FOR OUT OF THE HEART PROCEED EVIL
By John C. Carpenter
The world is full of evil, of all types, and at all levels. At some
point in our lives, most of us have probably wondered, just what is the source of this evil in the world? Where does it come from?
We should not be surprised that the answer is found in the scriptures. The apostle Matthew enlightens us: And he [Jesus] called the
multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out
of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after
they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let
them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter
and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand,
that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out
of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,
fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth
not a man (Matthew 15:10-20).
In verse 19, the word heart is translated from the Greek word kardia, which means the heart, thoughts
or feelings, mind, or the middle. Although a clear definition is challenging, kardia can pobably be described simply as the middle,
deepest, or innermost thoughts and feelings of the individual. This definition is supported when Jesus told some Jewish scribes and
pharisees For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights
in the heart [kardia, the deepest parts or center] of the earth (Matthew 12:40). The heart of the earth refers not to a literal and
physical heart in the earth, but to the deepest or center parts of the earth. In verse 19 of our subject verses, the word evil is
tranlated from the Greek word poneros, which means hurtful, bad, grievous, harmful, lewd, malicious, or wicked. According to Christ,
what comes out of the innermost being of mankind are thoughts and actions that God the Father considers wicked, harmful, lewd, and
THESE ARE THE THINGS WHICH DEFILE
Before we look at what else the scriptures teach about the evils of the human
heart, let us first examine the things of the heart that Matthew said are evil and, thus, defile the man or woman.
First of all,
Christ summarizes for us, with these words, the simple mechanics of evil: O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good
things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth
good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things (Matthew 12:34-35).
Then, in our subject verses,
Christ provides us with more details about the evil which proceeds from our hearts and defiles us. He specifically mentions evil [Greek,poneros, which means hurtful, bad, grievous, harmful, lewd, malicious, or wicked] thoughts [Greek, dialogismos, discussion, consideration,
debate, dispute, doubtful], murders [Greek, phonos, to slay, commit murder, be slain with, slaughter], adulteries [Greek, moicheia,
adultery, a male or female paramour, apostate, mistress or leman], fornications [Greek, porneia, harlotry, adultery, incest, idolatry,
to indulge in unlawful lust for either sex], thefts [Greek, klope, stealing, to filch], false witness [Greek, pseudomarturia, untrue
testimony, to give false witness], blasphemies [Greek, blasphemia, scurrilous, vilification, evil speaking of a person or God, railing].
Christ teaches us that These are the things which defile [Greek, koinoo, to make profane, call common, pollute, to cause to be unclean]a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man (Matthew 15:10-20).
MORE BIBLICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE EVIL HEART
do not believe that the human heart is evil. However, many who accept the content of the bible as truth, do in fact believe that the
heart of man is evil - what they see in the scriptures matches what they see in real life.
To begin with, we must recognize that
sin and evil both come from the heart. Scriptures clearly refer to this connection. Jeremiah spoke of the connection between sin and
the human heart when he prophesied, The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven
upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars (Jeremiah 17:1). In the book of proverbs, we read, Who can say, I
have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? (Proverbs 20:9). Referring to the inhabitants of the land who influence Israel to
sin, God warns, They [iinhabitants] eat up the sin of my people, and they set their [Israel's] heart on their iniquity (Hosea 4:8).
The apostle James mentions the connection between sin and the heart: Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God
cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust [present
in his own heart], and enticed. Then when [his heart] lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth
forth death (James 1:13-15). Clearly, sin and evil are sourced from the heart.
Now, to better understand the heart of man, and
the evil which proceeds from it, let us examine some of the other qualities or characteristics of the human heart outlined in the
scriptures. How do the scriptures describe the innermost aspects of mankind, the heart? Is the heart good, or evil?
scriptures describe the heart of men as thick, hard, and insensitive to others. Jesus said this to the multitudes: For this people's
heart is waxed gross [Greek, pachuno, to thicken, to fatten, to render callous, showing or having an insensitive and cruel disregard
for others, and their ears are dull of hearing [unable to understand], and their eyes they have closed [shut down, non-functioning];
lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be
converted, and I should heal them (Matthew 13:15).
