A deep rooted belief in Christianity today, is that “God sees one’s heart”. “If I’m doing something with a clear conscience to please God – wouldn’t He accept it?” This is a good question. And there is no doubt that God sees the Hearts of us all.
But the real question that needs pondering on, is whether a person can do something, which is wrong in God’s eyes, thinking it is the right thing to do in his/her own heart, and still be deemed obedient to God, in His sight. The essence of the question is whether we look at things through our eyes, or try our best to look through the viewpoint of God Almighty.
God sees my heart
Many of us know the following verses of Scripture which prove God sees and understands the intentions of our hearts and our deepest thoughts.
- 1Sa 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
- 1Ki 8:39 Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)
- 1Ch 28:9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
- Eze 11:5 And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.
We cannot put our trust on our own thoughts and feelings or our hearts!
Just because God sees our Hearts, does not mean that everything we do, will be in accordance with His thoughts and ways. Everyone who believes in God, do what they do, thinking they do the right thing. This does not mean everyone who believes God, will be deemed perfect by God.
- Pro 16:2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.
- Pro 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
- Jer 17:9,10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
So how can we know what is right in His eyes?
There needs to be a measuring stick which we can use to discern between right and wrong in God’s eyes. And the complete “Word of God” is that instrument that weighs all things, showing us right from wrong.
- Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
What will we be Judged on?
It is important to note that, when we stand before the judgement seat of God (as everyone will), we will be not judged on what is in our hearts, but on all the works we have done – on whether we have obeyed Him, or disobeyed.
- Rev 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
- Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
- Rev 22:14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
- Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Ignorance is not bliss
Some are under the impression, that if you “sin” not knowing that God regards that act a sin, you are exempt from judgement. The word of God has a different view on this. Sinning through ignorance is still regarded sin. While you would have to answer for “sinning knowingly”, “sinning through ignorance” would also have its consequences.
- Num 15:29 Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them.
- Lev 4:27 And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;
- Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
- Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
There are so many people around the world doing things their own way, to please God. One of the reasons this is prevalent is because of the belief that God’s Law is no more. If that was the case, we could not know what “Sin” is anymore, as “Sin” is the “breaking of God’s Law” (1Joh 3:4). God’s Law sets the parameters for knowing what “Sin” is (Rom 7:7). And when we know what “sin” is, in the sight of our Heavenly Father, we know how to please Him.
So what does the Law got to do with what is in someone’s heart?
God has expressly said that His Laws/Commandments should be in one’s heart. And this was part of the new covenant where, God would write His laws in our hearts. If what we do is all of his commandments/laws/will, then we have nothing to be worried about.
- Deu 6:6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
- Pro 3:1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments
- Heb 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
- Deu 8:2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
Examples from the Scriptures
Following are a few examples in which people did things for God, which was right in their hearts, but were considered “sin” in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.
- The Molten Calf
Many presume that the Children of Israel were worshiping the molten calf, when they created it at the base of Mount Sinai. But in reality, they were worshiping “YHVH” through the manmade idol.
Exo 32:4,5 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
Neh 9:18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;
The simple truth is, that they were trying to have a feast to God. In God’s eyes, what was in their hearts were irrelevant, as they had broken His commandment of bowing down to idols, even if it was in His name.
- Nadab & Abihu’s offering
When Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who had accompanied Moses up the mountain and seen God in His majesty(Exo 24:9-11), offered a sacrifice which was not prescribed by God, they were consumed in an instant.
Lev 10:1,2 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
As per Exo 30:9, nothing other than the prescribed offerings could be made to God. Even-though Nadab and Abihu were rightful priests who were making and offering to God, it was rejected with sore punishment because it went against His Law/Commandment/will.
