Calvary Road Baptist Church

This message was delivered during chapel at Pacific Baptist College, Pomona, California 11/2/2010


“SALVATION IS A MATTER OF YOUR HEART”

Romans 10.10

 

Some months ago, I began a series of sermons on Sunday evenings at the church where I am pastor, which centers on the spiritual part of the inner man known as the heart. I think it is a profoundly important study. Therefore, I would like to give you just a taste of it this morning, citing four reasons up front why you might find such a study intriguing: First, because it is a very rare thing these days for a pastor to be allowed by his church to engage in a heart-probing approach to bringing the lost to Christ. I had been in the gospel ministry for twenty years before anyone ever thoroughly examined by conversion testimony, probing my heart with any appreciable skill. It would be safe to bet you have never experienced such a probing of your heart. Second, because the heart, which is not exactly the same as one’s mind and soul, is very difficult to fully understand. The heart, the mind, and the soul, comprise the immaterial part of every human being. It is part of the nonphysical portion of each one of us. How do the heart, the mind, and the soul relate to each other in a person? I am not sure anyone really knows the answer to that question. Third, such a study is important because we are told by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10.10, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Is anything as practically important to a sinner as the salvation of his soul? I cannot think of anything. Therefore, if it is with the heart that someone believes unto righteousness, then considering matters of the human heart must be profoundly important. Finally, it should prove interesting to you young women to contemplate the ways in which your children will manipulate your maternal instincts in their efforts to resist the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Alas, we have not the time to probe so deeply into all of these heart issues this morning. For a variety of reasons and in a number of ways, a thorough consideration of the heart should alter the way you think about a number of things.

In the New Testament, we find the Greek word kardia. Things cardiac are derived from this Greek word. The New Testament use of the word agrees with the Old Testament concept of the heart, as opposed to the way the rest of the Greek-speaking world used the word in the first century. In the Old Testament and in the New Testament the heart is the main organ of spiritual life, and is the place in man where God bears witness to Himself. In Luke 21.34, we see the Lord Jesus Christ teaching about prophesy the Tuesday afternoon before His crucifixion. He said, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” Surfeiting refers to the nausea that accompanies drunkenness.[1] The Lord was referring to the thoughts of men’s hearts as the central organ of the body.[2] Our Lord was advising against letting your heart be carried away so that you lose your sense of what is happening in your life. We also see the heart as the center of the inner life of man and the place of the forces and functions of the soul and the spirit. In Acts 2.26, we see reference made to the heart of David rejoicing: “Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad.” As well, in John 16.22, Jesus said, “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” In John 16.6, our Lord remarks, “sorrow hath filled your heart.” Therefore, it is in the heart that feelings and emotions, desires and passions dwell.[3]

Surprisingly to some, the heart is also the seat of understanding, and the source of thought and reflection. We see this from our Lord’s comment about a wicked man’s heart in Mark 7.20-23:

 

20     And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21     For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22     Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23     All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

 

As well, notice the last half of John 12.40: “that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” In Acts 7.23, Stephen mentions the heart of Moses as the seat of his thoughts and considerations: “And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.”

The heart is also shown to be the seat of a man’s will.[4] First Corinthians 4.5: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” Second Corinthians 9.7: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give.” The heart is the place where your decisions are made. You may come to know what you ought to do in the processes of your mind, but it is in your heart that your decisions to act are made and your will is executed. How many times people know they should not do something, but go ahead and choose to do it because they strongly desire to do so in their hearts. As well, how many times people know they should do something, yet they seem unable to bring themselves to doing what they know is right, because of the evil inclinations of their hearts. “Thus the heart is supremely the one centre in man to which God turns, in which religious life is rooted, and which determines moral conduct.”[5]

First Peter 3.15 illustrates the importance of the heart’s place in the believer’s life and well-being: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” This verse is a command to be accountable to anyone who puts you on the spot concerning why you think you are a Christian. If they ask you, you are commanded to answer. The sacredness of the Lord God in your heart is at stake, depending on how you respond to the challenge of whether or not you are a Christian.

With the importance of the heart firmly established as the center of the inner life of man and the place of the forces and functions of the soul and the spirit, as the seat of understanding, as the source of thought and reflection, and as the seat of man’s free will, how cautious we ought to be, therefore, and how well-informed it is necessary to be, in light of Jeremiah 17.9, where we learn, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The answer to this question of who knows the heart? The next verse, Jeremiah 17.10: “I the LORD search the heart.”