Next, Christ also teaches that, when is comes to acceptance of the gospel
of the Kingdom, there are four basic types of hearts. Referring to the implantation of the seed of the gospel within the hearts of
men, Christ explained these hearts to His disciples: Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word [of
truth, the gospel, or good news] of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which
was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side [heart that does not understand]. But he that received the seed
into stony places [heart that is offended], the same is he that heareth the word [of truth, the gospel], and anon with joy receiveth
it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and
by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns [the worldly heart] is he that heareth the word; and the care of this
world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground [the
heart that understands and bears fruit] is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth
forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matthew 13:18-23). The first type of heart does not understand the truth or significance
of the gospel, and therefore rejects it outright. The second heart receives the gospel, but when tribulation or persecution accompany
the gospel message, this heart becomes offended and either begins to neglect the gospel or abandons it completely. The third heart
is worldly, and hears the gospel message but worldly concerns, including the deceitfulness of riches, choke the gospel and it becomes
unfruitful. The fourth and final heart, the good heart, hears the gospel message, understands the value of the gospel message, and
bears fruit from the gospel message.
Another symptom of the evil heart is that it can be unfaithful, impatient, and doubting.
After His disciples asked Christ Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of
the world? (Matthew 24:3), the Lord responded that at the end of the world there would be some evil servants of Christ who will begin
to doubt the imminent coming of Christ, who will begin to mistreat their fellow Christian servants, and who will begin to resort to
an undisciplined life. Christ explained with these words: But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his
coming; And shall begin to smite [beat and wound] his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant
shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him
his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:48-51). One way to think of this heart would
be that this heart becomes unfaithful, impatient, and doubting.
According to Jesus Christ, the human heart is often hypocritical.
Speaking to some Jewish scribes and pharisees, Jesus said, Ye hypocrites [Greek, hupokrites, an actor under an assumed character,
to speak or act falsely, a dissembler], well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth,
and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments
of men (Matthew 15:7-9). Hypocrites pretend to be what they are really not.
Although shocking, the Lord also refers to the hearts
of His own disciples [and ours as well] as hardened. The scriptures explain the hardened heart: And straightway he [Jesus] constrained
his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he [Jesus] sent away the people. And
when he had sent them away, he [Jesus] departed into a mountain to pray. And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the
sea, and he alone on the land. And he [Jesus] saw them [His disciples] toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and
about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. But when they saw him
walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: For they all saw him, and were troubled [upset and agitated].
And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And he went up unto them into
the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle
of the loaves: for their heart was hardened [Greek, poroo, to petrify, to render stupid or callous, to be blinded] (Mark 6:45-52).
Christ's own disciples had already seen the miracle that Christ had performed feeding about five thousand men with just five loaves
of bread and two fishes (Luke 9:10-17). Now, they saw Christ supernaturally walking on the sea of Galilee, and the scriptures tell
us that they thought that Christ was a ghost, they were agitated in a questioning way, and afraid; and yet, in spite of the numerous
miracles He had performed, they were not fully convinced that he was the Christ and Son of God. The reason, as the Lord said, was
their heart was hardened. Tragically, Christ described the hearts of His own disciples as stupid, callous, blind, and unbelieving.
According to the scriptures, the deepest part of the human, the heart, is also full of ego and pride. Look at what the
disciples had the nerve to ask Jesus, and look at what He said and did: Then there arose a reasoning [imagination, reasoning, dispute,
discussion] among them [the disciples], which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a
child, and set him by him, And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive
me receiveth him [God the Father] that sent me: for he that is least [Greek, mikros, small in size, quantity, or number, less, small,
have dignity, humility] among you all, the same shall be great (Luke 9:46-48). The narcissism and evil of our own hearts can also
cause us to be slow to believe in Christ: Then he said unto them [two of Jesus' own disciples], O fools, and slow of heart to believe all
that the prophets have spoken (Luke 24:25).
An evil heart can also result in destructive pride. God again spoke to Jeremiah,
saying, Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people,
which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship
them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing. For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused
to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people,
and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear (Jeremiah 13:9-11). God knew well the evil in the hearts
of the men of Judah and Jerusalem. He commanded Jeremiah, Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of
Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one
from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices,
and we will every one do the imagination of his evil [Hebrew, raah, bad, calamity, grievous, hurtful, wicked, wretched, wrong] heart (Jeremiah
Satan, and evil, cannot only tempt and influence the human heart, but also prompt it to evil action. We almost all
know the story of Judas betraying Jesus: Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should
depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being
ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him [Jesus] (John 13:1-2). The heart can
also be troubled, fearful, and doubting. Teaching and encouraging His disciples, the Lord said to them, Let not your heart be troubled:
ye believe in God, believe also in me (John 14:1).
