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Issues of the Heart

By John MacArthur


      I have some concerns, OK? Can I just share them with you? Do you want to know what's in my heart, what bubbles up inside of me? Now, I preach two times a week, every week, at Grace Church, I have for twenty years, I have preached about 1500 sermons. So I go from subject to subject to subject pretty fast. But some things just never seem to be able to release their grip on me. Do you have things like that? They are the passions of your life. And I want you to know what they are.

      The first thing that I want you to understand is that I am deeply concerned, that the Church of Jesus Christ, really begin to live by This Book [Bible]. My preaching is not an exercise in oratory. My preaching is not an exercise in clever homiletics. It is not even duty, it is a passion. It says in Psalm 138:2 that, "God has exalted His Word above His Name." Can you imagine that? This is a sacred trust. And I am deeply concerned that the Church plays "fast and loose" with the Word of God. That men don't accurately teach and preach it; and don't study it with commitment; that churches don't apply it and live it out. Everybody asks me about the Baker PTL scandal, what I thought of it, and my response is this: The major scandal was not what they did with their bodies, although that was wicked sin; the major scandal was not what they did with money taken from God's people, under false pretenses, although that was wicked sin. The major scandal of the PTL was the development of a system of Theology, out of the Bible, that lets you live like that. That's the scandal.

      I listened to a talk show on the radio one day, and a lady called up and said, "I want to know how to tell a good church, what I look for in a church." And the host of the program said, "What you look for in a church is fellowship, sharing and caring." And I said, "That's the wrong answer." You can find that in a lot of places. You can find that in a bar; find that in a Service Club, the Moose Lodge, or the Royal Order of the Goats, or whatever else you want to join. Fellowship, sharing, and caring? Hey, there is only one question to ask about a church, "How do they handle "The Book?" I have fear about that. Will you open your Bible with me to Psalm 19? And I just want to touch lightly on this. Some of you have heard the series I did on the "Sufficiency of Scripture." But I just want to touch this lightly. Psalm 19:7, "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The ordinances are true and righteous altogether." Those three verse provide for us the greatest comprehensive statement on the sufficiency of Scripture, anywhere in the Bible. Six titles for Scriptures; It is the Law of the Lord; the Testimony of the Lord; the Statutes of the Lord; the Commandment of the Lord; the Fear of the Lord; and the Ordinances of the Lord. It is all those things. It has six characteristics; it is sure; it is right; it is clear or pure; it is eternal, enduring forever; it is clean; and it is true. Did you get that? The Bible is perfect, sure, right, clear, clean, and true. And what does it do? Converts the soul; makes wise the simple; rejoices the heart; enlighten the eyes; endures forever; and produces comprehensive righteousness. What else could you ask for?

      And yet I look at the Church today, and I see the Church giving into entertainment. Why? I read an interview by a well known Christian Rock Singer, who said, "The reason that she sings the way she does, is to reach the lost. She feels that she has to be "sexy" in a godly way!" What is that? What do you mean by that? Do we believe that we have to hide the Gospel? Are we creating synthetic seed to replace the good seed? Do we have to be clever, and manipulative, and creative? We can't just preach the truth? Listen, I believe that we have to go back to the Word of God. I am concerned deeply that the medium is becoming the message in the Church, and that there is no message anymore.

      There is a new book out, fascinating book, comparing modern well known preachers, with the great preachers of the American Awakening, George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards. The difference is shocking. When Whitfield and Edwards preached, they preached theology, it was profound, it was deep, it was Biblical. And the message was the issue. And the man was measured on the basis of how he squared with the Word of God.

      Today the medium of communication has substituted for the message. And nobody seems to care what the message was. All they care about is did we enjoy him. Frightening! I believe there is a famine of the Word of God. I don't think people are going to deny the Word of God, they just ignore it. Or they don't think it is sufficient. They think it is the Bible plus something; Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, or whatever.

