I hope you had a happy Valentines day. I think I am the luckiest guy in the world to be blessed with my wife, Kelly, as my sweet valentine. We started dating when I was 18 and she was 16, but I first noticed Kelly when I was only 13 or 14 years old. I okayed in a rock and roll band with her dad. We used to rehearse at his house and I would see Kelly's picture on the wall. I though, "Man, she's pretty!" Sometimes, she would come in through the front door and walk through the house passed where the band rehearsed and I would think, "Man, she sure is pretty!" She never seemed to notice me.
I had my very first girlfriend when I was in pre-K. How does a kid have a girlfriend in Pre-K? I don't know. All I know is my parents and older siblings used to tease me because, apparently, I had befriended a girl in my pre-K class and they thought it was cute. I don't even remember her; all I knew was that the important people in my life were thrilled I had a "girlfriend". Their interest in my "love life" was re-enforced throughout my childhood as they would often ask, "So, who's your girlfriend?" When we would take trips to see my grandparents or aunts and uncles, they also would ask, "Got any girlfriends?"
Now, these older people loved me and probably just thought it was a nice thing to ask and it was cute to think of a young boy with a girlfriend. What was impressed upon my young mind from a very early age was that having a girlfriend was very important, maybe the most important thing. It came to be one of the most important goals in my life. Every new school year, the exciting question in my mind was, "What girls will be in my class? Will one of them be my girlfriend?"
Be careful how you talk to kids about girlfriends/boyfriends. You may just think it's cute and harmless. But what message are you subconsciously sending with your interest?
Well, when I was 17, I did find a girlfriend and we got pretty serious. We spent so much time together, I neglected my other friendships. Then, when our relationship ended in a breakup--as most high school romances end--I was lonely with a broken heart and fewer friends. Thankfully, God used that time in my life to help me re-prioritize my life and start seeking the Lord.
After I turned 18, I was no longer that interested in romance. I knew I was about to graduate high school and go away to college. Why start a relationship only to have to break it off when I left town to pursue an education? But my sister was interested in Diego, one of my friends. We had a rule that we didn't date each other's friends. My sister came to me and said, "How about we set that rule aside so I can date Diego and I have a friend you can date?"
She told me her friend was Kelly Hendrick. She was the girl I used to see while our band rehearsed (and I remembered how pretty she was!) I wasn't really interested in a serious relationship right before I graduated, but I thought it might be fun to have someone to hang out with for a few months (and did I mention, she was really pretty?).
Well, it's funny how God works. When I finally stopped worrying so much about finding "the one", God sent "the one" for me. Kelly and I hit it off well and soon fell deeply in love. We dated for 2 and a half years and then we married when she finished high school. We've been together ever since and we're very happy.
The world has its way of doing things. The world constantly bombards us with its “wisdom” through TV, music, movies, commercials. One of the messages the world impresses on us is the paramount importance of finding true love. Whether it is through music, television, or movies (or even the well-meaning people in your life), the idea is passed on that one of the ultimate goals in life is to find a mate. We usually accept this and many other worldly ideas without much thought. It seems like everyone believes these things and so we do too--that is, until Jesus comes along and challenges our way of thinking.
“Follow Your Heart”
For instance: The world says: “Follow your heart.” The call to “follow your heart” is a warning not to overthink your decision. The idea is that your heart (or your emotions or your inner voice) knows what you really need to do. And so, many people believe you should “just follow your heart and it will lead you the right way.” Many have made this their life motto and even tattooed on their body.
Is "just follow your heart" really advice? Is it really a bad thing to use your brain to intelligently weigh your decisions and your path in life? Should you really “just let your heart lead you?”
Well, if we pause for just a moment to think about it, it doesn’t take much intelligence to realize, “just follow your heart” is really bad advice—even though so much of the world believes this maxim. (I suppose, though, if we “just follow our heart” our heart might tell us to “just follow our heart”, but can we really trust our heart when it says this?)
As a pastor, people often come to me looking for help with all kinds of problems--relationship problems, marital problems, financial and spiritual problems. What I have observed through many years of pastoral experience in actual real life situations is that when people “follow their heart” it usually leads them into a big ole mess! I've lost count of how many people I've known who married the wrong person because they were “following their heart…” How many have gotten divorced because they followed their heart? Hw many have cheated on their spouse, chosen the wrong career, parented their kids badly, made a bad financial investment, or wasted their money on a bad purchase simply because they were "following their heart"?
