How sad mankind won’t accept that Biblical diagnosis. Too many demand a second opinion. Our rebellious species looks high and low for something/someone to blame for our troubles while avoiding looking in the mirror at all costs. Secular society is convinced the cause of all our gory chaos has to be external because, since we’re continuing to evolve into better human beings, it has to be climate change, too many guns, open borders, the tipsy economy, liberal extremists, conservative bigots, unfair distribution of wealth, what have you. There’s no way it could possibly be that we have a sinful nature residing in our hearts. But the Scriptures insist each of us do. One of the shortest letters written to a newspaper editor was by G.K. Chesterton. It read “Dear Sir: In response to your article entitled, ‘What’s Wrong with the World’ – I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.” That kind of honesty is as rare as common courtesy these days but his assessment is still spot on.
Some folks, like the Pharisees of old, are obsessed with outward appearances. To them the heart is just a pump organ. They feel as long as they’re deemed ethical/respectable citizens in the public eye they’ve met the minimum requirement. To others it’s pushing some cause or movement they’ve latched onto that defines their worth. It’s their views – political, religious or otherwise – that elevate them above the madding crowd. Then there are those who think they could, without a doubt, correct all the planet’s woes if they were put in charge due to their superior intelligence and exceptional grasp of philosophical principles and ideals. Tragically, the latter group can include Christian denominations that are positive to the nth degree their interpretation of the Scriptures is the only one that counts and any congregation that dares to disagree is a bunch of heretical nincompoops. One of the many reasons the Church is losing its influence on culture in general is because it’s gotten divided into a thousand belligerent factions whose adherents believe it’s their way or the highway. What an affront to the Gospel message! We who follow Christ too often get so caught up in being right about doctrine and dogma we forget we’re still, on the inside, puny sinners in need of a Savior. For some reason we think that, because we’ve been washed in the blood of Jesus, Jeremiah 17:9 doesn’t apply to us anymore: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” If all born-again believers were consistently holy and righteous 24/7 things would be fine and dandy but we know that’s not the case. Each of us has a serious heart problem.
Not buying it? Check out the Bible’s core focus. It asks us but one thing and it isn’t how many good deeds we racked up today or how nice we were to our spouse. It isn’t how much smarter we’ve gotten or what our opinion is on whose lives matter most. It’s not how much money we’ve made, how many Facebook friends we have or what our credit score is. The foremost thing we should be concerned about is where we stand with God. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Apart from all we are, and all we do, what about ourselves? It’s the man himself in the depths, and at the center, that really matters. The motive is more important than the action. The unseen is more important than the visible. The soul is more important than life itself.” In my previous essay I quoted from Luke 11 wherein Jesus explained our eye is the “lamp of the soul.” He taught us that when it’s healthy our bodies are filled with light and, conversely, when it’s diseased our bodies are full of darkness. Thus we must examine ourselves regularly and determine if the light of God has penetrated into and permeated the whole of our being so those around us can see His glory being reflected outward through us. Nothing’s as important.
We need to pay close attention to our heart condition. A great writer once noted that a visiting alien lifeform would conclude that men and women normally possess duplicates of everything in that we have two arms, two legs, two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, two sets of five fingers and toes and even two cranial lobes. If they were to be informed there was a heart on one side of our torso they’d reason there’s probably another just like it on the other side. But they’d be mistaken. We have but one heart and its health determines how useful we are to the God who made us. This fact is what the world doesn’t quite “get.” There’s only one cure for a bad heart and it’s Jesus Christ. But secularists consider our atoning Messiah a myth that must, over time, be jettisoned; that those of us who believe in Him will be tolerated as long as we don’t get in the way of progress. We’ll be allowed to hold onto our outdated, primitive religion if we’ll behave and quietly keep it to ourselves. In the meantime advances in science and technology will take care of all the earth’s ills, thank you very much. In fact, if we Christians weren’t such pessimistic stick-in-the-mud doom & gloomers, people would realize there’s really nothing wrong with the world that our combined intelligence can’t rectify. Look at how far mankind has come! Our real problem is our lousy attitude. Everything we need to make earth a paradise has been invented, manufactured and is now at our disposal. We just need to figure out how best to distribute our man-made joy, fulfillment and happiness across the globe to all people and it starts with getting rid of this pesky, superstition-infested “God Thing” that throws a monkey wrench in the works every time. So say the humanists.
Too bad reality doesn’t prove their rantings true. On the contrary, it paints a very different picture. All of mankind’s efforts have failed because the condition of the individual heart has been ignored. We’ve seen with our own eyes men and women who’ve attained the pinnacle of success, fame and wealth only to end up as the lead story on the evening news being yet another celebrity who died from an overdose of opiates. They conquered the world but they couldn’t make their pain go away. They found they could manage anyone and anything but themselves. They had a heart problem. Jesus encountered such a person. Evidently the rich young man described in Mark and Matthew had everything money could buy but he still had a God-shaped hole nothing material could fill. Good intentions and the things of this world weren’t sufficient 2,000 years ago and they aren’t today, either. Some of the most influential Christians in history were those who thought that by being fastidiously pious they’d find fulfillment but remained unhappy until they finally discovered their hearts were turning to stone because they wouldn’t simply embrace God’s uncomplicated grace. The renowned reformer Martin Luther was one. The revered 18th century minister/theologian John Wesley was another. No one’s ever tried harder to deserve God’s love. John took the Gospel into the most foul of prisons. He traveled across the Atlantic to Georgia in order to preach the Good News to plantation slaves. He was sure he could earn God’s favor but he was still miserable and depressed. Then one night the simple truth of God’s unconditional grace dawned on him at last and he was a content man until his dying day. Both Luther and Wesley were upstanding, dedicated Christians but their motive for serving God was askew. They could toil with their hands and sermonize with their mouths till exhaustion but until they got their heart in the right place they remained frustrated and discouraged disciples.