It is possible that many do not consider sorrow or sadness to be an evil symptom
of the heart, while others may. Sorrow is often the result of us not getting what we want or need. The point remans, though,
that the human heart can be full of sorrow, leading to debilitating results. Jesus told His disciples, But these things have I told
you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning,
because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have
said these things unto you, sorrow [Greek, lupe, sadness, grief, grievous, grudgingly, extreme heaviiness] hath filled [fully affect] your
heart (John 16:4-6). As we all know and understand from experience, our innerrmost part, our heart, which is a symptom of evil, can
also become agitated: Now when they [the Jews of Jerusalem] heard this, they were pricked [Greek, katanusso, to be pierced thoroughly,
to agitate violently, to sting to the quick] in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren,
what shall we do? (Acts 2:37).
Satan can also influence our heart to do evil. The scriptures instruct us, But a certain man named
Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought
a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost,
and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine
own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these
words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things (Acts 5:1-5). As we all know, the
human heart can also be obstinate and resistant to the things of God: Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the
place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked [Greek, sklerotrachelos, dry, hard, hard naped, obstinate]and uncircumcised [Greek, aperitmetos, full of fleshy behavior] in heart [understanding] and ears [hearing], ye do always resist the
Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye (Acts 7:48-51).
Throughout the world, many justice systems result in frustration, anger,
and violence. Perverted, delayed, or absent justice motivates the heart to do evil. Solomon wrote, Because sentence against an evil
work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil an
hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before
God (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13).
The human heart can be depraved, naughty, and full of malice: And when Simon saw that through laying
on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay
hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift
of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.Repent therefore of this thy wickedness [Greek, kakia, badness, depravity, malignity, malice, naughtiness], and pray God, if perhaps
the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee (Acts 8:18-22). As most of us have experienced at one time or another, our hearts
can also be crushed into pieces, as happened to the apostle Paul: Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break [crumble,
crush together, dispirit] mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus(Acts 21:13), and the heart can wax gross: For the heart of this people is waxed gross [Greek, pachuno, thickened, to fatten, stupefy
or render callous], and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and
hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them (Acts 28:27).
to Paul, the heart can also be hard and impenitent: But after thy hardness [callous, stubborn] and impenitent [refusing to think differently] heart treasurest
up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5). Paul expressed the feeling
of his own heart to the church in Corinth: For out of much affliction [Greek, thlipsis, pressure or weight, burdened, persecution,
trouble] and anguish [anxiety, distress] of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might
know the love which I have more abundantly unto you (2 Corinthians 2:4).
Covetousness and selfish desire is also an evil evident
in the human heart. Simon Peter warns us about the covetous heart in false prophets and teachers: But these, as natural brute beasts,
made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes,
sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from
sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised [practice, behave] with covetous [Greek, pleonexia, avarice, fraudulency,
extortion, greediness] practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam
the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness (2 Peter 2:12-15).
The wisdom of Solomon warns us that where there is
evil, there is also deceit and betrayal: Deceit [Hebrew, mirmah, deceiving, to delude, betray, fraudulent, false, feigned, subtilly,
treachery] is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellors of peace is joy. There shall no evil happen to the just:
but the wicked shall be filled with mischief (Proverbs 12:20-21). The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of
the wicked poureth out evil things (Proverbs 15:28). Although some may not see a relationship between pride and evil, Jeremiah explains
that pride is usually at the core of evil: Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride
of Jerusalem. This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other
gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing (Jeremiah 13:9-10). Note in verse
10 that God the Father defines evil as a refusal to hear God's words, will, and instructions, walking in the imagination of our own
hearts, and walking after other gods in order to worship them and serve them.
Again, Solomon believed the human heart was evil
and full of foolishness, saying, This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea,
also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness [Hebrew, holelah, folly, foolishness, to rave] is in their heart while
they live, and after that they go to the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3).
Clearly, throughout the scriptures, the heart of man is described
as evil. In the book of Genesis, we read, Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl,
and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse
the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more
every thing living, as I have done (Genesis 8:20-21).
Following His creation of man, even God the Father saw that the heart of
man was evil, and He was sorely disappointed. The scriptures tell us, And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every imagination [Hebrew, yetser, form, conception, thing framed, mind, purpose, work] of the thoughts [intention, plan]of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart (Genesis
Lastly, according to the scriptures, the evil heart is the heart that is not prepared to seek God. Scriptures teach us,So king Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem, and reigned: for Rehoboam was one and forty years old when he began to reign,
and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there.
