Good Heart, Evil Heart, Two Hearts?
NOTE: This article is the author’s personal perspective on a subject where there is much disagreement in the Body of Christ. As with all of the articles found in the PRINCIPLES and PURPOSE sections of the training, you are not required to fully embrace what is proposed in order to utilize the PROCESS of TPM. However, if you are using the name Transformation Prayer Ministry to describe what you are doing in ministry then you must adhere exactly to what is taught in the PROCESS protocol or simply call what you are doing something else.
Pet Monkeys or Split Personality
There is much discussion as to why a believer and follower of Christ still sins after having been “…set free from the power of sin (Rom. 6:7). There are some who teach that even though we are children of God, saved, born again, new creations, etc., we still have evil hearts. Since our hearts are believed to be evil, we then do what our heart is prone to do; sin. I struggle with the idea of God birthing children with hearts that are different from His own. I also believe the Old Testament prophecy that declares, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel. 36:26), was fulfilled in Christ. Notice that God declares that He will give us a new heart and remove the old heart and replace it with a new one.
Those who suggest we have evil hearts will undoubtedly quote Jesus who said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19). However, they fail to point out that Jesus also said, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45). It is true that out of the heart of the evil man comes all manner of wickedness, but a good heart (heart of flesh) produces good things.
Some suggest we have two natures (hearts) and we are positioned somewhere in the middle, like having a split personality being pulled back and forth between the two. I have difficulty with this viewpoint as well as the evil heart perspective. The main reason has to do with defining what is meant by the word nature. It seems that many believe our nature is something we possess. So then, we would possess a fallen nature and possess a new nature at the same time. I personally believe that our nature is not something that we possess, but rather, our nature is who we are. I was an old nature (old self/man) before coming to Christ, but became a new nature (new self/man) after Christ. I am the same nature at just two different points in time. Whereas, in the split personality school of thought there are three entities involved: two natures with me stuck in the middle.
This might be compared to having a pair of pet monkeys; one good and one bad. The two of them travel around with us each day, each one sitting on one of our shoulders. Both are pulling us in opposite directions. The challenge is not to give attention to the evil monkey and only feed the good one. We would hope that over time, the evil monkey will become weak and lose power. Since the monkeys are believed to be something we possess and not who we are one must ask, what happens to the monkeys after we die? Since the monkeys are believed to be something that we possess, and not who we are, will they just cease to exist when we die? Do they follow us into eternity? If they do, I assume that bad money would go to bad monkey hell, but I am not sure what happens to the good monkey. If the good monkey goes to heaven then it has to have been a part of who we were or otherwise why would it follow us into eternity. If the good monkey makes it to heaven then this indicates that it was a part of who we were after all, but this also says that the bad monkey was a part of us as well. Do you see how this logic all breaks down. I believe that there is a better explanation.
I would like to suggest that our nature is not two monkeys, nor do we possess two natures at the same time. Again, our nature is who we are; it is our inner man or our true self. It is the spirit that God breathed into us when He created us. My nature or inner man was in existence before my coming to Christ, and it existed after my being saved. My nature or inner self was the “old self” before Christ and the “new self” after Christ. I was and am the same nature/self, just at two different points in time. I was not a single nature before Christ and then somehow split off into two natures after Christ. The Bible is clear that I (that is my person/self/nature) died with Christ and I was raised with him. I was the same person/nature/spirit man, before Christ as I was after Christ; I was lost and then found, dead and then made alive, old and then made new (Rom. 6).
So then, if we do not possess two natures, but rather are the same nature/self at two different points in time (pre-Calvary/post Calvary), and if indeed we have a good heart as opposed to an evil one, then why do we still sin? This can be understood in relation to what the Bible calls the flesh. The flesh is not who we are, but pertains to everything that remains fallen about us. This would include two basic things; our physical bodies and our lie-based belief.
Two Common Ways We Sin
Before we look at the flesh to understand what it is, it might better serve us to look at the context in which most sins occur. We tend to sin when one of two factors are in play. One, we are tempted to sin when we are drawn aside to pleasure ourselves by fulfilling some craving or lust of our physical bodies as a means of distracting ourselves from what we are feeling or thinking. Two, we are tempted to sin when we are emotionally stirred and choose to act out our emotional pain onto someone in a hurtful manner.
Both of these actions—pleasuring our bodies and acting out in harmful ways—are typically expressed when we are feeling a negative emotion. Negative emotional pain is the common denominator in both contexts. In TPM we understand that negative emotional pain flows primarily from lie-based heart belief. (There are a few exceptions where some emotional pain is rooted in the truth, but these are rare. Therefore, since we feel what we believe, and we tend to sin when we are experiencing painful emotion, it appears that at least in some measure we are drawn to sin because of what we believe. It goes without saying that every sin begins as a thought and all thinking is related to belief. What sin did you ever commit that you did not first give thought to doing?
