The human heart; is it good or is it evil? There seems to be confusion amongst Christians as to what is true regarding the goodness of our hearts. Scripture clearly supports that wickedness lies within our hearts as well as the capability of our hearts to possess purity and goodness. If these are both true, then how are we to hold on to the joy that God calls His people to receive if we know that our hearts are inherently wicked? How are we to perceive our depravity with our desperate need for forgiveness if our hearts are good? There are several objectives that I hope this study will reveal to you: 1) our need of forgiveness is critical due to the inherent wickedness within our hearts that lead us to sin. 2) Our hearts are capable of possessing goodness and purity and that is only through true faith in Jesus Christ. 3) Our primary goal, in its entirety, must be to seek Christ over any other thing and that includes the search for our own goodness.
In Genesis 1:26-27, God reveals that He has made man in His image and likeness. Genesis 1:31 tells us that God saw that everything He had made was good, including man. Many verses in this study will indicate a goodness of heart. It seems later on, such as in Genesis 6, things change as God grieved over the wickedness of man’s heart. Jeremiah 17:9 are words from God the Father speaking of the human heart as being desperately wicked. In Matthew 15:19, Jesus speaks of the great evil that our hearts commit. These are portions of scripture that without correct understanding may lead people to great misunderstanding and we must be wise in how we interpret it. Sometimes we are limited by what God has not yet revealed to us in scripture pertaining to specific aspects of this life. Until we are given the information we need to better understand, our relationship with Him should be one in which we trust God in all things. God reveals to us in Proverbs 3:5-6 to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; but in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” – During our time on earth, we are not given a complete answer as to why God made man in His image and would allow their hearts to become desperately wicked. What we know is that when Satan and his angels were hurled to the earth as Revelation 12:7-9 describes and Adam and Eve committed the first sin of humanity, its stronghold over the earth began and it has had its effect on the human heart to this very day.
This study will reveal that God does in fact desire goodness to reside in us and that He has no desire for wickedness. We must not misunderstand God’s desire for goodness and His allowance of wickedness within us as Jeremiah 17 mentions. The wicked conditions of our hearts oppose God’s desire. The difference between what God desires and what actually occurs in us does not reveal any inability of God’s power or plan. The fact that God desires goodness to fill our hearts, but that God also allows wickedness to reside in us should make us aware of the impact that Satan has had upon our hearts. Satan holds authority over the earth for a limited amount of time as John 12:31 mentions. God is the One who has granted him that authority to do what he does as Job 1:12 indicates: And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. – We must be confident that Satan is not thwarting God’s plan in any way but that God is using him for His eternal purpose. If that were not the case, it would mean that God errors. Scripture speaks of God’s divine perfection so we know it is not possible for Him to make one mistake. Throughout scripture, it is evident that God opposes evil (James 1:13, 1 John 1:5) and yet for His divine purpose and due to our limited reasoning and understanding, we cannot fully comprehend why (Isaiah 55:8, Prov 3:5).
Humans are incapable of bringing any goodness into their hearts or performing any good deed apart from that which God will grant them. Psalm 16:2, Jeremiah 24:7 and Ezekiel 36:26-27 evidence this statement. If that does not sound fair, your complaint would be against God and the way He has orchestrated life on earth. But, if God purposed this, and He desires goodness, shouldn’t we turn to Him in asking for goodness to grow within us? Maybe that will help you understand His ways and how He will lead you to dependence and love for Him when you see that He purposes our difficulties for us to seek and desire Him. To go about asking and receiving the goodness that God desires for us, we must first have a solid foundation in the faith. That is a heart that truly believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. That is the heart that believes that He had to die on the cross and was resurrected on the third day as the necessary sacrifice for our sinfulness. We must repent of our sin so that the sacrifice, which was given for us, validates who we are in Jesus Christ. Romans 10:8-10 also speaks to this statement of what Christ did for His children on the cross, which is also referred to as the atonement. Once a person surrenders their life to Christ, the Holy Spirit enters their being and places Holy desires upon their heart and they must choose whether or not they will be obedient to His requests. Every one of His requests relates to His goodness no matter how difficult it may be for us to live out. Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – For many years I questioned the truth of this verse and its truth continues to be revealed and confirmed as I follow what is spoken in scripture. Matthew 6:33 is vital to successful Christian living as Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” – As I fully pursue God, He continuously reveals to me His holy desires, those desires that glorify Him. I see it in scripture and the Holy Spirit speaks it into my heart. I must then become obedient to what He calls me to do. When I am obedient, evil seems to purge from my heart and God’s goodness takes its place. Be warned that obedience leading to the apparent goodness and joy that arises can just as easily fade away when we neglect our relationship with Christ. Remember that our hearts are still inherently wicked, which must force us to continually pursue God in His righteousness, never ours. When I am disobedient, not only have I dishonored God, (which indicates lack of trust and belief) but also my disobedience increases the difficulty of living a life of peace, contentness and joy that God has called me to. John 14:15 evidences a vital truth relating to this when Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” – and in John 14:21 Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Deuteronomy 5:29 also confirms His good will in regards to our obedience when the Father says, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments, that it might go well with them and with their children forever!” – I have found myself at times, taking my focus off of Christ and allowing myself to be distracted (due to worry and fear) by finances, loneliness, work struggles and other problems that we all face. These distractions have led me to sin in various ways. Although I pray, I find myself with a hardened heart and lacking in trust for God. I deal with things that I have dealt with before and there is resentment that God has not already resolved the issues within my heart, which answers my lack of trust. I still desire to please Him (mistakenly thinking that I will make Him happier with me, forgetting how much that He already loves me) and then find myself seeking goodness rather than focusing on Him. Obedience is good and we may achieve some level of goodness that we desire, but that is only accomplished through Him by asking for it in prayer and by patiently waiting and listening to His Spirit within us. This process also requires trust and willful determination in seeking His direction. If you ask how to seek His direction, it is primarily through prayer and reading, studying and meditating upon His word and in solid Christian fellowship (Matthew 18:20). Remember that if we are lacking in an area, thinking that we are good, because of God’s love, He will refine us when we least expect it and when we most need it! (Hebrews 12:5-6). Although it may seem disheartening at times to realize that our hearts and flesh continually war against the sinfulness of this world, we can take joy and have great hope in that our fight glorifies God and yes, He does sanctify us in our walk with Him as we grow greater in love for Him and for others.
