Diagnosing Your Heart Condition (Matthew Sermon 112 of 151)
February 07, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Sanctification, Life in the Spirit, Idolatry, Pure in Heart
Truly, it is said that God's ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts. If it had been up to me, John's gospel would have ended at Chapter 20. What an incredible end there is there, and I know we're preaching on Matthew, I haven't forgotten. Your pastor hasn't lost his mind. But this is how I'm beginning the sermon today. You remember what happened in John 20, how Jesus, resurrected from the dead, appeared suddenly through locked doors and stood in the midst of his disciples and said, “Peace be with you,” and showed them the evidence of his resurrection, his hands and his side, and said again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, I'm sending you.”
Thomas wasn't there. Doubting Thomas. Over that next week, he asserted that unless he saw the physical evidence of Jesus' resurrection, he would never believe. A week later, Jesus comes again, though the doors are locked, and stands in their midst, and says, “Peace be with you,” and then he shows the evidence of his resurrection to Thomas. Hands and his side. Stop doubting and believe. And Thomas makes that confession, which everyone on the face of the earth must make if they want to be saved.
That saving confession, which must come from the heart, saying, to Jesus, “My Lord, and my God.” That's the pinnacle. Maybe the pinnacle of the Bible right there. The evidence of Jesus' deity, his crucifixion, his resurrection, and then a sinner standing and saying, “My Lord and my God,” to Jesus. “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. And then Jesus did many other miraculous signs which are in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and believing you may have life in his name.” That sounds like a good place to end to me. What do you think? But there is a whole chapter 21, after it. What is the purpose of that chapter 21?
You remember what happened, how the disciples seemingly having nothing to do, decided to go back to fishing. I mean like physical fishing, not fishing for men, I mean, fishing. And so they're there fishing, in the Sea of Galilee, and suddenly a stranger stands by the shore and says, “Have you caught any fish and they'd fished all night and hadn’t caught anything. And he said, “Why don't you try the right side of the boat.” Suddenly the nets are so filled that they are ripping and breaking and it suddenly dawns on them who the stranger is by the shore. It's the Lord. Peter dives in, swims in there, they barely are able to haul that filled net to shore. Jesus makes them a breakfast of fish and bread and serves them.
And then he turns to Simon Peter, and starts to work on him. You remember what happened, don't you? Simon Peter had denied Jesus three times. Three times he said that he didn't even know him. He was trying to save his own life. The very thing that Jesus told us we should never try to do, whoever tries to save his life, will lose it. And so, he denied him.
And that very night, you remember in the providence of God, and the sovereignty of Christ, Jesus, being moved from one side of his trial to the next, just as the cock crows and Peter has denied him for the third time, Jesus turned and looked right at him, without saying a word. What did he need to say? “You are guilty. You're guilty of not loving me, you're guilty of denying me.” Just the crushing blow of that look, and you know what it did to Peter.
Oh, he went outside and wept bitterly, he wept. To look in the face of Jesus and to see that disappointment. Is there a future for me? Is there a place for me? I mean, yes, Jesus, you're risen. But is there a place for me? I'm the one who denied you. I don't love you like I should, I know it now. I know who you are. I agree with Thomas. You're My Lord and my God, but what am I? And is there a future for me?
And so, Jesus says to Simon, he says, “Simon son of John. Do you truly love me more than these?” I don't know what “more than these” means. More than these fish? More than these friends? More than these people love me? Do you love me more than you love anything else? I don't really know. I don't have to know 'cause I'm not preaching on John 21 this morning, but at any rate, “Do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord", he said, “You know I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Sometime later, he turned to him and said again, “Simon, son of John. Do you love me, do you truly love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said. “You know that I love you.” “Take care of my sheep,” he said. The third time he said to him, “Simon Son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked him this question three times. Now let me ask you, do you think that Jesus knew this would hurt Peter? I think he knew it. Did he intend to hurt Peter? I think he did. But not the kind of hurt that Satan would intend or an enemy would intend. It's the heart of a friend. It's the wounds of a friend. And the issue is, “Do you love me?” Jesus is saying. And I just feel that this is vital. We don't just need to know who Jesus is, we don't just need to know that his death was for us, and all that, we need to have this problem dealt with in our hearts that we don't really love Jesus.