We typically view emotional pain as a problem to solve or overcome. We all have learned that we can distract ourselves from bad feelings by pleasuring ourselves with something to eat (when we are not even hungry), by sexual arousal, entertainment, etc. All of these attempts to solve emotional distress through self-pleasuring are sinful. Or if I believe my problem (negative emotion) is because of what you are doing to me, I may get angry, hurt you, reject you, become passive, aggressive, or ignore you. Our futile solutions are based upon lies. God’s solution to our real problem (lie-based belief) is our believing His truth within our hearts.
All of these behaviors are sinful just as pleasuring myself to distract myself is sinful. The common denominator in all emotion is belief since we feel whatever we believe. There is a predictable process that follows; I believe something, then feel something, and then do something (sin).
Someone may say, “Surely belief is not behind all the sins we may commit.” I ask you, what sin did you ever commit that you did not first give thought to and think about it? And what thought did you ever think that was not related to and rooted in what you believed? I want to propose that without belief, we will not sin. The flip side to this principle is we can also not live rightly without knowing the truth. When we know the truth within our hearts we will be transformed by the truth and act accordingly. When I believe the truth in my heart this same truth will cause me to feel emotion that matches this truth. When I feel truth-based emotions such as joy, peace, assurance, confidence, etc. godly behavior will follow. This is the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. So we see that every sin we ever commit and every act of goodness is preceded by a thought and every thought is rooted in belief.
So what comes first, the sin or the belief? In this case it is easy; we cannot sin without belief. Belief always comes first. However, this has how it has been from the beginning. Belief also came before sin in the Garden with Adam and Eve.
When Eve sinned in the garden, her belief came before her decision to sin. It is easy to point the finger at the serpent for deceiving her and for being the primary element in her downfall. The truth is, the Serpent only made a couple of simple comments which led Eve to reason within herself and to establish her own belief and then to question the truth she already knew. The beliefs that caused her to cross the line were her own and did not originate with the Serpent. Belief came before her sin, and this same progression is followed by each of us today. When Eve established her own lie-based belief she “exchanged the truth for a lie” (Rom. 1) and then she chose to sin.
Read the story again and see the part Eve’s belief played in her decision to sin: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Gen. 3:6). It was Eve’s own thinking and reasoning (belief) that caused her to question the truth she held, resulting in her making the decision to sin. Satan drew her aside with a simple question, but it was her own belief that resulted in her putting the fruit in her mouth.
The only words recorded of the Serpent were, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” and “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” These are the only recorded words that came from the Serpent’s mouth. What followed were Eve’s own thoughts and belief. Her own belief was followed by her choice to sin. Sin was the outcome of Eve’s belief. The Serpent’s question and comment acted as a catalyst that triggered Eve’s own thinking and evaluation. Eve acted upon what she believed and not upon what the Serpent said. However, had she not considered the Serpent’s words, she would have not began to reason within herself, and the story would have ended in a better place.
Sin is, and always has been, a really big deal
In case you might be thinking I am minimizing the problem of sin by focusing so heavily on belief, let me clarify. Sin is a problem and creates problems. It is, and always has been a really big deal. It was sin that required Jesus to go to the cross. However, it was belief and not sin that was Eve’s initial problem. Sin entered in when she chose to act on her belief.
Sin is a force to be reckoned with, but belief is the primary problem we face that if not dealt with will result in the problem of our sinning. However, if we make our sinful behavior the problem we must overcome and do not attend to the belief behind it, we are again doomed to a cycle of perpetual defeat. Trying to overcome sinful behavior is an endless struggle, whereas, exposing lies and having the Holy Spirit replace them with truth is the road to freedom and rest. God took care of sin for us on the cross, the power of sin has been broken, we are dead to it and we are called to walk in a new way of life. Now God wants to free us of the lies we believe as well.
Unfortunately, many believers are focused primarily upon trying to overcome sin (Controlling behavior) as opposed to finding freedom from the lies they believe. As noble as this pursuit may seem to be, it is unattainable. On the surface it appears some are doing better than others but no one is actually succeeding. When overcoming sin is our focus, what tends to follow is a performance-based spirituality that breeds self-righteousness, judgmental arrogance, and pride. Trying to overcome sin exposes a disconnect between what the Bible proclaims the Lord has already done and us trying to accomplish it. It was because we could not overcome sin (that is, keep the Law) that He overcame it (the Law) on our behalf.
The Bible is clear that Jesus fulfilled that which we could not do. Someone may say, “It is because the Lord overcame that we can overcome.” This argument suggests that Jesus started something we need to finish. This reasoning does not make sense when we consider that [God] “…made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus did what we could not and still cannot do. He overcame sin on our behalf so we would be free from sin and no longer be slaves to it. For we “… have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit [we] reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Rom. 6:22).
