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Jamie Johnson
1 September 2013

The Heart of the Matter

NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered to a group of residents at Kings Daughters Community Health & Rehabilitation Center on September 1, 2013.

Consider this story about a group of kids at an amusement park. They had the option of getting funnel cakes or cotton candy. These treats were on different sides of the large park and the group had to stay together. They voted and everyone in the group chose the cotton candy except for one girl who chose a funnel cake. She was so upset by this decision that she declared that she hated cotton candy and called it "nasty." Yet, she really liked cotton candy, ate it before the incident and ate it afterwards. She talked to her grandfather about this and they worked towards matters of the heart. In that instance, eating a funnel cake was more valuable to the girl than eating cotton candy. She became angry that she did not get what she wanted in that moment. Out of that she had to learn about considering others above self. It wasn't about cotton candy. That was how it was seen. Rather, the heart of the matter was needing to consider others first and pointing to a need for a change of heart. You see, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart (whatever the circumstance may be).

When it comes to the heart, we find that it is deceitful and beyond repair in and of ourselves and by our own means. Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NASB) says the following:

"The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
"I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.

While we see how powerless we are, there is hope in that the Lord searches the heart. However, if He gives to each what is deserved based on our works, what is in store for us? Unsure? Let's look at Scripture.

Genesis 6:5 (NASB) shows our lot after the Fall: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

Psalm 53:3 (NASB) says the following:

Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.

Romans 3:23 (NASB) says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Romans 8:8 (NASB) says that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

James 2:10 (NASB) says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."

And there are others that show that in and of ourselves, we are no good. What is in store is being sentenced as guilty.

The Lord searches hearts and tests minds and gives to each according to his ways per his deeds, but our conduct and deeds fail. We are wicked in and of ourselves and we need to be transformed. And there is One who will give us His perfect conduct and perfect deeds if we trust Him - the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let me ask you a question: Can you season a piece of rotten meat to make it suitable to eat? No! You need new meat. Likewise, we cannot season our wicked hearts or aim our works to please God. We need new hearts and perfect works. Only Jesus offers a new heart and perfect righteousness, a free gift of grace for those who place faith in Him. We must be transformed. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) says the following:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

We must die to ourselves. Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20 (NASB), "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." And in Romans 8:10, Paul writes, "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness." You must be born of the Spirit.

We all know John 3:16. What is the context (see John 3:1-21)? To whom was Christ speaking? Nicodemus. What did He say to Nicodemus? "You must be..." what? "You must be born again" and emphasized being born of the Spirit.

We are enslaved by sin and the flesh in and of ourselves. How can we be free?"

In John 8:31-32 (NASB), Jesus says, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

Since what Jesus says is Truth, we can conclude that His Word is true. Psalm 119:160 (NKJV) says, "The entirety of Your word is truth..." So, we need His Word as it is Truth that will set us free. What does this have to do with the heart? Ephesians 6:17 says that the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Listen to the words of Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) in regards to this Sword: "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." It echoes how God does truly search the heart and His Word is a tool. We need His Word.

Just prior to being crucified, Jesus was before Pilate in John 18:36-38 (NASB) where Pilate asks, "What is truth?" Apparently, Pilate wasn't listening since Jesus said in verse 37: "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." The fact is that Pilate couldn't know the truth since he couldn't see the truth right before him and couldn't hear the truth since Pilate wasn't in the truth. Pilate did not have the Spirit and so couldn't hear the things of the Spirit. Jesus is the Truth and what He says is Truth. In John 1:1, the Scripture speaks of the Logos, the Word of God and says that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Reading in the context of John 1, this is speaking of Jesus. Jesus says in John 14:6 (NASB), "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

At the ends of hymns and prayers, what word do we often say? Amen. Speaking of Jesus, Revelation 3:14 (NASB) describes Him this way: "The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God". I heard a sermon about this a few months ago. Amen means "So be it" or "It is settled" or "Truly, Truly", the latter of which Jesus prepended a lot of His statements, some translations using "Verily, Verily." He was testifying on the basis of Truth. Hebrews 6:13 says, "For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself" (NASB). He testifies on the basis of Himself and He is trustworthy to change and transform a heart.

So, our hearts are deceitful. Only God can see our hearts. What's beneath what we see is a matter of the heart. We need transformation by the truth. What is truth? We need Jesus. We need the Word of God. We need the Holy Spirit. Consider the words of Romans 8:1-16 (NASB):

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh - for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God

Certainly there are the day-to-day heart issues over things like cotton candy and funnel cakes. It is important to get to the heart of such matters, but most important is the heart issue of trusting Christ! We need a new heart and perfect deeds - things impossible apart from Christ and of oneself. Yet, He freely offers us a new heart and receiving His perfect works while taking our flesh and holding it in the place of death on the cross. You must believe. Paul sums up what we must believe in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NASB): "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures..."

In the Scriptures, the Word says in 1 Samuel 16:7 that man looks on the outside while the LORD sees the heart. In order to be changed, a heart needs the Spirit (indwelling those in Christ Jesus) to hear the things of the Spirit; that is, the Word of God. The writer of "The Blessed Hope" (August 12, 2013, Our Daily Bread) writes, "When we grow in character through His written Word, we begin to relate more closely to Jesus, the Living Word. The Holy Spirit takes God's Word and guides us in the way to live." Those, not in the Spirit, like Pilate, will not even see the Truth when the Truth is before them or hear the Truth when it is spoken to them. Thus we need to extend grace to these with hope that the Spirit will move them to trusting Him. We can offer guidance and training, but only a transformed heart is a changed heart. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. All our attempts - even well-intended - cannot bring about spiritual change. We can be His agents, but only Jesus can save a heart. Have you believed? If so, be His agent and trust His work to show you the matters of your heart. If not, then Lord-willing, you will hear this truth from Acts 4:12 (NASB) regarding Jesus Christ: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

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