And we need Jesus to stand in front of us, and probe our hearts to reveal to us that we really don't love him like we should. And it hurts, friends. And so, I don't have any desire to hurt you today but Jesus may. And I just want to step out of the way and let him do his work on you, because we're coming, as I said two weeks ago, to the foot of Sinai here. This is the law, friends, with all of it's delightful language and loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength we know the truth, don't we? We don't love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Some time ago, I came across these lyrics, “Give me one pure and holy passion. Give me one magnificent obsession, give me one glorious ambition for my life to know and follow, hard after you.” I couldn't sing it. I couldn't sing it. I actually kind of almost hated it. I was like turn the page. I don't wanna sing this one, 'cause it just isn't true of me. I don't have one pure and holy passion. I'm a man of many passions. And I yearn to be a man of one passion, I really want that.
And so John 21 actually ministers to me. Maybe it ministers to you to have Jesus stand in front of you and probe you on this very issue. Do you love him? Do you love Jesus? Do you love him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength? Do you? And that's what this sermon is about today. It's really diagnosing your heart condition. None of us enjoys a trip to the doctor. You know that annual check-up. Some just go ahead and skip it. That's not a good idea, but that's what we do. And so this is just diagnosis. This is just God probing us, by the Scripture. He's probing our hearts. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
What God Wants More Than Anything Else
Jesus Texted by a Lawyer
Now, let's set the context. You remember Jesus was in the final week of his life, and his enemies are there trying to make trouble for him and Jesus deals with many, many different difficult questions. And then along comes this lawyer from the Pharisees, and he says “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?”
Jesus’ Very Orthodox Answer
Jesus gives a very orthodox-ed answer as you remember. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Love the Lord Your God with Everything You Have
We saw two weeks ago as we looked at this, “with all your heart” means that central part of you. Your heart is that part of you that thinks, it feels, it decides, it plans, it desires everything inside you, that heart of you, the core of you, love God. And love God “with all of your soul,” the “nephesh”, the life principle, with every fiber of your living being as you live and breathe, love God. And “with all your mind,” the part of you that thinks, and reasons and meditates, the part of you that imagines your thought life. All your mental powers, your science and philosophy, and logic, and all of that thinking, love God in all of it. And then with all your strength. With your body, present your body. All of its powers and its faculties to God, ready for service. God, I want you to use my body. I want you to use all of my strength, I wanna be poured out like a drink offering, I wanna drop exhausted on the pillow at the end of the day, having given everything for God.
With ALL Your Heart, and ALL Your Soul, and ALL Your Mind and ALL Your Strength
And it says with all of your heart, and all of your soul and all of your mind and all of your strength, and the full teaching of the Word of God is all the time. So you do all of that all the time and never fail. Now you see why I've said this is a trip to the foot of Mount Sinai. Who wants to stand up here and testify. I have kept this law. I have kept this law. This week has been the best week of my life. I have kept this law 100 percent. Who would dare to testify like that, I wouldn't.
In Pilgrim's Progress, Christian, the character that's moving from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City, before he comes to the cross, he comes to Mount Sinai and it's like a mountain leaning over ready to crush him. And I think we think, “Oh wow, boy. The first and greatest commandment, love God.” It's the very thing, friends that we don't do.
A Second Commandment Like It
And so we talked about that last time. And Jesus gives a second commandment which I'm going to speak fully on, more fully next week, but he said “The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” The two of them are interconnected. I'll make that point next week.
Everything Depends on these Two Commands
But everything, all the law and the prophets, everything God wants from you everything he commands from you hangs on these two things, summarized by these two things: Love God and love your neighbor.
Judgment Day: God Actually Requires This
And I said last week, God actually in fact requires this of us. It's not theoretical. It's not theoretical, it's not like he's gonna dismiss it and say, “Oh, well we all know nobody kept it. And so you're fine. I'm gonna grade on the curve.” God doesn't grade on the curve. Did you or did you not love me in this moment or at that moment, etcetera? And then you just start to see the times where you didn't piled up.