How beautiful it is to see where you are now versus when you were without Christ, with the assurance you may have as a believer, one who has fought against the enemy to pursue Christ! There is great importance in fighting for our faith with the eternal perspective in mind. Synonymously, doesn’t a person put great time and effort into increasing their efforts and abilities in their job, marriage or their favorite sport or hobby to improve in those areas? If we don’t practice or try and improve in those areas, just as with pursuing our faith, we become stagnant, the enemy, as a weed, will find its way back into the heart and as 1 Peter 5:8 states, “Be sober, be vigilant; because the adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” – How many people do you know of who one day gave their declaration of faith and later on they are caught in acts of extreme sinfulness and unrepentance? They were not vigilant and gave up fighting for what is good due to unbelief resulting from a wicked heart. Due to God’s perfect grace, they are given the opportunity to repent and begin a new life in Christ. What about the “good works” of those who have not accepted Christ? Where did their seeming goodness come from? Their good works are of their own merit, and to them, not of Christ’s merit and therefore, done in vain and counted as filthy rags as scripture tells us (Isaiah 64:6, 1 Cor 15:58). I ponder the moment when the unbeliever faces judgment (Rev 20:11-15) and God reveals to them that all good things they did and received were a gift from Him, but because they did not give glory to Him, they will receive no glory. Once they hear this, their instant realization of their eternal damnation that they denied Him breaks my heart.
As a son or daughter of the Most High God, the greatest thing we can do is to desire the heart of God and we must continually ask Him for that heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing” so why not pray for a Godly heart? The Holy Spirit will reveal to us that we must ask God for His goodness to fill our hearts including the will “to do” those things which He desires. James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – As our submission to God and sensitivity to sin increases and we desire that His goodness take over, we must request that God reveal to us specifically what sinfulness resides within our hearts. We can ask Him specifically for those heart changes to take place as they tend to be connected to other areas of sin that we may be unaware of. God already knows this, He just desires that we train ourselves to listen to His Spirit working within us and that we are asking Him the right questions. As we learn to do this, we are growing in wisdom and discernment that God imparts to us (James 1:5). This tends to be how He will take His perfect work in us to greater levels. We must ask Him for it and we must be willing to accept whatever method of discomfort may be necessary for God’s goodness to grow in us. Even when we know it may be painful, we must fully trust God in that what He desires is good and that we must allow whatever He deems necessary to affect those changes that glorify Him. This attitude truly reflects the heart of Christ.
We must remain aware of our own depravity amidst the goodness of God growing in us. If we do not keep our depravity in check, we can mistakenly allow our seeming goodness to “rule over” us as we may forget our source of goodness and as humility fades away, pride takes its place. The goodness is God’s, not our own. Romans 4:22-25 speaks of the righteousness that is imputed to us by God. – And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. – One of the greatest methods to stay in touch with the most beautiful relationship we are to have in our lives is to consciously remind ourselves who we are without the atonement of Christ. This must not lead us to doubt the forgiveness that we received, but act as a reminder that it was God’s perfect love itself, that declared us saints. This is when we can be joyfully overwhelmed by what has taken place for us by the atonement.
Scripture affirms through its pages that God looks at the heart in recognizing those who live for Him and those who do not. Several verses that help in understanding the validity of this statement are 1 Samuel 16:7, Romans 2:28-29 and Romans 8:27. We must remind ourselves who we were prior to Christ and who we are now as faithful followers. We can be confident that the wickedness we were born into can be replaced with God’s goodness and we must continue in pursuit of Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all thing have become new. – So there the battle lies, is the heart inherently wicked or is it capable of goodness? Who is our true master, is it the deceiver of this world or the God of the universe? The direction of our hearts will reveal that.
The verses below should affirm the truth of not only what I have written, but more-so what God tells us.
Verses Related to the Good Heart
Genesis 1:26-27 – Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:31 – Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Genesis 6:5-8 – Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”
Deuteronomy 5:29 – “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear me and always keep all my commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!”
Deuteronomy 10:16 – Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.
Deuteronomy 11:18 – “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
Deuteronomy 30:14 – But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Psalm 16:2 – O my soul, you have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.”
Psalm 32:11 – Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.
Proverbs 28:26 – He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.
Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
Jeremiah 24:7 – “Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.”
Jeremiah 31:33 – “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Ezekiel 36:26-27 – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Matthew 15:19 – “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
Luke 6:43-45 – “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Luke 8:15 – “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
Acts 15:5-9 – But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them; “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Romans 2:28-29 – For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Romans 7:15-25 – For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Romans 8:27 – Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 10:8-10 – But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart: (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession made unto salvation.
Romans 12:35 – “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
Ephesians 3:16-17 – that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
Colossians 1:21-23 – And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
1 Timothy 1:5 – Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,
2 Timothy 2:22 – Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Verses Relating to Inerrancy of Scripture
Proverbs 30:5-6 – Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
John 17:17 – Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
Galatians 2:11-12 – But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Peter 1:20-21 – knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Revelation 22:18-19 – For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.