Heart of Man – Before & After

Heart of Man Movie | A Response

The purpose of this article is to address the recent film – The Heart Of Man. I want those who viewed the film (or have not yet viewed it) to understand things the film said that were accurate, and also realize what was left out of the film. My only real issue with that film that would cause me to tell someone not to see it, is the unnecessarily provocative way it depicts lust (more on that below). The other ‘issues’ with the film are the omissions.

So, prayerfully consider these thoughts:

BEFORE THE FILM

I had heard a lot of things about The Heart Of Man and its second nationwide debut. There was no shortage of applause for the film from popular Christian and secular outlets. But I was not ready to endorse or applaud what I had not seen personally. Especially because I thought the trailer to the film was suggestive enough to make me leery of supporting yet another Christian media initiative (book, movie) that might feel the need to “show or tell provocative stories to illustrate the point of what viewers and readers already understand about lust.”

So, I actually advised many men and couples not to see the film, for it was far better to air on the side of caution and continue building trust in their marriage, rather than to needlessly expose them to yet another source of temptation.

Having been given the chance to introduce the film by sharing my own journey from the shackles of sin to the freedom found in Christ, I prayed earnestly for wisdom and boldness.

I encourage you to listen to this first – which will set the framework for the ‘after the film’ comments below. It is a few minutes of my testimony, followed by a few thoughts about discerning truth from a movie.

15-minutes : my journey, and my warning and caution to anyone seeing the film.

AFTER THE FILM

Before I share some very serious thoughts on what the film missed and overlooked, I would like to point out some very true and good themes that were in the movie.

Please know: this is not a recommendation for you to see the movie! Whether you see it or not is a decision you need to prayerfully make with the Lord – and only after you seriously consider what I have to share below. I don’t believe ‘the end/ overall message justifies the means’ – meaning, just because there may be good messages, does not give you permission to naively watch the film. Many people justify watching R-rated films with half-naked women, celebrating affairs, or maybe even exposing human trafficking, because of the “overall message.” Meanwhile, they are overwhelmed with lust and images that sear their flesh-ruled minds for years to come… all in the name of ‘the overall message.’

I was shocked that over half of the audience that showed up to our private screening event had not even watched the trailer! So, they were about to walk blindly into an overwhelming cinematic experience with no concept of what, or how, the story was to be told.

So, read carefully and discern what you should do.

GOOD

Biblical messages that were true and well presented were:

  • There are no quick-fixes
  • You are not alone in your struggle against sexual sin, shame, and condemnation
  • The Father’s Love pursues us no matter where we try to hide
  • Sexual sin doesn’t go away on its own
  • Sin spreads in secrecy, but loses power when exposed to the Light
  • We are new creations in Christ
  • A revelation of God’s love is more powerful in transformation than our own efforts to ‘stop sinning’

Keep in mind that if you have read God’s Word, you already know these things intellectually and probably don’t need a cinematic adventure to magically make some ‘spiritual moment’ happen for you. I do believe God’s Spirit can work through our talents of filmmaking and production, so this isn’t a bash on movies – it’s just that having talked with so many men over the years who are bound by sexual sin, I find a common theme of ‘event-hopping’ in hopes that they’ll have their desired epiphany because they were in the right place at the right time.

Thankfully, God’s love and grace isn’t that cheap. (Maybe that’s another post or message, so I’ll try to stay focused.)

Good quotes from the film:

Loving Jesus, who loves us in the midst of our sin, is the key to freedom and understanding who we are.

I need to choose to believe that God did all the rewiring necessary (to my mind) the day I trusted the cross.

You’re not a product of what you do… but who He says you are.

It’s a mountain climb.

There’s  nothing so dead God can’t grow something living in it.

NOT SO GOOD

More important that just focusing on the good things, there are some glaring CAUTION signs that must be addressed to represent a Biblical view on the issues.

Before I address some deeper issues with how things were presented (or omitted), I need to address a glaring issue. Can somebody please tell Unearthed Pictures that we don’t need them to show us a naked woman making out with a man (who is not her husband, by the way) under a waterfall, in order for me to understand how lust works in the heart of man?!  Common Fathom Films, what are you thinking? (Or rather, why aren’t you considering these things?)

I had spoken with some friends who saw the first national debut, and they warned me that there was a scene where a naked woman (representing our lust and desire) makes out with a man in a waterfall. This isn’t a religious/legalistic issue I am bringing up here – rather, it’s an ‘honor the Lord with your eyes, heart, mind’ issue. Thankfully, the film is pretty evident when this sequence is going down – as the prodigal is washed up on an island and sees a woman on the beach. I chose to honor my Lord and my wife and to turn away for the next 5-10 minutes as it was evident enough from the narration and audio what was going on.

