The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?Jeremiah 17:9
In those two lines you have the explanation of all the misery and heartache and injustice and evil of life. It all stems from that. The heart, the natural life into which we were born, has two things wrong with it. First, it is desperately corrupt. This means it never can function as it originally was designed to do. It can never fulfill all you expect of it. It will never fulfill your ideals, or bring you to the place where you can be what you would like to be. It is corrupt. It is infected with a fatal virus. It cannot be changed. There is nothing you can do about it, ultimately. It is useless and wasted. Therefore there is only one thing it is good for — to be put to death. That is exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ did with it when he died some centuries later. He took that fatal nature, human nature, and he put it to death.
I know that many people have trouble at this point. This is the verse, among others like it in the Scriptures, which divides humanity right down the center. You either believe this verse, and act in these terms for the rest of your life, understanding this fact, or you deny it and say,
It is not true; man is basically good. It is either one side or the other. Your whole system of philosophy and of education and of legislation, and everything else, will be determined by which one of those views you take. This is the Great Divide of humanity, right here.
It is amazing, but I think one of the greatest confirmations of the truth in this verse is the Constitution of the United States of America. Our founding fathers were so aware of this great fact — that man, by nature, is desperately corrupt — that they never trusted a single man, even the best of them, with ultimate power. They set up checks and balances by which any man in office, even the most admired of men, would have his power scrutinized and examined by others. They did not trust anybody, and rightfully so! No system of philosophy, of psychology, of education, will ever serve to eliminate the wrongful, evil failing of the human heart. It cannot be done. We have to face life on those terms.
As if that were not bad enough, there is also another quality about the heart: it is deceitful about all things. It never looks quite as bad as it really is. It has an amazing power to disguise itself and look good and hopeful and fair — admirable, even. That is what is so deceitful about it. This explains why, all through the centuries, men continually keep trying to make their hearts seem better. We want to think as if we are just a few steps from success. This is why most of the approaches of humanity are equivalent to taking a well with poisoned water, and improving it by painting the pump!
The heart is clever, crafty; it can appear one way when it is quite another. We know that we have a frightening ability to hide a hateful heart under flattering words, or that we can speak softly and lovingly to someone whom we utterly despise. We do it all the time. We can use a sweet tone, and act and sound as if we are perfectly at ease, when inwardly we are seething with revolt and rebellion. That is the heart. It has that ability. It can appear fair. It can make the most impressive vows to do better. It can promise reform, and suffer hardship.
That is the heart, and the only book in the world which tells you this is the Bible — and those which are based upon it. You will never find that information in any other source. All studies of humanity will never lead you to this revelation. This is God himself, opening up a truth which divides the world, and which men must know if they are going to face life the way it really is.
Precious Lord, how I thank you that you did provide a way for me to be delivered from this nature which isdeceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt— in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do we cling to the myth of our own perfectibility, or do we reckon our old self crucified with Christ so that we need no longer be enslaved to it? Are we exchanging the old self life for the indwelling Life of Christ?