There’s no wonder it’s at the top of His list.
“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). The First Commandment exposes the problem in the core of my being.
It’s a problem. It’s a big, big problem—always has been. Ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The problem is me. The problem is my heart.
I hear it all the time, don’t you?
“Just follow your heart, and let your heart lead you!”
But what if my heart is wrong?
It often is.
If I simply “follow my heart,” my heart will certainly lead me. But apart from the work of God’s Spirit, my heart will lead me astray.
Reformer John Calvin famously wrote, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”
This factory within me is pumping out idols left and right. Round-the-clock mass production! False gods galore!
Martin Luther put it this way: “Whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god” (LC I 3).
Here’s what I’ve noticed about my wayward heart: it’s incessantly taking good things and turning them into “god” things, and that’s most definitely a bad thing.
Yet here’s what I also know is going on inside me as a person who’s in Christ and who’s simultaneously saint and sinner: all things the Lord creates and brings into my life are for my good and for the good of others. If God is working for my good, then there has to be a redemptive purpose in whatever He brings my way.
The Lord’s redemptive purpose will always include major work on my heart, bringing me to my knees in repentance and bringing me back to His Word, which alone gives life.
When the Lord spoke through the prophet Ezekiel, He said this about His people: “I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).
The Lord is in the business of taking the idol factory of my heart and transforming it into “a heart of flesh” where His Spirit is working round the clock.
That’s good news! That’s Gospel news!
That’s news that takes me back to the top of His list and sees that “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Jesus Himself gets to the heart of the matter and transforms my life for good and for His glory.
That’s news that reaches down into my core, enabling me to trust not in my own heart, but in His.
Rev. Jeff Alexander is Pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Greenwood, Indiana.