Probing the Sinner’s Heart

Photo by Jacob Walti
Photo by Jacob Walti

For me there’s nothing more frightening than oral surgery. consequently, I cringed more during a torture scene in The Running Man than I probably would during some slasher movie (though I don’t watch them). Why? Because the Nazi doctor begins drilling out Dustin Hoffman’s teeth to get at the secret of “is it safe?”


But there might be something even more terrifying than oral surgery–or whatever strikes the most fear in your heart.

Imagine the classic blackmail scenario. Someone whose career is on the rise and is respected in the community suddenly receives a package with photos he or she would rather be kept secret.

We have a term for such secrets: Skeletons in the closet. And we all have them.

God has a term for this, too: Sin.

That’s not a very PC word these days, or any days–unless we’re talking about someone else, like a death row inmate or some convicted child molester or a corporate fat cat who bankrupted millions of investors. In our own lives, however, we have reasons for what we’ve done against God’s law. If you knew why you’d understand. Anyone else would do the same thing under the circumstances.

Anyone except Jesus.

And there’s the rub, as they say. We are not the measure of one another’s goodness. Jesus is the standard. Before His earthly life, the Law was the standard (which Jesus met completely).

We, unfortunately, do not meet God’s standard and can never do so this side of Heaven. Many will try. In fact, many believe that when they accept Jesus as Savior (more on that in a minute) God gives them the power to meet all the demands of the Law, perfectly.

The answer to that is both yes and no.

I’ll explain.

Yes! The process of the New Birth, or Salvation by Jesus is this: We must confess our sin and repent. By faith, we trust that our sinfulness was then placed on Jesus on the cross where He took the full wrath of God that we deserved, dying in our place. Every believer died on that cross with Christ. Every believer then rose from the grave three days later, with new, perfect life in God’s Spirit. Every believer ascended to Heaven with Jesus and is in the very Presence of God, pleasing to God on account of Jesus completed work. We believers have entered the Sabbath Rest of Heaven. The work is done.

No! While our position in Christ through our repentance, death burial, resurrection and ascension is complete and pleasing to God, satisfying the requirements of the Law (we died for our sin’s in Christ, which satisfied the death penalty), we are not done living in this sinful world, and we are tied to a dead body of sinfulness that drags us down. This body of death, as the Apostle called it, is our self-life which is at war with the new life within us. As long as we’re tied to the self-life, we will continue to break the requirements of the Law and require daily cleansing by Jesus our Lord and brother (as He washed the feet of His disciples). This keeps us from boasting that we can earn our salvation in any way, shape or form.

What happens throughout our Christian growth is that Jesus will continue to probe the depths of our sinful heart, the old self-life that is rotting and tied in our earthly nature in order to help us put these things to death.

But we can never expect to be free from that body of death without true Salvation, without actually being reborn.

I love how our tender Lord addressed the woman at the well. He didn’t say, “believe in me and all your sins are just swept under the rug and you get to pretend it never happened.”

That’s what we like to do. Let’s just forget that ever happened!

No, Jesus told her about her life of immorality. He told her how many men she’d slept with. And he offered her a chance at spiritual satisfaction that didn’t require her to go outside herself to get it!

Picture this, humanity going to the well to get satisfied, always looking outside of ourselves for refreshment and fulfillment. Then, God in flesh tells us, “Drink from my water (spirit) and you will never thirst again!”

No longer would we need to turn to the wells that dot the world, hauling pitchers and letting them down, wondering if we’ll get clean or filthy water. Jesus’ Holy Spirit will be a fountain of fresh water welling up inside, satisfying us in our loneliness, feeding us with bread that no one knows about in our hunger, and assuring us that we belong when we’re cast outside the camp of the world’s society.

But first, in order to receive this water, Jesus had to awake the woman’s memories of her sinfulness. He had to un-sod the grave of the woman’s past. He had to lay bare her life’s secret. Why?

The wound of our soul needs to be cleansed to the very bottom in order for us to be fully healed by the Great Physician.

There must be true confession before there can be full forgiveness.

We must put all of our rebellious sinfulness on the cross with Christ, all of it must be consumed, none of it kept back in order for Salvation’s atonement to be complete.

Have you let Jesus probe the depth of all your sinfulness? Or have you put only the most obvious things on the alter and kept back some of the portions for yourself like Ananias and Sapphira who attempted to lie to the Holy Spirit (recorded in the book of Acts)?

