We know from Scripture that the heart of man is basically wicked and that we are not to trust in the human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?…“Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. (Jer. 17:9, 5, 7)
On the other hand, when we are born again and are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we receive a new nature: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17).
So, how should we view the heart of a Christian? Is it no longer wicked because we are new creation and the old things have passed away? Can we trust our own hearts as Christians now?
To answer this, we must understand our “dual natures” as Christians. On one hand, we are saved, reborn, regenerated, renewed. This “new nature” or “new man” is made in the image of Christ: since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col. 3:9-10)
Yet, the “sinful nature” or “old nature” remains as part of us: For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Gal. 5:17).
Where does this leave us? First, we must understand that the state of our heart as a Christian will be where we choose it to be – according to which nature we allow to be in operation at the moment. For example, two Christians named Ananias and Sapphira chose to allow Satan to fill their hearts by their choice to be dishonest to the Holy Spirit:
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)
In other words, these two Christians chose to operate in the sinful nature and not the new nature. They were not controlled by the Holy Spirit but controlled by their own sinful impulses. They allowed their sinful nature to have its way and fell into the sins of greed and deception. Jesus teaches us that it is out of the heart of man that evil proceeds:
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:18)
So then, nothing has changed for us in this respect as Christians: When we sin, it begins as something we have conceived in our hearts and then it turns into evil actions. Our hearts are still capable of wickedness because we have a sinful nature. So, when we have conceived evil in our hearts and then sinned because of it, we show that we have allowed our sinful nature to grab hold of our hearts and have its way. On the other hand, because we are born again and the Spirit of God now lives in us as Christians, we can choose with His assistance to operate in our new nature and allow our hearts to be controlled by the Spirit of God. When we do this, our hearts will lead us to think and do good and not evil. This, again, is our choice as Christians:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)
So, when we set our minds on God and the things of God and truly live in a way in which we desire our hearts to line up with His heart (our will with His will, our plans with His plans, our ways with His ways), our hearts will produce the fruit of the Spirit because we will be operating in our new nature and the Spirit of God who lives in us will be allowed to rule in our hearts:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace…So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Rom. 8:5, 6, 8)
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children…For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. (Eph. 5:1, 9-10)
So, what is the state of the Christian heart? Before we were Christians, our hearts were controlled by evil and we served ourselves. Now, we have been set free to choose to do good. As we walk in the Spirit and abide in Christ, our hearts will be in the light and Christ will shine through us. But if we operate in the sinful nature by giving into temptation and allowing the flesh to dominate, evil will shine through us. Our hearts can be used for wickedness or for God’s glory. The choice is ours.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)