And I said at this point, you must understand the purpose of the law, is it not to crush self-confidence? Is it not just to crush it into a powder where you realize, I cannot do this? I can't be perfect, I can't. I must have a savior. The law brings wrath dear friends, not salvation, Romans 4, read about it. It doesn't bring salvation. The law brings wrath. By the works of the law, Romans 3:20, no one, no flesh will be justified in his sight. You can't do this, that's the testimony of the Word of God.
But thanks be to God, there's a gospel, amen? Thanks be to God, that's not the final word. Could have been, that could have been the final word on us. You didn't love me. And therefore go to hell. God could have said that, that could have been the final word. We are condemned by that law, 'cause God really did mean it.
But it says in Romans 8, “What the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son.” Praise be to God. For sending Jesus who went and actually did this for 30 plus years, he actually did it in space and time with his body, he loved God perfectly every moment of his life. And he won for us a perfect righteousness that he now just offers you as a free gift. Oh dear lost friend, that's your only hope, that's the righteousness God actually does require, he's just gonna give it to you as a gift. Just as a free gift.
He'd just say “Here, put this on. Give me all of your wickedness, and all of your sin.” And he puts it on Jesus, Jesus dies under the wrath of God. Remember I said the law brings wrath. There's the wrath at the cross. And he just gives you a gift. Perfect righteousness. Well, that was all last week.
What Does it Mean to Love God?
Now I wanna ask a deeper question, “What does this mean?” Thanks be to God that if you have trusted in God, this righteousness is credited to your account, it's imputed to you or reckoned to you. You're thought of as righteous as Jesus, is that the end of our salvation? You're free from the law, oh happy condition. You don't need to love God with any part of you.
Is that so? Is that what the Bible teaches? That cannot be. You know, what he says, “Okay now that you're forgiven now that I see you as perfectly righteous from this point forward, for the rest of your existence on into eternity, I see you as perfectly righteous, now I want you to get up and obey this law.” Romans 8:4, “For what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of the flesh, to be a sin offering. And so we condemn the flesh in the flesh in order that,” listen, “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
So he actually does want you to obey this, friends. He wants you to love him now and for the rest of your life, and more and more and more, as you live by the Spirit. It's what he wants you to do. He wants you to walk in this law with all of your heart.
So I've tried to understand what it means to love God. I've studied my own heart, I’ve studied the scriptures, I study other people as they study me. I look and I try to understand love. Love is a pretty common topic in our society. What are the odds that you'll turn on the radio and hear the word “love” within the first minute in some song or something. It's just all over the place.
Jonathan Edwards: Treatise on Religious Affections
So it's a very familiar topic. What does it mean here? Well, I thank God for the brothers and sisters in Christ that have gone before us, and one of my favorite men from church history is Jonathan Edwards. And Edwards kind of sorted it all out for me, in a book that he wrote called Treatise on Religious Affections.
Let me give you the context historically, of what Edwards wrote. It was the first great awakening, perhaps one of the greatest revivals in all of church history. It was in 1742, and the Holy Spirit was poured out. There were sweeping changes, there was religious excitement, there were major upheavals, all kinds of things were happening. Huge crowds were leaving their fields and their shops and going out to hear gospel preaching, especially George Whitfield. People were coming from miles around to hear Whitfield and others preaching the gospel. And many people swooned, sometimes even physically, under the influence of the gospel. And there were some changes, some changes happened.
However, you know in the parable of the seed and the soils, Jesus warned about what they call the stony ground hearers, the ones that hear the Word with joy and immediately respond, but when trouble comes they quickly fall away. And so now it's been a number of years later, five or six years later. And Jonathan Edwards is looking back on the experience of the Great Awakening and what's happened since then. And he's probably the most careful thinker and accurate spiritual assessor, maybe, in all of church history. And he put his skills to work in assessing the nature of true revival or more deeply the nature of true religion, a true right relationship with God, what is true Christianity, that's what he was looking at, what's the truth?
