm indebted to David Reagan, pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church of Knoxville, Tennessee:

The NIV has totally omitted 17 verses. In it you will no longer read Matt. 17:21, 18:11, 23:14; Mark 7:16, 9:44,46, 11:26, 15:28; Luke 17:36, 23:17; John 5:4; Acts 8:37, 15:34, 24:7, 38:29; Rom. 16:24; 1 John 5:7.

These verses deal with doctrines of great importance: the doctrine of the Trinty (1 John 5:7), the doctrine of hell (Mark 9:44,46), the doctrine of salvation (Matt. 18:11, Mark 15:28, Acts 8:37), the doctrine of prayer (Matt. 17:21).

And marginal notes discredit other passages that are left in. The NIV translators would have preferred to leave out Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53 - 8:11. That's an additional 24 verses. Why would someone want to remove these passages?

Who would want to remove Matt. 18:11? It states, "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost." Yet, the advocates of the new versions declare that no doctrines are affected by the new bibles.

Something else is disappearing from the NIV. There are many Biblically significant words that are simply no longer there. By this I mean that these words are not mentioned even one time in the NIV. This includes all the following:

There is no longer a "Godhead". There is no "Jehovah" or "blessed and holy potentate". There is no "Holy Ghost", and He is not the "Comforter". God is no longer "immutable" or "omnipotent". Christ is no longer the "only begotten" or the "first begotten".

We no longer need to worry about "devils" or "Lucifer", "damnation", "brimstone", or the "bottomless pit". Hell, which is mentioned 54 times in the KJV is mentioned only 14 times in the NIV, and is entirely removed from the Old Testament.

But why worry about hell or damnation? In the NIV, there are no "trucebreakers" or "winebibbers". No one is ever accused of being "carnal", "slothful", or "unthankful". In the NIV, there is no "backbiting", "vanity", "lasciviousness", "fornication", or "whoredom". In fact, no one is "effeminate", and there are no "sodomites". No wonder the NIV is so well loved by so many.

It is a good thing that there is not much to be saved from in the NIV, because it's harder to get saved as well. No longer is Christ crucified on "Calvary". He is not the "testator" who brings us the New Testament, nor the "daysman" who stands between God and us.

He has not sprinkled His blood on the "mercyseat". He was not placed in the "sepulcher", and His resurrection is no longer established by many "infallible" proofs. It only makes sense, then, that we are no longer "quickened", and there is no more "propitiation" or "remission" or "regeneration" in the NIV.

All these words, and many others, have been totally removed from between the covers of the New International Version. Therefore, it follows that the Word of God is no longer "incorruptible". It is not the "engrafted" Word of God. There is no "verity", and Christ does not say "verily, verily". There is no "science falsely so-called", and there are no "fables". Perhaps that is why the saints no longer "abide in Christ".

With all that the NIV has removed, one must wonder how much the next popular version will omit. There are many other reasons for rejecting the new bibles. However, these omissions ought to disturb every true believer. Never give up your King James Bible of 1611. It is still God's perfectly preserved Word for English-speaking people. Praise God for His gift of truth! (Pastor David Reagan, Antioch Baptist Church, Knoxville, TN)

Praise God that the mind can, with God's help, successfully put down the attempted coup of a heart that tends toward unbelief. One day the person whose mind is yielded to God can know the joy of a heart that finally comes into conformity with the mind, which produces sweet peace in the soul. This internal harmony may never be permanent on this earth, but it is always worth fighting for!

You don't have to be ruled by your heart. Christ has set you free. As a son of God with a new nature inside your soul, you have been given the liberty to choose to do what's right, rather than automatically doing whatever feels good.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can empower your mind to rule your heart. This does not mean that you become a robotic being that is devoid of emotions. It means that you become an intelligent being that makes decisions based on principles, instead of on emotions or physical sensations.

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:7-9)

What does sowing to the Spirit have to do with the mind? Sowing to the Spirit is a conscious, mental choice. Sowing takes lots of hard work, and since the flesh hates work, your heart will complain that it doesn't feel like doing it. If you listen to your heart, you'll sow to the flesh, and reap corruption. But if your mind is submitted to the Word of God, and you choose to sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal rewards. We'll reap eternal rewards. We'll reap richly if we make daily conscious decisions to sow to the spirit instead of to the flesh.

Back when American fathers, mothers, and churches produced real men, this call to doing right regardless of the circumstances Ä and whatever the cost Ä was called duty. To the modern American, and to most of today's Christians, duty is a 4-letter word that is far more abhorrent than the profanity that is now a popular feature of the American vernacular.

Duty is the key to Biblical Christianity. Do right, no matter how you feel about it. If your heart is right with God, you'll learn to enjoy doing right. But if your heart is at odds with God, you'll never enjoy doing right.

But do it anyway.

As Dwight Tomlinson has said, "If we would just do what we should do, we wouldn't have any problems."

Determine to do what you should do, whether it's something you like, or something you don't like. Go by the real Bible, and read it. Get rid of the rock music. Reactivate your prayer life. Get involved in some kind of soulwinning activity. Pay your tithes and offerings. Fulfill your commitment to that ministry in the church. Get to church and ministry responsibilities early. Be friendly. Wear a smile.

Guard your tongue. Do good work. Pay your debts. Pay your tithes and offerings. Avoid credit. Live simply and love profusely. Be modest, chaste, and pure. Love your wife. Spank your kids. Make your family dress properly, especially at church services and functions. Train your family to behave properly in the church services. Teach your children church etiquette, and then practice it. Remember and honor your extended family, whether they're saved or lost. Be the best Christian you can be, doing all that God wants you to do.

Then you can die, meet Jesus, and hear your Lord say unto you, ". . . Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." (Matthew 25:21)

I beg you, don't follow your heart. Make Jesus Christ your Lord, ruling your mind through His Holy spirit.

Saturate your mind with the Word of God through Bible reading and Bible preaching. Learn what's right. Then make up your mind to do it. Just do what you should do Ä whether you feel like it, or not.

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