      But I believe that it [Bible] is sufficient and I am deeply distressed that I see in the Church, a pervasive mentality that we have to manipulate people to believe. We have to entertain people to get them in. And yet Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation." Is it not? "To those who believe, Jew first, and also the Gentiles."

      I am greatly concerned, that the Church doesn't believe that it [Bible] is perfect and able to transform the whole person. I am convinced that the Church doesn't believe that it [Bible] is sure, trustworthy, and able to make a simple person eminently wise. I am not sure that the Church believes that. I am not sure the Church believes that it [Bible] lays down the right path and brings joy to the heart. I am not sure that the Church believes, that if you really want to see things clearly, you need to see them through the pages of the Scriptures. I hear so many preachers who are doing everything but teaching the Word of God with depth. That's a passion for me. I believe the Word of God is sufficient for every Spiritual need.

      I want to turn to another passage, I could say much more about that, that's what your pastor says just after he has run out of material. I could go on and on brethren, but ah....... The reason I know that is because I am one. Isaiah 6, is the second issue that I want to address just briefly with you. And I am not going to preach a sermon tonight. If you need to get a sermon from me, buy a tape. I just want to share my heart tonight.

      Verse 1, "In the year that King Uzziah died." You say, "Why is that there?" "Is that important?" It is if your name is Uzziah. But you have to understand that Uzziah had been king for fifty-two years. And the people of Israel had been sliding down the pit of sin. But as long as Uzziah was on the throne they felt secure, because he was a very good king. And he was very effective in strengthening the land economically, militarily, socially, and all of that, he brought peace   

      So they had this guy for fifty-two years, they were feeling really secure. Can you imagine having the same president for fifty-two years, everything going well? And they just felt very good about everything, and then Uzziah died. And it sort of symbolized God taking His hand off. And when Uzziah died, Isaiah the prophet, went to the temple to see God. He wanted to "check in" and find out what was "going on," because Uzziah was killed by God. God killed him. You know why? Because he intruded on the office of the priest. He got to feeling so good about himself, he tried to play the role of the priest, and that was sacred, and God killed him.

      And so Isaiah steps into the temple and he wants to see God. And he says, "I saw the Lord, I saw the Lord." I don't want to take time to describe the whole vision, but he saw the Lord. And the thing that he saw most about the Lord is in verse 3, the angels began to cry back and forth about the character of the Lord, and three times it says God is what? Holy.

      He saw the Holy God in a vision, and the post of the door moved at the voice of him who cried and the house was filled with smoke. And then, "Said I." Now what do you say when you see God? "Woe is me!" Do you know what woe means? Damn me, curse me, assign me to condemnation, send me to Hell, judge me. I am wretched, I am wicked, I am vile.

      You say, "Well, why do you say that Isaiah? You got a bad self image. You need a Christian Counselor. You got to feel good about yourself. You can't go around saying 'Woe is me, I am undone.'" Undone means disintegrating, crumbling, "going to pieces," falling apart. He says, "I am a man of unclean lips, I have a dirty mouth." You say, "Isaiah, you are a prophet, you have the best mouth in the land, when you open your mouth, God talks!" "What are you saying?"   "No, I have unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips. And why do I feel that way, because my eyes have seen what? The King." Do you want to know something? I am greatly concerned that the Church does not understand the Holiness of God. I am convinced that the Church plays games with a Holy God, and they don't know what they are doing. And this is serious.

      If Jimmy Swaggert really understood what the Bible says about how Holy God is, he wouldn't have lived the lifestyle he has been living. You can't live like that, if you understand how holy God is, if you have the fear of God. And if you don't have the fear of God about your sin, then you don't understand how holy He is, and how He feels about sin.