And he likened the initial enthusiasm of many of those hearers of the gospel to the cherry blossoms of spring, that come each of them promising some sweet cherry fruits later on, but many of them flutter to the ground without ever bearing any fruit at all. But some of them ripen into maturity and produce delicious sweet cherries. So he wanted to assess spiritual experience and try to get at what is the nature of true Christian experience, true Christian religion.
Now, there are opposite views of the Great Awakening two equal and opposite errors concerning all of the excitement and outward emotion. Error number one, is that religion is only a matter of the emotions, the feelings and especially extreme outward displays of emotion: raising of hands, melting, falling on the ground, screaming for joy, dancing in the aisles, whatever. Big displays of emotion. And if you don't get to that level, you're really not truly saved.
But then there is an opposite error, that religion is never in any of those displays. And if you see any of them you know there religion isn't. Religion is more in the reason and judgment, and in dutiful behavior. Dear friends, both of those are ditches. Edward sought to steer in the middle to try to find what it really was. Satan's scheme here, friends, was to push unstable souls into excesses, and that created a backlash effect.
Early in the awakening, Satan pushed people to extremes, to burning clothes and books and doing all kinds of things and just outward huge displays of emotion. And the tendency was, if you don't have all that you're not really saved. And a few people only a few people seemed interested in trying to probe what was really going on in the hearts of people. Edwards was one of them. What were the root causes? Eventually people just threw out the baby with the bathwater, went the opposite direction, you ended up with a cold formalism, in which no emotional displays were permitted at all.
So he's like, what is the truth, what is the nature of true religion? And as he thought through, prayed through, the Lord led him to this text, 1 Peter 1:8. Just listen, don't turn there, but just listen, “Though, you have not seen him,” Christ, “you believe in him; and even though you do not see him now, you love him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” You love him, the invisible one, you believe in him.
I think it's beautiful, isn't it? That it was Peter that wrote that, the one who was probed by Jesus. Do you love me, do you love me? He says, you've never seen him, but just like me, you love him, don't you? And so, Edward said, there it is. True religion then in great part consists in holy affections, emotions, holy emotions, holy affections.
Now this is what he does, he breaks open the human heart, he breaks open the human heart so we can understand what it does. And he said the human heart has two capabilities. There are two things it can do. Okay? First of all it can understand, and second, it can have affections toward what it understands. These are the two things the heart does, you do it all the time. You may not know you're doing it, but you are.
And so, first the analytical side, the heart has the ability to perceive things, everything it encounters, and to assess those things, to analyze them, to understand them for what they are, to judge them. That's what the heart does.
Secondly then, the heart has the ability to be inclined toward or repelled away from everything you're analyzing and assessing. And you do it without any matter of the will, it's not something you're choosing to do, it's just the way your heart is. In short, then you'll either love or hate to a greater or lesser degree everything you analyze in the universe. Everything. So then, I just started to think, I get it now, I get it. It's got to do with attraction and repulsion, my engineering mind started to kick in. Alright, bear with me, guys. That's what you have as a pastor. This is who I am. I'm a mechanical engineer.
Years ago, I worked at a company that made ion implanters and there were these awesome magnets, these rare earth magnets samarium-cobalt magnets, strongest magnets I've ever seen in my life. Boy, were they fun? We had lots of fun with those things. You could do lots of pranks, like putting important messages for your roommate. And most of the message is covered by a magnet that could not be moved with 10 men. Oh, that was fun, I enjoyed that.
“Whatever you do be sure you…” That kind of thing, and covered with the magnet. And I remember seeing my roommate leaning on it, pushing, trying to pull it in something and that was fun. That's sick, though, that you could even do that to someone that you love and a friend but I did that. The Lord has his ways though, that magnet erased all my credit cards too. So, you know, the Lord, he got me back for that one, it was right there in my pocket. And then I went to use the card and that was that.
But I remember these magnets and I would hold it and you could just throw a paper clip and any, just within feet, and you just see the thing go like that and just move to this magnet. And we did all sorts of stuff. We put it like on the other side of walls and we'd stick things there and wonder how it's sticking on the wall, and it was just a lot of fun. We did all kinds of things.