James 4:1-3 reads, “Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.” It seems to me James was describing the same heart disease epidemic we observe running rampant through the population today. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19). He was telling us our infected hearts are the problem. The horrific terrors and injustices we witness and are affected by daily will not stop happening until all hearts have been surrendered to Jesus Christ. That’s not a cliché, that’s the truth. Our Lord preached, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). He wasn’t being condescending or trite. The health of our hearts will determine the quality of what we produce. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “It’s not what man does, or what he knows, or anything about him which needs to be put right but man himself in his fundamental central relationship to God.” If we only treat our bothersome symptoms and never address the lethal malady causing them it’ll eventually catch up to us and do us in. Sin is our lethal disease and, if left untreated, it’ll poison our heart. When Satan blindfolds us to the truth our eyes can no longer detect the light of God and our spirit grows dark. That’s when we must let God perform a heart transplant on us. We need the heart of Christ.
It ain’t quantum physics, y’all. Jesus was a great practitioner and advocate of common sense for cause and effect is something we can all understand. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23). Jesus employed pure logic. Without it His words would’ve meant nothing – then or now. But reason tells us what applies to the individual also applies to civilization as a whole. Some consider the Gospel reassuring and effective when it comes to personal salvation but think it falls short when dealing with men and women as active participants in society. Hogwash! That off-the-cuff analysis of the Scriptures is based either on sheer ignorance of the facts of history or solely on being mule-headed for the sake of being mule-headed. It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church that’s done far, far more to improve, contribute to and positively uplift the wellbeing of mankind than any entity since Adam & Eve were exiled from Eden. Nothing compares nor comes close.
It’s no stretch to claim that the greatest, most glorious eras in the annals of the human race arrived on the heels of Christian-motivated revivals and resurgences whereupon the evangelical truths of the Gospel were preached to the masses. The Protestant reformation and the Puritan era are worthy examples. The movement to make education and literacy an accessible option for all people arose out of Christianity. It can certainly be said that slavery’s abolition can be traced back to the same impulse. And when’s the last time you saw a huge, sprawling public medical complex named after Mohammad or Krishna? Where are the Buddhist children’s clinics? There aren’t any. Just in my neck of the woods there’s a Baptist (Baylor), Methodist, St. Paul, and Presbyterian hospital that’ll treat anybody regardless of their nationality, race or religion. The Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias often cites an article written a few years ago by a well-known confirmed atheist who’d spent time in the poorest, most squalid regions of Africa. He begrudgingly had to admit the areas where improvements in the local population’s overall wellbeing were those where Christian missionaries had come in to help. It wasn’t a U.N. or a Peace Corps contingent but groups of selfless, humble volunteers who brought along with their shovels the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chesterton once noted, “How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them.” Fact is, when a person’s heart is put in the right place, they then proceed to try to put everything else in their life in the right place, as well.
Whether non-believers want to admit it or not, the bottom line is that nothing that’s ever been developed or initiated by humans has improved social conditions on the impressive scale that Christianity has. Consider the words in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Only a country founded upon Judeo-Christian morals/traditions would’ve ever included that sentence in their mission statement. Muslims doesn’t believe any of that. Buddhists don’t believe any of that. Hindus don’t believe any of that. Only those brave men whose desire was to make the world a better place by taking the Bible’s teachings seriously dared propose that “all men are created equal.” To deny the Christian religion had anything to do with the birth of democracy is ridiculous. One must concede there’s something extraordinary about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore His teachings about our heart problem must be given credence and heeded. Nothing’s going to improve in this increasingly violent and dangerous world until everyone in it gives their life and will over to our Lord and Savior. There’s no other cure for what ails mankind.
People will say, “That’s your truth, but not mine.” As if there could be more than one truth. I could say 1+1=2 and they could insist 1+1=3 but we both can’t be right. Yet they’ll claim that everyone has a right to determine their own truth. That’s nuts! Logically, one of us has to be wrong. For truth, by its very nature, is exclusive. I don’t trust myself enough to come up with my own truth. But I can trust the One who created me and everything I see, touch, smell, taste and hear. It’s His truth as presented in His Holy Word that I put my faith in, not a convenient man-made truth that accommodates my desires. Thus I know there’s only one medicine for the troubled hearts that bedevil us – Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God. He came to earth because we’d all been rendered blind as bats by the despicable prince of this world. Jesus made it possible for us to see clearly again. By His sacrificial, atoning death and subsequent miraculous resurrection the stain of our sins and the guilt they instill in us have been eradicated. In Him alone we can be granted a spiritual reboot, a new life and an amazing future. When we gaze upon Christ we behold the face of our Heavenly Father and His brilliant, healing light will fill and satisfy us as nothing else can. People can follow any God they choose but I’ve decided to follow the one who stated, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) and then backed up His assertion by defeating death.
I’ve put my life in the hands of the one who said, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Only Jesus can reconcile me to God and mend my ruptured heart decimated by a lifetime of iniquity. “Though your sins have stained you like the color red, you can become white like snow; though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet, you can become white like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). All it took for me to be saved and have my heart turned “white as snow” was a single prayer in which I sincerely asked God to forgive me. He did the rest. My heart problem was solved in a nanosecond. Yours and everyone else’s in the world can be fixed in a flash, too. And then, together, we’ll outshine the sun. “For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). It’s there for the taking.