Here is great news! The believer in Christ does not have a “Jeremiah 17:9” heart, “deceitful” and “desperately wicked”. The Lord gives the new believer a new heart. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). What is this new creation? “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.” (Ezekiel 36:26). This is something that God alone does, not us.
Jeremiah chapter 17 contrasts the wicked with the righteous. Verses 1-6 depict the wicked. Verses 7-8 picture the righteous. What of verse 9? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked …” Popular interpretation of this verse is to believe that it describes the heart of both the wicked and the righteous, but is that true? How can a desperately wicked heart even begin to respond to the Spirit of God?
In Jeremiah chapter 31, verse 33, the LORD says, “… I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts …” So, instead of “sin” (Jeremiah 17:1) being written on the believer’s heart, “God’s law” is written there … a big difference!
Jesus spoke of this difference between the righteous and the wicked, when He said in Matthew 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 [of his heart] brings forth evil things.” In Matthew 7:17-18, Jesus said, “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”
But a child of His still sins. Our new hearts are fashioned in the likeness of Christ’s own heart. We are told by Christ, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The flesh cannot accomplish the righteousness of God. Nothing good dwells in our flesh. The flesh is at war with the Spirit who lives in the heart of believers. But, we are given hope. We are now saints, not sinners. Yes, we still sin, but we cannot practice it like sinners do. We are more than conquerors through Christ … we are overcomers. We bear good fruit as we abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit. When we do sin, we ask God to cleanse our heart, like David prayed in Psalm 51.
A word of caution … Proverb 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.” Our heart is a creation and we are to trust in the LORD alone.
The heart is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and our spirit; we are one. We will walk in the Spirit, because we are willing in the day of Christ’s power (Psalm 110:3). We are new creatures … everything is made new. We are indeed saints, not sinners, as the New Testament writers conveyed in their epistle greetings. Sinners practice sin. But, because God is the One who cleanses and creates, we – His saints – can forsake a life of sinning by His grace … and practice righteousness.
Read the following: Keeping the Heart, John Flavel, Soli Deo Gloria, 1998.