For us to understand the issues of the heart by which a sinner comes to faith in Christ and is saved we must get a firmer grip on this issue of salvation. Mankind fell into sin in the Garden of Eden when Eve and then Adam disobeyed God. Adam, being the federal head of the human race, led the entire human race into sin when he disobeyed and experienced spiritual death by separation from God. We have considered mankind’s fall and the consequences we now face as a result of our sinfulness. That done, we now turn to Christ’s gospel, that good news in a sin-darkened world that had no good news, and that had no hope. Crushed under the weight of slavery to sin, oppression of every kind, and unimaginable suffering, the news was broadcast that there was One who conquered death, and that He offered salvation full and free to all men.

The question to be addressed at this point is direct. In what way does a guilty and condemned sinner come to benefit from the gospel he hears declared, that good news that Jesus was crucified for his sins, died, and rose again from the dead? Does God just take it that Jesus paid it all for everyone and then forgives everyone? Not at all. The Bible is very clear that at the end of this life, most die in their wicked state and some few die in a state of righteousness, with very different destinies awaiting them. How, then, are the benefits of Christ’s gospel to be appropriated by a sinner? There are only two possible ways. Either the sinner works to deserve the salvation that Christ’s gospel offers, or the sinner receives the salvation that Christ’s gospel offers as an undeserved gift.

Please turn to Isaiah 64.6: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” The Hebrew word translated “filthy rags” refers to something that simply cannot in our culture be mentioned in a church setting.[6] Thus, the prophet acknowledges that anyone’s attempts to earn salvation by performing religious duties or seeking in some way to merit or deserve God’s salvation has the opposite effect of profoundly contaminating him even more. Titus 3.5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Therefore, we see in the Old Testament, and it is reinforced in the New Testament, that salvation is not attained or acquired by doing things to earn it.

How, then, does one come to enjoy the benefits of the salvation that God provides through His Son, Jesus Christ? One man stands alone in the Bible as the preeminent illustration for us to emulate, Abraham. I read Genesis 15.6: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Occurring about ten years after being called from Ur of the Chaldees, this is when Abraham came to be justified in the sight of God, came to be a possessor of salvation. Notice that Abraham did this by means of faith. He did not work in any way for this salvation, since this event occurred years after God established His covenant with him, yet years before he was circumcised, and centuries before the Law of Moses was given on Mount Sinai. So important was this event in the life of Abraham, and so significant was this event in salvation history, that the Apostle Paul uses it to illustrate to the Christians at Rome the means by which a sinner comes to be saved from his sins. Turn to Romans 4.1-5:

 

1      What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

2      For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

3      For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

4      Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

5      But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

 

This passage very clearly reveals that salvation comes to a sinner by faith and not by works, since it is a gift given by grace and not an obligation paid to retire a debt. Ephesians 2.8-9 compliments this passage:

 

8      For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9      Not of works, lest any man should boast.

 

Therefore, Christians are not those people who properly think we are any better than other sinners, since salvation is not the result of either being good or doing good. Rather, salvation is enjoyed by those who have faith in Jesus Christ, Who is the only proper Object of saving faith. This understood and accepted as true by every Bible believing Christian, we need to ask ourselves about how a sinner comes to possess faith and by which means he lays hold of Christ. Three considerations for us to ponder and meditate upon:

 

First, it seems from what we find in God’s Word that truth enters the mind.

 

Isaiah 26.3 shows us the importance of the mind: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” As well, Daniel 5.20 reveals the mental process of Nebuchadnezzar in resisting the wise counsel of godly Daniel: “But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.” Romans 1.28 is another place where we see the mind used as a barrier to truth: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”

Notice the means employed by the Apostle Paul to address and overcome barriers of the mind, in Second Corinthians 10.3-5:

 

3      For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

4      (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5      Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

 

The Apostle Paul likened his task to implant truth into a sinner’s mind to siege warfare, with the imaginations and obstacles to block the truth of the knowledge of and about God being compared to fortress walls.

Therefore, we conclude that the mind is the portal through which truth can either be allowed into your consciousness, or resisted and refused. This is why James 1.21 encourages us, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Though the preacher must by all means engage the sinner’s mind, the sinner is not without responsibility to discard those things that serve as barriers to the entrance of truth.

 

Next, it seems that faith is given by God into the sinner’s mind.

 

Romans 10.17 reveals, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Of course, hearing is that avenue by which the spoken word reaches the mind of a man, with well-chosen words being necessary to negotiate the narrow passages into a person’s thoughts. Romans 10.14 reinforces what Paul has written elsewhere, that preaching is the primary means of grace employed by God: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”

Thus, it is the preacher preaching the Word of God to the hearing sinner which is the means by which God implants faith into a sinner. Is this process automatic? Hardly, since we know that “all men have not faith,” Second Thessalonians 3.2. To have faith, God must give you faith, and His primary means of giving faith is through preaching. We should also ask, is this process rapid? Do sinners generally receive saving faith from God immediately upon hearing the Word of God? As I have pointed out so frequently, Abram’s saving faith came about ten years after God first began to speak to him. As well, Christ’s parable of the soils in Matthew chapter 13, in which He likens the Word of God to seeds that have been cast, would necessarily imply that faith is not always immediate, because seeds rarely germinate immediately.

