Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SALVATION: A MATTER OF THE HEART”

Romans 10.10 

Eight years ago, I began a series of Sunday evening messages from God’s Word that centered on the spiritual part of the inner man known as the heart. That study was interrupted by the protracted nightly services that we held beginning in the middle of July 2010 that lasted for almost three weeks. We will take up that study once more after an almost eight-year layoff.

I had intended to bring this message two weeks ago, on the evening of September 9th. However, at the last minute that evening I felt it appropriate to have a service devoted to Pastor People Time, in part to address pressing matters and in part to establish continuity knowing Pastor Wong would be here the following week. Therefore, though I will begin this brief series this morning, I plan to proceed with subsequent messages in this series on Sunday nights beginning next Sunday night.

Is it an important study for us as a congregation to resume? I think it is profoundly important, for at least four reasons:

First, because it is a very rare thing these days for a Church to allow a pastor to engage in the kind of evangelism we pursue here at Calvary Road Baptist Church, which is a heart-probing approach to bringing the lost to Christ. A heart-probing approach to evangelism sometimes evokes antagonistic reactions that are observed in very few other ministries. Why so? Because real evangelism, which is heart-probing evangelism, requires real grace. Real grace demands real humility in the face of so staggering an affront to the sinner’s inflated ego when genuinely considering of one’s sinfulness. Real humility is a matter of the heart, Psalm 34.18: 

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” 

God must work in any sinner’s heart for that person to be willing to put up with the anguish that is invariably encountered when the Spirit of God convicts a person of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Second, because the heart, which is not the same as one’s mind and soul, is very difficult to understand fully. The heart, the mind, the conscience, the spirit, and the soul, comprise the immaterial part of every human being. Your heart is part of the nonphysical portion of you, and of each one of us. How do the heart, the mind, the conscience, the spirit, and the soul relate to each other in a person? How does your heart relate to your mind and your conscience and the other immaterial parts of you? I am not sure anyone other than God really knows the answer to that question. However, we will during our study over the next few weeks to try to understand more fully.

Third, this 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? Is anything more important to you than the salvation of your soul? I cannot think of anything that is, or that should be. So, while your soul’s salvation may not particularly interest you, there is nothing that is more important to your eternal welfare. Therefore, if it is with the heart that someone believes unto righteousness, studying matters of the human heart must be profoundly important even if such things do not seem important to you.

Finally, it should prove interesting to discover how the maternal instincts of some mothers have been or will be, manipulated by their children in their youngster’s efforts to resist the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As well, for those moms who are fully aware of the attempts made by their children to manipulate their maternal instincts, perhaps some will come to see the damage that is done when a child can get away with such manipulation. So, for a variety of reasons and in several ways, our consideration of the heart should alter the way you think about several things. I will not pretend this will be an exhaustive study; only that it will be an important one.

In the New Testament, we find the Greek word kardia. Things cardiac in the English language, having to do with the heart, are derived from this Greek word. Of significance in studying matters related to the heart is that 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 the New Testament the heart is seen to be the main organ of spiritual life and is the place in a person where God bears witness to Himself. This according to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.[1]

In Luke 21.34 we see the Lord Jesus Christ teaching about prophesy during the Tuesday afternoon before His crucifixion. On that occasion 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 nausea that accompanies drunkenness.[2] The Lord was referring to the thoughts of people’s hearts as the central organ of the body.[3] Our Lord was advising His listeners against letting their hearts get so carried away by their busyness, by their hustle and bustle, and by their many activities, that they lost their sense of what was happening to their lives.

We also see the heart as the center of the person’s inner life 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, where he is quoted as saying, 

“Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad.” 

As well, in John 16.22 the Lord 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 remarked, “sorrow hath filled your heart.” So, it is in the heart that feelings and emotions, desires and passions, dwell.[4]

I remember being surprised myself many years ago to learn when studying this issue, that the heart is also the seat of understanding and the source of thought and reflection. This is seen 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. 

Notice, also, 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 the first Christian martyr, 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.” 