      There is a man out in California, who says he went to Heaven and saw God. And he gets on TV and says, "I went to Heaven and I saw God." The first time I saw him [the man] my ears went up. It was on a Christian TV. He says, "I saw God! And I went up and the Lord took me to Heaven and oh, we had a wonderful time, and I toured the place and I saw my mansion." He said, "I saw my mansion." I don't want to blow your dreams, but there are no mansions. In John 14, "In my Father's house are many rooms," it says. You are not living eighteen blocks down, and four to the right, you are living "in" the Father's house! "So am I."

      But he did not even know how to interpret the Bible. So whatever heaven he went to, it wasn't the one in the Bible. But any way he said, "We toured, and I saw my mansion, and I saw all the mansions etc.," He's a medical doctor, so that gives him creditability with people, and he travels around, and wrote a book about it. And then he says, "Whenever I want to renew my visit to Heaven, I go to my closet and take out the tie I wore the day I went, it still has the smell of Heaven!"

      And then recently, he said he went back again, and I guess the circuit was running a little dry, so he needed another trip to "stir up" the troops. So he went back to Heaven, and he "got on" again recently and said, "I have been to Heaven and I have a wonderful announcement to make, and this is exactly what he said, "There are no bathrooms in Heaven." My blood began to boil at the time, such sacrilege, such mockery. Take your show on the road, write a book, be a television celebrity, but let me tell you something, sir, "If you ever saw Holy God, you would be on the ground, with your face down crying for the mercy of God. That's where you'd be, you wouldn't be on TV as some celebrity. As a sinner in the presence of a Holy God, as soon as you see Holy God, you would know that he sees your sin, and you are undone."

      Remember the disciples, trying to cross the Sea of Galilee, and a storm came up, and they were in a boat with Jesus? And the storm started "whipping up" and the boat is "bouncing around," and the thing is starting to fill up with water, and what is Jesus doing? Sleeping! I love that. Nobody else trusted God, He did. And the disciples woke Him up, saying, "Lord, don't you care that we perish?" And the Bible says, "They were afraid." And the Lord looked out at the sea churning, and He said, "Shhhh!" And the wind stopped, and the ripples didn't even go to the shore, they just flattened out. And the Bible says, "The disciples were exceedingly afraid!" Do you know what is worse having a storm outside of your boat? Having the God of creation in your boat!

      In Luke 5, Peter is trying to catch fish, which he never could do, because after he was called to the ministry the Lord rerouted all the fish away from his boat. And he is trying to catch fish, and he can't catch any, and the Lord calls to him, and the Lord says, "Try the right side of the boat." I don't know about you, but if I didn't know who that was, it would irritate me a "little bit" after fishing all night, because that sounds like a pretty silly thing to do. But apparently the voice of the Lord had enough authority, and they pulled so many fish they couldn't get them. Do you remember Peter's response? "Wow, what a miracle, wait until I tell everybody." No! What did he say? "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man. As soon as he realized that he was in the presence of God, he could only see himself as an exposed sinner.

      I had a pastor who is the pastor of a pretty "far out" Charismatic church, and we were having lunch one day and he said, "I want to tell you something, I don't know how you will deal with this," he said, "But sometimes when I'm shaving in the morning, Jesus comes in the bathroom, puts His arms around me and talks to me!" I said, "You mean Jesus, the real Jesus appears in a way that you can see Him?" "Yes," he said, "Do you believe that?" I said, "No." "No, I don't believe that, but what distresses me is I believe, you believe that. I just have one question, do you keep shaving? Because, if you keep shaving, my friend, it wasn't Jesus."

      When a woman reach out and touched the hem of His garment, and he pulled her out of the crowd, she was terrified. You would be "on your face." Do we understand the holiness of God? I understand His grace, I understand His love, I understand His forgiveness, we are good at that. Do we understand how holy He really is?

      Why is it important? Listen to Romans 10:3, "Israel," get this one, "being ignorant of God's righteousness, went about to establish their own righteousness. Do you know what their problem was? They thought God was less righteous than He was. They thought they were more righteous then they were and everything was fine. Many people in the Church live like that. They don't think God is that upset about their sin, so they don't get that upset about their sin, and we have an unholy Church, and we have unholy leadership.