- Saul’s victory over the Amalekites
In 1Sam chapter 15, we read how Saul was ordered to kill every living thing in the land of the Amalekites. Saul who is victorious over the Amalekites bring home animals as an offering to God, which is rejected by God because he disobeyed God’s instructions
1Sa 15:15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
1Sa 15:20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
Even-though Saul was obedient to God in his own heart, and was bringing these sacrifices to please God, the situation was not the same in God’s eyes. And for what Saul saw as a sacrifice, God saw as disobedience – rejecting him as king altogether(1Sam 15:26)
- Uzza touches the Ark of the covenant
In 1Chr chapter 13 we read that the Ark was to be transported from Kirjathjearim, under David’s orders. Two men named Uzza and Ahio transported the Ark on a cart, when the oxen stumbled, Uzza touched the Ark, to keep it from toppling. For this, God struck Uzza dead. Now most people would see this as an unjust death, and for certain – we read that even David was displeased for what had happened. But later He understood, as we read below
1Ch 15:2 Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the LORD chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever.
1Ch 15:13 For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.
Even though Uzza was doing a good thing by trying to save the Ark from toppling, the Ark was never supposed to be carried by anyone else other than Levites, specifically the family of Kohath. Even then they could not touch the Ark, on the punishment of death (Num 4:15). This is why David asked the Levites to carry the Ark, after Uzza’s death, as he recognised, any other way was wrong in the eyes of God.
- Paul’s transformation
On several occasions, Paul made speeches to mobs who attacked him, proclaiming that he persecuted believers in Christ, because of the zeal he had towards God. This does not mean, all that he did was accounted as good before God. Paul understood that he had been wrong, even-though he was doing all of it for God.
Act 22:3,4 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. (Also read Act 26:9-11, Php 3:6, 1Tim 1:13, 1Cor 15:9)
When Paul understood his fault, he asked for repentance for all that he had done in God’s name, as he knew it was not right in God’s eyes, even-though he had thought it was right in his own heart.
- Christ’s words
The apostles were forewarned by Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) that people would attack them, thinking they were doing God a service.
Joh 16:2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
This shows us that a certain person could do something thinking he/she is serving God, when that person is disobeying God in reality.
God’s grace towards sinners who turn towards Him
It must be specially mentioned, that God shows mercy to people who have been disobedient, but have turned towards Him, and are trying to learn His ways. This was the case at the time of King Hezekiah. When King Hezekiah learned about God’s law regarding Passover, he gathered everyone to celebrate this appointment of God. As we see in 2Chr chapter 30, many people heeded this call, and Hezekiah prayed for the people who had not sanctified themselves properly to celebrate this occasion, as they were still learning the ways of God and how to be obedient towards Him.
2Ch 30:18-20 For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one
That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.
A similar occasion arose in the book of Acts, when James made the proclamation that the new believers should keep away from four critical sins, as they would learn the rest, as they go. (Please read “Gentiles have to obey only 4 Commandments? Misunderstandings regarding Acts 15″ for more information on this topic)
Act 15:19-21 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
God is patient with us, showing Grace towards us, when we start our walk in obedience. We may slip, we may fall. But we need to stand up and keep walking, not repeating those mistakes over and over again. This can only be done through learning His Word, and what He sees as Sin & Righteousness.
The point I would like to make is, that it does not matter what is in our hearts. What matters is whether our hearts are acceptable to God. Even if we do things to please God, if those things are not right in His eyes – they will not be accepted. We cannot disobey His Words, and hope that he accepts the disobedience done in all sincerity. God will, and does, have much Grace towards us and the ones who sin in ignorance. But it is not an eternal Grace. It is not a Grace that will keep us completely unaccounted for. We will all have to give account for what we have done, whether it be done knowingly or unknowingly – as all of it is written down in the Book of Works(Rev 20:12). The ones who disobey in ignorance will have fewer stripes, but they will receive stripes nonetheless (Luk 12:48).
God sees all of our hearts, including persons who live life contrary to what God has proclaimed in His Word. He will show grace towards everyone, so that everyone comes in repentance to Him. After we repent and turn towards Him, through the matchless blood of Messiah, we need to lead a sinless life. We cannot afford to keep sinning in ignorance. We need to learn what “sin” is, and what “righteousness” is in God’s eyes – not our own. He will not change His word till heaven and earth pass. We, on the other hand must change our hearts to be an acceptable offering before God. And when He does look at our hearts, He should see His Laws written on them as per the New Covenant(Heb 8:10).