Sanctification And The Heart of Man
Jeremiah 17:9— “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
THE STATE OF MAN’S HEART AFTER THE FALL
The book of Jeremiah proclaims that the heart of man is extremely wicked. In Genesis 6:5, we find that the heart of man was overwhelmed with evil continuously. How did the heart of God’s highest and finest creation become so tainted with darkness and evil? The answer can be found in the initial fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. In disobeying God they invited the presence of sin and death into their very hearts and lives. As a result of their failure, man became infected with a sin nature. Prior to the fall, man’s focus was primarily upon his Creator. After the fall, man’s focus became himself. So sin and selfishness began to dominate and influence the human heart.
DEFINING THE HEART OF MAN
A simple definition of man’s heart is that it describes the inward spiritual man that exists within all humanity. It consists of two major parts: one being the soul and the other being the spirit. The soul is the part of man that feels. This is where emotions are experienced, where both love and hate exist, and where both joy and anger dwell. The spirit of man is the cognitive side of man. It is the part of man that knows. Spiritual communication with God and the influence from evil powers and principalities communicate to man through his spirit. His mind is connected with both the soul and the spirit.
Again, influences upon the mind may come from man’s own heart, from God, or from satanic powers. The emotions that he feels may also impact the mind. The mind gathers in all this that is felt, experienced, and known through personal experience and attempts to come to the appropriate conclusions or actions in response to the stimuli. Jesus said that sin comes from within the heart of man (Mark 7:21-23). Therefore the darkened heart within man is the result of the fall and the corrupting force of the sin nature.
THE SIN NATURE
In Romans 7:8-9, the apostle Paul teaches that whenever the sin nature is revived in the heart of a Christian it is the result of that Christian transferring the object of their faith from Christ and what He did and placing their faith anew in the performance of some commandment, routine, or law accomplished by the believer.
Paul states that the sin nature “wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” Concupiscence can be defined as an evil desire. So we learn that when the sin nature is active, it begins to work all manner of evil desire into the heart of the unsuspecting Christian. The result is that the heart becomes tainted with the sinful thought, sinful desires, sinful attitudes, and all that is in opposition to God. Therefore, we must conclude that the sin nature is a corrupting force affecting the heart of man in a very negative way. If the sin nature is not somehow shut down, the heart of man would become continuously and eternally evil.
This is what the Bible said happened in Genesis 6, and what Jesus declared in Mark 7:21-23. God’s response in Genesis was to send a flood and wipe out the entirety of the human race with the exception of eight souls. After this decimation of the human race had occurred, God promised that He would never do that again. The rainbow we see in the sky is a covenant sign of that promise. God understood that He would just have to kill the next group of people if there was not another solution to the effects of the sin nature in men. His solution was to send Jesus Christ to die on the Cross. All those who believe in Him are baptized into His person and the union of the believing sinner with the Saviour shuts down the influence and the impact of the sin nature.
Having said this, we must also say that just stopping the sin nature from its corruptive flow into the heart of all men is not by any means the end of the story. It is simply the first stage of sanctification that must take place.
Sanctification can best be viewed as the ongoing progressive work that the Holy Spirit carries out in the heart of the believer whose faith is securely and exclusively placed in Jesus Christ. Little by little, issue by issue, and darkened thought by darkened thought, the Holy Spirit tears out the influences that the sin nature and the fall afflicted within the heart of man. The Holy Spirit not only renovates the heart in the sense that He removes those things not pleasing to God, but also in the sense that He builds into the new creation believer the truths, the gifts, and the equipping power for the believer to become what God desires him to be. This can’t be done until the corrupting power of the sin nature is shut down.
Once again, this corrupting force is silenced by simple faith in Christ. And Jesus, being the superintendent of the born-again heart, sees to it that the Holy Spirit forms the new heart into what pleases God. Thus, old desires that were pleasing to the old man are removed while new desires that are imperative to the new man are implanted. In this way God recreates the heart of man into what He wants it to become. Have you not read that God gives us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4)? Do you not know that it is God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13)? Even David cried out to God and asked Him not just for forgiveness but also for the rebuilding of his inward man when he cried out in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God!”
Therefore, the heart of man is extremely wicked, but the born-again experience causes the power of the sin nature’s corrupting force to be stilled and implants the all-powerful force of the Spirit of God who alone can recreate the content of the heart of man. All of this is done in cooperation with individuals who will place their faith securely in Christ and what He did for them at Calvary. No matter what needs to be changed about your heart, it can be done by faith and grace. Simply place your need into the hands of our very capable God and keep your eyes on Christ alone. “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” (I Thess. 5:24).