Category: Heart


The Bible speaks often of the heart. The word heart can mean different things depending upon the context. Most often, the heart refers to the soul of a human being that controls the will and emotions. The heart is the “inner man” (2 Corinthians 4:16). The prophet Ezekiel makes several references a “new heart” (e.g., Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26). An oft-quoted verse is Ezekiel 11:19 where God says, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” So what does this mean?

In Ezekiel 11, God is addressing His people, the Israelites, promising to one day restore them to the land and to a right relationship with Himself. God promises to gather the Hebrews from the nations where they had been scattered (Ezekiel 11:17) and give them a new, undivided heart (verse 19). The result of their receiving a new heart will be obedience to God’s commands: “Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God” (verse 20). This prophecy will be fulfilled in the millennium, when Jesus the Messiah rules from Zion and Israel has been restored to faith (Romans 11:26).

Someone whom God has given a new heart behaves differently. Saul is an example of this in 1 Samuel 10:1 and 9. God had chosen Saul to be the first king of Israel. Saul was a nobody, but God chose him anyway and sent the prophet Samuel to anoint him king. “Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, ‘Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?’” Samuel made several predictions to prove to Saul that God had sent him, and verse 9 says, “As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day.” The new heart God gave Saul transformed him from an average nobody to the king of Israel. Not only was his status changed, but his entire outlook was transformed by the power of God.

The human heart was created to mirror God’s own heart (Genesis 1:27; James 3:9). We were designed to love Him, love righteousness, and walk in harmony with God and others (Micah 6:8). But part of God’s design of the human heart is free will. That free will carries with it the opportunity to abuse it, as did Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:11). God desires that we choose to love and serve Him. When we stubbornly refuse to follow God, our hearts, which were designed to communicate with God, are hardened. God compares rebellious hearts to stone (Zechariah 7:12). A heart of stone finds it impossible to repent, to love God, or to please Him (Romans 8:8). The hearts of sinful humanity are so hardened that we cannot even seek God on our own (Romans 3:11), and that’s why Jesus said no one can come to Him unless the Father first draws him (John 6:44). We desperately need new hearts, for we are unable on our own to soften our hard hearts. A change of heart toward God requires a supernatural transformation. Jesus called it being “born again” (John 3:3).

When we are born again, God performs a heart transplant, as it were. He gives us a new heart. The power of the Holy Spirit changes our hearts from sin-focused to God-focused. We do not become perfect (1 John 1:8); we still have our sinful flesh and the freedom to choose whether or not to obey it. However, when Jesus died for us on the cross, He broke the power of sin that controls us (Romans 6:10). Receiving Him as our Savior gives us access to God and His power—a power to transform our hearts from sin-hardened to Christ-softened. When we were separated from God with hardened hearts, we found it impossible to please Him. We tended toward selfishness, rebellion, and sin. With new hearts we are declared righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Holy Spirit gives us a desire to please God that was foreign to us in our hardened state. Second Corinthians 3:18 says that we “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” God’s desire for every human being is that we become like His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:29). We can become like Jesus only when we allow God to rid us of our old, hardened hearts and give us new hearts.

There are many calls to “follow your heart” in movies, novels, slogans, blogs, and memes. Related pieces of advice are “trust yourself” and “follow your instincts.” A corollary dictum is “your heart will never lead you astray.” The problem is that none of these quips are biblically supportable.

Rather than trust our hearts, we are to commit our hearts to God: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5–6). This passage gives an explicit command not to trust ourselves. And it gives the promise of guidance to those who choose to follow the Lord.

For anything to provide proper direction it must be based on objective truth. That is to say that whatever is consulted for guidance must reach a conclusion based on objective truth and not subjective, emotional inference. The Bible teaches that man is to follow God. God declares, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7). God has perfect knowledge of everything (1 John 3:20), a trait often called omniscience. God’s knowledge is not limited in any way. God is aware of all events that have ever transpired, are currently occurring, and will ever happen (Isaiah 46:9–10). God’s knowledge goes beyond mere events and extends to thoughts and intentions (John 2:25; Acts 1:24). It is not all this knowledge, however, that makes God a perfectly reliable source of guidance. God is also aware of every possibility, every eventuality, every imaginable outcome of any series of events (Matthew 11:21). That ability, combined with God’s goodness, enables God to give the best possible direction for people to follow.

God says this about the unregenerate heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This passage makes clear two reasons why no one should bind himself to following his heart when making decisions. First, there is nothing more deceitful in all of creation than the heart of man because of his inherited sin nature. If we follow our heart, we follow an untrustworthy guide.

We are, in fact, blinded to our own heart’s deceitful nature. As the prophet asks, “Who can understand it?” When we rely on ourselves for wisdom, we end up unable to tell right from wrong. The hit song of 1977, “You Light Up My Life,” contains these unfortunate words: “It can’t be wrong / When it feels so right.” Determining right from wrong based on “feelings” is a dangerous (and unbiblical) way to live.

