The phrase “follow your heart” is common in our culture today. Movies, songs, and books often portray following one’s heart as the key to happiness and fulfillment. However, what does the Bible actually say about following your heart? As Christians, God’s Word should be our guide for faith and practice. A careful study of Scripture reveals that following your heart is complex – we are called to do so in some areas but warned against it in others. This post will provide a comprehensive overview of relevant biblical passages on following your heart – when it is wise and when it leads us astray.
- Our hearts are deceitful so we must be discerning about what we follow from our hearts.
- Following your heart in pursuing godly desires and Christlike character is encouraged.
- Following your heart in making wise decisions requires seeking God’s wisdom and discernment.
- Our hearts can lead us to sinful passions and poor choices so we must align our hearts to God’s will.
- Renewing our minds and trusting the Holy Spirit’s guidance helps us follow godly desires.
- Following Christ must be the top priority – even when it conflicts with our heart’s desires.
The Heart’s Deceitfulness Calls for Discernment
A key passage on the heart’s deceitfulness is Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV), which says:
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Our hearts can feel right when they are wrong. Feeling like something is right is not sufficient – we need God’s truth and discernment. Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV) warns:
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 3:5-7 (NKJV) cautions against self-reliance:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
Following our hearts is dangerous without seeking God’s wisdom. Our hearts are prone to deceit so we must filter desires through God’s truth. 1 John 4:1 (NKJV) says:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The Bible commends those who test what they hear before following. Acts 17:11 (NKJV) says of the Bereans:
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
The heart’s deceitfulness means we must examine desires biblically to avoid being misled. Discernment is key when following the heart.
Following Godly Desires and Christlike Character
While the heart can be deceitful, God gives believers new desires and holy affections. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) promises:
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Part of the Christian life is nurturing these new heart desires rather than following the old sinful passions. The Psalms often speak of delighting in and seeking after God:
Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NKJV)
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1-2 NKJV)
When our hearts yearn for God and his truth, we should follow wholeheartedly. Ephesians 6:6 (NKJV) calls us to serve God with sincerity of heart. Colossians 3:22 (NKJV) exhorts:
Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.
Additionally, developing Christlike character – humility, compassion, integrity, courage, zeal for God’s Kingdom – should be the heart’s pursuit. Romans 6:17 (NKJV) commends obedience from the heart to Christ’s example:
When our hearts aspire to godliness, we should follow while still confirming those desires against Scripture. Acting on godly desires in the power of the Holy Spirit honors the Lord.
Seeking God’s Wisdom for Life Decisions
Major life decisions – relationships, jobs, moves, uses of time and resources – require wisdom and discernment. Godly desires alone are insufficient; we must seek the Lord’s specific guidance.
For example, a desire to get married could be from God or from selfish motives. As Proverbs 19:2 (NKJV) warns:
Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, And he sins who hastens with his feet.
Christians should regularly pray as David did in Psalm 119:36 (NKJV), “Incline my heart to Your testimonies, And not to covetousness.” Desires, even good ones, require God’s direction to avoid sinful detours.
Discerning God’s will begins with presenting ourselves fully to God according to Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV):
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
With renewed minds fixed on God, our hearts can recognize his purpose for our lives. As Psalm 37:5 (NKJV) affirms:
Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.
When facing big decisions, we must go beyond surface desires to seek the Lord in fervent prayer. The book of James instructs believers:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NKJV)
Asking God for discernment allows us to follow our hearts wisely in major life choices rather than be led astray by deceitful desires.
Warning Against Following Sinful Passions of the Heart
Although God gives believers new holy desires, the persistent sinful nature leads our hearts to lust after evil at times. James 1:14-15 (NKJV) outlines this process:
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
The heart’s sinful passions must be rejected, not followed. Romans 6:12 (NKJV) warns:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
In Romans 1, Paul describes people who “dishonored their bodies between themselves” and “exchanged the truth of God for the lie” due to sinful cravings. Just because we feel like indulging our bodies or rejecting God’s wisdom doesn’t mean we should follow those impulses.
We must crucify fleshly desires to follow Jesus. Galatians 5:24 (NKJV) declares:
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Rather than indulge sinful desires, Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV) commands:
Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and …put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Sinful passions must be rejected while righteous desires should be nurtured and followed. Staying rooted in God’s Word and pursuing the Spirit’s sanctifying work helps keep our hearts aligned with God’s will.
Renew Your Mind and Walk by the Spirit
The best defense against following deceitful desires is a transformed mind and an empowered heart. Romans 12:2 (NKJV) instructs to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” As our mindset changes through absorbing Scripture, our desires change. Colossians 3:16 (NKJV) says:
As the word dwells in us, singing praise with grace in our hearts, we experience the transforming power of God’s truth. Discipleship and fellowship also encourage our hearts toward Christ as we see His work in others.
Walking in step with the Holy Spirit is vital for following righteous desires of the heart. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV) promises:
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Submitting moment-by-moment to the Spirit’s guidance is key. Even natural desires like food and sex can become sinful without the Spirit’s restraint. Only by the Spirit can our hearts know true blessings that fulfill our deepest longings.
As we walk in fellowship with Christ through His Word and Spirit, our desires become aligned with God’s desires. Rather than deceit, we experience the promise of Psalm 37:4 (NKJV), “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
Following Jesus Above All Else
As the parable of the sower illustrates, following Jesus requires wholehearted commitment, even when it costs us worldly pleasures. Mark 4:18-19 (NKJV) warns:
Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
A heart divided by competing desires thwarts spiritual growth. We cannot follow Christ fully while clinging to sinful desires that war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11).
Jesus called His disciples to radical sacrifice, willing to lose their lives to find true life in Him. Following Christ requires a willingness to surrender all for the sake of the gospel. Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to Ecuador, wrote “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This is the heart attitude of faithful followers of Christ.
Paul was willing to suffer great deprivation and persecution because he considered everything “rubbish” compared to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). His heart found greatest joy in bringing the gospel to the nations, no matter the cost.
With transformed hearts, we can follow David’s example in Psalm 84:2 (NKJV):
My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
When knowing Christ is our heart’s supreme desire, we can walk the path of righteousness He has laid out for us. Our passion is to follow Him wholeheartedly as Savior and Lord.
The phrase “follow your heart” must be approached with biblical wisdom and discernment. Our hearts are prone to deception so we cannot simply follow them blindly. But through studying Scripture, renewing our minds, and walking by the Spirit, God gives us new desires to pursue wholeheartedly. As we filter our desires through God’s truth and obey Christ above all else, we can increasingly follow righteous passions that align with God’s will. While complete transformation awaits eternity, we can experience real victories in following renewed desires that bring glory to Christ. By God’s grace, our deepest longings find their true target when our hearts fully follow Jesus.