ďThe Heart Prepared for ChristĒ   Part 1

Acts 2.37

 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   Turn in your Bible to Acts 2.  When youíve found that portion of Godís Word, please stand.  We begin reading at verse 14:

14     But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:

15     For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

16     But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

17     And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

18     And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

19     And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:

20     The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:

21     And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

22     Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

23     Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

24     Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

25     For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:

26     Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

27     Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

28     Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

29     Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.

30     Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;

31     He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

32     This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

33     Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

34     For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,

35     Until I make thy foes thy footstool.

36     Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

37     Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

 

2.   Please look closely to verse 37.  The New England Puritan, Thomas Hooker, indicates that some time lapse occurred between the phrase ďNow when they heard thisĒ and the statement, ďthey were pricked in their heart.Ē[1]  It was during this time, he suggests, that the men Peter preached to thought carefully on the crimes he had charged them with, meditated upon what he had said to them, and ďwere pricked in their heart.Ē

3.   Unless and until you are pricked in your heart, wounded by your own sins and pierced in your own soul, you cannot be converted to Christ.  The question is, Will you think carefully about your sins, and meditate on what is said to you, as those men did?

4.   Last week I dealt with such issues as what complaints a convicted sinner has about his sins, and how you can tell whether sorrow is godly sorrow or whether sorrow is carnal sorrow.  This week I want to stay in Puritan territory and deal with a complaint that many sinners have, . . . or should have.  Let me ask for you:

5.   ďWhy is it necessary for my sins to wound and pierce my soul in the manner you say is necessary?  If I am to be perfectly honest with you, Iíd have to tell you that I actually like committing sins.  I find them pleasurable in many respects.  And as for Godís will, nothing seems to me more boring, nothing seems to me to be more unpleasant, and nothing seems to me to be more unfulfilling as the thought of doing the will of God.Ē

6.   This evening, I will give to you three reasons why your soul must be pierced with sin before you will ever truly come to Christ.  Three reasons why those who advocate a sinner leaping from a cold lack of concern into the open arms of Jesus Christ simply do not reflect what the Bible teaches about the wicked and deceitful heart of man and his depraved nature. 

1A.   The First Reason Your Soul Must Be Pierced With Sin Is Because YOUR HEARTíS SIN IS THE GREAT EVIL OF YOUR SOUL

Only when your heart truly appreciates its sin will it be greatly burdened by its sin.

1B.    Let me illustrate.  Imagine a man carrying two weights on his back.  Obviously, the weight which is most grievous to him will be the weight which is most heavy upon him.

1C.   Now, if one burden weighs 30 pounds and the other burden weighs 40 pounds, the man will obviously be most pressed down by the greater of the weights.  In like manner, there is no evil so properly and directly burdensome to the soul as the evil of sin.

2C.   But there is confusion among men as to what the worst evil really is.  Punishment, on one hand, deprives your soul of ease and quiet.  This is obvious and for this reason you will avoid punishment.  But sin deprives your soul of enjoying God, the main end for which it was created, the main end through which your soul must be happy, and the lack of which will leave your soul accursed.

3C.   Now, the reality is that sin is like a 10,000 pound weight, whereas as sorrow about sin, and shame because of sin, and punishment that is due sin, are only like 100 pound weights.  Thus, if it was possible for you to be completely at ease and quiet in heaven, but still have a foul heart and a sinful soul, you would still be miserable and accursed.  But if it were possible for you to be in Hell, but be free from your sins, you would be a happy man, even in Hell.

4C.   You see, there is nothing that can properly do good to your soul but God, and nothing that can properly do any hurt to your soul but sin.  This is because sin separates your heart from God, which is the best possible good.  If a man had all the pleasures and contents the world could afford, nothing would satisfy his soul but God.  And if his soul were in horror, but had the presence of God with him, he could not help but be comforted and consoled by the God of all comfort, even in his horror.

5C.   There are two ways in which God will make you feel the burden of sin:  First, there is the plague and punishment of sin, the punishment coming to you because of sin.  Then there is the burden of sin because of the vileness of it.  Whenever the Lord fastens your sin to your conscience, then He is able to take you beyond the torment and plague of your sin, to the place where you actually begin to appreciate the evil of your sin.

2B.    Let me now apply.

1C.   Even though your soul is polluted with the corruption of sin, since your soul was created by God and originally made to enjoy Him, there is a conflict between your heart and its sin over this issue of being separated from God.

