I have a heart problem and the truth is so do you. The Bible teaches that as a result of the fall (Genesis 3:6) every part of man – our mind, emotions, and will have been corrupted by sin. That’s why the prophet Jeremiah declared,
The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
The heart represents the inner person reflecting our mind, emotions, and will. Man is born dead in his transgression and sin (Psalm 51:5, Ephesians 2:1-3), loves the darkness (John 3:19), and does not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). His mind is “hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is unable to do so” (Romans 8:7).
Theologians refer to this as the doctrine of total depravity. Total depravity does not mean that man is as wicked or sinful as he could be, nor does it mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong. Neither does it mean that man does not or cannot do things that seem to be good when viewed from a human perspective. It does not even mean that man cannot do things that seem to conform outwardly to the law of God.
Total depravity recognizes that even the “good” things that man does are tainted by sin because they are not done for the glory of God and out of faith in Him (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6). While man looks at the outward acts and judges them to be good, God also looks upon the inward motives that lie behind them, and because they proceed from a heart that is in rebellion against Him and they are not done for His glory, even these good deeds are like a “filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6) in His sight. Fallen man’s good deeds are therefore not motivated by a desire to please God, but by his own self-interest and that’s why God declares that there is “there is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).
A proper understanding of total depravity destroys man’s self-righteousness and his ability to be saved through his own good works. This realization results in the same question the disciples asked of Jesus,
When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25)
The answer remains the same for we realize that God’s sovereign grace is our only hope,
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
The good news is that God can transform a person from the inside out. Jeremiah foreshadowed the new covenant,
But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul reveals the implications of one’s spiritual rebirth,
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
If one is born again, then that person has a new identity, theologians refer to this as justification – the person is declared righteous. Although people have been redeemed by God, they may still sin – sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus. Whereas justification is instantaneous at the moment of salvation, sanctification is a process as we learn to walk by the Spirit and not carry out the desire of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
So what is the heart condition of the believer? A believer is one who has a new heart, but also has a heart that has been tainted by sin. Our responsibility is to work out what God has worked in. The writer of Hebrews points out the importance of watching over our heart. Notice that he uses the term brethren implying that he is writing to Christians,
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12)
Associate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University
Follow me on twitter: rickhiggins5