God Knows What You’re Thinking1
The gospel is, by definition, good news. But included in the good news of what happens when one believes is the bad news of what happens when one rejects Christ. That is why Paul says in Romans 2:16 that it is “according to” the gospel that God will judge people by Christ Jesus (v. 16). This judgment will expose “the secrets of men,” the hidden thoughts, fantasies, wicked plans and ulterior motives of all humanity.
That God’s judgment will take into account not only outward actions but also the hidden or secret things of the heart is because God is omniscient. God knows your secret, unspoken thoughts and desires and motives. There are a number of texts that testify to this truth:
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him [i.e., Eliab, one of the sons of Jesse]. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’” (1 Sam. 16:7).
The point here is not that God sees or looks upon the physical organ of the heart. Even humans can do that, especially physicians! His point is that God sees and knows and understands the inmost, internal thoughts and desires and motives and intentions of a person. David confirmed this in Psalm 139:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (Ps. 139:1-4).
“You mean I don’t have to speak out loud for God to know what’s in my heart?” That’s right!
Every emotion, feeling, idea, thought, conception, resolve, aim, doubt, motive, perplexity, and anxious moment lies before God like an open book. And he knows all this “from afar”! The distance between heaven and earth by which men vainly imagine God's knowledge to be circumscribed (limited, bounded) offers no obstacle.
Jeremiah quotes God himself who declares,
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jer. 17:10).
If, as Hebrews 4 tells us, the word of God is living and active, “discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), then surely God himself also is. In fact, the author of Hebrews goes on to declare that “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). Other similar texts:
“‘And you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought’” (1 Chron. 28:9a).
“Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” (Prov. 15:11; cf. Mark 4:22).
“Yet you, O Lord, know all their plotting to kill me. Forgive not their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from your sight” (Jer. 18:23).
“O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind . . .” (Jer. 20:12).
“And the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me, and he said to me, ‘Say, Thus says the Lord: So you think, O house of Israel. For I know the things that come into your mind’” (Ezek. 11:5; cf. Isa. 40:27-28).
“And they prayed, and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen” (Acts 1:24).
It is staggering and profoundly sobering to think that the “secrets” of our souls, those obscure and hidden thoughts, those veiled fantasies and silent sins, will all be laid bare before God on the day of judgment. How does this affect your life now?
Honestly, I tremble when I hear this. My initial reaction is fear and anxiety. The myth that there is a secret place in the inner recesses of my heart where no one has access, not even God, is shattered by these many texts.
But my fear turns to joy when I remember that for the believer in Jesus Christ who has turned to him in faith for the forgiveness of sins, no thought, word, or deed will ever serve as grounds for judgment. Although our secrets will be revealed on that day, it will not be for the purpose of accusation or condemnation, for Christ has suffered in our place the full extent of the judgment we deserved for our wayward and sinful deeds, thoughts, and words.
If the secret sins of Christians are made known on judgment day, it will not be to shame us or to condemn us but to magnify the riches of God’s grace in forgiving them!
Don’t ever forget that when your sexual fantasies are made known on that day, God will say of them: “Forgiven!”
When your malicious thoughts regarding another person are exposed, God will say: “Covered by the blood of Jesus!”
When your unkind words are revealed and your selfish motives are seen and all your sinfully perverted plans are brought to light, God will say of them:
“Put behind my back!”
“Cast into the depths of the sea!”
“Trampled under my feet!”
“Removed from you as far as the east is from the west!”
Praise be to God for his amazing, forgiving, cleansing, redemptive grace through Jesus Christ!