I admit it, I like a good romantic comedy. True, they tend to be missing my favorite movie elements: car chases, gun battles, and explosions. But I can understand the appeal of Sleepless in Seattle or Sixteen Candles. I can recognize a good storyline and acting.
But there’s a common motif in most if not all these movies with a romantic theme. How often have you heard this one slogan/piece of advice? Follow your heart. “I know that your family, friends, good common sense, and all your past experience are telling you with one voice not to do this. But don’t listen to any of them. Instead, listen to what your heart says.”
My friend, this would be my prime nomination for the worst advice, no, the most destructive advice commonly thrown out there today. There’s plenty of bad advice in the world today, but to my knowledge there’s nothing that’s A) More common, B) More destructive, and C) More insidious.
I mean, think about it. Doesn’t it sound poignant? Isn’t it touching? And doesn’t it always end well in the movies and on TV?
Well, we’re not living in movieland or TVland. We’re living in the real world, with real consequences. And in the real world, those consequences urge us to listen to what God says instead of what Hollywood says.
And what does God say about it, through Jeremiah here? Your heart is the last place you need to be looking to for advice. He says it’s deceitful above all things. No one can fool you as well as you can fool yourself.
What does he mean by this? To my understanding, he’s referring to our thought processes and emotions. Let’s take for example a man on a business trip. He’s happily married, or at least married. He meets a beautiful young woman there in the hotel bar, and she makes it clear she’s available and interested in a night of pleasure. He doesn’t feel like staying faithful to his wife. At that moment in time, his emotions and feelings are lying to him. They’re telling him that it’s worth it to threaten his marriage for a night of passion. And that’s a lie.
You see, your feelings can lie to you. And so can your thoughts. We’re not computers. Our feelings and desires can influence our thoughts so that what sounds perfectly logical is not so.
Why? Is there something wrong with emotions in themselves? Of course not. To a degree they’re a result of God’s image stamped upon us. He has emotions as well: To our extremely small understanding, we know from his word that in some sense he experiences anger, sorrow, love, hatred, joy, etc. But our emotions are tainted by something that don’t taint his: sin. Sin has entered the picture and perverts our emotions. That’s why we can’t trust them.
And who can understand a man's heart? Who can really get past all the masks and pretence? There's only One who can do this, and he does.
What else does the Ultimate Heart Specialist have to say about our heart? It’s beyond cure. No matter what we do and how hard we try, we can’t really overcome our sin problem.
So what do we do? Let the Doctor operate. He alone can probe our innermost thoughts and emotions. He searches out our heart and examines our mind. Like a skilled surgeon, the scalpel of his word probes down to the very bottom of the depths of our soul.
So if we can’t cure ourselves, what is the cure? The passage today only mentions his judgment. He looks through the innermost depths of our soul, and he plans to bring judgment on what he finds there. But there are other passages that speak of his loving examination of his children. If we allow him to be our Savior instead of our Judge, then his probing can be positive to us. David’s cry to the Lord can be our cry: “Search me, 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.” Yes, even as his beloved children, his probing can be painful. But if we’re redeemed and covered by his blood, then there’s nothing to fear. His deep examination of his children is to make his children better, not to judge them.
But if I haven’t made it clear yet, every one of us is destined to be placed under the All-Seeing Eye. You can do it now, or you can do it later. Trust me, now is better.
Father, when you’re probing, let me be silent. Give me a quiet soul. Give me listening ears. Probe and cleanse as deep as only you can. Please.