connecting theology and life in gospel-centred ways to the glory of God and our joy in Him
[Steven: Penultimate day is here! I’m feeling the exhaustion of the week creeping up, but am thoroughly encouraged from conversations and my strand group that I’ve led so far! Prayers for energy to sustain us all is appreciated!]
I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7
The Great Exchange
Barnard in Capetown, 50 years ago
50 years ago the world learnt that it was able to transplant the heart of one person into another person and live on. You could give someone a new shot at life when their heart at reached the end stage of functioning.
The race to be first
The Americans and Russians were rushing to be the first on the moon. But there was also an American doctor for years working on heart transplants – who had transplanted 100’s of dog hearts with other hearts. He was ready to trial it on a human. But it was a South African who beat him to the line.
Of course one of the tricky things about doing a heart transplant is having someone on the brink of death ready and able.
And then you’ve also got to have a donor – and a suitable one of course!
Compatible – the right blood type, and the right tissue type (the right antigens that wouldn’t have the body reject the heart)
Healthy – it also had to be healthy, from someone relatively young who hadn’t done much damage to their heart and who didn’t die because of damage to their heart.
Dead – they also had to wait for someone to be brain dead.
A new life
The operation was a success… sort of. It lasted for 19 days, but was a success in the medical world.
And yet, 2600 years before this successful operation, the prophet Ezekiel also spoke of a heart transplant.
Ezekiel in Babylon, 2600 years ago (Ezekiel 36:22-30)
For the sake of his name
The deportation to Babylon was a judgement on the rebellion of God’s people. He had warned her and warned her and warned her. And when she would continue to not listen he ran out of patience.
God then promises in Ezekiel 36 to intervene – but not just for their sake. When God chose the nation of Israel his name became attached with him. When the nation rebelled against him they not only dragged down their reputation in front of the other nations but also dragged down the name of God.
But in intervening God would lift up his name again.
So the nations will know
And he would act in a way so that the other nations would see as well (end of v23).
Cleansed from impurity and idols/Heart transplant
God would reach into the chests of his people and take out that stony hardened hearts, and replace it with a heart of flesh, beating, tender, ready to respond to God and his Word. And also cleansing his people from their impurity and idolatry.
My people, your God
The final promise in v28 is also astonishing – he will intervene so dramatically in Israel’s history and address the most fundamental problem: what’s going on in our hearts – the corruption, the darkness, the contamination. He will perform the most remarkable act of surgery – a heart transplant 2600 years before the first medical one was attempted.
The idea of a heart transplant is completely foreign to history – only until the 20th century did someone actually think you could do it. And yet, 2600 years before Ezekiel gave this radical picture of this graphic, drastic and out of the ordinary act needed to really change God’s people.
We’re just waiting for a donor – waiting for someone with a compatible heart. Someone who will have to die in the process in order to perform that heart transplant for us.
The New Covenant
Jeremiah in Anathoth, 2600 years ago (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
The parallel to Ezekiel is apparent. God will do something internal in order to transform the whole person. God will write His Laws onto the hearts of his people – which means that His people will well up with the desire to obey and listen to God. No longer will God carve the Law into stone tablets, he will carve it into the hearts of his people. Instead of the language of judgement and wrath we now have the language of forgiveness of sins, and remembering them no more. No longer will sin define His people.
Anon in Rome, 2000 years ago (Hebrews 8:7-13)
The writer to the Hebrews quotes Jeremiah verbatim – one of the longest quotes of the OT in the NT.
The whole point: in chapters 8-10 of Hebrews the author explains how Jesus fulfills that new covenant, how Jesus makes that heart transplant happen.
Jesus in Jerusalem (Hebrews 10:1-25)
The inadequacy of the old
V1-4 – points out the inadequacy of the OT sacrifices. They were meant to be a shadow of a better reality to come. The sacrificial system was set up to teach how sins are washed away and forgiven, but they were always a provisional and temporary arrangement. Going to the temple and making your sacrifices year in and year out was a regular reminder that God could forgive their sins – but it was also a reminder that the sacrifices didn’t really fully deal with the problem of sin… because you would be back again soon enough to offer another sacrifice.
