Heart check. 3'30'08
Sunday March 30, 2008
When is the last time you checked the oil in your car? (There is oil in my car?) When is the last time you had a physical, had your furnace checked, your blood pressure checked? Easy to let those things go. I am not here to make you feel guilty for maintenance issues – but there is a more important issue for all of us today, an eternal issue.
Every once in a while, we need to stop and check the condition of our hearts. Health check up; oil check; balance your checkbook. Good ideas, every so often! I was strongly impressed by the Holy Spirit to set aside the message / series that I had prepared for today. Who knows about next week?
It is a good time to look back, look forward and look around. “How am I doing? Where am I going?” I want to ask a similar question that is easy to overlook, “What is the condition of my heart?”
“Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.” Pr. 4:23
“Guard your heart” We like clean water, clean air. We wouldn’t drink from a contaminated well – we would guard that well, because that would be our source for water.
Our hearts can be filled with all sorts of sin, all sorts of things that contaminate our lives. They may not even be visible to anyone else, they may be “hidden” – but they are real, and they are poisonous! To us and to others. Today, we are going to get out a “spiritual stethoscope” to take a look inside.
God pointed out to ME that I had drifted; that my heart had grown cold. I am not proud of that, but it is true. Maybe you could use what God has given me too.
Open your Bible to the table of contents. In the Old Testament, there are a group of 12 books called the Minor Prophets. They are not minor because they are unimportant, but they are called minor only because their books are short. Their messages were powerful. Joel 2 (we’ll get there in a minute)
Prophet does not only = prophet as the man who predicts / foretells the future. The role of the prophet was to call God’s people back to the original commands of God. Over time, people drift away from where they ought to be, where they want to be, and the role of the prophet in the Old Testament was to call God’s people back.
A Police Officer, given the job of enforcing (not making) the laws.
12 “I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come
and shower righteousness upon you.’” Hosea 10:12 NLT
Land was allowed to lie fallow that it might become more fruitful; but when in this condition, it soon became overgrown with thorns and weeds. The cultivator of the soil was careful to “break up” his fallow ground, i.e., to clear the field of weeds, before sowing seed in it. The expression means, “Do not sow your seed among thorns”, i.e., break off all your evil habits; clear your hearts of weeds, in order that they may be prepared for the seed of righteousness. So says the prophet, “Break off your evil ways, repent of your sins, cease to do evil, and then the good seed of the word will have room to grow and bear fruit.” Easton’s Bible Dictionary
Springtime! (By faith!) If you are going to plant a garden this year, you won’t have much success if your plan is to put some seed in the ground without preparing the ground first. The first step is to pull the weeds (yay!) then break up the clean ground. Then, you can plant and expect a harvest. “Clear your heart of weeds”
*Key point: this is something that we are to do! We cannot ask God to plow up the hard ground; this is something we must do in our own heart. A farmer is responsible for the condition of his fields, and the ground that he cultivates. He cannot ask someone else to do what he alone must do. We are responsible for the condition of our hearts.
No, you and I each have ownership of this piece of ground, the piece that is in our hearts. If it is hard, we must soften it up, plow out the weeds. I must do it! You cannot control what happens to you; but you must control what happens in you!
Good ground, left alone over time, will become covered over with weeds! Our hearts, over time, can become hardened and covered with the weeds of sin and neglect.
This plowing up the weeds, breaking up the hard ground is:
Repentance. We hear that word, but what does it mean?
To repent means to “turn around”. To do a U-turn. To turn from our sin and to turn toward God. Both aspects are needed to make repentance real.
Ø isn’t just feeling sorry for our sin
Ø It isn’t feeling bad that we were caught. It is a heart cry for inner change!
Onetime there were two brothers. One was an outstanding citizen and the other was a convict. The convict brother killed a man, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. His brother who was well respected went to his friend the governor and pleaded for a pardon for his brother. Since the governor respected the murderer's brother he issued the pardon and gave to his friend. The brother went to the prison and visited with his sibling. Before he told his brother he was pardoned, He asked him, "What would you do if you were released?" His brother replied from his cell, "First, I would kill the judge, then I'd murder the chief witness against me." Upon hearing this his brother ended the conversation, walked out of the prison with the pardon in his pocket and gave it back to the governor. You see his brother hadn't repented. He hadn't had a change of heart. The opportunity was granted to him to go free, but it called for repentance. Since there could be no repentance, there also could be no pardon.
Ø It isn’t just a one time thing that we do when we get saved
Sin, and repentance, are things that we will have to deal with for the rest of our lives on earth (unfortunately).
