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An Adulterous Heart Involves More Than Having An Affair

Do you have an adulterous heart? Now, before shutting me down or brushing aside the question, please understand this isn’t aimed at your sexual morality or integrity. It is aimed at your heart.

Reading the book of Jeremiah, I become aware of his keen insight into the human heart. Not the actual, physical, blood-pumping heart, but each person’s core desires. Hearing statements like, “The heart wants what the heart wants,” “God knows my heart” or “I’m just following my heart” remind me of Jeremiah’s warning.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. –Jeremiah 17:9 (bold effect added for emphasis)

Even such statements confirm we’re referring to the heart’s desires and motives — those passionate tugs, both good and bad. Your heart may passionately want to date or marry, but without the constraint of the Holy Spirit, that same heart can lead to some “desperately wicked” moments.

So this raises the question: Which heart desires should be pursued and which should be rejected? Oh, we’re good at denying the glaringly immoral desires. But what about those subtle, gray areas, situational-ethics desires? You know, the wants (dare we call them obsessions?) that we chase without asking God for His input or soliciting feedback from trusted mentors or accountability partners?

Jeremiah pierces the fog with several clues to help identify and avoid any wayward desires. As a prophet called by God to warn His people (the Israelites) away from idol worship, he begged them to repent. For years, several prophets warned them against forsaking God and pursuing their “hearts’” desires, which in this case were the idols of their pagan neighbors.

Jeremiah outlined various indications of an adulterous heart (in bold text below). In honestly considering them, we determine the tolerance for adultery in our hearts.

They will be exposed to the sun and the moon and all the stars of the heavens, which they have loved and served and which they have followed and consulted and worshiped. –Jeremiah 8:2 (bold effect added for emphasis)

Solomon warned us to “keep” or guard our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). So, to safeguard our hearts against similar uncontrolled and immoral desires, let’s wisely dissect Jeremiah’s clues. Consider the following words from the verse listed above, along with their meanings and thought-provoking questions.

  • Loved: an affectionate desire; to be delighted. Is there someone or something I love more than God? Have I aligned my intense desires with God’s moral standard? Psalm 1:1-2 confirms a blessed man finds his delight in God’s Word.
  • Served: become a servant or slave; voluntary bondage. Have I prioritized someone or something to where I have little time, attention and energy left for God? Paul was extremely busy, yet he called himself a bondservant of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1).
  • Followed: run along after or pursue. Is there someone or something I’m chasing that jeopardizes my pursuit of God, His best for me and His purpose for my life? God said I would find Him if I sought him with all my heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
  • Consulted: diligently inquire or seek answers. Is there someone or something I consult before seeking answers in prayer or from God’s Word? Paul encouraged young Timothy to study God’s Word for answers (2 Timothy 2:15).
  • Worshiped: to prostrate or kneel in homage. Is there someone or something I revere more than God? This involves my devoted reverence, attention, affection, adoration and worship. God said, “I am the First and am the Last; beside Me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).

Loving, serving, following, consulting and worshiping are all wonderful methods of demonstrating the priority, affection and passion of our hearts. But anything I pursue harder or hold onto tighter than God demonstrates an adulterous heart toward Him.

Father God, protect my heart — even from me. Please covenant with me to not allow anyone or anything to supplant Your rightful position of sole authority in my life. Grant me only those desires that align with Your purpose for my life. Amen.

About Nate Stevens

As a “missionary kid” who grew up in a Christian home and church, Nate Stevens has enjoyed a 30-year banking career in a variety of leadership roles. He is the author of Matched 4 Marriage – Meant 4 Life. He is a popular speaker at conferences, seminars and Bible study groups for singles, young adults, young marrieds and youth. Nate currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, is a newlywed to his beautiful wife, Karen, and is an active dad with two awesome kids, Melissa and Mitchell.

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