      I tell you something, if the leaders don't get serious about the holiness of God, there is not going to be much hope for the Church. Leaders keep falling, "right and left," into all kinds of immorality. People ask me everywhere I go, "What do you think of that?" "I'll be real honest with you people, I think you have one shot at a life of integrity, and when you have "blown it" you are done. I believe that. 1st Corinthians 9:27 says, "Paul's greatest fear was that in preaching to others, he would become disqualified." I believe you can be disqualified. How? 1st Timothy 3 says, "You have to be blameless and above reproach." And if you are not blameless and above reproach, then you are not qualified. By the grace of God, God expects people to set the standard. You say, "Well, how fast should a leader be restored?" It all depends on what leadership is, if leadership is gathering the troops and raising money, speaking to the people, being an interesting guy, then "get him back."

      But if leadership is modeling godliness, then maybe he never comes back, because the model is shattered. My fear is that what the Church has done is this, since we can't find enough godly leaders to meet the standard, we lower the standard. The holiness of God, the holiness of God, our hearts must be committed to that.

      Well, there are many other things I could say, Psalm 101 says, "He who is," get this, "upright in heart, shall minister to me." Isn't that good? "He who is upright in heart shall minister to me." I am concerned about who is going to have the right to minister. I will be honest with you, I am concerned about restoring people to ministry, who have been disqualified. Bring them back as fast as you can.

      I am concerned about that, do you know what is going to happen? That's going to be the new trend, "Pastors into sin, restored back into the ministry." And do you know what they are going to be saying, "We understand your sins and your problems better than anybody else, we have been there!" And we are going to have this new restored clergy, and the rest of God's faithful servants, who have been obedient to Christ, and walked in faithfulness, are going to wind up as second class citizens who don't really understand people. Frightening. The standard gets lower and lower.

      I am concerned also about a lethargy in the Church. A lack of spiritual commitment, of real spiritual commitment. I see a lot of Christians who just sort of "flake," you know? They are not involved. It's heart breaking. Three weeks ago, four weeks ago, I guess, I talked with a pastor from Russia. He came to visit Grace Church. He didn't speak any English. He had heard about our church, I guess, when he was in his country. He wanted to see our church on his visit to America so he came to our church. He spoke no English, only Russian. He had a lady with him who spoke Russian and Spanish, and she had a friend who spoke Spanish and English. We had a very interesting conversation!

      From Russian to Spanish, from Spanish to English, from English to me, and then back through the same circle. He said to me, first of all he wanted to know if we had any material in Russian? And I told him we had the book, "The Charismatics," it just had been translated and was being distributed, and I gave him a copy of that. then he said, "I just don't understand how you can minister in America, I don't understand it, with a low level of commitment." He said, "Do you know that no one in Russia, would ever, ever, pretend to be a Christian. Do you understand that? You don't want to pretend to be a Christian. They put Christians in jail. Unless you are one, you are not going to fake it." And he went on to say that every time they opened the Word of God, everyone comes to feed on the Word. And here we are, "Fat and Sassy," in America, aren't we? It's a heart rending thing. I am concerned about apathy.

      One other thing, I am concerned about the gospel we preach. I am concerned about the gospel we preach, somebody said, a Calvinist said, "Sometimes we don't present the gospel well enough for the non-elect to reject it. Kind of an interesting statement isn't it? I didn't say that, someone else said that.

      There is a very great amount of confusion today about the gospel. Take it from me folks, I am in the middle of a battle on this right now. The little tape series we did on examine yourselves, the new book, "The Gospel According to Jesus," which I have been working on, really for ten years, just came out this week. The most significant book I ever written in my life. The gospel is under attack.