Repentance, then is a turning from our sin:
Ø Grieve over it (blessed are the poor in spirit). We become broken-hearted over our sin. We take it seriously. God hates sin because of what it does to us. Like a parent who would hate the cancer that would take the life of his child.
Ø Confessing our sin to God. Agreeing with God that we have sinned.
Ø Asking God for inward change – not just on the outside.
Unrepentant sin leads to a hard heart! Sin that we hold on to; that we try to cover up hardens our heart! The ground of our heart becomes hard and covered up with weeds. God cannot do anything good on that kind of ground! The weeds must be pulled, and the hard ground broken up.
I’m not talking about reaching perfection. It is unrealistic to think we can keep from sinning. But what I am talking about is the sin you know you have committed. The sin you have swept under the rug and concealed. I’m talking about that defilement you have in your conscience. I’m speaking about that sin you have committed or may be ongoing in your life that you are aware of but are not turning from.
God wants us to rid the ground of weeds – so we can receive the good seed that he has for us! Good things are planned, but we need to be ready to receive them or we will miss our chance! God has great plans for you in 2008! God has great plans for this church in 2008! Count on it! But he cannot plant good seed on weedy, hard ground!
How is revival and spiritual growth going to come to our church? Our city, nation and world? As long as we look around us instead of inside of us, we are going to miss it!
I am the church! I am Oak Harbor Assembly of God! I know you have heard me say that before, but it is time for a reminder. None of us can point our finger at “those people” it is us, we are a part of the church!
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders, gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the temple porch and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’ ” Joel 2:12-17
:13 “Rend your heart and not your garments.” You can tear your garments as a sign of repentance, but that can also just be an outer display. Fine, but not enough. It is your heart that God cares about, not your clothes.
:13 Aren’t you glad that God is the God of second chances? Mercy, forgiveness, grace? “He is gracious and compassionate slow to anger and abounding in love” When we bring ourselves to him, just as we are, we find mercy and grace! He responds to our repentance with grace! Hallelujah!
- All the people, gathered together.
“Bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast.”
- Importance (:16)
The bridegroom and the bride are called to join in. under normal circumstances, the bride and groom would be left alone and not bothered; but these are not normal circumstances! Under normal circumstances, a newly married man could not be sent to war for 1 year after marrying; but these are not normal circumstances! (Dt. 24:5)
:17 God’s reputation is at stake.
“an object of scorn” (:19 too). Lack of victory, lack of provision, LACK!
How does God respond to our repentance? To our examination of our hearts?
18 Then the Lord will be jealous for his land
and take pity on his people.
19 The Lord will reply to them:
“I am sending you grain, new wine and oil,
enough to satisfy you fully;
never again will I make you
an object of scorn to the nations.” Joel 2:18-19
Repentance leads to restoration of blessing! God wants to bless his people! That is his heart! Our sinfulness, willfulness, selfishness and pride can KEEP his blessing away – but when we repent, we can look for repentance to be followed by restoration! Restoration of his blessing!
We can put up a roadblock to the blessing of God in our lives!
The process of spiritual renewal is not complete; I have areas in my life where I still need to grow, and sins over which I need more consistent victory. I also have character qualities in my life that need further honing, but I praise God for what has happened so far. Repentance is not a “once for all” decision, but an ongoing process.
You are holding in your hand a piece of chalk:
English evangelist Gypsy Smith answered the question, "How do you have a revival?" Smith as said, "'Get some chalk. Get alone. Get on your knees. Draw a circle around yourself. And pray. Ask God to give you a heart for him. And don't get up until he has answered your prayer!"
Now, you don’t need to literally do that (especially not here on our carpet!) But take this chalk with you as a reminder. Pray for the “ground” within YOUR circle of chalk. Pray for revival there.
“If you want to see revival, if you want to see spiritual growth, take this piece of chalk, draw a circle around yourself; when revival comes to that circle, it will come to our church! It will come to Oak Harbor!
Too often we look outside of ourselves. It is easy to see what others are “doing wrong”. But that attitude never solves anything! It is time to look inside; to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me about me.
We cannot look for revival in the house of God until there is revival in our own heart!
Am I the person that God wants me to be? Not talking about comparing myself to others – but to what God desires of me.
God is calling us as a church to examine the ground of our hearts. To confess our sin before Him. To turn from it and to turn toward God with ALL of our hearts!
Prayer at altar NOW; Prayer in your own “chalk circle” anytime; Prayer here tonight at 6 pm
Prayer / worship tonight at 6 pm. Whole family, anointing, (why can’t I just pray alone) praying together is the Bible pattern.
You can encourage someone by your presence tonight. Our LIFE Groups are important, but tonight I am calling for all to join together in prayer.