2C.   Though sin overpowers your heart to make you fall short of the glory of God, the nature of your heart, being as it is made by God and being made for God, desires to have fellowship with Him and to be in union with Him. 

3C.   Listen to me now.  Though your heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, there is a place in your soul that yearns for God.  So, if sin is the worst evil to your soul, interfering with the end for which your soul was created, and depriving your soul of its chiefest good, then there are means by which the Lord is able to make your soul see sin as the greatest evil to it.

4C.   Havenít you ever sat down and thought to yourself, ďThis isnít right.  God didnít make me for this nonsense.  God made me for HimĒ?  But sin messes everything up, doesnít it?  You exist to be in communion with God and to enjoy Him forever, but your sin . . . Ah!  As Isaiah 59.2 declares, ďyour iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you.Ē

5C.   So you see, the Lord needs to make your soul see the evil of your sin, and not just the unpleasantness of being punished for sin.  No wonder, then, that the heart is pierced with sin before conversion.  If you did not see the evil of your sin, the wickedness of it, what damage it causes, youíd not truly want to be saved from it. 

2A.   The Second Reason Your Soul Must Be Pierced With Sin Is Because THEREBY IT IS TRULY PREPARED TO BE CONVERTED TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

My friend, there is simply no other way than this to do it.

1B.    When your soul comes to feel sin the way it really is then sinís grip on your soul is weakened.

1C.   When your soul is pierced with sin, which is to say when you are thoroughly and soundly convicted of your sins, then you will become aware of how loathsome your sins are.  Then your soul, which used to be completely dominated and ruled over by sin, discovers that sinís grip has loosened somewhat.

2C.   Remember when your thinking toward sin was different than it is now?  Remember when your entire thought life was completely dominated by sin?  (I speak to those of you who are striving.)  But now you think somewhat differently.  Now the stranglehold that sin had over your thought life and over your actions may be weakened a bit.

3C.   You see sin in a somewhat different light, perhaps.  Your soul may now begin to renounce the power of that sin.  If you are striving against your sins and if the Spirit of God is convicting you, then you may begin to withdraw yourself from the domination your sins have had over you, making you a complete slave to sins.  You are still a slave to sin, to be sure, but perhaps no longer a willing slave.

4C.   Perhaps the union between sin and your soul is now broken, and room has been prepared, and a way has been made for the Lord Jesus, by His emissary the Holy Spirit, to come into your soul.  When soul-piercing sorrow has wearied your heart, and loosened it from the love of sin you once had, then your heart is prepared for submission to Christ. 

5C.   As it is with a vessel that has been for dishonor, if a man will turn the nature of it and make it a vessel of honor he must not only heat it a little, but he must melt it thoroughly for it to be fit to be a vessel of honor.  Take a metal pot that has been used to hold filth.  What must you do to clean it up for use to hold that which is precious and clean and tasty?  Would you not send it through some fire to purge it of its filth, and scald it in cleanser to satisfy yourself that it is now fit for a good use?  So it is with the sinful soul.

6C.   The soul of every sinful man and woman is a vessel of dishonor, and sin has terribly polluted your soul.  If you want your heart prepared for yielding to Christ you must have your heart more than warmed a little by humiliation.  You must actually have it melted.  And you must be willing to part with all of your sins, so that the Lord rules over it forever. 

7C.   First, cast out the strong man, and then the Lord Jesus Christ will come in and take possession of the house.  Sin and Satan are the strong man, and the Lord Christ binds this strong man, and casts him out when He shows the vileness of sin.  Now the heart is ready to submit to Christ to do what He will in your soul.

2B.    But there are many people who seem to have been greatly convicted of their sins, only to go back to the slop trough of sin, only to return as a dog to its vomit.  How is this to be explained?

1C.   Many have gone deep into this work of humiliation, but because they didnít go all the way theyíve regressed and have become as vile and wicked as they ever were before.  These are those who will sometimes say things like, ďIíve been there and done that.  I used to be a Christian.  Iíve prayed the sinnerís prayer several times and it never did me any good.Ē  Or they will say some silly nonsense like, ďWhat good does it all do?  Godís decided everything ahead of time anyway.Ē

2C.   Those are the excuses of wicked men and women who arenít up to dealing with their sins truthfully . . . or completely.  And what happened was they didnít stay with it all the way down to the quick, and now theyíve gone back and are as vile now as they ever were.

