When I was a young Christian, one verse I quoted a lot was Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” In my understanding, Jeremiah was describing the heart of everyone, even Christians. I was so convinced of the depravity and sinfulness of man, and my own for that matter, that this verse seemed to be a perfect description of me.
But as I’ve grown, I’ve begun to wonder if Jeremiah 17:9 describes the heart of a Christian. Is my heart desperately sick? Is my heart deceitful above all things?
TWO REASONS I RECONSIDERED MY POSITION
1. One of the chief gifts of the New Covenant is a new heart. The book of Ezekiel contains one of the most famous OT promises of a new covenant. In chapter 36:26-27, God say, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:26-27)
2. The new heart replaces the old heart. Not only is a new heart one of the chief gifts of the New Covenant. But notice also that the new heart replaces the old heart. “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” God does not say he will give a new heart that will coexist alongside an old heart. The new heart that God gives replaces the old heart that God takes out.
BUT DOESN’T SIN COME FROM THE HEART?
Doesn’t Jesus teach that sin comes from the heart of man? In Mark 7:21 Jesus says, “From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery…” So Jesus is saying that whenever a Christian has evil thoughts, is sexually immoral, steals, murders, cheats, or any other sin you can think of, all of these things proceed from their hearts.
So here is the dilemma we face: If Christians have a totally new heart that replaces their old heart, how can Jesus say that sin proceeds from the heart? Can good hearts produce sin?
I plan to wrestle more with this issue in my next couple posts. But for now I want to hear from you.
Question: Do Christians have a wicked heart? Or is it totally new? And if you think it’s totally new, how do we explain Jesus’ words in Mark 7:21?