Just recently I asked a question on my Facebook page: If God were to come to you and tell you that he would grant you one thing just as you ask it, pray tell, for what would you ask?
That one question can tell a great deal about a person’s ethical and spiritual condition. A person who does not know the Bible or who is unsaved may ask for something like health, wealth or prosperity. Those that would know the Bible better may ask for something for others because, after all, it would be arrogant to ask for anything for yourself… or so may be the line of thinking. But, the question is, what would YOU want God to give to YOU. Not to others, not for others, but you, and only you. I think that is a fair question and I think the way people answer it will show their life’s system of values.
So, the question is, What would you ask for from God the Father, if he were to give you that right, face to face, in a personal conversation?
Think about this when you think about that question: Proverbs 28:26 “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool….”
There is the story of Solomon, he was annointed king of Israel and he was afraid of the task at hand. In 1 Kings 3:9 the Bible tells us that Solomon asked God for an understanding heart to judge the people of God, so he could discern between good and bad. Solomon did not ask for wisdom, he asked for a heart to understand what to do. And the Bible says that this saying pleased the Lord so much that God gave him everything else he could have requested but refrained from doing so. Solomon wanted an understanding heart, and God gave it to him. But, that is not the end of the story.
Solomon became renowned for his wisdom and discretion in matters of judging the nation of Israel. He got visitors from far and wide and they all left shaking their heads. God truly had answered Solomon’s plea. But, life happens, and it happened to Solomon. The man who wrote the Proverbs also penned the book of Ecclesiastes. The man who said to get wisdom and understanding, also said that everything was vanity and vexation of spirit. The man who had God’s ear chose the pagan company of women, and the vital difference between he and his father David became evident. It was so bad that the Bible says that God wanted to take the kingdom from Solomon but out of deferrence to David he waited until Solomon died. Solomon truly went off the deep end in his life. What he got from God to judge the nation of Israel, he did not get for himself to judge himself.
Every problem in life is a heart problem. And the reason for this is found in Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is decitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? This was Solomon’s problem and this was David’s problem and this is our problem. So, the question is, what to do about it? Is there a key? Can we ever defeat this pernicious trouble called a deceitful heart? The answer is, thankfully, yes. And here is what I think is the key to what is wrong with us:
When a man trusts Christ as his Savior his spirit is getting the life of God almighty. Titus 3:5 and John 3:3-6 are important verses to remember in relation to salvation. Salvation is not something you hold in your hand, it is a new creation in you. Your spirit is regenerated… not your body, not your soul, just your spirit. I have often heard of “asking Jesus into your heart.” Now, I understand that statement but I do not agree with that statement. You do not ask Jesus to come into your heart when you are born again. That is a childish explanation of salvation and it is wrong. I also think it leads people to an incorrect understanding of the trouble they are in because of their deceitful heart.
When a person is born again by the Holy Spirit of God, he is a new creature, old things are passed away and all things are become new. Yet, he has the same soul, the same body and the same history. None of that is done away with, what is become new is the spirit which is now regenerated in him with the “new man.” He still has the same old heart, the same old way of thinking and the same old trouble he always had, he simply now got the life of God in him. So, why, pray tell, does he not change? If the life of God is in him why does he still sin? A man sins because of his heart, pure and simple. A man sins because he wants to sin.
I can hear the angry chorus of boos filtering down now from the gallery: What do you mean I want to sin?” “I want to live a sinless life!”
OK, fine, then do it.
Wait, you say, I cannot do that.
Why not? What’s the problem? You don’t want to sin, so don’t.
The problem is, you say, that I cannot live a sinless life, but I want to.
I am sorry, that is not logical. I thought the life of God lives in you? What’s your problem? Is God not strong enough? After all, you said you asked Jesus into your heart, what’s wrong?
And so we have the never ending back and forth that could take place. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it? The answer is not you and not me. It was that way before you were born again and it remains that way after you are born again. It was David’s problem, it was Solomon’s problem, Jeremiah had it and so do we. We are hopelessly, helplessly bound by the desires of our hearts; our lying, double talking hearts. It is an end game in chess where the heart shouts CHECK MATE every single time… so, what do we do? Where is the key?
The key is found in understanding why we sin. We sin because we want to sin. It is that simple. It is fun sometimes. It keeps us from having to face consequences of our sin, sometimes. It makes us look better, sometimes. It makes us feel better, sometimes. It satisfies our flesh, sometimes. Sin is multifaceted and multi-talented. It can be all things to you at the same time and then something else a couple of minutes later. Your heart controls your desires and your desires control your actions.
Let me give you a banal example of how your heart can and does lie to you:
You look in the mirror and notice that you can play games with that stomach of yours that hangs over your beltline. So, being a fair minded person and knowing you should get rid of it you begin to search for ways to eliminate that gut. You search the internet and watch the infomercials for the cure. And so you begin to try different things and one by one you put them in your closet where they are stored until your next garage sale when someone else will take it off of your hands. What happened? It worked for all of those other people. But, you bought it and began with such enthusiasm, for 1 day, 1 week, maybe even 1 month… and then you got busy, and you noticed it didn’t really work. When you bought it your heart said, “THIS IS IT!” And you intended on working out and getting rid of that muffin top. In fact, each time you bought something you intended on keeping up… until your heart started talking again and telling you there had to be a better way, this was not what you wanted. It lied to you, and you listened.