Thus, no matter how illogical and irrational it might have seemed to some that Moses would risk his lofty and prestigious position in Pharaoh’s court to do so, he wanted to visit his kinsmen. It was a matter of Moses’ heart to connect with his people.

The heart is also shown to be the seat of a man’s will.[5] 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; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” 

Your heart is the place where you make your decisions. 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. In our PayCheck Sunday prayer banquet tonight, it will be with your heart that you mull over and come to a decision about your involvement in our PayCheck Sunday Offering next week.[6] My hope and prayer are that the preaching of God’s Word will so affect your mind that you will meditate upon the truth you are exposed to, and what enters your mind during Brother Walpole’s message will make its way to your heart to influence what you do next Sunday.

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 the evil inclinations of their hearts have not been affected by truth received into the mind. “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.”[7] 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.” 

Peter charges believers to be accountable to anyone who puts us on the spot concerning why we think we are Christians and why we are justified in placing our faith in Christ. If they ask you, you are directed to answer and to defend the Christian faith and your part in it. The sacredness of the Lord God in your heart is at stake, depending on how you respond to the challenge of whether you are a Christian and why. Thus, the importance of the heart is 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 every person’s free will.

How cautious we ought to be, therefore, and how well-informed it is necessary to be, considering 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.” 

The foundation having been laid, when I revisit this matter of the heart I will divide our study into three main parts of unequal length; the belief of the heart, the behavior of the heart, and recommendations related to the heart. 

The First Main Division Of Our Study Is THE BELIEF OF THE HEART 

We know from Romans 10.10, 

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” 

To make sure we understand the person who believes unto righteousness, Who the person believes in unto righteousness, and the righteousness that results from a sinful individual’s faith, allow me to bring three doctrines to your attention:

First, mankind’s fall. Adam and Eve were made in the image and likeness of God.[8] How did man bear God’s image and likeness? In several ways: First, there was what might be considered man’s natural likeness to God, insomuch that our first parents (and we) possessed that twofold capacity to know self as related to the world and God and to determine self in view of moral ends. This distinguishes us from brutes. The brute is conscious but not self-conscious.[9] Next, there was man’s moral likeness to God. Adam and Eve were created innocent and enjoyed unhindered communion with our holy God because they were spiritually pristine and without any taint of sin. That communion with God was interrupted when Eve and then Adam sinned against God by disobeying Him. When they disobeyed they were plunged into sin in what is termed the Fall.[10] The immediate effects of man’s first sin are worth noting. They are six found in Genesis 3.7-13: 

7  And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

8  And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

9  And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11  And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12  And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13  And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 

First, there was a sense of shame. This was due to the awakening of conscience. How the conscience relates to the mind and heart is a matter of importance that we will take up at a later time. Next, there was the covering of fig leaves. This was the result of the sense of shame. However, it should be noted that it was a bloodless covering instead of a proper atonement for sin that God later rectified, as is recorded in Genesis 3.21: 

“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” 

Third, there was a feeling of fear. They hid themselves from God because they were afraid, which arose from their guilty consciences. Fourth, there was an attempt at concealment. Adam and Eve foolishly thought that they could hide from the proximity and awareness of the omnipresent and omniscient God. Fifth, there was an effort at self-vindication. Though they were guilty, Adam and Eve still tried to justify themselves. Sinners still try to justify themselves. Finally, there was a shifting of blame. Adam laid the blame for his sin upon Eve, and Eve laid the blame for her sin upon the serpent. Attempts to blame another creature are thinly veiled attempts to blame the Creator of the creatures, God Himself. Blameshifting, when rightly understood, is akin to blasphemy.

Perhaps now, because of a better grasp of the sinfulness of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God, and because we have acquired a better recognition that God is just, it can be better appreciated why He visited judicial consequences on the first sin. The first consequence was divine judgment. In Genesis 3.14-19, we see the serpent cursed with degradation: 

14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17  And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

18  Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19  In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. 

