Although this post can stand alone, to fully grasp the intent of this series, please read the two posts directly preceding this one.
Principle One: SIN TAKES ROOT IN THE HEART
Though we have been delivered from sin and its rule, we have not been delivered from its attacks. There is a constant battle within us. And if we are honest, many of us are losing that battle. Not because God hasn’t provided. Scripture says that God has provided everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Not because we are not trying. In most cases, we are losing because we do not understand the basic nature and strategy of sin. For us to wage a successful war against the old man (the dominion of sin) we need to understand some important principles.
First, Sin takes root in the heart. Although it has been weakened and overthrown, its nature has not changed. Sin is still hostile towards God. Thus, we have an enemy of righteousness right in our own hearts. Jesus declared, “For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'” (Mark 7:21-23).
The word heart indicates the whole soul of a person—our reason, our will, our desires, and our emotions. Not as individual elements, but how they all work together in doing good or evil. Scripture tells us that our heart is deceitful and unsearchable to any but God alone (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Even believers do not know their own hearts (1 Corinthians 4:3-5). In this unsearchable heart dwells sin. Much of sin's strength lies in the fact that none of us can fully discern our intentions or motives. We fight with an enemy that we cannot fully search out.
Jerry Bridges writes of the heart in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, “It excuses, rationalizes, and justifies our actions. It blinds us to entire areas of sin in our lives. It causes us to deal with sin using only halfway measures or to think that mental assent to the Word of God is the same as obedience [James 1:22].”
As we begin to understand that sin occupies a deceitful and unsearchable heart, it should make us wary. We should pray daily for God to search our hearts as David did, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
God’s means of searching our hearts is through His Word, as we read it under the power of the Holy Spirit, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart, even the most secret and remote thoughts and designs. It will discover to men the variety of their thoughts and intentions. The Word will turn the inside of a sinner out, and let him see all that is in his heart. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.” As we pray for God to search our hearts we must continue to expose ourselves to His Word in its totality.
We must be careful to let the Holy Spirit do this searching as we expose ourselves to the Word. When we try to search our own hearts, we can follow into two traps. The first is the trap of condemnation. Satan is the "accuser" (Revelation 12:10). One of his greatest weapons is discouragement. He knows that if he can discourage us, we will not fight the battle for holiness. The second is the trap of missing the real issues in our lives. The deceitfulness of Satan and of our own hearts will lead us to focus on secondary issues (such as the list of prohibitions mentioned in the post directly preceding this one). Only the Spirit through the Word can enable us to see such areas to which we are blind.
...Shaina Duncan, College Student
Editor of Revive and Awaken