The Deceptive Heart (Jeremiah 17:9)
Before my surgery this past Friday, I had a pre-op appointment on Monday. Of course, I had an EKG as part of that appointment. While she was doing the test, the nurse got this really funny look on her face. Honestly, I was starting to get a little antsy from her facial expression.
She finally looked at me and asked, “Do you exercise a lot?” I told her I did. The nurse said, “Good, because your heart rate is really slow and really strong at the same time.”
The same thing happened on the day of surgery. They got me hooked up to all the heart monitors, and the nurse looked and asked, “Are you an athlete?” I told her I didn’t think I classified as an athlete, but that I did spend a lot of time exercising. She said, “Wow, you’re resting heart rate is 51.”
I started exercising to decrease my leg pain—it was a suggestion from a neurologist several years ago. However, my heart is much stronger thanks to the exercise. I used to take medication to lower my heart rate because my resting rate was well over 100. Now, although there’s no underlying health issue, I’ve technically been diagnosed with bradycardia, a low heart rate.
No matter how strong my physical heart might be, my real heart is deceptive and wicked. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). I mentioned this passage in my sermon a couple weeks back, and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. The real question in my mind has been: “What can I do about my deceptive heart?” Tonight, I want to answer that question.
Please understand that you cannot get rid of a deceptive heart. We live in a fallen world, and your heart is deceptive and will continue to be deceptive. But how can you keep from being led astray by your deceptive heart?
You need to profess—confess—admit that your heart is deceptive. You might think that you’ve matured in the faith and your heart isn’t really all that deceptive. No so!
Take Peter, for example. The night of his betrayal, Jesus told the apostles that they would all abandon him and flee. Peter said, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matt 26:35). Of course, Peter denied Jesus.
His heart deceived him—Peter just couldn’t picture betraying Jesus. Thus, he let his guard down, was deceived by his heart, and sinned. Think about that: Here was an apostle, the apostle to whom Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom, who was deceived in his heart. If such a giant of the faith can be deceived by his heart, so can you.
You need to probe—examine—your actions to see how badly you’re being deceived by your heart.
“Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matt 15:19-20). Since your actions originate in your heart, our actions are a window on your heart. As you look at your actions, just what do you see? Do you see a great deal of sin? If so, you need to take steps to cleanse your heart. If you see that you are walking with the Lord, take steps to keep your heart from deceiving you that now you can rest on your laurels instead of paying careful attention to your life.
To understand how deceptive your heart is—and that there is hope for a deceptive heart—you need to ponder—study—the truth of Scripture. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Ps 119:9).
If you want to cleanse your actions—actions which, of course, come from the heart—you need to know Scripture. Spend time in private Bible study. Be with us on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.
You need to pray for a clean heart, a heart not clouded with sin: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). Each one of you needs to spend time asking God to create a clean heart without you.
You need to plead with mature and trusted brethren to point out your sins and places your heart might be deceiving you. Mature brethren are to restore the one caught “in any transgression” (Gal 6:1). Every Christian is to help his fellow believer bear burdens (Gal 6:2).
Asking another what he or she sees in your actions helps you from allowing your heart to deceive you. You can make excuses to yourself; you can tell yourself things aren’t that bad. An unvarnished but loving assessment can help you see your actions as they really are.