What about the practice of a New Year’s Resolution? You make it January 1 and break it January 4 and forget about it January 8. Your heart lied. It said, YOU NEED THIS! And then later it said, Nah, you were fine, let it go. Well, which heart was right? Same heart, different messages…because of life.
You can apply this to almost anything you start and then fail at. When you began you were so dedicated… sort of… maybe… well, not so much… nah, some other time.
HOW TO BREAK THE CIRCLE OF THE SIN THAT SO EASILY BESETS YOU
Your lying heart is your problem. But it can never be beaten… because you cannot beat it. But, you can do something else, you can get a different one… immediately… let me explain.
Your desires cause you to sin, so if you want to stop the cycle of defeat with your sinning you have to change your desires. But, your desires come from your heart and you cannot ever even understand it, much less change it. So, you have to find out who can and how to do so.
1 Kings 8:38-39 contains part of a prayer that is very telling: What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: then hear thou in heaven, they dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men.)
God and only God knows the hearts of men. Our deceitful hearts that we cannot know, only God can know. And the key is right here:
Pslams 4:4 says “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” To commune with your own heart gives many people much confusion for some reason. To commune is an old way to simply say, to talk to or to say to. The Psalmist tell us to tell our own hearts to stand in awe and sin not. We are to take control of our hearts, to insert our will over them and to tell them to be quiet because we are going to listen to God. The Bible says to do this when we are laying still, on our beds, forcing our hearts to obey.
David sinned with Bathsheeba. Nathan judged the sin and the child died. The innocent one in that equation suffered – just like it is in most things. David was God’s man when he commited adultery. So, David’s problem was not a problem of pagan unbelief, he was the chosen man of God. He wrote Psalm 51 after he sinned and he makes some startling statements. The first part of the chapter is him telling God that he deserves what he is getting and that his sin was against God and God should be upset. David also begs for mercy and asks God to not forget that he is only human… and then David deals with the heart of the problem in Psalm 51:10: Create in me a clean heart…. Create means to make something that did not exist before. David’s problem was not where he lived, it was not that he was not in the battle, it was not that he looked down to see Bathsheeba, it was that he had an unclean heart. Do you understand this concept? David, the man of God, had a deceitful, dirty heart. While he was the man of God… it was not just some left over condition from before being annointed, that was the condition of his heart, unclean. And because it was unclean it lied to him and gave him desires that would only harm him.
The solution is found right there in Psalm 51:10, get a clean heart from God.
So, dear reader, I am telling you this, if you are trying to obey the Bible, if you are memorizing Scripture, if you are obeying the Great Commission, if you are doing ALL that you think the Bible is telling you and you cannot get victory over that sin that so easily besets you, it is not for lack of trying, it is for lack of a clean heart. Your heart is the problem. You may be saved but your heart isn’t. You may be a preach of the Gospel telling the truth, but your heart is working against you. It hates you, it hates God, it is not controlable. It needs to be replaced.
Practical application of this concept:
For years I would do something and I did not realize what I was doing. When I was unable to get victory over sin I would ask God to give me a clean heart. I would pray it each time I prayed and often many times in one day. And something would begin to happen… I would forget to sin. What changed? I didn’t all of a sudden become super Christian, nor did I all of a sudden learn chapters of verses nor did I hide the Word of God in my heart in such copious amounts that I would not sin against Him. I simply asked him to create a clean heart in me… and he did.
I have gotten victory over so many sins that so easily beset me. I have forgotten about many of them and they were things that haunted me. What did I do? I got a clean heart and so I got new desires and so the instructions of my heart were now actually instructions from God’s heart and my life cleaned up. Oh, you need to keep memorizing verses, staying clean, obeying the Bible, but you need to add to all of that the simple prayer, daily, Lord, create a clean heart in me today and give me the right desires to do what you want me to do. And God will do it.
You would never argue that a sinner simply asking Jesus to save him would not be sufficient to save him. Yet, will you say that it is too simple to say that asking God for a clean heart is what you need to do to get victory over your besetting sins? I surely hope not.
Most Christians live in 911 mode with their Christianity. When the building is burning, when the family is trapped, then they get serious. It is better to do daily maintenance than to do emergency surgery due to mismanagment of your life.
I implore you today to understand what is wrong with too many of us, we have a dirty heart as a matter of course and we think only the pagan heart or backslidden heart is in need of being replaced and a new heart from God to be created in its place. Even David, God’s man, had to ask for God to give him a new, clean heart. Dear reader, you can have victory over your sin and you can have it soon. You may be struggling to “win the prize” of a clean conscience but you are failing. It is not for lack of trying or for lack of faithfulness, it is because you have a deceitful heart, like David, like Jeremiah, like me, like everyone. Right now, ask God to create a clean heart in you and to give you the right desires. He will do it.
This little teaching has seen great fruit in our Reformers Unanimous program in Romania. Men and women bound by addiciton are finding those addictions melting away and a clean heart with godly desires is taking the place. David made a simple request, and God granted it.
I have one request of God, for me and for me only, Lord, create in me a clean heart.