A common surgery in our world is on the human heart. When heart valves fail, they are replaced surgically with plastic ones. When arteries get clogged, they are rooted out and expanded with tiny balloons inserted and pumped up, or bypassed with surgery. When heart nerves weaken, pacemakers provide tiny shocks to keep the heart pumping. And when heart muscles quit, from lack of blood flow and oxygen starvation, harden and die, the patient either dies or a heart transplant becomes necessary. All these things affect changes upon the physical heart of man. But how can we identify and change another heart deep within every one of us that "is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9).
by Jerry Gentry
"Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil" (Joel 2:12-13).
Go into the cardiac ward of any major hospital, take a peek into the recovery rooms of heart surgery patients, and you will see mostly old men or women propped up and lying on their backs, with tubes in their noses, their bodies wired to the familiar oscilloscope that beeps and flashes up a visual spike on the screen with every heart beat. These patients hope to be back on their feet soon, with their hearts patched up and in working order again.
According to the Bible, there is another heart in each of us that is also in desperate need of treatment. This heart, according to the Bible, "is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9).
Yes, brother and sister, you were born with a "deceitful. . . and desperately wicked" heart deep inside of you. It is infected with the worst heart disease of all, that is, sin&emdash;both original and actual. Today we want to expose that heart, move deep inside it's secret chambers, check it's sticking valves for friction, inspect its narrow arteries for clogs, and scrutinize its flaccid spiritual muscle tissue for hardness and lack of circulation. We will seek to find a remedy to this spiritual heart disease that carries far more serious consequences than the other kind.
It heal our "deceitful. . . and desperately wicked" heart is why Jesus came into the world. You see, "sin is the transgression of the law" (IJoh 3:4) of God, in all its perfection. This sickness in our heart caused by sin has brought us all to that perilous brink, flat on our backs as it were, where without a sure and immediate remedy, we will die. "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). The condition of original sin wherein man was born into the world, and our own actual sins, is described by the prophet Isaiah: "The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint" (Isa. 1:5).
We need strong medicine, a procedure much more effective than the surgeon's knife, a health remedy more potent than any herb or drug to heal our hearts infected with sin. What is that remedy for spiritual heart failure, caused by sin in the lives of every person alive today? Do you want to know, with all your heart?
Spiritual heart failure is not something you treat by eating fish or broccoli, or by taking herbs, or cleaning up your physical diet. Spiritual heart failure is not cured by the way you dress or by daily exercise. Spiritual heart failure goes much deeper than those things.
Christians many times read their Bibles and yet miss the only remedy for spiritual heart failure, even though that remedy is declared over and over from Genesis to Revelation. That remedy is spoken of by Abraham and the fathers, by the prophets, and by the sweet psalmist of Israel. That remedy is dispensed by John the Baptist. It is invoked by Jesus Christ. It is preached by Peter and Paul and James and John. It is revealed by the revelator. That remedy is elixir for a sick heart. It is balm for the sickest soul. It is sweet savor to God. Friend, if I told you what that remedy is today, you would say, "I know that. I've heard that a thousand times!"
Then if you already know it, why is your heart still faint? Why are you today suffering spiritual angina pains? Why are you reaching for nitro glycerin when you could have the real remedy? Why are you neglecting the only remedy that will free the friction in your spiritual heart valves, open the clogs in your spiritual arteries, rejuvenate your spiritual heart muscle and make a new heart in you?
Is confession the remedy for spiritual heart failure brought on by sin? No, because criminals often confess to capital crimes, find themselves let out on parole, and later they go back and commit those same crimes again. Confession is not the cure.
Is it sorrow and crying that cures spiritual heart failure caused by sin? No, because if that were true, every disobedient child who cries over a spanking would never disobey again. Every parent knows that it takes more than sorrow and tears for a child's heart to be healed.
Will proper penalties and fines for the guilty sinner bring about a renewed heart and cure spiritual heart failure caused by sin? No, penalties and fines may deter further sin for a time, but these remedies are defective. Every jail is full of offenders who have previously paid penalties and fines, which cannot heal the sick and faint heart.
Is restitution by the offender the remedy? No, restitution is a one time fix, but it does not guarantee against further infection with sin. Friend, think about it today, and there is only one remedy for spiritual heart disease. That remedy is summed up in a single Bible word: "repent."
"Repent. . ." Peter cried to the masses assembled on that first day of Pentecost.
Later he again preached, "Repent and be converted."