Into the world, to do his will
v8-9 – another sacrifice comes into the world ready and willing to do His will – willing to do everything that God desires. Jesus has come to be that person.
One sacrifice for sins
v11-12 – Jesus comes to offer the final and perfect sacrifice – A once and for all sacrifice, to cleanse and purify His people once and for all so that we could live as his people for all eternity.
v13-14 – and because Jesus has become the perfect sacrifice, he also becomes the judge of all. Jesus, is the one appointed to judge all – and yet also is the one who offers the sacrifice to make perfect those who are being sanctified.
What does it mean to be made perfect those who are being sanctified? v16 – God will write the law on the hearts, and v17 their sins and lawlessness he will remember no more. V18 – And where there is forgiveness of sins there is no longer anymore need for sacrifices.
We are made perfect, we have been washed clean, we have been forgiven. And having established our relationship with God, Jesus then goes on to a renovation project in our lives. Jesus has secured our standing and acceptability before God before that transformation process. We don’t relate to God, we don’t strive for holiness, out of insecurity that God will judge us – but out of boldness that Jesus has fully and finally cleansed us from our sin.
Boldness to enter with a true heart
And so, we are urged to enter God’s presence boldly – not flippantly, but with humble and full knowledge that Jesus allows us.
v19-22 – we approach God now with a sincere heart – no longer is their a chasm between our lips and our hearts. We come with full assurance – because Ezekiel and Jeremiah’s prophecies have been fulfilled.
Hearts cleansed of an evil conscience / Promoting love and good works / Encouraging each other
All this now leads to rearranged priorities. We now live for God and for the people around us. We spur one another on to love and good works. We meet regularly together to encourage each other. There is therefore a responsibility we all have for each other’s hearts (expanded more tomorrow).
The Righteousness That Comes By Faith (Romans 10:1-13)
From God vs their own
Paul’s heart and prayer is that people would be saved – especially his own people. But they made mistakes. Paul doesn’t question their zeal or seriousness – but as they sought to establish their righteousness they ignored God’s Word and followed their own.
From the law vs from faith
And in following their own rules and laws they didn’t yield wholeheartedly to God. And they ended up rejecting the one whom the whole Law pointed to and was finished in: Jesus. They tried to come to God via the Law, but God said the only way to come to me is on the basis of faith. Faith alone, because of the mess we have made in our lives – to throw ourselves on his mercy and beg for forgiveness and mercy.
For Moses writes (Deut 30:6, 12-14)
Rom 10:5-8 – coming to faith is as simple as hearing the message of the gospel and responding with belief.
Moses said in Deut 30:6 that God would circumcise their hearts in order to love him. That promise is fulfilled as people come in faith through Jesus.
Deut 30:12-14 – Moses commands his people to choose life – and Paul says in Rom 10:9-10 that choosing life means confessing Jesus is Lord, and believing in your heart that God raised him from the dead. And in that act of confessing and believing a heart transplant occurs.
The message of faith / Heart and mouth united / For everyone who calls
Rom 10:13 – everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved. Everyone is able to come – no matter where you’re from or what you’ve done.
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
[Steven: what a beautiful analogy – in order for us to live we need a heart transplant, and in order for that to happen we need the perfect donor and he needs to die in order for that to happen. Jesus… you’re beautiful.]
Who is your enemy?
The enemy within
“Them’s fighting words” – James 4:
These words, after James 3, should be profoundly disturbing. In James 3:18 James said that a harvest of righteousness is sewn from those who seek peace… and here we have war language?
Context: a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:18). What’s gone wrong? How do followers of the Prince of Peace bring strife and war, and become enemies of God?
This is not a new topic, this is a shift in focus. How do followers of the Prince of Peace bring strife and war?
When you consider church splits, how can people who have the Spirit of peace act in the ways that have split and destroyed churches and people?
The war within (4:1-3)
If you’re living in the real world the conflict is inevitable. A broken relationship in the home. With work friends. Or church members. And at the end we often ask ‘Why? How and why does this happen? Where does this brokenness come from?’ But even further – why do I need to lock my car, and house, why do I need to carry all my belongings with me?
