Allen Jackson - Heart Disease - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you today. We're gonna complete our study on "Stepping Out of the Crowd". We're talking about our heart condition. You know, the awkward truth of this is the condition of your heart is the greatest determining factor of your life, not your talents, your skills, your resources, your education, your family system, what you choose to do with your heart. The Bible says, "Above all else, guard your heart". Well, we're gonna ask the Lord to help us evaluate our heart condition today. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
So the topic now is guarding your heart, and I started with this notion of the arrival of a tempter, but it's gonna lead into the rest of it 'cause the next one is pride. And in our pride, in our spiritual pride, in our spiritual arrogance, we so much want to assert that we're invulnerable, that we barely remember what it is to be tempted. Well, I hope the points of our temptation have changed as we have matured in the Lord. I hope that we've gained some momentum over things that were temptations in our past. Those would be evidence of maturity just as we mature physically and emotionally as we grow. I hope we gained some maturity spiritually. But if Jesus was not removed from the arena of the tempter and Peter was not, I don't think you and I should have the imagination that we will be either.
So don't stand in some foolish pride with the pretense that you don't know what it is. It's not impressive. It's not impressive to someone with any real maturity. In Proverbs 11, and verse 2, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom". Or Proverbs 8:13, "To fear the Lord is to hate evil". There's a correlation there. It's another lesson on the fear of the Lord, but if you accommodate evil, if you excuse evil, if you justify evil, if you lie for evil, if you want to give evil a hug, if all those things that we see so prevalent, the Bible says to do that is to have no fear of the Lord, no respect, no reverence for God, 'cause the fear of the Lord says, "I don't want anything to do with evil". 'Cause evil destroys what God loves the most. It destroys people. And then it says, "I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech".
I do not want to give myself to something that God says he hates. The root of almost every other expression of sin in the Bible is pride. Pride was the sin that caused Satan to lose his place in the heavenlies; with all the things he had access to and awareness of, pride caused him to lose his place. And religious people are uniquely vulnerable to pride. We'll be proud of the fact that we're better than somebody else. We'll have pride about the translation of the Bible we read or how we worship or when we worship or how often we worship or we're vulnerable and the tempter knows. So we have to help one another with that.
The third thing we have to guard our heart against is distractions. In fact, if you want to ensure mediocrity, give a broad menu of opportunities. A highly optional environment almost ensures mediocrity. You're not really blessing your kids when you say they can do anything they want to. They can play every sport, they can go everywhere, they can become whatever. Sometimes the limiting of options forces you to focus on what's available to you, and you'll go do the best you can with that opportunity. And I find in our faith, we are often distracted. In Matthew 24, Jesus is speaking, it's a prophetic passage. He said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father".
It's his return to the earth. But then he gives us a description of the season that is around it. He said nobody knows the day, but he describes the season. "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man". Well, that should have us all leaning forward a little bit. He's about to tell us what it will be like when he comes back to the earth. "In the days before the flood, people will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man".
That's a fascinating passage. There's a parallel passage in Luke, but we don't have to build the whole thing, the idea is available to us right here. He describes what will be happening in that ultimate generation before he returns back. And we would imagine we'd be describing expressions of evil and wickedness and immorality and demonic this and demonic that. That's not what Jesus describes. He says people will be eating and drinking. They'll be marrying and giving in marriage up until the day Noah entered the ark. Those behaviors will be present in the earth up until the moment in time when Jesus steps back into time. None of them are patently immoral, they're not ungodly.
In fact, you could argue they're necessary. So it isn't that he's calling out evil behavior. He's what was characteristic of Noah's generation is destruction was imminent. The ark is built, the animals are loaded. God has sealed Noah and his family into the ark, and the overwhelming majority of the population are completely unaware. No awareness at all, completely distracted. What are they distracted by? The routine of life.