3C.   Most of us here tonight have known men, men that the Lord once laid a very heavy burden on.  Their consciences were awakened, and they were driven to a sense of desperation about their sins.  And after a great deal of anguish, and many resolutions and promises made to God, and claiming to have a high opinion of Christ and renouncing all for Christís sake, they imagine themselves to have come to Christ in their own way.  Or they are deluded into thinking they tried to come to Christ but Christ rejected or refused them.

4C.   But they never came to Christ.  And He never refused them.  They never really prized Christ.  And as soon as God lightened up on them even a little bit they showed their true colors.  They forgot that God is good.  They neglected Christís Church.  They despised genuine Christians by making fun of us and criticizing us for every fault and flaw we have, thus showing how much they truly hate us in their hearts.

5C.   Now, the question that we need to ask is, Why did these guys and gals fall away?  Why were they never truly justified and sanctified?  And why did they never come to believe in the Lord Jesus in a saving way?  The reason is, Because their hearts were never pierced for their sin.  The grip of sin on their soul was never loosened. 

6C.   This is what the LORD meant when He said to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, ďBreak up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns,Ē Jeremiah 4.3.  The heart of a man is like an unplowed field that has had no crops growing on it.  To make proper use of the ground, to reclaim it for agriculture, you must first plow it and turn it over so that the ground is completely stripped of vegetation and growth.  Then you plant the seed.

7C.   If a man plows a ways, then skips over a bit of ground, and then plows again, with various clumps of unplowed ground left here and there with weeds growing on them, then he will never have a decent crop.  There will sprout up so many weeds from the ground that he didnít plow that the good seed that he sowed will be choked. 

8C.   Your heart is like a farmerís field.  And your sins are like the weeds that have overgrown the unplowed soil.  What do you think will happen to you if you, like the farmer who leaves patches of ground unplowed, refuse to deal with certain sins in your life, refuse to disk under a lust here and a lust there?  Do you think you can grow a good crop?  Do you think you will see good results?

9C.   And it doesnít matter how much good preaching you hear, whether from me or the apostle Paul himself.  If you refuse to plow under all the sins on the field of your heart the seed that is planted will not produce the good crop of conversion.  Being unconverted, you will then blame the preacher for your lost condition.  Or you will blame so-called ďhypocritical ChristiansĒ for your lost condition.  You may even lay blame upon God.  But the real blame rests upon your unwillingness to plow under the weedy sins of your own heart.

3B.    How can you make sure you donít end up like those Gospel rejects I mentioned?  Or if you are one of those Gospel rejects, how can you finally come to be a Christian for real?

1C.   Plow up the entire field.  Work hard to be sorry for your sins and to have a heart thatís burdened for sin, and to have a heart that sees the vileness of sin.  Work over your own heart the way a good farmer works over a field that he wants to prepare to yield an abundant harvest.  As he strips it of weeds by plowing under everything to soften up the ground and make it receptive for the seeds he will plant, do the same with your own heart to make it receptive to Godís Word.

2C.   Remember, in the parable of the sower, in Matthew 13, those hearers of the Word who had the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches in them choked the Word and made it utterly unfruitful.[2]  In other words, they never got truly converted, and went back to the way they were before they heard the Word.

3C.   What was missing from people like that?  Listen to what David said, in Psalm 51.17:  ďa broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.Ē  They were missing a broke and contrite heart.  Do you want a heart that believeth unto righteousness?[3]  Do you want a heart that God will take delight in and accept?  You have to have a heart that is broken and contrite.

4C.   In Psalm 29.5, David wrote, ďThe voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon.Ē  Your heart has been stout like a cedar tree.  If you want to get converted God will have to break your heart like a cedar tree in Lebanon is broken.  The way lightning strikes a tree and breaks it, so must your wicked and corrupt heart be broken by Godís Word.

5C.   But what is a contrite heart?  A contrite heart is a heart thatís collapsed, a heart thatís broken.  And this is what is required by God.  To illustrate this, consider what Psalm 90.3 says:  ďThou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.Ē  First comes the breaking to pieces, and then comes the instruction, ďReturn.Ē  So your heart must be broken down to powder, in a manner of speaking.  And your heartís union to sin must be broken.  And your heart must be willing to be weaned from all sin. 

6C.   Just as you can grind anything thatís hard into dust, so can even the hardest heart be ground into dust.  And if your heart is not so ground to dust the work of preparing your heart for conversion is hindered, . . . as we have seen.