James says the root of the problem is the passions within us at war with each other.
Stage 1: Desire (“I want”).
We crave. Inside of us is where we find our deepest desires and dreams and passions – and it’s imperative that we express them. How to live is up to me – what I want and desire. If I say it’s my passion you have to accept that. It’s wrong to not do what I want – it’s wrong also for me to get in the way of what you want.
When our desires clash with another’s desire then all that can happen is the strongest will win. Whoever has the better lobby group, whoever has the better cultural influence (media, universities, etc) will win.
Stage 2: Demand (“I must”).
The desire becomes a demand – we close our fists over something to grab it for ourselves. Not only must you support my desire but you must also enable my desire.
Stage 3: Need (“I will”).
We view something as something ‘we need’ in life.
Stage 4: Expectation (“You should”).
If I’m convinced I need something and you say you love me then I’m convinced you should do that thing for me.
Stage 5: Disappointment (“You didn’t!”).
As we move from fights and quarrels we end up in disappointment. Because we think you should give me something and then when you don’t there is disappointment.
Stage 6: Punishment (“Because you didn’t, I will. . .”).
We are hurt and angry because those who say they love us, or should love us, disappoint us and then we punish them.
What God is concerned about is what is in our hearts rather than what we are talking about.
Most church splits are based on a distinct lack of respect, honour, and openness and a willingness to interact not with just the words by why people are acting the way they do.
Selfish prayers. You can tell a lot about a person by what they pray for.
We can treat God like a Pinata in the sky – if we ask/whack him enough then we’ll get what we want. Where is their mind and heart, motivation, and focus.
Friends of the world, enemies of God (4:4:-6)
The central paragraph of the letter of James. “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity against God?” (James 4:4)
What a change in language in the letter! Christians are married to God – united as one, in the intimacy as of a marriage. A little bit worldly? There is no such thing – you’re either in or out.
Genesis 3 is where we see Adam and Eve seek to live without God. And the world has been seeking to live this way ever since. Our friendship with the world can be expressed in so many ways – we go to church and bible study, and then off to the financial planner to hold on to all our money, and to all other sorts of acceptable and respectable idols.
God gets emotional: Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (v.5)
Jesus is a godly jealous lover of his people. We should be satisfied in Him, who has given us everything, and to turn away from that is dishonouring. The jealousy of his love is a beautiful picture.
What hope do we have? But he gives more grace (v.6) – not referring to saving grace but empowering grace.
Verse 6 here is simply amazing given the tone of what happens before. He gives more and more grace. He opposes the proud, those who set themselves against God, but to the certain people he gives more grace.
God gives grace, but only to certain kinds of people (v.6).
He gives grace to the humble. Those who will submit – to be open to change.
How do we become humble? Repent! (4:7-10). How?
What do we do?
Testing our worldliness
#1: Take some time out this week to write out your weekly schedule. Write down every activity, no matter how insignificant it may seem to you. Where are you investing your time?
#2: On another sheet of paper, write out your budget. Now, look at your check register, credit card and bank statements, cash flow. Where are you investing your money?
Time and money are two big markers that Jesus has given us. This two part test exposes in part where our heart is. When Jesus says ‘where your treasure is there your heart is also’ he’s saying your heart will follow your treasure. If you stop and read the scriptures and dwell on Jesus’ magnificence, he will be your treasure. But if you put your time into money and don’t study Jesus and no effort in understanding him, then your treasure is not Jesus and you’ve become a friend of the world.
If you find something
If you want to trash your life then simply follow your heart.
James isn’t just trying to shock us: he wants us to find the reality of God’s forgiveness. He is reminding us that God stands ready to cleanse the impure, to forgive the sinner, to lift up the humble.
^Can you imagine our church likes this? Who take sin seriously, who love what he loves and hate what he hates. God willing the church will grow into this, the world will see it and will know that we are His by our love for each other.
[Steven: the final evening talk finishes with a bang – James has cut deep and hard this week with his straight talking words.]
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