So alright, now you have this image of this powerful magnet in your heart. The object lesson is on the basic nature of the human heart. God has designed your heart with the capacity to be attracted to or repelled from everything that there is, to a greater or lesser degree, all the way down to no attraction or repulsion because you know nothing about it at all. That's where you start and the more you get to know things then you more love or hate. That's what happens. And again, the amazing thing is you actually have no control over your heart as it does this. This is something just the heart does. It has to do with the nature of the heart.
And so now in comes mathematical engineering analysis part two. Picture a number line, okay. And you've got the plus side and zero and the minus side. What your heart does is it puts everything on that number line, in an array. Positive and negative. I love it, I don't love it. I desire it, I don't desire it. I want it or I wanna stay away from it, to a greater or lesser degree. Everything in the universe, it's all there, your heart is just doing it.
And what is God saying? God has to be number one affection farthest as far right on your positive number line as possible, and nothing can be equal to it, or surpass it, or frankly even be close to it. You must love God more than anything else in the created universe. That's what it's saying. And Edwards is saying true religion is in the nature of the attraction to God. And that you love Him with holy affection. That's what it is.
And at the moment of conversion everything gets rearranged - Not everything, but many, many things, all things of spiritual import get rearranged. You heard a testimony earlier, 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation.” Everything gets rearranged, and then, sanctification starts to move things, you start to love God more and more and more. And love the people of God more and more and the Word of God, more and more. And the kingdom of God more and more. And all of the things of God, that's sanctification.
Conversely, you start to hate sin more and you start to hate what it does to you and hate pride, and lust, and you want it out more and more. That's it. That's the nature of true religion, that's what's going on in your heart. And as I said, we don't have any control over our hearts directly, we just can't. All we can do is just know our hearts, and say, “God, God, there isn't an infinite gap between you and created things in my life. There are some times that it actually seems that I love some other things more than I love you. God, would you change me?” And that yearning to change is evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in your life.
Oh, I wanna convict you, but I wanna encourage you too this morning, I want you to know when the Spirit's at work in your life. And if you're discontent with how little you love God, then that's the Spirit's work in you. And if you yearn to love him more, then that's the Spirit's work in you. Ezekiel 36:27, “I will put my Spirit in you and I will move you to keep my laws and my decrees.” And so this is the first and greatest one. He's gonna put the Spirit in you and move you to love him. He's gonna move you to do that.
Loving Nothing More Than or Equal to God
And so compared to our love for God, any other affection should look even like hatred. So God should be on your number line, so far that when you stand at the God position and look down, there's such a gap between you and the next thing that it almost looks like hatred. And so, Jesus says in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife, and his children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple.” That's what it means now. You understand what that means. It doesn't mean you actually hate those, but by comparison, standing there at the position of your love for God, everything else it's almost all the same at that point. That's how much you love God.
Cheerful Sacrifice of Obedience
Alright, so what then should love look like in my life? That's what it is. How should it play out in my life? So I've thought about that too. You know the Bible verse, it says, “We love because he first loved us.” Well, I think that that has more to teach us, I think we also love like he first loved us, He teaches us how to love. Right. So we should love like he has loved us.
How has he loved us? This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He's demonstrating love. God demonstrates his own love for us in this while we were still sinners, Christ died for you. And he demonstrates the heart of it, when he says, “Do not fear, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” He just enjoys doing this, it's for the joy set before him that he did it. So I put all that together and this is what I think love for God is: Love for God, then, is measured by cheerful sacrifice in the obedience to his commands. You've gotta have all three, friends, if you don't have all three, you're not loving God. Cheerful sacrifice in obeying his commands.
Let's start with the last one, obedience. You cannot love God without obeying him. John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” “This is love for God,” 1 John 5:3, “This is love for God: to obey his commands.” God is telling you, if you love me, you'll obey me, you must obey my commands.
Okay. So it has to be obedience, but is that enough? No, there has to be sacrificial obedience. It has to cost you something. I mean, you just know the way it is. Valentine's Day is coming up, friends. Husbands, let me say something, don't forget it. Love your wives but let me tell you something. They wanna be sure that there's some sacrifice involved. Don't dig something out of your glove compartment and give it to her. There's gotta be some sacrifice. It's gotta hurt you, it's gotta cost you something. If it doesn't cost you something, it isn't love. Did God's love for us cost him anything? Oh yes, it did. He sent his Son for us. It's got to be sacrificial obedience to the law. It's gotta cost you something to obey, and he's gonna make you prove it too. He's gonna make things hard for you sometimes to obey to see how much do you love him.