Again, totally unnecessary. While on one hand it is no surprise that yet another film, book, resource meant to address this issue has crossed the line and become provocative towards the very thing it was attempting to confront, it is saddening that nobody said “Hey, do we really need to show this to men and women across the country? Isn’t it just as likely that the Holy Spirit can bring conviction without us being a stumbling block?”

I am more going to bat for the struggling man right now

I realize readers may take issue with this perspective – especially if you have read what I believe about FREEDOM. I believe freedom comes when flesh is dead to sin, and that temptation (like these scenes in the movie) actually hold no power over a free man. Where there is no struggle to say no in the face of temptation. That’s what I know God has for every man. That is the life I know for the past 9 years. That is to say that I am more going to bat for the struggling man right now, than I am for my own understanding and reality… I don’t wish to use my freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.

Anyways…

In short, I want to address three main omissions from the film. I go into further detail below, but here is the three main points:

  • Repentance is required to be restored to relationship with the Father (this was omitted from the film entirely!).
  • The ‘It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance’ (mentioned many times) is not an accurate quote from the Bible, nor does it mean God’s love doesn’t have an opinion of your sin. Firstly, it’s a question in the Bible, not a statement… and it’s a withholding-of-judgement-kindness.
  • The fear of the Lord’s righteous judgement and wrath is a Biblical catalyst for the journey of redemption (contrary to what the film’s interviewees and producers suggest and depict).

1. Repentance is required for restoration and relationship with our Father.

It blew me away that the film went from the Father pursuing and rescuing the prodigal son in the prison of shame, to fully restored relationship. Not only does that omit the entire part of the parable where the son “comes to his senses”, returns through the same cities and places he once gave in to (keeping his heart set on returning to his Father), and comes to his Father saying “I am not worthy to be called your son.”… but it focuses solely on the pursuit of the Father’s love and yet avoids the necessary repentance of the son.

Luke 15:17-23

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

Yes, the next verse shows us the unrelenting love of the Father, and that is amazing and overwhelming. But it is only realized by those who repent and return. So many men who are bound by sexual sin are equally bound by a ‘love, love, love/ grace, grace, grace’ deception that thinks that “when God has waited long enough, He will come find me and rescue me.” (Which is just what the film portrays!) This is not Biblical. Yes, He pursues us – but we play a part in turning from our sin.

Praise the Lord that ‘Christ made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.’ (Ephesians 2:5). I am so glad the Father sent His Son while I was dead and lost and blind… but for me to receive His Love, I needed to come to repentance.

2. God’s kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4… sort of)

I think far too many of us believe (wrongly) that God isn’t that angry with those who choose to walk in darkness. We are okay with saying that ‘He is saddened by our choices’, or that ‘He is hurt by our sin’, but we stay away from anything that would suggest His wrath is against us. They paraphrase verses to appease the masses – because we all know that there has been too much abuse of ‘scaring people into salvation’, or whatever analogy or catch-phrase you want to use.

First of all, let’s understand what Scripture says about God’s “kindness”, in the place this misquoted phrase is found (Romans 2:4). The best way I know to say it is actually the way that another writer broke it down online – so I am going to simply copy and paste what he wrote on the topic (credit to GTY.org):

It is actually our guilt and the justness of God’s wrath that provide the all-important context for Romans 2:4:

And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:2-5)

Now you can see why Romans 2:4 is so frequently divorced from its context, and why it’s usually paraphrased instead of quoted. In the full context of Paul’s writing we see clearly what he means by God’s goodness—it is “the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience.” And Romans 2:2-3 explains how God demonstrates that tolerance and patience—by withholding the wrath we deserve. God’s goodness is the reality that we have not yet experienced His judgment. MacArthur adds:

Forbearance [tolerance] comes from anochē, which means “to hold back,” as of judgment. It was sometimes used to designate a truce, which involves cessation of hostilities between warring parties. God’s forbearance with mankind is a kind of temporary divine truce He has graciously proclaimed. Patience translates makrothumia, which was sometimes used of a powerful ruler who voluntarily withheld vengeance on an enemy or punishment of a criminal. Until the inevitable moment of judgment, God’s kindness and forbearance and patience are extended to all mankind. [3]

It is impossible to preach the goodness of God without talking about sin and judgment because its very meaning is bound up in those terms. When we see our sinfulness and rebellion against God, and when we see our hypocrisy in condemning others for committing the same wrath-deserving sins, then we can also marvel at God’s goodness in patiently and tolerantly withholding the wrath that we deserve.