      There are people going across this country, widespread, in fundamentalist, and evangelical circles, saying, "All you have to do to be a Christian, is to believe the facts of the gospel in one moment of time, and if you never believe it again, and you become an agnostic, and apostate, or an atheist, you are still saved. You don't ever have to bear any fruit, you life doesn't have to change, it has nothing to do with salvation.

      Do you know what that kind of gospel does? That puts people on the broad road who finally wind up saying, "Lord, Lord," and they hear, "Depart from me, I never knew you." The most frightening thing in the world to me, would be the reality of Matthew, Chapter 7, and verses 20 and following, to think you are going to Heaven, and you wind up in Hell. Because, someone gave the gospel, that wasn't the true gospel.

      I have just written this book to counter the argument that they say you should never ever call on anyone to repent from their sin. You should never call on anyone to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. You should never say to anyone, "Follow Jesus Christ in obedience." Salvation is just believing and that's it. Later on, they can get serious about "Making Jesus Lord." Wait a minute, you don't make Jesus Lord, Jesus is Lord! You don't say, "Look, I'll let you in my life, but you can't be Lord. You have got to be who I am telling you to be." Ridiculous!

      I am convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ, visible, is filled with unconverted people. Unconverted people! And we accept some, "Raised Hand," "Signed Card," "Walk the Aisle," some moment of whatever, emotion, to be true salvation. And we say, "Well, I know they divorced their wife, and I know they are adulterous, and I know they drink a lot, and I know they don't come to church, but I remember the day they, "Walked the Aisle." Well, "What in the world" does that mean? What does that mean?

      Jesus preached repentance, Jesus preached submission to Him. One last Scripture, in Matthew 19, don't turn to it, I'll just mention it, the rich young ruler said, "What must I do to have eternal life?" And Jesus said, "Sell all you have," and do what? "Give it to the poor." Jesus said, "Come follow me." Here's a guy who comes to Jesus and says, "What do I do to get eternal life?" Jesus said, "Give your money away." Is that the right answer? You put that on your quiz at Bible College and you will flunk! What do you mean, "Give your money away," is that salvation by philanthropy? And if you get saved by giving your money away to a poor guy, then he's lost, because he's got it! You can stand there and hand it back and forth and hope that you don't have it at the Second Coming. "Sort of like" musical chairs. What is Jesus saying? The young man said, "I want eternal life." Jesus said, "Yeah, that's fine, but we are going to deal with something else first. Are you willing to follow me?" He could of asked him anything. This was an arbitrary command, "Sell all, give to the poor." Because He knew that money was the god of this man's life. And he said, "Let's deal with the issue, I know that you want eternal life, but are you willing to give up everything, if I ask you?" And he went away. Salvation is an exchange of all that I am for all that He is. It's saying, "I won't follow me, I'll follow you." I wish that Evangelists would stop saying, "Make a decision for Christ," and call on people to follow Jesus Christ. It is a life commitment. The man went away, he didn't want to follow Jesus Christ, he wanted to rule his own life. He didn't even want to admit his sin. Jesus said, "Keep the commandments," and he said, "I've kept them all!" He wouldn't acknowledge his sin and he wouldn't submit to the authority of Christ. And Jesus said, "He went away."

      Two things basic to salvation, turning from sin and following Christ. That's true salvation. And I am so burdened, because I know there are churches were people are sitting deceived, who think they are saved. Look at your life. Look at your life. Do you follow Christ? Let me put it simpler, do you want to follow Christ? Do you desire to follow Christ? And when you don't, are you saddened by that? Are you grieved by your sin? That's the mark of salvation. It's not that following Christ is the perfection of your life, but it is at least the direction. The truly saved, very simple, "Love Christ and hate sin." Love Christ, hate sin. It doesn't say, "They don't sin," it says, "When they do sin, they hate it." Paul says in Romans 7, "The things that I don't want to do, I do. The things I want to do, I don't do. Oh, wretched man!"

      Well, those are the burdens of my heart, and I just wanted to share them with you. We need your prayers.

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