Now, I would submit to you, we are all vulnerable to that. We got so busy in our routines. After all, we've done our God business, we've said our prayers and we've done the things we need to do, and it seems to me that the invitation is to cultivate an awareness of the Lord and to live with that awareness. Look at Mark 4, it's the parable of the farmer who sows his seed, and there was four destinations of seed, only one of which was fruitful. We're just looking at one of those that was not and it says, "Others, like seed sown among thorns are people who hear the Word, but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things come and choke the Word, making it unfruitful".
That's a pretty startling statement, that there are things that can cause God's Word in your heart to be unfruitful. And then we're given a window into some of those things. It says the deceitfulness of wealth. It's not that wealth is evil, it's deceitful. Deceit is when you believe something to be true that in reality is not true, you've been deceived. You think if you eat chocolate three meals a day you'll lose weight and it's good for you, it's really not, then you'll blow up. It's an allergic reaction. Deceit is when you believe something to be true. And he says wealth is deceptive, it causes you to think you're independent, that you can solve your problems, that you're superior, that you have all the abilities to determine your future. All of those things come with wealth. It is not that it's evil, God's not opposed and he wants to bless you with things but he cautions us that it's deceitful. And he says, "And the desire for other things come in".
And the worries of this life, we get so distracted that it chokes out the Word of God in us. So distractions matter. So priorities and an awareness of objectives and intent for your life is really important. Do you intend to honor the Lord today? Do you intend to honor him at work? Is your objective to go give an honest day's work? Do you intend to walk uprightly today? All those expressions of purposeful living, one of the fruit of the spirit is self-discipline. We don't talk about it a great deal: distractions. Luke 21, "Heaven and earth will pass away". Jesus is speaking, "But my words will never pass away. Be careful". Jesus is saying, "Be careful, or your heart will be weighed down with carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap". Very similar to his passage about Noah. And we'll read it and go, "Well, thank God I'm not given to drunkenness". No, but we carry the anxieties of a life around, we just call 'em prayer requests. "I have a burden. My heart has been so troubled".
We have all sorts of religious language for how we get distracted. There's another area of our heart that I think we have to pay attention to. And I really built this list thinking more of people who are leading lives that intend to honor the Lord and where it seems that we have points of vulnerability. And I think one of them is we tend to demonstrate a lack of cooperation. Once we've settled our business and we've kind of processed what it means to be born again and to acknowledge Jesus is Lord, then I think we get kind of stubborn and we decide what we will believe and what we won't believe. It's not as if we read our Bibles as if it's the manual for response or the directives for our lives. We kind of stand apart from it, and we pass judgment on the Scripture while in reality, the Scripture is passing judgment on us.
I want to invite you towards a more cooperative attitude with the Lord. In Revelation 2, it's a message to one of the seven churches, and he says, "I have this against you. You tolerate that woman Jezebel. She calls herself a prophet, but by her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality". And I'm not as interested in Jezebel's behavior, I'm interested in what the weakness that Jesus is identifying. He says, "You tolerate ungodliness. You're not really cooperating with me. You know right and wrong, but you're tolerating it, you're just excusing it, you're justifying it. You're putting your arms around it. You're looking the other way". Look at the last phrase. He said, "I'll repay each of you according to your deeds".
Did you know Jesus knows what we do? And we've got some cute little theological exit ramps so we don't have to process some of this stuff, you know? Well, we're not saved by works, we're saved by grace. I agree. We can't earn our way to heaven. Never will, never can. You can't be good enough, holy enough, generous enough, kind enough. You can't serve enough. You can't endure enough sermons. On the other hand, the Bible is very clear. You're gonna be judged for what you do. Now, I don't understand it to be a judgment of your destiny, but it'll be a judgment for your rewards. You don't want the effort of your life to be consumed in a moment by God's judgment. I don't believe. Cooperate with the Lord.
In Luke 7, there's a picture of this. Jesus has gone into the house of a religious leader and an ungodly woman has come in and begun to minister to Jesus, and his host is deeply offended. "And Jesus turns to the woman and says to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I came into your house, and you did not give me any water for my feet, but she's wet my feet with her tears and wiped in with her hair, and you didn't give me a kiss, but this woman from the time I entered, hasn't stopped kissing my feet. And you didn't put oil on my head, but she's poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little".
