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The Desperate Need For “Heart Control”

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
Photo by KRK

Photo by KRK

 

The San Bernardino mass shooting touched off the usual debates about gun control, law enforcement, intelligence-gathering, and so on; nonetheless, the real issue lies unmentioned: something must be done about the wicked human heart. “Heart control” is more essential than gun control. No legislation, education, or other societal means of influence can cleanse man’s inner being from the lusts and hatred that afflict all of us to one degree or another. While it is true that few people become murderers, all of us repeatedly demonstrate unrighteous thought-lives and frequent manifestations of sinful words and actions. As the Lord Jesus Christ said: “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.[1]

Spiritual Cardiology

Only the Lord Jesus can heal such a dreadful heart condition. His word diagnoses us all with the same condition, declaring: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[2] We must be legally justified from God’s righteous sentence of judgment against us, as well as liberated from the tyranny of sin at work within us. By His sacrificial death and resurrection, Christ provides justification – the declaration of one’s righteous standing before God – and sanctification – a new holy position and lifestyle that separates us from this world, empowering us to love what God loves and hate what He hates.[3]

C.H. Spurgeon, one of the most eloquent Bible teachers of the nineteenth century, described it this way:

The saved may well adore their Lord for his conquests in them, since the arrows of their natural hatred are snapped, and the weapons of their rebellion broken. What victories has grace won in our evil hearts! How glorious is Jesus when the will is subdued, and sin dethroned! As for our remaining corruptions, they shall sustain an equally sure defeat, and every temptation, and doubt, and fear, shall be utterly destroyed. In the Salem of our peaceful hearts, the name of Jesus is great beyond compare: he has won our love, and he shall wear it.[4]

A Fresh Start For The Heart

The Lord Jesus taught a fundamental lesson to one of the most notable first-century Israelite theologians when He said: “You must be born again.”[5] Years of religious observance could not wash Nicodemus’ heart – or that of anyone else for that matter. Only by experiencing spiritual new birth through faith in the Son of God may one be cleansed from their sin. People do not need minor adjustments or incremental improvements. Only a complete reboot resulting in a new spiritual condition can solve the dilemma of our evil hearts. He makes this new start a reality, but it is only available to those who turn from their old lives of wickedness and receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.[6]

Short of this, sins large and small will continue to proliferate in the world and dominate the headlines, and individuals will be slaves to personal and public sins.[7] Someday it will end, of course. The Lord has fixed a day when He will return to put down evil and physically establish His kingdom on earth.[8] So the choice is clear for every one of us: receive Christ by faith and reign with Him; or reject His offer of the free gift of salvation and suffer the eternal punishment that our sins deserve in the Lake of Fire.[9]

 

[1] Mark 7:20-23.

[2] Romans 3:23.

[3] Romans 1:18-5:11 emphasizes the truth of justification from God’s just judgment; while Romans chapters 6-8 detail the believer’s positional and practical sanctification, as well as his eventual glorification with Christ (Rom. 8:17-39.)

[4] C.H. Spurgeon, “Dec. 3 p.m.,” in Morning and Evening: Daily Readings. New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.) [Italics original.]

[5] John 3:7.

[6] Read John 3 and Romans 3. These passages in The Bible may be read online here & here.

[7] John 8:34.

[8] Acts 17:30-31.

[9] Revelation 20:11-15.

