We like to think we are the exception to the rule. We don’t claim to be exceptional, but we tend to think that what’s good for others isn’t always necessary for us.
I see this most often regarding the commands of God. The laws of God are good (Romans 7:10) and help us live according to God’s ways. He designed this world and there are specifics to his design that we can’t know unless he reveals them to us, and he has done so through his Word. Left to ourselves and what seems right to us, we venture away from God’s designs and it usually ends up bad. Like using a hammer to screw in a nail or set sail in a car, we cause chaos and destruction by going against God’s ways.
God, in his goodness and kindness, has given us his Word to guide us as we live in this fallen world where our thinking and discernment are tainted by sin. His rules are not arbitrary guidelines meant to take away our joy, instead they light our darkened path so that we might know how to live.
Following Our Heart
But, time and time again, I’ve seen believers in situations where they knowingly go against God’s ways. They have their heart set on something, yet when confronted that their desire is contrary to Scripture, they justify it instead of conforming to God’s standard. Instead of trusting God’s Word, they follow their own thinking which tells them their way is better. Their situation doesn’t look harmful to them, so they proceed in spite of warnings from Scripture.
So they move forward with what seems right to them, assuming that perhaps they are the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the outcome of many of these situations and God’s word has proven true over and over. Things that didn’t seem harmful actually caused much harm; what promised to bring joy and fulfillment actually left the person empty and unsatisfied.
We think we will find joy and happiness by “being ourselves” even when that means something explicitly condemned in Scripture. Those who know divorce is wrong still chose to move forward with it because “they’ve fallen out of love.” While God is clear on not marrying unbelievers, many take that step believing their partner will eventually come to Christ. Because church discipline seems so “unloving,” many churches have avoided it altogether which has sent confusing messages to the world as to what a believer looks like. Those who try to bring the truth of God’s Word to these situations will often be viewed as unloving or legalistic.
Thankfully, God is gracious and willing to forgive, yet there are often consequences that we face when we choose to go contrary to his ways.
Is Your Heart Trustworthy?
Our culture tells us to “follow our heart.” Doing so, we are told, will lead to true satisfaction. However, our heart often desires things contrary to God’s Word and we have to decide what to choose. At such a fork in the road, following our heart seems more fulfilling, more exciting, and a sure way to find all that we’ve been looking for. Our heart has determined the better way and told us that taking the road of faithfulness to Scripture will make us joyless and miserable.
In Scripture, when people “did what was right in their eyes,” it brought about chaos (see the book of Judges). Jeremiah warns of the deceitfulness of the heart (Jer. 17:9) and the judgement to come upon one who “stubbornly follows his own heart” (Jer. 23:17). To follow our heart often means that we trust what we think, feel, or desire more than we trust God’s ways. Like Adam and Eve, we assume God is hiding something good from us, so we take and eat confident that we know a better way.
But, what if our Father really wasn’t the cosmic killjoy we make him out to be? What if, when he gave us his commandments, he really was working for our good? Perhaps he’s not old fashioned, irrelevant, or on the wrong side of history; maybe he knows the future better than anyone else. With his knowledge, he desires to protect you from damage and destruction that will inevitably come if you follow your heart.
Whose Heart Do You Trust?
When warning of the dangers of trusting their own heart in Jeremiah, the Lord presents his people with a better option: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its root by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer. 17:7-9).
Who will we trust? Our own sinful heart? Our own thoughts that are shaped by a limited knowledge? Or, will we trust that our Almighty God, who knows all and is not limited by time, has given us his Word to lighten our dark path so that we may clearly see what is good and right? When we choose to live our lives according to God’s path as revealed in his Word, we will be like a tree planted by the water that bears much good fruit.