He doesn't tell the man his sins are forgiven. And he points at him and he said, "You didn't give me water, you didn't give me a kiss. You didn't show me any of the expressions of kindness or respect or hospitality that were due by custom. And this woman who you despise and imagine to be ungodly and beyond the pale has exceeded all of those things. You're not cooperating while you sit there trying to decide whether you're gonna accept me or not". How many times are we tempted by the tempter to stand apart from the Word of God and decide what we will cooperate with and what we won't? I don't find that goes away with maturity or experience or knowledge of Scripture. I have to continually on a very regular basis, decide if I will submit to the authority of God's Word, if I will yield to it, if I'll continue to lean into it, submit myself to its authority, accept the assignments.
We've adopted some things that don't come from Scripture, and we're demonstrating some remarkable stubborn refusals to cooperate with the Lord. I don't think it's wise. I think there's some practical ways we don't cooperate, one is with self-satisfaction. We just get complacent. We get satisfied. We feel pretty good about ourselves. Another message to the church in Revelation 3 is Jesus said, "I know your deeds, you're neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! But because you're lukewarm, not hot or cold, I'm gonna spit you out of my mouth". Look at verse 18. "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear".
It's interesting language to buy something means you're gonna exchange something that has value to you. That's the nature of a purchase. You take something that is valuable to you. If you trade money, you're trading something that you spent time and energy and effort accumulating so that you can exchange that effort for something you value. If you're bartering, you're gonna make a trade something you value for something that you value of equal or greater significance. That's the nature of the exchange. And he says, "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire". He's not suggesting this is something simple. There's a cost involved, there's an intentionality involved. He said, "You're not hot or cold, you're lukewarm. It's not gonna be a good outcome for you. I counsel you to buy something from me".
So we come to the Lord with a determination. I believe in grace, I'm not trying to diminish the gospel of grace. In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable, you don't have it in your notes, but he tells a parable of two men that go to pray in public. One is a very religious person recognized as a very religious person, a godly person. And he says that man looks up to heaven and says, "God, I thank you that I'm not like all these other people. I'm godly in everything I do. I even tithe of the spices that I buy in the market". Tiny minute things, I pay attention to that. And it says on the other hand, there was a very notorious sinner, and he said he wouldn't even lift his eyes to heaven, but he said, "God, have mercy on me". And Jesus said, "That was the man that went home forgiven".
So I think we need to give attention to our heart condition. Remember that's the theme here, that we don't get so satisfied with ourselves, but that we have the humility to keep coming to the Lord. Keep getting up, we say things like, "Well, I've read my Bible. Do I have to read it again"? Oh, I'm sorry. Have you mastered it? Excuse me, I was... Or we compare ourselves or we find a weakness in some Christians, so we think we don't have to follow the Lord. Or we find a church that doesn't measure up and so we think, "Oh, then I'm excused. I can be ungodly". We give ourselves, we get satisfied with ourselves and we forfeit, we open our hearts. One last and I'll hush.
In Luke 6:37 and 38. It's something of a familiar passage, but I'll highlight a portion of it that we don't often. "Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. It'll be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you". We hear that often in the context of giving, but that's not the complete presentation there. Jesus begins the presentation with the notion of forgiveness. He says, "If you forgive, you'll be forgiven". And I believe the back part of that passage applies to the forgiveness, every bit is much as it does to giving. With the measure you use to forgive, you'll be forgiven. Some of us carry things we shouldn't be carrying, anger and resentment and hurt. I'm not saying that the hurts weren't real or that the behaviors were appropriate, I'm not suggesting you reenlist for further abuse. I'm not doing, I'm not justifying or excusing. I'm telling you don't have the luxury of carrying those things.