Let it be said that some people do hear the gospel and are immediately saved from their sins through faith in Christ. However, this is quite rare, since the seed of the Word usually takes time to produce faith in the sinner after it has come into the sinner’s mind. Yet another nail in the coffin of decisionism, since decisionists assume that most conversions come very quickly after a sinner is exposed to the Word of God, wrongly suggesting that faith is almost always spontaneous.

 

Third, we see that saving faith is exercised by the heart.

 

This is the declaration of Romans 10.10: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Notice, also, what Paul declares in Romans 10.9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” If you will examine Romans 10.8, where Paul writes, “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach,” you might wonder how faith comes to find residence in the heart. You hear the Word with your ears into your mind. You hold facts and information in your mind. How, then, does it come to be that faith is in the heart?

May I say that I am not sure? However, there is one thing I know about the Word of God, and it is that it comes into your mind and you are responsible for its placement in your heart. Turn to Psalm 119.11: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” The psalmist testifies that he hid God’s Word in his heart. It was his doing.

How is the Word of God hid in a man’s heart? Certainly not by merely memorizing Bible verses. Memorizing Bible verses is a start, but that is all it is. To hide God’s Word is to treasure it and to prize it, which is the result of highly valuing it and placing it as coins and gems are hidden where they cannot be stolen. This is accomplished by memorizing a passage, valuing that passage, meditating on that passage, applying that passage to your life, and prizing it as something of great value to be protected and cherished.

It may be that when you take that which is in your mind and you cherish it, memorize it, meditate upon it, reflect upon it, apply it to your life, prize it above all other treasures in your possession, it will then be in your heart. Does God then give you faith, or does He give you faith while it is still in your mind, and the faith is dragged into your heart when you hide God’s Word in your heart? I am not sure I know, and I am not sure at this point that it is important to know. What is important to know is that you can hide God’s Word in your heart, #1, and that it is with your heart that you believe unto righteousness, #2. The question at this point is what is the heart? It is certainly not the physical organ that pumps blood, but some immaterial part of a man that is associated with the mind and the soul. Thomas Hooker (1586-1647), that great New England physician of souls who was read by Jonathan Edwards, who came along a century later, writes that the heart “is the will itself, and the ability of the soul, whereby the heart says, I will have this, and I will not have that. As the understanding is settled in the head, and keeps his sentinel there, so the will is seated in the heart, and when it comes to taking or refusing, this is the office of the will, and it discovers his act there; as our Savior says, Where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also (Matthew 6:21).[7]

 

What should you now do with what you now know? There are three things you should assume personal responsibility for as a sinner, three activities that will affect your eternal destiny, as God enables you.

First, you must listen, and hear, and receive with meekness, and soak up like a dry sponge, the Word of God when it is preached. Without this, all is lost in the effort to bring you to Christ, for without this there is no hope of you being given faith by God with which to lay hold of Christ.

Next, you must hide God’s Word in your heart. No one can do this for you. To be sure, someone can supervise the activity of you memorizing verses from God’s Word, as Sunday School teachers and Bible college teachers faithfully do. However, no one can cherish God’s Word for you, prize God’s Word for you, provoke you to consider and ponder and meditate on God’s Word for you. No one but you can hide God’s Word in the deep recesses of your heart, where it will be kept safe from thieves and distractions. Wherever it is that God imparts faith, to the mind or to the heart, faith does not end up where it needs to end up unless you do what only you can do, which is hide God’s Word in your heart.

Finally, only you can with your heart believe in Jesus unto righteousness, Romans 10.10. It is with your heart that you make use of the faith God has given you to lay hold of Christ. Call it coming to Jesus, or receiving Jesus, or trusting Jesus, or believing in Jesus, or believing on Jesus, it is all another way of referring to this matter of believing with your heart unto righteousness. That is your assignment and no one else’s.



[1] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol II, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1930), page 262.

[2] Kittel, page 611.

[3] Ibid., page 612.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Cloth polluted by menstrual blood. See John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, Volume 4, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), page 194.

[7] Thomas Hooker, The Soul’s Preparation For Christ, (Ames, IA: International Outreach, Inc., reprinted 1994), page 100.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org