"Even so will I spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing."Not surprisingly, God is pronouncing judgment on the people of Israel for their "great pride", which is a sin in the sight of God (see Proverbs 21:4 and 2 Timothy 3:1-2). Their pride is manifested in the refusal to listen to God's words, the following of their own hearts, and their idolatry. Sounds alot like the period of the Judges, where "everyone did what was right in his own eyes".
Contrary to the world's claims that pride is good thing, and contrary to its mantra "just follow your heart", God is declaring here that such thinking is stubborn and sinful. Later, in chapter 17, he declares,
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds".Proverbs 21:2 tells us,
"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart".Clearly God's Word is trying to tell us something about the dangers of following our own hearts. In the New Testament, a similar theme is used by the apostle Paul in Romans 8. The following of your heart is described in terms of "living according to the flesh":
- Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh (v. 5)
- To set the mind on the flesh is death (v. 6)
- The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (v. 7)
- Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (v. 8)
- If you live according to the flesh, you will die (v. 13)
So we see that following our hearts is foolish, sinful, and dangerous. If we can't trust our own hearts, what are we left with? Paul gives us the answer in the very same chapter,
" You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you".As part of God's miraculous work of regeneration, he has given us new hearts and new desires, as foretold by the prophet Ezekiel:
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules".
The solution is to live by the promptings of the Spirit God has given to us each and every day, and to conform our lives to the objective truths laid out in Scripture. Then we will be able to discern between the foolish inclinations of our own hearts, and the holy commands of the Spirit.