Now why I think that's unusually important in this season is there are a lot of powerful, repetitive, well educated, well articulated celebrity voices telling you that you are a victim, almost every segment of our society. And we have drunk pretty deeply from that well, and we've been determined to assert ourselves. So in order to do that, we carry the resentment and the bitterness and the anger and the hostility. They've separated us by sex. They've separated us by race. They've separated us by age. They've separated us by accent. They've separated us and then they accuse us, but they do their best to convince you that you are an aggrieved party. The people who package our food, the people who sell us appliances in our homes. I mean, it's an overwhelming avalanche, and they're giving you permission to hold your resentment and your bitterness, and God won't do that.
Look at Matthew 6. "If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins". And I think it's helpful for me to think about forgiveness in terms of a release. When I truly forgive, I release you. I'm setting you free from this. I'm not holding you close to me, I'm not keeping that tight so that I don't lose it because I need it in order to maintain my edge or my opportunity or my anger. I'm releasing you from that. The marker has been destroyed. Folks, we have held onto this too much in the church. We have not guarded our hearts well. Guard your heart, guard your heart. We could put 50 things on this list. Ask the Lord to help you. "Lord, is there any place"? Ask the Holy Spirit to do a security check on your heart. He'll help you.
Have I left anything vulnerable? Have I tolerated anything that makes me, is causing me to forfeit something that you could do in my life or you would entrust me to do if I would guard my heart more effectively? You won't get this perfect. You won't do it right. We'll stumble and fall, it's like watching kids learn to walk. It's fun to watch the little people. They just bounce. Watch 'em out here on the slide in Fellowship Square. They're running head-first, feet-first on their shoes. I'm standing there thinking, you know, if I tried that, we'd call 911. But they just bounce. We've got to be willing to say, "Lord, you know, I'm not gonna get this right and I'm gonna fall a little bit, but I'm gonna get back up". And go, "Ah, I've been carrying that this week. I gotta let it go".
I have to forgive some. Every time I drive down the highway and the road is not done, I have to forgive again. Like why do we take a three-month project and make it last four years? Lord, I forgive 'em in Jesus' name. Gets on my nerves, I'm hurrying, and there's one lane of traffic, and there's one person that's taking in the scenery. I'm thinking, "God, if they had finished this road three and a half years ago, like I forgive in Jesus' name". And that's a silly little thing. But you collect stuff. You need a time in your week where you purposely clean up. I hope there's a time in your day when you physically get prepared for the day. And I hope there's a time where you spiritually get prepared. Guard your heart, step out of the crowd, be different.
Don't lead your life with the baggage that so many people do. Some of you need to forgive God. You're mad at him 'cause your dreams didn't come together. You have to forgive your parents and your kids and your teachers and your pastors; the Holy Spirit will help you. Let's step out of the crowd, let's be different. We're living in a time where we need to be different. We need to be different. The enemy doesn't want to discourage you. He doesn't just want to dissuade you. He doesn't wanna just hinder you. His objective is to destroy you. Don't cooperate.
Why don't you stand with me? I'd like to pray with you, I'd like to give the Holy Spirit an invitation to do a security check. You willing to do that? My praying, it won't make a difference unless you open your heart to that. But if you'll open your heart to that, I trust him to help us with that, hallelujah.
Lord, thank you for your Word, for its truth and authority and power in our lives. Lord, left to ourselves, we are weak and frail and vulnerable, but in you, you have given us armor and authority and a helper and permission to come before your throne. And Father, we come tonight in the authority of Jesus' name. I thank you that through the blood of Jesus, we have been delivered out of the hand of the enemy. Through the blood of Jesus, all our sins have been forgiven, that we've been justified and sanctified. But Lord, we live in the midst of a conflict and Holy Spirit, we ask for your help. Help us to see ourselves with clarity. If there is anything in us that is harmful or hurtful or limiting us, bring it to our attention. May we have the courage and the humility and the boldness to surrender to you. If we have excused sin or habits or ungodliness, if we have tolerated lies or deception, if we've accommodated evil, Father, whatever it may be, we ask for your help tonight. May we not continue to carry things that are unnecessary, that are limiting to us, that are damaging, or destructive to us. I thank you for your help. Give us understanding hearts. Help us where we have been dull. Give us hearing ears and eyes to see in Jesus' name, amen.