And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess. And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD (2 Chronicles
ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE OUR EVIL HEARTS
Without a doubt, the human heart is full of evil, and there are three types
of evidence that bear witness to this evil. First, holy scriptures testify to the evil of the human heart, as we have seen. Second,
God the Father testifies to the evil of the human heart. Third, our daily experiences, if we are honest with each other, testify to
the prevalence of evil in our own hearts and in the hearts of others. Since our hearts are so evil, we must then ask, so what, and
what can be done about it. Is it possible for man to eliminate the evil in his own heart? The answer is, flatly, no. As God tells
us through Jeremiah, ...if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy
skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare. Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good,
that are accustomed to do evil (Jeremiah 13:22-23). In dealing with our own skin and spots [if we agree that we have spots, which
many do not], so to speak, it quickly becomes apparent that only God can change the heart. David prayed, Create in me a clean heart,
O God; and renew a right spirit within me (Psalms 51:10), while Jeremiah pleaded with God, Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we
shall be turned; renew our days as of old (Lamentations 5:21). Paul wrote the Corinthian saints, Knowing that he which raised up the
Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace
might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish,
yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:14-16). For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do
of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Through Ezekiel, God spoke these words to Israel: ...the word of the LORD came unto
me, saying, Son of man, thy brethren, even thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto
whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, Get you far from the LORD: unto us is this land given in possession. Therefore say, Thus
saith the Lord GOD; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yetwill I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even
gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.
And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence.
And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will
give them an heart of flesh: that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people,
and I will be their God. But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I
will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 11:14-21). We must notice that within these seven verses
in Ezekiel, God used the pronoun “I” nine times, indicating that God, Himself considers the work to be His.
God again spoke through
Ezekiel to Israel: Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which
ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which
ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified
in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into
your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols,
will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart
out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes,
and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them (Ezekiel 36:22-27). God exphasizes that only He can and will cleanse Israel [and us].
prayed, Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me (Psalms 51:10), while Jeremiah pleaded with God, Turn
thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old (Lamentations 5:21). Paul wrote the Corinthian saints,Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are
for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint
not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:14-16).
The apostle Paul also
mentions God's inward working, called circumcision, in the heart of the believer. Paul wrote the Corinthian church, For he is not
a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly;
and circumcision [cutting off of excessive flesh] is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not
of [the work of] men, but of God (Romans 2:28-29). Isaiah refers to God's working in our evil hearts: we are all as an unclean thing,
and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and
hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all
are the work of thy hand (Isaiah 64:6-8).
According to the scriptures, the believer in Christ is sanctified only through the
word of truth, which is a reference to the gospel [and not the bible]: Sanctify [Greek, hagiazo, to make holy, purify, consecrate,
to venerate, hallow] them through thy truth [of the gospel message]: thy word [a reference to the word of truth, the gospel, and not
the scriptures; see Ephesians 1:13 and Colossians 1:5] is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them
into the world. And for their sakes I [Christ] sanctify myself, that they [who believe in me] also might be sanctified through thetruth [of the gospel message]. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That
they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou
hast sent me (John 17:17-21). Christ sanctified Himself so that those who believe in Him may also be sanctified through hearing and
believing the truth of the gospel message. However, the believer in Christ is also sanctified through Christ (John 17:19, 1 Cor 1:2),
by faith in Christ (Acts 26:18), the Holy Ghost (Romans 15:16), in the name of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 6:11), by the gospel word or
message (1 Tim 4:5), by prayer (1 Timothy 4:5), by avoiding sinful behavior (2 Tim 2:14-26), and through the offering of the body
of Jesus Christ (Heb 10:10). The sanctification process is a work of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Jude specifically
refers to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called (Jude 1:1), while Paul teaches ye [who
believe are] in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians
SINCE OUR HEARTS ARE EVIL AND ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE OUR
HEARTS, WHAT CAN THE BELIEVER DO?
Only God can change our evil
hearts, and the work is His, not ours. We should ask, then, how are believers in Christ to respond to this transformaton and sanctification
process? How can we support God in His sanctification of our own evil hearts? The scriptures provide us with ample instructions on
how we should respond, and quite a few of them will be mentioned here.
First, we are to love the Lord God. Jesus instructs us,Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matthew 22:37). Next, we should
cleave mightily unto the Lord. In the book of Acts, we read about Barnabus, Who, when he came [to Antioch], and had seen the grace
of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord (Acts 11:23). Additionally, we
can ask God to open our hearts to faith rather than unbelief, and to good, rather than to evil: ...a certain woman named Lydia, a
seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened [to open thoroughly, to expound
upon resulting in change], that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul (Acts 16:14).
