Apparently, neither does popular televangelist and author Joel Osteen, as evidenced by this clip from an appearance he made on Larry King Live a few years ago:
Notice his refrain that only God can know another person's heart. By stating this fact, he more than implied that someone without faith in Christ could achieve salvation on the merits of an upright heart.
Like Osteen, many professing Christians offer the cliche, "Only God knows the heart" as an expression of comfort and assurance. By contrast, Jesus taught that the human heart, in and of itself, teems with all manner of sinful inclinations. Look at Jesus' words in this passage, and try to tell me with a straight face that God can accept a heart that Jesus hasn't transformed.
20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. ~~Mark 7:20-22 (ESV)If the heart defiles people, how can the thought that God knows it possibly reassure us that a non-Christian has any hope of salvation? Michael Horton, in his book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church writes:
But where Osteen seems to think that God’s judgment of our heart (like his record keeping) is good news, Scripture treats it as the worst possible report since “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9 NKJV).The thought that God knows a non-Christian's heart ought to drive us to earnest prayer that the person will hear the Gospel. We must plead with the Lord for His grace to bring that person to salvation. And we must pray for opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. If God truly knows a non-Christian's heart (and He does) then we dare not suppose that He would accept that person on the recommendation of an unconverted heart!
Indeed, the more the Holy Spirit exposes the corruption of my heart, the more I rejoice that Jesus died in my place on the cross. He requires that I depend completely on Him for my salvation. I have no hope apart from Jesus precisely because He knows my heart.