Don’t Follow Your Heart
Read James 1:14-15 (ESV)
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
According to today’s verse, why is following your heart a dangerous way to determine how to live?
How many times have you heard the advice to “just follow your heart”? I have even heard people add on this little sentiment: “it will never steer you wrong.” But here is the question. Do our hearts always tell us the truth? Has your heart ever steered you wrong?
James answered that question in today’s verses. If you remember from Saturday, when we studied James 1:13, we addressed the question of whether or not God tempts us to sin. In short, the answer is NO! Today we read as James elaborated on that subject. He said that each of us are tempted, not by God, but by our own sinful desires from our own hearts.
We are often tempted to believe that most people are “good-hearted.” But I have never read that claim in Scripture. In fact, I read the opposite. The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah 17:9 wrote: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Our hearts have a way of convincing us that our way is better than God’s or that it’s ok to give in, just this once. That is what James is saying when he wrote that the desires of our hearts lure and entice us. Just as fish are drawn to bait, so we are drawn to satisfy every inclination of our hearts. Unfortunately, just as that often proves deadly for fish, it often proves deadly for us as well.
Then, James switches from a fishing metaphor to reproduction metaphor. The evil intentions of our hearts give birth to sin. Then, sin grows up and gives birth to death. Sin is the child of our evil desires. Death is the grandchild.
Way back in the Garden of Eden, God warned Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would surely die (Genesis 2:17). We also see that sin leads to death in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death.”
So what should we do when we experience tempting, sinful desires in our hearts? Run away! The Bible often uses the word “flee.” We see that in 2 Timothy 2:22: “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Notice how Paul suggested to Timothy not only to flee from sinful desires but also to pursue righteousness? Don’t just run away from bad things. Run toward what is right, good, and godly.
For me, when I struggle with certain temptations, I have a replacement behavior that I’ve already identified so I don’t have to decide the right thing to do in the middle of the struggle. For example, if your struggle is craving an unhealthy snack, have healthy options readily available. If your struggle is with pornography, have a list of godly things you can watch, read, or listen to ready to go so you know what you should do instead in a tempting moment. But whatever you do, do not entertain the sinful desire! Do not let it conceive and give birth to sin. And don’t let sin become a deadly habit.
Friends, the bottom line is that following our hearts is a potentially deadly practice. It can tempt us and carry us off into sinful behaviors that can become sinful lifestyles. Instead of listening to our hearts, let’s be diligent in prayer and consistent in the word of God so that we can spot a sinful desire when we feel one and so that, in His strength, we can overcome it.
Lord, I know that my heart is capable of wicked desires. Please keep me from temptation and when I am tempted, give me the strength to flee and pursue righteousness instead. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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