But that's not enough, either. Isn't that amazing how much God wants from us? It's not enough to just obey, it's not enough even just sacrificially obey, you have to cheerfully sacrificially obey. You have to do it with joy and delight in your heart. You have to want to do it. We've covered that before. Valentine's Day, don't tell your wife, “Hey, I didn't take this out of the glove department, I did just what the pastor said. I want you to know how much this cost me. Alright. I have obeyed and I have sacrificed.” That will not get you any further than giving the cheap gift dug out of your glove compartment. She needs to know how much you love giving it to her. Right? And so you have to have a delight in the giving. This is gonna work horizontally next week when the same definition is gonna work for people too. Cheerful sacrificial obedience, that's what it's gonna be for people, too.
But here's the thing, it says in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,” that’s sacrifice, huge sacrifice, “but if I have not love, it profits me nothing.” What is it saying? There's a heart disposition that apparently is missing. Well, this guy is dying for people. And that's powerful, isn't it? God doesn't just want the sacrifice, he wants you to delight in doing it for God.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, when a man found it, he hid it again and then in his joy, he went and sold everything he had and bought that field.” I think it's a privilege for us in the Christian life to buy that field, in some sense, again and again. Day after day, you get to sell everything for Jesus. Day after day for the joy set before you, you get to make sacrifices for Jesus. I'm not in any way denying the permanence of justification or anything, you've got to feel it's yours, I'm just saying we get to make that sacrifice again and again, and that's the nature, the essence of our love relationship with God. “For God loves a cheerful giver,” dear friends.
Diagnosing Your Own Heart
How Love for God is Assessed: Cheerful Sacrifice of Obedience
So there it is. What is love for God? It is cheerful sacrificial obedience to his commands. So diagnose your own heart. What's going on? Is there a principle of sacrifice in your relationship with God? Does it cost you anything to be a Christian? Does your quiet time in the morning cost you something? Does your giving, your financial giving, cost you something? Does your service in your ministry to the church here, or in any other way, does your evangelism cost you anything?
And when it does, are you doing it cheerfully or under compulsion? Do you feel like you have to do it? You gotta do something to prove yourself to God? Well, you're back under the old work system then. Are you doing it cheerfully or under compulsion? And is the pattern of your giving to God set by his word, by his commands? He's told you what he wants. Are you following his laws, and his commands? Is that what's going on in your life? Diagnose your heart, Friends.
Evidence that the Love of God is Not in You
And you know what's gonna happen when you do? You're gonna come to the conclusion that I did earlier this morning, and I just said, “How can I preach this sermon? How can I preach? I feel like my heart is distant from you, I don't love you like I should. I don't. So who am I to stand up in front of a bunch of people and tell them they need to love God?” And I just kinda was like that for as much as 90 minutes this morning and I kept thinking, and then suddenly I felt the grace of God come into my heart. And I felt then like the Lord testified to me. Now you're ready to preach, because you're not preaching as a self-righteous man. I'm not standing in front of you telling you that I do this 100 percent. I'm just telling you, I wish I did. I yearn, I hunger and thirst to do this.
Therapy for Distant Hearts: James 4
And so what do I do then if my heart's distant? I want to commend briefly, another passage of scripture. It's printed right in your outline. James 4:4-10. I just wanna read through it briefly, it's not another sermon within a sermon, but I just want to bring it to you to heal you.
Start with Christ: Imputed Righteousness is His Perfect Obedience to these Commandments
First and foremost I wanna bring you back again to the cross. If you feel like your heart's distant, remember this, Christ is your righteousness. Keep that in mind, never forget. It's not how much you love God, it's how much he loved you in Jesus. Never forget that. Go to that again and again. But is that enough? No, we need to have our wandering hearts brought back.