That is what leads us to repentance. And it is entirely consistent with what Paul taught elsewhere in Scripture:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

So, God’s kindness is that he is withholding a justified-judgement against us because of our sin.

3. The fear of the Lord’s righteous judgement and wrath is a Biblical catalyst for the journey of redemption

The film talks briefly about the futility of fear, and that when we try to do things right for the sake of earning God’s approval, that we fall short.

Partially true.

We can never earn God’s favor – true.

But being motivated towards holy living out of a holy fear of God is completely Biblical and life giving! Are there plenty of examples of people who have gotten wrong ideas about God the Father because of earthly experiences, fallen fathers, and prideful preachers? Yes! But we can’t just ignore what Scripture says because we don’t like it.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

Understanding God’s wrath, and its appropriate application towards us if we live in sin, should cause us to tremble before a holy God. (Psalms 99 / Psalms 119:120)

Psalm 99:1-5

The LORD reigns, let the peoples tremble; He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake! The LORD is great in Zion, And He is exalted above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name; Holy is He.

Psalm 119:120

My flesh trembles for fear of You, And I am afraid of Your judgments.

In scripture there is a word used for repentance that comes from the ‘consequence of sin’, and there is another word that refers to repentance from ‘the sinfulness of sin.’ If you study those two words used in the Bible, you will see that when it refers to the transforming, life-giving, new life that we have in Christ, it is always the word used for ‘repentance because of an understanding of the sinfulness of sin.’

Meaning, I believe Scripture teaches us that a proper understanding of God’s wrath will lead us to a proper understanding of the sinfulness of our sin in the eyes of a Holy God.

So while most will shy away from anything from God the Father that feels like ‘His anger, or judgement or wrath’, I encourage you to consider that your love of sin, and embracing of lies, and choice to walk in darkness rather than accepting His Son whom He sent as your sacrifice, does make His wrath burn against you.

It’s not my opinion. It’s scripture’s truth.

Conclusion?

I encourage you to pray – even about these things I have shared – and I know that The Helper Holy Spirit will answer if you keep knocking.

I am not overthinking this film and it’s message. But I do believe that many of us don’t think enough about the things we hear, watch, read, and believe. Don’t rationalize an experience in a theatre because of the general overall message. If we spent two hours earnestly seeking the Lord for His perspective on His great Love for us, His power over shame and condemnation, and asked Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and revelation… do we really believe He would come and answer us? Or do we need to go see a movie to ‘feel’ it?

I am just asking you questions that I ask myself.

I am just sharing discernment that I had after viewing the film.

Should you watch it? Is it something you need to see?

Honestly, I would point you to Psalms 27:4

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. jahmaal marshall

    Wow, I’m speechless. This is one of the most balanced articles or commentaries, I’ve seen as it pertains to the verse in Romans 2…Funny thing is that I’m in Romans 2 Right now…just chewing on some truths as I slowly study the book of Romans. Psalm 34 tells us that the Lord would teach us the fear of the Lord. I have been asking for that at a far greater level in my own life which is why i believe He led me to the book of Romans. I appreciate this article as it highlights why it’s important to read and study the word in context as ask the Holy Spirit to highlight and illuminate life transforming truth. Thx for movie review, i most likely take a rain check from seeing it.

    1. brokenfree

      Thanks Jahmaal,
      Appreciate the feedback and glad it found you right when you were in Romans 2! 10-4 on the raincheck. #ObeyJesus

  2. Nate Danser

    Justin,

    I haven’t seen the movie, and I don’t really intend to.

    But, having read through your list of “pros and cons,” I would thoroughly agree that the list of omissions you outlined are positive proof that this movie trends in a very dangerous direction.

    You hit the nail on the head. Repentance is an absolute prerequisite to the restoration of fellowship, because if we study the nature of sin, we find that sin is fundamentally a rejection of God, a tearing apart of our relationship with him, and a departure from the life of God. (study “iniquity,” “transgression,” and “sin”)

    If we seek to deal with people in sin without dealing deeply with what those sins proclaim about their spiritual lives, then we are “healing the wounds of [God’s] people lightly.” It’s so sad, because on the other side of real repentance is REAL LIFE!

    1. brokenfree

      Nate
      Thanks for your thoughtful response. I always appreciate the solid wisdom of the road of repentance, and the power of ‘dealing deeply’ with the issues. Thanks so much for the thoughts, and I’ll take you up on a deep study of ‘iniquity, transgression, and sin’.
      Thanks for your ministry to the captives!

Comments are closed.