By Roger Oakland
Follow Your Heart or God’s Law?
The world tells us to follow our heart—go with our feelings. The Bible, on the other hand, states emphatically: “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26).
Our senses and feelings can direct us on a path that leads to destruction rather than life. We need a new heart—one guided by God and His trustworthy testimony. As the Bible states:
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
God tells us we need new hearts. You may ask, “What’s wrong with the heart I have?” It is God’s Word that acts like a divine flashlight showing us the darkness and depravity of our old heart:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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)
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life. (Proverbs 6:23)
The Bad News
God tells us we need new hearts. But how do we receive this new heart? Before explaining God’s gracious provision, we must first understand mankind’s dilemma. The Bible states that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Scripture is utterly clear: “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:3). This is why we cannot trust our old hearts. Our hearts are inclined to error and sin.
To see if God’s assessment is fair and accurate, we need to look at His Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Consider here just a few of them—
Have you ever used your Creator’s name (Jesus Christ or God) in vain, or worse, as a curse word? Think of how offensive this is to your Creator. This is the God who wove you in your mother’s womb. He blessed you with eyes that behold His beautiful creation and taste buds that delight in His great variety of foods. Think of the wonder of your ears, and how music can inspire and refresh you.
Have you ever lied? White lies and fibs are lies in God’s eyes. We’re commanded to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Have you?
Have you ever stolen anything—the value is irrelevant? Cheating on a test or fudging the tax numbers is stealing. Please remember, God sees the past as the present.
Have you ever committed adultery? Or have you secretly desired to? Jesus said:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)
Have you ever committed murder? Most plead innocent until they realize that hatred in the heart is murder in God’s eyes: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15). Think of the people you would like to get out of the way. Reflect on the many people who annoy you and those who caused you pain or embarrassment. To hate them in your heart is murder.
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then according to Scripture you have broken the whole Law (James 2:10) as it is not a part and parcel proposition where we can weigh our good deeds next to our bad deeds. When we break God’s Law at any point, we come under the full condemnation of the Law. And God warns us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin causes both physical death and eternal punishment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
The Good News
Fortunately this is not the end of the story. The Good News is that God does not want anyone to perish “but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In His great love, God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, to fulfill the Law and to pay the penalty which our sins demanded. We sinned, yet Jesus died in our place. The Bible declares:
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Jesus died in our place. He then rose from the dead, defeating death. All who recognize their sinfulness, repent from their sins,* and put their trust in Him will be saved. This is how we receive new hearts—and eternal life. This is what Jesus meant when He said we must be born again (John 3:3, 7). Our spirit is made alive when we believe in the Lord and His provision. (*Dr. Harry Ironside said “Repentance is the sinner’s recognition of and acknowledgment of his lost estate and, thus, of his need of grace” (“Except Ye Repent”).)
The Free Gift
God offers salvation to all as a free gift. Only Jesus could pay the penalty that our sins demanded. We cannot bribe God with our good works or church attendance. No ritual or sacrament can appease His divine justice. Salvation is strictly on the merits of Jesus Christ and His mercy and grace toward all who accept Him by faith. The Bible states:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9; emphasis added)
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 2:16)
Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (John 6:28-29)
Also, since salvation is a free gift, we can have assurance of salvation because it depends on what Christ has done and not on our own merits or performance. John writes of this assurance:
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5: 11-13)
Call Upon the True Jesus
If we repent of (turn from and forsake) our sins and acknowledge what He has done and ask Him to forgive us for what we have done, then we can enter into a relationship with Jesus, our Creator and Redeemer, that will last forever. As Paul wrote to the Romans:
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:8-13)
Jesus Christ offers freedom and eternal life for all who “confess” Him, “believe” that God has raised Him from the dead and “call upon Him.” Jesus Christ has answered all demands of the all holy God against sin; in Him, sinners are acquitted and vindicated. His words of assurance are:
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. . . . If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11: 9-10, 13)
If we come before Him with a sincere heart and ask him to forgive us for our sins, He will. In the Book of Acts, Luke recorded:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:8-12)
It is this Jesus, the Jesus of Nazareth, the “Jesus” Peter spoke about, who is the true Jesus. Let each one of us be sure we know who He is because we know His Word.