Eve and all women who followed her were cursed with the judgment of sorrow and subjection. Adam and all men who followed him were cursed with the judgment of sorrow and toil. The second consequence was separation from the Tree of Life, from the Garden of Eden, and from the Personal and Visible Presence of God. The third consequence God visited upon our first parents and subsequent generations for that first sin was death. Physical death is experienced in the separation of the soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God.[11] Then there is eternal death, which begins with the torments of Hell and then escalates after the Great White Throne judgment to the unimaginable horror of “the blackness of darkness for ever” in the lake of fire.[12],[13]

A few additional comments by the venerable Baptist theologian John Gill concerning the corruption of the human nature by sin and the Fall are in order: 

  1. The heathens themselves have acknowledged and lamented it; they assert, that no man is born without sin; that every man is naturally vicious; that there is an evil disposition, or vicious affection, that is implanted and grows up in men; and that there is a fatal portion of evil in all when born, from whence are the depravity of the soul, diseases, etc. and that the cause of viciosity is rather from our parents, and from first principles, than from ourselves: and Cicero particularly laments that men should be brought into life by nature as a stepmother, with a naked, frail, and infirm body, and with a mind or soul prone to lusts.
  2. Revelation asserts it; the Scriptures abound with testimonies of it, affirming that no man can be born pure and clean; that whatever is born of the flesh, or comes into the world by ordinary generation, is flesh, carnal and corrupt; that all men, Jews and Gentiles, are under sin, under the guilt, pollution and dominion of sin; that the imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil, and that continually; that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked; and that out of it proceeds all that is vile and sinful, Job 14:4; John 3:6; Romans 3:9; Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19.
  3. Reason confirms it, that so it must be; that if a tree is corrupt, it can bring forth no other than corrupt fruit; that if the root of mankind is unholy, the branches must be so too; if the fountain is impure, the streams must be so likewise; if immediate parents are unclean, their posterity must be unclean, since a clean thing cannot be brought out of an unclean; and if God has made of one man’s blood all nations that are upon the face of the earth, and that blood is tainted with sin, all that proceed from him by ordinary generation must have the same taint.
  4. All experience testifies the truth of this; no man was ever born into the world without sin; no one has ever been exempt from this contagion and defilement of nature, “There is none that doeth good, no not one”, Romans 3:10 that does good naturally and of himself; the reason is, because there is none by nature good; of all the millions of men that have proceeded from Adam by ordinary generation, not one has been found without sin; there is but one individual of human nature that can be mentioned as an exception to this, and that is the human nature of Christ; and that is excepted because of its wonderful production, and did not descend from Adam by ordinary generation.
  5. The necessity of redemption by Christ, and of regeneration by the Spirit of Christ, shows that men must be in a corrupt state, or there would have been no need of these. The redemption of men from sin, and from a vain conversation, supposes them to be under the power of sin, and the influence of it, to lead a vain sinful life; and if men were free from the pollution of sin, the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin would have been unnecessary; his being made wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption to them, implies that they were foolish and unwise, that they were unrighteous and unholy, and slaves to sin and Satan: regeneration and sanctification are absolutely necessary to a man’s enjoyment of eternal happiness; “except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” and “without holiness no man shall see the Lord”, John 3:3; Hebrews 12:14 but what occasion would there have been for man’s being born again, or having a new or supernatural birth, if he was not defiled by his first and natural birth; or of being sanctified, if he was not unholy and unclean? see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.[14] 

Man’s Fall has been so far, his resulting situation is so hopeless, that one might wonder what future is possible. However, we have yet to consider Christ’s glorious Gospel and the mystery of the sinner’s faith. It is only when we review those topics that we will be ready to observe the human mind in action, then proceed to the human heart in action, from Adam and Eve hiding from God in the Garden of Eden after they sinned, to the Israelites refusing the counsel of Joshua and Caleb to enter the Promised Land, and on to the way children seek with cleverness to manipulate their mother’s maternal instincts. After that is accomplished we will review what the Bible says about the battle for the mind, the proclamation of the Gospel, the persuasion that is employed to bring sinners to Christ, and the pulling down of strongholds that is sometimes necessary to accomplish our goals with resistant sinners. Along the way we will explore the group think mentality that can be observed when people are set on resisting the Gospel, where they sit, how they sit, the ways in which they congregate, and how they use family members, spouses, and friends to shield themselves from a thoughtful consideration of the glorious Gospel message. Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God. As a result of the Fall mankind is a sinful race, though still a race bearing the image of God. Even after God judged the entire human race by the great Flood in Noah’s day, notice what God said in Genesis 9.6: 