Second, Jeremiah 17:9 teaches that the heart is desperately sick. There is no way to fix the heart. Rather, man needs a new heart. That is why, when a person comes to faith in Christ, he is made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus does not fix the heart; instead, He replaces it with a new one.

But that does not mean that we can rely on our hearts after we come to faith in Christ. Even as believers, we are encouraged to follow God’s will over our own desires. The Bible teaches that “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (Galatians 5:17).

We have an omniscient, benevolent Lord who promises to give us wisdom (James 1:5); we have His inspired, inerrant Word written down for us (2 Timothy 3:16). Why would we turn our backs on God and His eternal promises in order to pursue the whimsical impulses of the heart?

“All you need to do to be saved is to ask Jesus to come into your heart.” The problem with this statement is that it is not expressly biblical. The Bible nowhere mentions Jesus coming into a person’s heart. The wording generates a mental image that can easily lead to wrong impressions. The idea of Jesus entering a person’s heart is nowhere used in any gospel presentation in the Bible. Even the Scripture verse from which the “ask Jesus into your heart” concept is usually taken, Revelation 3:20, does not mention the heart or our asking Jesus to do anything. In context, Revelation 3:20 is speaking about the church fellowshipping with Jesus, not an individual person getting saved.

When the Bible gives a gospel presentation, it encourages people to believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31), receive (John 1:12), or change their minds, i.e., repent (Acts 3:19). That is the proper response to the gospel. We are to change our minds about our sin and about who Christ is, believe Jesus died and rose again, and receive the gift of eternal life in faith. We are to recognize that we are sinners (Romans 3:23), understand that we deserve to be eternally separated from God (Romans 6:23), trust that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24), and receive the gift of salvation God offers us (Ephesians 2:8–9). All of this is done in faith, with God’s enabling (John 6:44). Salvation is not something we do or earn. Salvation is something we receive from God due to His mercy and grace.

While asking Jesus to come into your heart, i.e., enter your life, is not explicitly biblical, it is also not necessarily anti-biblical, if it is done in the context of a presentation of the biblical gospel. If a person understands sin and its penalty, understands the payment Christ made on the cross, and is ready to trust Jesus alone for salvation, an invitation to “ask Jesus into your heart” is not necessarily wrong. In fact, it could even help a person understand that the Spirit of Christ comes to indwell the soul (see John 14:17). However, it is always best to use the terminology the Bible uses. “Ask Jesus into your heart” does not fully communicate what is actually occurring.

When we are sharing the gospel, we should be extremely careful what we say and how we say it. Even the word believe can be misleading if it is presented as intellectual assent (agreeing that certain facts are true) instead of as trust (relying on those true facts). Judas Iscariot believed certain facts about Jesus, but he never trusted Jesus for salvation. Salvation is not about believing a list of facts. Salvation is not about asking Jesus to come into your heart. Salvation is not even about asking God to forgive you. Salvation is about trusting in Jesus as your Savior, receiving the forgiveness He offers, by grace through faith. Salvation is about being made new through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

What is the heart?

First, we’ll state the obvious: this article is not about the heart as a vital organ, a muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. Neither is this article concerned with romantic, philosophical, or literary definitions.

Instead, we’ll focus on what the Bible has to say about the heart. The Bible mentions the human heart almost 300 times. In essence, this is what it says: the heart is that spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires dwell.

Before we look at the human heart, we’ll mention that, since God has emotions and desires, He, too, can be said to have a “heart.” We have a heart because God does. David was a man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). And God blesses His people with leaders who know and follow His heart (1 Samuel 2:35; Jeremiah 3:15).

The human heart, in its natural condition, is evil, treacherous and deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” In other words, the Fall has affected us at the deepest level; our mind, emotions and desires have been tainted by sin—and we are blind to just how pervasive the problem is.

We may not understand our own hearts, but God does. He “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21; see also 1 Corinthians 14:25). Jesus “knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). Based on His knowledge of the heart, God can judge righteously: “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

Jesus pointed out the fallen condition of our hearts in Mark 7:21-23: “From within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” Our biggest problem is not external but internal; all of us have a heart problem.

In order for a person to be saved, then, the heart must be changed. This only happens by the power of God in response to faith. “With the heart one believes unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10). In His grace, God can create a new heart within us (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26). He promises to “revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

God’s work of creating a new heart within us involves testing our hearts (Psalm 17:3; Deuteronomy 8:2) and filling our hearts with new ideas, new wisdom, and new desires (Nehemiah 7:5; 1 Kings 10:24; 2 Corinthians 8:16).

The heart is the core of our being, and the Bible sets high importance on keeping our hearts pure: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).