The evidence I have seen through many years of observation is that “follow your heart” is very bad advice.
What did Jesus Say?
If we want some truly trustworthy advice, we should turn to Jesus. He was with God when God created the world, and Jesus is God (see John 1). Jesus created us, and he knows the inner workings of our heart and our whole being. What advice does Jesus give about “following your heart?”
In Matthew 15:19, Jesus said, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality,
theft, lying, and slander.”
And Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
That's pretty strong language! Is the heart really all that bad? Yes, I believe it is. I believe it is because Jesus said it. But I also believe it because I have a heart and I've seen how dark my own heart can be at times. Don't get me wrong. I have a good heart. It's compassionate. It cares about people. It's generous. I have a giving heart. I have a good heart—that is, until it's not a good heart. And then you better watch out! I also realize, my heart is a tricky heart. When it wants something, my heart is very persuasive. It can figure out how to make almost anything seem right.
And it's not just my heart. It's your heart too. You may think you have a good heart. Maybe you do, that is, until it's not a good heart. Then you have a wicked heart, just like the Word of God says. And if you don't think so, it's probably because you're still under your deceptive heart's spell. You better watch out! You better to listen to Jesus! You better listen to the Word of God! “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.”
The heart is not an organ that can be trusted to lead you to make good and right decisions.That’s why God said in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”
God knows how deceitful is the human heart. That’s why Jesus came and died on the cross to atone for our sins. Not only did Christ’s sacrifice pay for our sins, it also makes it possible for God to give us a new heart. When we trust in Jesus, God begins healing our broken, deceitful hearts. And as we wait for our new and perfect heart to be fully restored (a process that will take the rest o four life on earth), God sends His Holy Spirit to live inside us and guide us. However, we have to listen to the Holy Spirit (and not our old broken hearts).
How Do You Listen to the Spirit?
We have to learn how to follow the Holy Spirit and not our heart. It can be confusing, because both require us to use a similar, intangible intuition that is a lot like "feeing our way through". Many people, thinking they are following the Holy Spirit, are really just following their hearts (or their emotions). So how do you tell the difference? Let me give you a little guidance that will help.
Look to the Bible. The clearest instruction from God comes to us in His Holy Word, the Bible. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the foundation for everything we believe and do as Christians. If you think the Holy Spirit is telling you to do something that goes against what the Bible clearly says, you better check yourself. It’s probably not the Holy Spirit. More likely, it’s your heart trying to deceive you. Why would God’s Holy Spirit lead you to disobey what He already said in His Holy Word in the Bible?
Ask the Church. The Christian faith is not a private matter and a private fait is not really faith in Jesus at all. Look, even Jesus’ religion when he walked this earth was not lived privately. He called together 12 disciples to live out his religion with him in community. And Jesus always meant for his way of living to be lived with other people. The Church is the gathering of Jesus’ people. And we are called to help each other and depend on each other. We need each other. And when we are trying to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying—especially if it is a very important decision—we need to check in with the community of faith. You need a few trustworthy Christian friends you can talk with about your decisions. As you listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you listen with Your Christian brothers and sisters. Your heart may try to deceive you, but a good Christian friend will tell you the truth. They will help you tell the difference between your emotions and the true leading of God’s Holy Spirit. You are called to do this for your Christian friends as well.
Develop a Life of Prayer. Last, but certainly not least, develop a life of prayer. Don't just pray; develop a life a prayer. Most people pray every now and then--especially when they are faced with a big problem and they need God's help. However, if you want to develop your ability to sense how the Holy Spirit is guiding you, you need to pray constantly. Develop the habit of praying every day. Pray every hour. In fact, pray throughout the day. It doesn't have to be long, drawn out prayers. Simply talk to God throughout your day. His Holy Spirit is walking beside you anyway; don't give Him the silent treatment. Talk to Him. Include Him in everything you are doing throughout your day. As you do this, you will become more sensitive to how the Holy Spirit is trying to lead you. Now, follow.
I want to invite you today to receive a new heart from the Lord. You’re old one is broken. It doesn’t really care about you. It just wants to satisfy itself and it doesn’t really care if you get hurt along the way. But God loves your deeply and unconditionally. He really does want what’s best for you. He will always look after your best interests, even if it means withholding something you think you really want if it’s not really good for you. Ultimately, God wants to spend eternity wit you. Won’t you surrender your heart to Him today so He can give you a new and better one--a heart that will last for all eternity?