When Not to Follow Your Heart

We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”—1 John 3:19–24 (NASB)

Have you ever heard someone say, “Follow your heart” or “What does your heart tell you” or “Do what you feel in your heart is right”? I grew up believing that, but today’s verse contradicts that idea. This passage clearly states that “God is greater than our heart.” 

As believers, our heart plays a role in choosing to obey or to sin, but our heart in and of itself does not take the role of God within us. Why? Because our heart is flawed and will often lead us astray. In fact, Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) tell us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” and Jesus explained in Mark 7:21–22 (ESV) that, “Out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”

Too often, I’ve seen friends submit to shame, fear, and condemnation because of a notion from their heart. We ask God to forgive us, and He does, but our heart taunts us, saying we’re still guilty. We want to take a God-inspired step into the unknown, but our heart seeks the comfort of the familiar over faith in His plan. We want to reject sin, but our heart—where self-deception takes place, self-idolatry grows, and sin takes root—remains silent at an opportune moment, and we do that which we don’t want to (Romans 7:15–20). 

Christian! If you are seeing yourself as anything less than forgiven and feel anything less than confident before the Lord, there’s only two options: You’re blatantly living in sin and you know you need to repent, or you are living in a lie told to you by your heart. Remember what today’s verse tells us: “In whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart.”

Amidst the loud voices of our heart, our past, our circles of influence, and the world around us, the Lord’s voice is louder. He’s calling us to something greater than our deceitful heart. If we would simply surrender our thoughts, shame, and slim view of the truth to our all-knowing God, those inferior things would be replaced with answered prayers, confidence, and a known justification. 

Maybe you’re scared to let go of the confidence you have in your heart because it’s gotten you this far. But I guarantee you that a life lived by our own understanding, our own will, and our own expectations, is one lived with less than is intended for us. We can be led astray by our heart, but Christ will never lead us astray. And that’s a beautiful and comforting truth to cling to.

DIG: Read the third chapter of 1 John in its entirety.

DISCOVER: Imagine a spectrum. On one side is a person living in guilt and shame before God, and on the other side is a person who is distant from God and trusting fully in himself. Where on the spectrum do you find yourself? Examine yourself and ask the Lord to show you His way.

DO: The next time you have a decision to make, pause. Whether your decision has passed the conscience test or not, take your ideas before the Lord. Let Him influence your heart and mind so your decision will be based on His will, not your heart, thoughts, emotions, or knowledge.

About the Author

Cortney Gurr