7C.   What if a manís heart isnít ground to dust?  What if you try to get converted prematurely?  What if you donít want to go through the heartache of soul-piercing sorrow?  What if you are so convicted that you want to be saved from all of your sins except for one?  Then you donít see sin for what it really is.  You donít see its vileness.  And this one sin will send you to Hell.

8C.   So then, if your soul can only be prepared for Christ by a soul-piercing sorrow, a penetrating sorrow, a profound sorrow, then your heart cannot be prepared for Christ without such sorrow.  Therefore, of necessity, your heart must be truly wounded with sorrow for sin. 

3A.   The Last Reason Your Soul Must Be Pierced With Sin Is Because IT IS BY THIS MEANS YOUR HEART WILL GREATLY VALUE CHRIST AND SAVING GRACE

1B.    What does your soul see to be the greatest evil?

1C.   Many think the greatest evil is Hell or the lake of fire.  This is what most of your children think.  Others find their only concern is the wrath of God.  But if the horrible fear of punishment, being frightened about Hell or the lake of fire, is the greatest evil, then the greatest good will seem to be whatever takes such fear away.

2C.   But the greatest evil is that which deprives you of the greatest good.  And what is the greatest good?  God and communion with Him.  But what deprives you of Godís company but sin?  Therefore, sin is the greatest evil, an even greater evil than the wrath of God.

3C.   Itís only when your soul is pierced with sin that your soul sees Godís saving from sin grace to be truly precious, because only then does your soul see sin to be vile.  And this is the reason why the Lord makes your soul see the vileness of sin, so that your heart will be brought to see the excellency of Christ, the Savior from sins, and so you will prize Him above all.

2B.    Two more questions to raise.  First, is it possible that a person can go through all this striving, experience all this soul-piercing sorrow, and then turn out to be a reprobate, someone who has no chance of getting converted?

1C.   No.  God is not one Who plays games with people.  He does not dangle salvation in front of a lost soul just to pull it back when the sinner reaches for it. 

2C.   God is good, and He is not willing that any should perish.  And when men begin to think such thoughts as are expressed by this question they are denying that God is as good as He shows Himself to be.  This is a great sin that is used to justify refusing to strive.

3C.   Beloved, God does not require soul-piercing sorrow because He is cruel and demanding and wants to see you suffer.  If He wanted to see you suffer He could easily cast you into Hell.  Soul-piercing sorrow is necessary because of manís terrible sinfulness.  Otherwise men would never come to Christ.

4C.   Yet, Jesus did come to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19.10.  But who are those who are lost?  They are not those who are lost and donít know they are lost, for such men have no realization that they really need a Savior.  Those are lost in this verse who know they are lost, whose hearts have been so persuaded that they are helplessly bound to their sins and in desperate need of a Savior. 

5C.   So, the soul-piercing sorrow produced by the Spiritís conviction of sins is needed for the purpose of preparing sinners for conversion, not preventing their conversion.  Understand that the reason for Christís coming will be fulfilled.  If you get lost He will seek you and save you.

3B.    Finally, does God work this way in everyone who gets converted, or not?  Must everyone who comes to Christ be prepared in this way, or not?  That is a question that I will deal with, Lord willing, next week. 

CONCLUSION:

1.   Let me recap what I have presented to you this evening:  Your soul has to be pierced through with sorrow for your sins.

2.   First, because of the great evil of your heartís sin.  Second, because thereby your heart is prepared to be converted to Christ.  And third, because only in this way will you greatly value Christ and His saving grace.

3.   The undercurrent that runs beneath much of what I have said this evening is Godís goodness.  Let us remember that Psalm 52.1 declares that ďthe goodness of God endureth continually,Ē and that Romans 2.4 insists, ďthe goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.Ē

4.   So, what harm is done to the Spiritís work in a sinnerís heart, what grieving of the Spirit of God occurs, when doubt creeps into a manís thoughts about Godís goodness, when suspicion creeps into a manís thoughts about Godís intentions for him.

5.   God is good, my friend.  Do not doubt His motives.  God is good.  Do not doubt the means He has chosen to prepare your heart for conversion to Christ.  He means you well.  And if He did not mean you well He would have already sent you to Hell.

6.   Put aside once and for all those questions and doubts and excuses.  Open up your heart to Godís good work of preparation for Christ and purpose to seek genuine conversion to Christ no matter what it takes.


[1] Thomas Hooker, The Soulís Preparation For Christ, (Ames, IA: International Outreach, Inc., 1994), page 63.

[2] Matthew 13.22

[3] Romans 10.10

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