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Three Compulsions in the Human Heart

November 22, 2019

John Owen said, “Always be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” I’ve used the word “compulsions,” because I want us to see that sin is much more than a list of the things we do that are wrong. Sin is a power that resides in the human heart against which we must do battle. Here are three forms of it you’ll find in the human heart, and how to respond to it.  

1.) Envying 

Suppose someone you know comes into moneyYou’ve been friends with another person (or couple) for some time and your life has been much the same as theirsThen one day they come into moneyMaybe they married into money, or else their business thrived, or they were given some unusual success, and very quickly their life is quite different from yours. 

The godly response to this is to rejoice with those who rejoice, which is always harder than to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15)The godly response is to find as much pleasure in what has come to them as you would if it had come to youBut that isn’t easy. 

Coveting and Envying 

When good comes to another person, one of two temptations will come to you: One is to covet, and the other is to envy 

Coveting is when you want what they haveEnvying is when you don’t want that person to have what they have been givenCoveting wants to gain something for yourselfEnvying wants to deny something to someone else. 

There is a desire to hurt in envyCoveting is saying, “I want the same as you.” Envy says, “I don’t want you to have more than me.” There is a meanness of spirit about it“Envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30)It eats you up from the inside. 

If God blesses you, don’t be surprised that others may envy youRejoicing with those who rejoice is a rare grace in a selfish worldIt is a beautiful grace, but it is not a common grace. Very few people have the grace to do this well. 

The Root of Resentment 

This sin of envy is the root of the resentment towards God that lurks in the human heartGod has said that His loved and favored son, Jesus Christ, will be exaltedBefore Him every knee will bowBut there is a compulsion in the human heart that says, “We do not want Him to have thatWe will not have this man to reign over us.” 

2.) Resisting  

It is a great mistake to make decisions about God when you are still far from HimIf you would let Him come near, if you would open your Bible with a humble heart, you would end up taking a better pathBut if you insist on making your decision about God while you are still far from Him, there can only be one outcome. 

Joseph’s brothers made their decision about Joseph while he is still a long way off, and so when he arrived their minds were already made upThey took him and threw him into the pit, and then they sat down to eat (Genesis 37:25). 

How is that possibleWe know from Genesis 42:21 that they saw the distress of his soul. Joseph begged them, but they did not listenHow could their hearts have been so hardThe Bible speaks very clearly about the effects of sin in the life of a sinnerHere’s what it says: 

If you look at a number of different translations of Ephesians 4:19, speaking about the condition of sinners, each one adds to our insight about men and women “having lost all sensitivity” (NIV), who “have become callous” (ESV), “being past feeling” (KJV). 

Sin has an erosive effect on the conscience and in the heart, so that sinning gets easier for the sinner over timeSensitivity towards the pain of others is diminishedAwareness of guilt before God no longer feels like an issueThe more you sin, the easier it gets to sin more. 

3.) Lying  

Some people live in open defiance of God, but most people are much more subtleMost people present themselves as the Father’s loyal sonsThey place the mask of religion over their own resistance to the claims of Jesus ChristThey come to worship, and they lie to God. 

Sin is a power, a compulsion in the human heartApart from the grace of God, the human heart is going to manifest itself in envying, resisting, and lying. 

Comfort for the Believing Heart  

Envying God as you deny the crown rights of Jesus Christ over your life. Resisting God as you decide against Him, even when you are far from Him, and then harden your heart against His pleadings and shut your ears to His voice. Lying to God as you come into His presence as if you were one of His loyal and faithful servants, when the truth is that you are actively resisting and rejecting His son.  

The only hope for the human heart is the compassion of the Savior, the Deliverer of the sent Son of God. The Son who is our hope is aliveJesus Christ, the Son of God, came to seek and save the lost. 

His own people conspired against himHe was sold for silverHe was beaten, crucified, dead, and buriedBut God raised Him up out of the pit and exalted Him to the highest placeThe One who was despised is the One on whom our hopes depend, and the day is coming when we will see His face! 

We know what it is to grieveBut our grief is different because we have hopeThere is comfort for the believing heartWeeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning. 

Three Prayers of Response  

1.) Ask God to fill you with the compassion that sends, seeks, and suffers.  

God, deliver me from being easily discouraged in seekingGive me the relentlessness of the good shepherd who goes after the sheep and simply will not give upGive me strength to endure suffering, and help me to remember when doing your will is costly that the good shepherd gave His life for the sheep. 

2.) Ask God to deliver you from the compulsion that envies, resists, and lies.  

Deliver me from a sour spirit that sees the blessings of others and asks, “What about me?” Teach me to rejoice with those who rejoiceBring me to your feet so that I may hear you when you say, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). Save me from a life of pretenseDeliver me from using religion as a mask to cover my resistance to the claims of Jesus Christ on my life. 

3.) Ask God to strengthen you through the comfort of His son who lives.  

Father, help me in the grief and sorrow of loss to know that your son lives, and that in Him sorrow can never have the final word. 

Photo Credit: Unsplash 

This article was adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “Hated and Despised,” from his series Snapshots of a Godly Life, Part 1 


The Author
Colin Smith

Colin Smith is the senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the president and teacher for Unlocking the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.



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