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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 7:14–23

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 14, Proper 17, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Aug 30, 2015 

In 1977, George Lucas released the first of the Star Wars series of movies.  At the time, he simply called it Star Wars, but most fans now know it now as Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.  It was an incredible success and made a lot of money for a lot of people.

One of the plot devices was something called The Force. People who were strong in The Force were basically wizards.  They could anticipate other peoples actions, move objects with their minds, control other peoples thoughts, and so forth.  Using The Force required a great deal of training and skill.

Proper control of The Force depended a lot on feelings.  The trainers were constantly telling the learners to search their feelings trust their feelings feel, dont think trust your instincts and so forth.  Eventually, the main character learned to trust his feelings control The Force win the day and become a hero.

All of this trusting in instincts and feelings makes for a fun movie.  It is great fiction, and the movies are very popular.  Unfortunately, there are people who believe that trusting your feelings and instincts works in real life.  This is especially sad when it comes to making choices between right and wrong.  People think that if they follow their heart, it will always lead them in the right way.

Jesus taught the exact opposite.  He said, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. (Mark 7:2023) According to Jesus, following your heart is a very dangerous thing to do.

The book of Judges in the Old Testament gives an account of some of the deepest, darkest, most immoral days of Israel.  Cruelty, obscenity, and hardness of heart all reach their deepest depths in this book.  The book of Judges ends with these words of judgment, In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25) Some of the most horrible things described in the Bible were considered right at that time because people judged by what was right in their own eyes.  This is just another way of saying that they were following their heart.

If we take a few moments to think about it, it makes sense that it is dangerous to trust our feelings as a guide to the ultimate truth.  Think about it.  Do you feel the same every day?  If your feelings change from day to day, does that mean that the truth changes from day to day?  What about other peoples feelings?  If you interview a hundred people on any given topic, the odds are pretty good that you will get three or four different feelings on that topic.  If you interview those exact same hundred people a year later, their feelings will change.  Many of them wont agree with the answer they gave the previous year.  Think about it honestly do you really want to stake your eternity on a feeling that you have a feeling that might change tomorrow a feeling that varies from person to person?

This is probably one of the biggest problems in the world today.  People base their ideas of right and wrong on philosophies that come from within.  They dont ask, Is this the right thing to do? Instead, they ask, Does this seem right to me? Does this make me happy? Does this give me pleasure? It is all about what makes me feel good today.  Our society thinks this is good, healthy, wholesome, and so forth.

On the other hand, Jesus says, evil things come from within The Holy Spirit inspired the prophet Jeremiah to say, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) After the flood, the Lord Himself said, For the intention of mans heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21) Our culture wants you to believe that what comes from inside of you is basically good.  The Bible tells us that man is actually evil to the core.

I dont know about you, but this teaching frightens me.  It means that while I live in this sin-filled world, I carry a traitor around inside of me.  Jesus says that deep down in my heart is a source of evil, not good.  Jesus says that I cant trust my heart for good.  I cant trust my heart for truth.  Jesus basically says that I cant trust my heart that my heart is a traitor within me.  I carry within me a deep core of rotten filth that is my sin.  It is terrifying for Jesus to tell me that my own heart betrays me.

The most frightening aspect of this rotten sin within me is that I can do nothing about it.  Every righteous deed I try to do every pure thought I try to have is polluted by the evil that is within me.  I cannot help myself because my own heart betrays me and works tirelessly to drag me down to hell.  What hope do I have against such a severe traitor?  I would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation by a salvation that is beyond me outside of me greater than me.

This morning, as we read the words of the introit together, we heard part of the cry of David as he called out for rescue from this sinful condition.  King David had followed his traitorous heart.  He committed adultery with the wife of one of his finest and most loyal army officers.  Then he murdered that army officer in an empty attempt to cover up his adultery.

What was his prayer when his pastor, Nathan the prophet, uncovered his horrible sin?  We have his words in Psalm 51.  In this psalm, David finally did the only honest thing a sinner can do before Almighty God.  He pled guilty to all the charges leveled against him and threw himself on the mercy of the court.  He begged Almighty God to kill his old sinful heart and create a new clean heart within him.  This psalm is a psalm we all need to pray.

God has already answered this prayer that we pray with David.  He sent His Son Christ Jesus into the world to take up our human flesh.  Since Jesus is the Son of God and was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, He was born with a clean heart.  He experienced all the temptations we experience, but He never sinned.  Instead He took the sin of our hearts onto Himself and carried it to the cross.  As He hung on that cross, He paid the price that Gods justice demands of our sin.  He suffered the punishment of hell in our place for us.  We know that the price He paid was more than enough because the grave could not hold Him.  His resurrection from the dead shows us that God is now ready to create a clean heart in each of us.

In order to create a clean heart in us, God first puts the old, filthy, toxic, sinful heart to death.  It is as the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3) and We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6) and Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24) God works not from the inside but from the external Word to drown our old sinful nature.

He then works in us to create that new, clean heart for which we prayed.  Again, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) and If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5) and If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:8) When the Holy Spirit plants faith in us, He does a heart transplant.  He removes our filthy hearts of sin and replaces them with new, clean hearts.

Now, although we have new, clean hearts, we still live in a sinful world.  Temptations still attack us from all directions, and we often suffer defeat.  That is when our new hearts convict us of sin and drive us back to the cross.  There we once again confess our sins and receive forgiveness for all our sins.  In this way, God keeps our new heart clean until He takes us away from this world of sin.  On that day, the angels will carry us to His side in Heaven.  There we shall wait for the Last Day when He will raise the dead and take all who believe in Him into eternal life.  In that new earth, we shall never be sinful again.

Each and every one of us was born with a toxic heart.  It was a heart that loved sin and hated God.  Over time our continuous sinning only made our hearts blacker and more toxic.  There was no way that we can trust such hearts to guide us in the truth.  Instead, God took our filthy, sinful hearts and destroyed them at the cross.  Now through Holy Baptism, He gives us newly created hearts hearts that fear, love and trust in Him above all things hearts that turn to Him in time of trouble and when temptations overwhelm us, hearts that confess our sin in the sure and certain knowledge that God loves us for Christs sake and will forgive us.  These are new hearts that will live with Him in heaven and rejoice before His throne forever.  These are the new hearts that God has created in us.  Amen

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