“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” 

With mankind a fallen race, we see that the effect resulting from our inherited sinfulness is our estrangement from God. Men are now born sinners.[15] Being sinners, each one of us comes into the world an enemy of God.[16]  Tragically for us, this means that we are by nature children of wrath.[17] Therefore, punishment deservedly awaits every child born of woman for the sins he has committed against God.[18]

Next, there is Christ’s gospel. Our word gospel is derived from the Middle English godspell, meaning good spell, good news.[19] It translates the Greek word euangellion, which means exactly the same thing, good news.[20] The word gospel is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament. It is used to refer to the four books at the beginning of the New Testament; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which are the four Gospels. The word is sometimes used to refer to generic good news of any kind. In Matthew’s Gospel the word is related to the good news of the coming millennial kingdom. In Mark’s Gospel the word is broader in scope, referring to something to be proclaimed to the entire world and believed. Amazingly, the word gospel is not used at all in John’s Gospel, but was a favorite with the Apostle Paul in the letters he wrote. I shall use the word gospel in the sense Paul used it, to refer to the good news of Christ’s gospel as the divine remedy for man’s sin.

Imagine yourself to be a first-century Gentile. The world is in a terrible mess. The poverty is grinding, the political oppression is unrelenting, the life spans are short, the taxes are crushing, and the religions are a hypocritical sham. The one thing every human being must have is hope, yet there is none of that to be found anywhere. There is no political hope. There is no cultural hope. There is no economic hope. There is certainly no spiritual hope, since the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2.12, 

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” 

Into this desperate mix of depressed humanity was injected something new. It was a given that poverty was most people’s lot in life. It was a given that disease would take more than less during their youth. It was a given that starvation from famine would strike. It was a given that the Romans would arbitrarily exercise naked and excessive force just to show everyone they could. It was a given that institutions would be destroyed under the advance of all things Roman. Day after day was the same dreariness, the same hopelessness, the same brutality.

Everyone’s stare was that same blank look into the distance that characterizes the hopeless, the helpless, the pathetic, and those who were hurt so deeply, so frequently, and so thoroughly selfish in their pursuit of personal advantage that it profoundly affected their hearts. Listen to how the Apostle Paul describes them to those who are now Christians, in Ephesians 4.17-19: 

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 

Notice Paul’s inspired analysis of the thoughts of unsaved Gentiles: In Ephesians 4.17, he refers to “the vanity of their mind,” with vanity translating mataoitays, meaning useless, valueless, emptiness, or purposelessness.[21] If you are unsaved, even though you may be very bright, the processes of your mind are useless, without value, empty, and have no purpose. In Ephesians 4.18 he makes reference to “the understanding darkened,” “ignorance that is in them,” and “the blindness of their heart.” What an incredible indictment against unsaved people. Lost people are ignorantly alienated from God, with a darkened understanding, “because of the blindness of their heart.” This word blindness is the Greek word pooroosis, which refers to a complete lack of understanding, dullness, and insensibility. Though the word is used figuratively in the New Testament, it originally meant to harden or to petrify.[22] So you see, hardness of heart leads to so many other debilitating conditions of perception and comprehension. If you are lost you just do not get it. In Ephesians 4.19 Paul refers to those with such a heart “being past feeling,” apalgeoo. This is the person who is callous or perhaps despondent. Such a person’s hopelessness leads him into vice.[23] Paul describes the vices as lasciviousness, and uncleanness with greediness. What is lasciviousness? Lindsay Lohan. Courtney Love. Brittany Spears. Snooki. Charlie Sheen. Snoop Dog. Those are six well-known examples of lasciviousness.