God’s Critique of Man’s Religion

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

For centuries skeptics have attacked Christianity based on religiously-inspired atrocities. Since so much evil is perpetrated in the name of God, they wonder how it still retains credibility in the modern world. Recent child abuse scandals by supposedly spiritual figures, coupled with the ubiquitous specter of jihad from other religious quarters, move opponents of belief in God to renew their assault on every kind of theism. Of course, the critics ignore that all belief systems are not equal. Atheism and other secular worldviews also have bloodstained hands.i It is true that many religious groups have condoned violence and other atrocious acts. History shows that horrible things have even been perpetrated in the name of Christ. Nonetheless, neither Christ nor biblical Christianity advocates evil in any form. In fact, the Bible offers the best criticism of human-invented religion – the genuine article raises the most strident voice of protest against the counterfeits.
As in modern times, the ancient world was multicultural in its society and pluralistic in its belief systems. Whether one looks at the Old or New Testament eras, there was no shortage of brutality and perversion perpetuated in the name of God or the gods. The Bible recognizes this phenomenon, and unhesitatingly condemns it. Child sacrifice, sexual immorality, and self-mutilation in the adoration of false deities are all repudiated by the Scriptures.
You Are What You Worship
Before Israel entered Canaan, the Lord instructed them concerning their proper behavior in the land where He was settling them. If they followed His directions all would be well: their crops and they would prosper. On the contrary, if they engaged in the iniquitous practices of the Egyptians from where they came – or the Canaanites for that matter – they would be judged. The list of perverse practices showed that the nations who occupied the land before them were given to every form carnal dissipation (Lev. 18.) Other passages make it clear that their immorality was fueled by the debased religions to which they adhered. For example, Deuteronomy 12:29-31 says:
When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. [Emphasis mine.]
The type of gods that they worshipped led them into unspeakably cruel acts. Similarly, in his catalogue of human iniquity, Paul demonstrates the correlation between venerating beasts and behaving like them (Rom. 1:22-32.)
Condemning Religion’s Softer Side
Christianity’s criticism of false spiritual systems is not limited, however, to the grotesque excesses of ancient and modern idol worship. It also takes on the more respectable looking religions, labeling them all as evil, no matter how refined their image. The Lord Jesus reserved some of His strongest denunciations for liberal and conservative religious groups such as the Sadducees, scribes, and the Pharisees. To sample one example of His criticism towards them, consider the following: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:27-28.)
These groups professed to love God, yet circumvented His will as revealed in the Scriptures by their contorted legal thinking and man-centered philosophies. Although the scribes and Pharisees knew the Bible letter-perfect, they left the weightier matters of the law undone (Matt. 23:23.) They majored on minors, and presented a caricature of the Lord to the nation of Israel. Rather than directing people to the God-given law, they obscured its tenets through their human traditions (Matt. 15:1-3.) Their outward zeal cloaked their inward avarice, and they defrauded the weak and poor under a pretense of piety (Matt. 23:14.) The Sadducees, in turn, exploited the temple for pecuniary gain (John 2:16.)
Ecumenical Murder
It is clear that opposition to the Lord’s anointed makes strange bedfellows. Although they differed on numerous points of doctrine and practice, the Pharisees and Sadducees united in their opposition to Jesus of Nazareth. Even nonreligious, political groups like the Herodians joined them in their plot to murder Christ (Mk. 3:6.) So Calvary reveals the true face of things: secular and religious – those who collaborated with Rome and those who awaited a Messiah to deliver them politically – joined to execute the perfect Man who also is God manifest in the flesh. The chief priests and Pharisees possessed scruples about ceremonial defilement on the Sabbath, but no compunctions about employing false witnesses to condemn Christ (John 18:28; Matt. 26:59-62.) They demanded proof of His identity, but refused to acknowledge what the signs indicated. Such actions were hypocritical, and religions which lead men to murder the perfectly righteous One are evil.
Today religions on the right and left condone and cover up all sorts of human evil. From outright immorality to character flaws that warp families and harm others, man’s religions affirm that man can overcome global and personal wickedness by self-effort. They minimize sin and lower the bar of God’s holy standard in their efforts to appear better than they are. They invent
scriptures, sacrifices, and ceremonies which lead billions to a lost eternity in hell. Despite their widely divergent beliefs and practices, religions the world over reject the biblical Christ and His unvaryingly holy claims. They will accept Him as prophet, ethicist, swami, sage, or “a god,” but they cannot endure the exclusive One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6.) Consequently, wickedness still goes on under a spiritual cloak and the true God who speaks through the Bible condemns their falsehood.
i Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong collectively account for hundreds of millions of murders, not to mention Enver Hoxha, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Augusto Pinochet, Timothy McVeigh, Charles Manson, and many others. If there is no God then how can one condemn such atrocities? Secularism offers no universal arbiter of truth; therefore, there is no ultimate justice and no lasting hope apart from the Christian God.

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