Next, we can assist God
in His transformation of us by learning proper doctrine and beiing attentive to it. Look what Paul wrote the church in Rome: But God
be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed [Greek, hupakouo, to listen as a subordinate, to listen attentively,
to heed to or conform to a command or authority, to be obedient to] from the heart that form of doctrine [instruction] which was delivered
you (Romans 6:17). Paul also explains that there are other ways to influence our own hearts. To the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote,be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual
songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:18-21). We can influence our own hearts
by avoiding wordly excesses, ask God to fill us with His Holy Spirit, speak to ourselves through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
singing, making melody in our hearts unto the Lord, giving thanks for all things unto our Father in heaven, and by humbly submittiing
ourselves to one another in the fear and honoring of God. Paul also exhorted believer in Ephesus, put off concerning the former conversation
the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the
new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24), and to the Colossian believers, put on
the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision
nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy
and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another,
if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye (Colossians 3:10-13).
Paul also instructed the
church in Ephesus to do the will of God [which is sanctification of the believer] not superficially, but from the depths of their
hearts. Paul wrote, Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness
of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the
heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men (Ephesians 6:5-7). Paul encourages us to humble ourselves before
others, just as we would humble ourselves before Christ; and by humbling ourselves before others, we are doing the will of God from
our heart. Paul also instructed the Colossian church, Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice [that
which needs watching, to be remiss, improperly, insincerely], as menpleasers; but in singleness [sincerity, generosity] of heart,
fearing God (Colossians 3:22).
The believer in Christ is commanded to seek sanctification and holiness. God said to Israel, Sanctify
yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 20:7), and the apostle Peter reminds us of the words of
God: as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am
holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Paul wrote the saints in Rome, Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto
God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither
yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the
dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the
law, but under grace (Romans 6:11-14).
David, the psalmist, directs us, Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked
works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties (Psalms 141:4), while the prophet Jeremiah exhorts the men
of Judah and Jerusalem [and us], Break up your fallow ground [of your heart], and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the
LORD, and take away the foreskins [Hebrew, orlah, the prepuce, foreskin, uncurtailed, excessive fleshly tendencies which lead to evil
behavior] of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench
it, because of the evil of your doings (Jeremiah 4:3-4). The prophet Joel also instructs us on how to deal with our evil hearts. Joel
wrote, Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:And
rend [Hebrew, qara, revile, cut out, tear out] your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious
and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil (Joel 2:12-13).
Paul wrote Timothy, Neither
give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the
end [Greek, telos, goal, ultimate purpose] of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith
unfeigned (1 Timothy 1:4-5), while the apostle James instructs us to Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the [temptations of
the] devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your
hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble
yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up (James 4:7-10). Paul adds, Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness,
faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure [Greek, katharos, clean, clear, truthful]heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
author of the book of Hebrews exhorts all believers in Christ, Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,Harden [to be unresponsive and rebellious] not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When
your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do
alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed,
brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while
it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold
the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end (Hebrews 3:7-14). The author of Hebrews later adds, Let us draw near with a
true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled [washed, cleansed] from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed
with pure water (Hebrews 10:22).
Peter tells us to purify our souls by responding to the truth, and to love one another with
a cleansed and truthful heart: Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the
brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently (1 Peter 1:22). Another thing we can do to combat our evil hearts
is to behave in ways that our conscience does not condemn us. John wrote, For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart,
and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God (1 John 3:20-21). The scriptures
exhort us, Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their
dainties (Psalms 141:4).
Regarding the nation of Israel, the Jeremiah prophesied, And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied
and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall
it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they
shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem:neither shall they walk any more after the imagination [twisted, obstinate tendencies] of their evil heart (Jeremiah 3:16-17). As
with Israel, neither should we live any more with an obstinate and evil heart.
The believer in Christ is to put off concerning
the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24), and Paul instructs
us to let love be without dissimulation. Abhor [to detest utterly] that which is evil; cleave to that which is good (Romans 12:9).
word of the Lord also came to Joel, who prophesied to Israel [and to us], Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even [specifically]to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend [Hebrew, qara, revile, cut out, tear] your
heart [Hebrew, labab, the most interior organ, breast, midst, understanding], and not your garments, and turn [back] unto the LORD
your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil (Joel 2:12-13). Joel
not only instructs us to turn unto God with our whole heart and with sincerity and truth, but to tear out the evil parts within our
heart that afflict us.
As general advice for dealing with an evil heart, Jesus exhorts us to love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself (Luke 10:27), while the
apostle James instructs us, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and
he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep:
let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift
you up (James 4:7-10).
Lastly, since there is abundant evidence that the heart of man is evil, and we have no hope of purifying
our hearts without the help and power of the Lord, the author of the book of Hebrews provides us with the perfect advice: Seeing then
that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have
not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet
without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace [because of our evil
heart] to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). We should come to God to obtain mercy and grace in our struggles with our evil hearts. AMEN.