Imagine an entire culture filled with people like Lindsay Lohan, Courtney Love, Brittany Spears, Snooki, Charlie Sheen and Snoop Dog. Totally given over to the pursuit of pleasure and excitement because the heart is so hardened that the subtle and the sublime cannot be perceived. It is like plunging yourself into a sewer because your nose is no longer sensitive enough to smell roses. People like this are not fulfilled, are not happy, and find no sense of satisfaction in anything they have experienced, which is why they are always after more.

Enter the gospel, the good news. Startling in that no one ever had any expectation of good news being possible, since their experiences had always been the sameness of wickedness, vice, oppression, and taking advantage of others unless you were being taken advantage of by others. Imagine a world in which infants are tossed into the streets minutes after birth, are then picked up by slave owners to raise as beasts of burden and servants if they are not left to die, are then made available to any pedophile who might want to buy or rent them, and are eventually sold to the highest bidder to use however he wanted, being of no real and lasting value to anyone. Consider being one of the many whose life has been these kinds of experiences.

Then, one day, you hear good news. No one says anything to you. You just overhear someone lifting up his voice in the crowd. He is shouting out to the crowd that there is a God who loves individuals (even if they are slaves), who sent His own Son to suffer for sins by dying on that cruelest instrument of torture, the Roman cross, and who rose from the dead and was seen alive from the dead by hundreds of witnesses. Does that ever sound interesting to you. Someone is talking about relief, about a way out, about forgiveness, about meaning, about the invisible God actually being concerned about me, and about His virgin-born Son saving me from my sins. They call it the Gospel.

Turn to First Corinthians 15.1-4, where Paul rehearses the gospel to his Corinthian readers: 

1  Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. 

Verse 1 is where Paul reminds his readers of what he had declared to them by means of preaching that resulted in them becoming Christians. The Gospel, the good news, he declared by preaching to them was received by them, and is presently where they stand.

Verse 2 is very clear in its declaration that, unless they had believed in vain, unless they had an empty and unsaving faith, the Gospel was the means by which they are saved. How would believing in vain be discovered? There is no evidence of the supernatural in you. There is no alteration of priorities, no transformation of personality, no generosity of spirit. This would be the guy who misses church, exhibits no joy, and robs God of His tithes and gives nothing to missions. I know people think this describes half the Christians they knew, but the Apostle would not accept such as anything he would call Christian.

Saved from what, we might ask? If you have not believed in vain, verses 3 and 4 provide the answer. What Paul delivered to the Corinthians was truth that he also received. “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” That is, the Messiah (which is what the word christ means), died a substitutionary death (“for our sins”), in fulfillment of numerous and centuries-old Old Testament predictions. He was then buried, but rose from the dead the third day, also in fulfillment of both His own and Old Testament predictions.

How is that good news? Why is that good news? It is good news because Romans 6.23 declares to us, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The good news is that someone conquered death. It is also good news that He conquered death, not by avoiding it, but by experiencing it and overcoming it by His resurrection from the dead. However, the news is even better, since Christ not only defeated death, but He conquered sin. As well, it was not His sin He conquered (since He had no personal sins of His own), but yours and mine.

In a world overwhelmed by a selfishness and hopelessness born by everyone’s calloused heart, never believing there was such a thing as goodness, never believing there was such a thing as love except as an expression of lust and appetite, never believing there was such a thing as personal worth and the value of the individual, Jesus Christ pierced the darkness with His Gospel. Despite the unanimous testimonies of everyone a man had ever known, despite the unanimous brutality a pretty young girl had experienced at the hands of every foul smelling man who had ever gotten within reach of her, despite being nothing more than livestock as one who had never known his mother or his father, never felt the tender touch of a loving hand, in the black darkness of spiritual depravity, there suddenly appeared a ray of dazzling white light.

Someone died a cruel death by crucifixion. That same Man rose from the dead three days later. They say He died for me, the Just for the unjust that He might bring me to God. There is a God, and He not only cares for me who was never cared for by anyone, but He actually loves me. Me. He loves me so much that He sent His own Son to die for me, to pay the price for my sins.