James: Steps to Recovering our love for God
James 4:4-10. “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think the scripture says without reason that the Spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
There's the remedy. Just let me say some brief things. First of all, be honest and call the wandering of your heart what God calls it: spiritual adultery. Don't call it by any other name. The thing, the created thing you love more than God is an idol. Someone who loves idols is an idolater. Call it what it really is, spiritual adultery is idolatry.
So identify the idols. What is it? Is it worldly pleasure? Is it sexual sin? Is it materialism? Is it Power or workaholism? What is it? Is it worldly entertainment? Is it food? What is the idol that you love more than Jesus? Identify it, and call it spiritual adultery to love it more than you love Jesus. This is the essence of worldliness. Understand the jealousy of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit he caused to live in you, envies over you.
Imagine a husband and wife and they go to some party, and the wife is starting to be a little too familiar with another guy there. What is that husband going to feel toward that? What's he gonna feel? That's what the Holy Spirit feels when you wander into idolatry. He's jealous over your affections. And he goes and gets you. And he will not let you wonder, and so just understand that that spirit he caused to live in you is envious over your heart.
And then rejoice in the promise that God will give you more grace. Anybody here need more grace? I need more grace, I need fresh infusions of grace. Not just grace for justification, but I need grace to stay loving Jesus. I need grace right now. So give me more grace, God, I need more grace. Just humble yourself and say, “I need more grace.” And James points to the scriptures to the way to get it. You get more grace here, this is where it comes from. The Scripture says that he gives us more grace. Read the scripture, get the grace from the Bible. “Grace to you,” Paul promises it. So go get it, go get yourself some more grace to deal with that idolatry in your heart.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Then humble yourself. Identify pride in your heart. It's always pride that causes us to stray from loving God. First of all, we make too much of our own pleasure and happiness. I must be happy, I must be happy right now, I need to do this. That's just pride, friends. And it's pride for you to say, “I know best how to make myself happy.” God actually knows better than you do how to make you happy. So let God oppose the proud, but let him give grace to the humble.
Then submit yourself humbly to God. Resist the devil. It is the devil who is the pimp, who is dressing the world up, the prostitute world, painting her eyes and making her look attractive, that's his doing, that's what he does. Resist him in this, and he'll flee from you. O blessed thought! The Holy Spirit will make him run. The omnipotent spirit will turn him and put him to flight, if you'll just dig in and resist.
Come near to God then. Say, “Lord, I love you. I'm sorry, I strayed. I'm sorry I allowed my heart's precious affections, the ointment of my heart to be poured out at the foot of an idol. Please forgive me. Please forgive me and take me back.” Come near to God, and what is the promise? He will come near to you.
Then “wash your hands, you sinners.” That means turn away from the things you were doing. Stop doing them. Don't just keep doing this again and again, wash your hands, change your life.
“Purify your heart, you double-minded.” Start thinking differently about those idols.
And be willing to be broken and hurt: “Grieve, mourn and wail.” Peter wept when Jesus looked at him. Maybe you need to weep and cry. This is one of those scriptures that the good-time people and good-time churches will never preach. Grieve, mourn, you all need to grieve, mourn, and wail. Hey, let's all have a time together of grieving, mourning and wailing. That's sometimes what needs to happen, dear friends. Cry.
And then humble yourself before the Lord and let him lift you up. Spiritual physician telling you how to heal your straying heart.
We come now to the time of the Lord's supper. I can't think of a better time for you to look after your heart. It says in Corinthians that in order for you to come to the Lord's supper, you have to assess your spiritual condition. You have to look inwardly. Have you been convicted today? Then bring that to God, and say, “Lord, heal me. Draw me in and use the Lord's supper, use the Lord's Supper to draw a sinner like me back into a healthy relationship with you.”
The Lord's supper is for people who have testified plainly to faith in Christ. We had baptism. They've testified by water baptism. If you have come to faith in Christ, and have testified to that by water baptism, you're welcome at this table. If not, I urge you to refrain lest you eat and drink judgment on yourself, but instead, I urge you to come to Christ and trust in him.
Close with me, if you would, in prayer. Father, I thank you for the message of the word and as we give our attention now to the Lord's supper, we pray for the sending forth of your Holy Spirit, so that we can enjoy you. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.