I may have some measure of success in abstaining from my sinful behavior for a time. I may be able to momentarily distract myself from my lie-based pain and even refrain from slapping you across the head when my anger stirs up. Nonetheless, the emotion driving the behavior remains because we feel whatever we believe and the belief has not changed. We cannot change belief simply by controlling our behavior.
Controlled behavior and behavior modification is a perpetual cycle that will eventually end in defeat and spiritual burnout. If I try to solve the “problems” I believe others have caused me through acting out my anger, resentment, bitterness, etc., I compound the situation and create more problems I cannot resolve. Until I attend to what I believe and come to know the truth in my heart, I will never enter into the rest God has for me (Heb. 4:10). Knowing the truth within our hearts is also a work of God. We cannot just choose to believe, He must “shine His light” of truth within our hearts revealing the truth to us. “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6) Unless God “opens the eyes of our hearts…” (Eph. 1:18) we cannot know the truth apart from our intellect.
The flesh… to be continued
The answer is knowing the truth from the heart.
Knowing the truth from the heart will only occur when we encounter the one who is the truth. As we pursue Him and seek to allow His Spirit to persuade us of the truth, our minds will be renewed and we will transform into His likeness. When I know the truth of who I am in Christ with my heart, everything changes. When we make overcoming sin our focus, we enter into a perpetual cycle of defeat and we fail to address the root problem. Jesus came to give us rest from this cycle by overcoming sin on our behalf; any further struggle we have is linked to what we believe.
Jesus is still calling to the weak and heavy laden
When Jesus declared the words, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” (Matt. 11:28-30), His message was for the tired and weary people who had been striving to keep the Law. Keeping the Law was the same thing as not sinning or not breaking the law. He was calling His hearers to enter into His finished work and find rest. Jesus’ audience were the Law keepers who were weary from trying to overcome their sins, that is, not breaking the Law. Just as they could not succeed in overcoming their sin, neither can we overcome ours. But that is not what we are called to do; Jesus came with a genuine and lasting solution. That solution holds true for us today. He still calls us to come to Him for rest. What is left is not for us to overcome sin—even though sin still entices us—but rather, we must figure out why we are still being “… drawn aside and enticed” (Ja. 1:14-15).
So the greater question is, why is our lifestyle different from what the Lord has already accomplished? Why are we still drawn to sin when we are in fact new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), the power of sin has been broken (Rom. 6:10), we are no longer under the certificate of debt (Col. 2:14), and we are free from sin and no longer slaves to sin (Rom. 6:20-22)? There is an answer to this question, but it is not in the pursuit of overcoming sin by trying harder or jumping higher.
We may not always act before we think, but we always think before we sin.
I am convinced that sinful behavior is directly dependent upon belief. All belief spawns thinking and all sin is preceded with thought. We cannot sin without first giving thought to doing it. Without belief we cannot sin.
Even if we believe we are still fallen creatures with a propensity to sin, if we cannot think about sinning, we cannot do it. A brain dead person does not practice sin. You can call him a sinner fallen through Adam’s choice to sin, but until he has conscious thought, he will not move in sin’s direction. The reason we choose to sin is because we have the thought to sin. We have the thought because we believe something.
Therefore, heart belief is the basis for thought and behavior, and our knowing the truth with our hearts is crucial for walking rightly. However, knowing the truth must supersede just holding it intellectually in our minds. There is a very important distinction between knowing the truth intellectually and knowing it with the heart. Intellectual belief is good for what it is good for, but it doesn’t provide any guarantee of transformation or living rightly. Knowing the truth intellectually is not enough to walk successfully in the Christian life. Just because I have memorized a biblical truth doesn’t mean I believe it with my heart. Belief that makes a difference—that transforms me from within—is truth that is believed with the heart. This is true for salvation as the scripture says, “it is with your heart that you believe and are justified” (Rom. 10:10). It is also true for all areas of Christian living.
When I know the truth in my heart it will keep me from sin. The Psalmist declared, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psm. 119:11 KJV) When God has persuaded us of the truth in our hearts it becomes our focus causing us to set our mind upon it. The Apostle Paul alludes to this when he said, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:5-6) I used to interpret this passage as a task to do or a discipline to practice. I now realize that it is the outcome of “living in accordance with the Spirit” which is the outcome of knowing the truth in my heart and my ever deepening relationship with Christ.
TPM is a great tool in getting to know the Lord more and more and – above all – to enter more deeply into his love. Each time we encounter Christ in a ministry session He gives us truth, revealing more of his character to us; and this in a very personal way. It causes us to see and experience his loving kindness, his life-giving truth, and his resurrection power.