Oh, what good news. There is a Savior. Oh, what good news. He died for me. Oh, what good news. He was sent by His Father. Oh, what good news. God actually loves me. Oh, what good news. Sinners like me can be saved from our sins. Oh, what good news. Sinners like me can become God’s own children. Oh, what good news. Sinners like me can someday experience the bliss of heaven. Oh, what good news.

In this series of messages about salvation, a matter of the heart, we are making our way through the first main portion of our study, which has to do with this issue of the belief of the heart. In Romans 10.10 the Apostle Paul wrote, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” 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. We began by delving a bit into mankind’s fall 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 sinned and experienced spiritual death by separation from God.

After a consideration of mankind’s fall and the consequences we now face as a result of our sinfulness, we turned 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.

We now take yet another step in trying to gain understanding of this mystery whereby a holy God sends His only begotten Son to save undeserving sinners from their sins. Man is fallen and very sinful. Christ’s Gospel speaks of God’s response to man’s sins and the provision He has made in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. 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, that good news that Jesus Christ was crucified for my sins, died, and rose again from the dead? Does God just take it that the Lord 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, some die in their wicked state and some 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 so as to deserve the salvation that Christ’s Gospel offers, or the sinner receives the salvation that Christ’s Gospel offers as an undeserved gift. Isaiah 64.6 is illuminating: 

“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.[24] 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 prototype for us to emulate, Abraham. We find what we are looking for in 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, 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 every sinner must come to be saved from his sins, 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 reveals that justification 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 think we are any better than other sinners, since salvation is not the result of either being good or doing good. Rather, justification is the result for those who have faith in Jesus Christ, Who is the only proper object of saving faith. 

We have considered mankind’s Fall and Christ’s Gospel. Third, there is the sinner’s 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 what 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 of the mind. 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 impediments which 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 person, with well-chosen words being necessary to negotiate the narrow passages into an individual’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 of imparting faith to a sinner a rapid process? 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 suggest 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. This is 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, suggesting that faith is almost 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 absolutely 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, a responsibility that he recognized as his own.

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.[25] 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 somehow 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 such a detail.

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), the great New England physician of souls, 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).”[26] 

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.[27] 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. What a great tragedy it is, then, when children are not brought to Church by their parents to hear God’s Word preached.

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 catechism 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 deposits the gift of 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. How important it is, then, for parents to supervise the process of their children memorizing God’s Word and creating scenarios in which recollecting and reflecting on God’s Word is encouraged and promoted by their children.

Finally, only you can with your heart believe in Jesus Christ 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 Christ, or receiving Christ, or trusting Christ, or believing in Christ, or believing on Christ, these are all ways of referring to this matter of believing with your heart unto righteousness. That is your assignment and no one else’s. 

 

To Be Continued Next Sunday -

__________

[1] Gerhard Kittel, editor, Geoffrey W. Bromley, translator, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), page 611.

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

[3] Kittel, page 611.

[4] Ibid., page 612.

[5] Ibid.

[6] PayCheck Sunday is our church’s annual special offering time, an occasion in which many members choose to reverse tithe, giving 90% of their weekly income and keeping 10% instead of giving 10% and keeping 90%. Our annual Paycheck Sunday freewill offering is extremely helpful with large expenses faced by churches to maintain property and appearance.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Genesis 1.26

[9] Emery H. Bancroft, Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, revised edition 1961), page 180.

[10] Genesis 3.1-19

[11] Romans 6.23

[12] Jude 13; Matthew 25.46; Revelation 20.11-15

[13] Bancroft, pages 190-192.

[14] John Gill, The Collected Writings of John Gill - Version 2.0, (Paris, AK: The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2000-2003), Book 5, Doctrinal Divinity Book 3, Chapter 11

[15] Romans 5.12

[16] Romans 5.10

[17] Ephesians 2.3

[18] Romans 6.23

[19] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 788.

[20] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 402-403.

[21] Ibid., page 621.

[22] Ibid., page 900.

[23] Ibid., page 96.

[24] 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.

[25] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), page 860.

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

[27] James 1.21

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