One hundred five times we read this word "repent" in its various forms in the King James Bible. "Repent and turn to God" the apostle Paul witnessed to King Agrippa. Surprising to some, it is a word that applies to both man and God. Did you know that God repents? At times, when Israel repented, God responded and "repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them [Israel]" (Jer. 26:19). In other words, God deals with His people according to their response to Him.
Ask a group of Christians what it is to repent, and you will get lots of answers: "Stop sinning. . . Turn around and go the other way. . . Change direction. . ." are some answers you will get. Though these ideas will always result from genuine repentance, these are in themselves not repentance, which is simply and correctly defined as a change of heart.
Let me illustrate what true repentance is all about. We see a young married couple who are madly in love with each other. They are best friends. They have given themselves to each other in their deepest, innermost feelings and emotions. They share everything. They have given, not just their minds and bodies to each other. They have now mutually given their whole hearts, in caring concern, one to the other, when perhaps only a year or two before they were mere acquaintances. They later became friends. Still later they repented in their hearts toward each other. Yes they repented, strange as that may sound. They experienced a dramatic change of heart. Though their thinking also changed, it was in their hearts where they repented and fell in love. Whether instantly or gradually they became filled with fire and passion and zeal and mutual attraction toward one another. Now they cannot stand to be apart. The young husband is possessed with "how he may please his wife" (1Cor. 7:33). He has no interest in other women. The young wife rises early to meet the needs of her new found love, so that "The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil" (Prov. 31:11). She has repented of being alone, or of desiring others. She has given all her heart to her husband, trusting God to meet her needs through him.
That is exactly what the Bible means by, "repent." In the truest sense, it is a very positive word.
Soon along comes a baby. That same young mother nestles that baby, cuddles him, nurses him, gives him unconditional and selfless love. She would give her own life for him, she knows. She would die to protect her child. Though she always liked other babies, and felt emotions for them, she never felt like this before. She has repented. Her heart is now changed toward this special baby, who captivates not only her mind and hands and body. This special baby owns his mother's heart. We know what that means, though there not words to explain it. That repentance, or yielding of the heart, to that little one is so deep, so profound, so wonderful and incredible, that words come up short in describing it.
Friend, did you know this is precisely the very remedy for our the spiritual heart failure caused by sin in our lives. God calls us to "repent," a word that conjures up all kinds of varying things in the minds of most people. To many, this is a negative word. But what more positive remedy could there by than falling in love, what more uplifting emotion could there be than coming out of the emergency room with, not just a patched up old heart, but a brand new one, filled with caring and zeal and openness and genuine love.
David expressed the emotions of true repentance, when he prayed: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps. 51:10). It was the prophet Nathan through whom God confronted David with grievous sin: "You are that man." David admitted, "I have sinned against the LORD" (2Sam. 12:13). David did not ask for a patch up job, or a plastic replacement valve, or a spiritual bypass operation. He dealt with the whole heart of the matter. He desired a whole new heart, a transplant, if you will. His old heart had failed him. It was too infected with sin. He had experienced spiritual heart failure. Now he has a genuine change of mind, but he knows that is not enough. He had changed his mind before, yet had fallen back into sin. Now he cries out for a change of heart. He repents. God answers his cry. He falls in love again, this time with the only one who can change his heart. He falls in love with his saviour. Thank you, Lord, he prays. Now he desires in the deepest recesses of his very being to please his Creator. He yields to his savior. He repents. He praises his God and worships.
Jesus said, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matt. 10:39). Friend, you will never repent of sin, which is the only remedy for spiritual heart failure, until you have a genuine change of heart, so dramatic, so different, that it is not just a patch job. The Great Physician is ready to heal your heart. Will you repent?
Until we are willing to "turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul" (Deut. 30:10), we are living in pseudo repentance. We may have tears. We may pray, go to church, sing hymns and listen to sermons, even weep at the prayer rail. But it is all iniquity until we give it up and yield our hearts wholly to God. Have you, brother and sister, yielded your heart today? Remember our earlier couple who repented. They gave their whole hearts to each other in deep, encouraging, bonded love. That is exactly the repentance God desires from us.
Mental assent is not enough. Confession is not enough. Sorrow and tears, fines and restitution, are all outward. God wants more. He wants your inner man, your heart, and he wants to give you personally the remedy for sin which will heal your broken, sin-sick heart. That is the kind of heart He expresses toward us, through the very sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God gave his whole heart in love to Israel. Israel rejected her God in favor of the gods of mammon. God then sent his Son to die for the woman who rejected him. What heartfelt love God has for that woman! He still holds out to her: "But if from thence [divorced and scattered in dispersion] thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. . . he will not forsake thee" (Deut. 4:29, 30).
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57:15).
"And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."