One of the most popular doctrines of our post-modern era is the simple advice to “follow your heart.” Everyone from pop singers to actors to successful corporate CEOs can be heard giving the same advice: Don’t follow the crowd or try to please people, have the courage to follow your heart. But is this really good advice? It sure sounds good, but it is actually a deceptive and destructive lie that will eternally condemn you, if you build your life around it.
How do I know this? Well, consider this passage which was part of our scheduled Scripture reading this past week:
So that there may not be among you man or woman of family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there my not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood, and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ’I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’ – as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven. Deuteronomy 29:18-20
According to God’s word, to follow the dictates of your heart is to turn away from Yahweh and go to serve other gods, and the consequence for the Israelite who had entered into covenant with the Lord and then committed such an offense was to receive all the curses of the law. Now you and I may not be subject to the laws of Sinai in the same way as the OT Israelites, but certainly the principle stands just as much for us as it did for them, so that the man or woman who follows his heart is by definition turning away from God and choosing instead to serve another god. Such rebellion only ever results in one thing: the anger of Yahweh is upon you, so that you will be condemned as an unbeliever.
Imagine a man who is known to be an alcoholic, who drinks himself into a state of drunkenness and yet claims to be completely sober. Would anyone believe that he is truly un-intoxicated? Of course not. No one would accept such a ridiculous claim, and yet there are many who call themselves Christians and claim to have peace with God through the death of Jesus Christ, who at the same time live by the rule: follow your heart. How can this be? It is unworthy of anyone who professes to know God. Peace with God is not found by pursuing your own desires or chasing your dreams, for God says your desires and dreams are the product of a heart that is diseased with sin, and to follow your heart means to reject God’s wisdom and rebel against his authority. You’ll not find peace in such a state.
The Israelites were called to love God with all of their heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:5), so that their hearts would be brought into submission to the will of God. Rather than being a source of infallible wisdom and guidance, they were to recognize that their hearts were inherently untrustworthy and so were to commit themselves to love and follow Yahweh and so to enjoy peace with God. And the same principle applies to us today, that we would not follow our hearts thinking we could be a sober drunk, but instead would surrender our heart and mind and will to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only when we turn from our own way, confessing our sinful corruption and rebellion, that we may have peace with God. So reject the chorus of voices that are constantly singing of the wonderful freedom and peace that are to be found in following your heart and instead trust in God who alone can give you peace by his mercy and grace.