If you haven’t confessed all and repented, and you’re still breathing right now, you have time to do it. If you’d like to talk to someone about this, you’re welcome to Crystal Lake Baptist and we’d love to buy you coffee and talk this through.

A Fresh Holiness

Photo by Bill Williams
Photo by Bill Williams

They’d followed John, the sinewy desert-dweller for several months, perhaps longer. These rough fishermen from the downtrodden district of Bethsaida were ready for the arrival of the Messiah and were enthralled with the stories of the strange happenings that surrounded John’s birth. They listened to his fierce tone like a man possessed of the spirit of Elijah! They willingly followed this loner and admired his ardent, if austere holiness.

Then, John points to another and declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world!”

One by one, these eager young men leave John to follow this new teacher, this “Lamb of God.”

The next three years would be the most memorable of their entire lives. They were likely more profound than any three years of anyone since.

At each turn this new teacher, the very Son of God would astonish them.

The very first event to which they are invited is a wedding ceremony.

There’s such significance here: A wedding feast. A sacred union of man and woman. A party, in fact.

A far cry from John’s solitude, Jesus laughed, talked and played with children as the festivities took place. How odd for these new friends of his to watch this fresh, new holiness.

Jesus ate, drank and enjoyed the celebration of marriage.

When the wine ran out, he did something even more remarkable.

There, to the side were large pots for ritual cleansing. He instructs the servants to fill them with water and to take them to the wine-taster.

Scriptures do not say whether Jesus caused all the water to be changed to wine, or whether each dip of the ladle was transformed. It wouldn’t be more miraculous in either method.

What is significant is that Jesus launched his ministry at a wedding feast. He will consulate his Kingdom at a wedding feast.

He began his ministry by turning people’s religion of outward cleansing to one of inward renewal.

Jesus brings us such a fresh, new holiness, too. It doesn’t brag or do things for show. It is always humble and quiet. It can relax and enjoy festivities, but is never touched with the dirt of this fallen world.

I hope those who read this pick up the Bible and dig in to the book of John. Or stop by Crystal Lake Baptist on Sunday to hear more from this wonderful book.

People Loved the Darkness

Photo by Redd Angelo
Photo by Redd Angelo

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:19

Everyone who has watched sports for any amount of time should be familiar with one verse in the Bible. This is the verse that makes the top ten–top five, even–memory verses for kids going to Vacation Bible School, AWANA, Sunday School, you name it.

John 3:16.

It’s so well-known that I probably don’t need to type it out in this blog. It is the #1 evangelical go-to verse. If someone in the Western world doesn’t know it, they would likely recognize it pretty soon after it gets recited:

For God so loved the word …

yes, that’s familiar. And who doesn’t like that. Even Richard Dawkins probably would find that appealing.

that He gave his only Son …

When you think about this, it’s controversial. For Muslims, the notion that God has a Son is a point of offense. To our minds, considering that God is giving His Son for the world might seem rather mixed. He loves the world more than His Son? But it speaks to the fervor of His love.

that whoever believes in Him should not perish …

No one wants to die, but this speaks more about an eternal death than mere physical death on this plane of existence. Still, it’s a good promise for people.

but have eternal life.

This is the promise that everyone in the world would love to have. Eternal life! We have stories of the fountain of youth. We have industries devoted to keeping us looking younger and extending our vitality, as if we could add a single day to our life through creams, pills and surgery!

Of course, eternal life can also be a curse. There’s an old myth about a man who wished for eternal life, but forgot to ask for eternal youth, as well. The quality of his eternality was grueling!

All of this brings us to … the rest of the story. God loves the world. But He hates sin.

If we stop at John 3:16, we get a nice verse with a promise of eternal life (which indicates the quality, not just some quantity).

Moving on, we are further encouraged because the Apostle tells us that Jesus did not come into the world as a man to judge us, but to save us.

Good news! Many cling to that, and for good reason. But they miss the next few verses.

God sent Himself in the form of His Son on a rescue mission in order to save us from the condemnation we deserve for our rebellion against Him.

What other ruler would do that? What ruler would sacrifice Himself to spare a rebellious group of outcasts?

Hint: The previous verses give that away.

But notice the following:

Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Whenever you see “name,” think “nature.” The person who rejects God’s Son, rejects the very nature of God. What is the nature of God? Love.

Love that is rescuing.

Love that is sacrificing.

Love that is patient.

But also, love that cannot allow evil to go on forever. Light has no part of darkness. Love has no relationship with evil. The one must drive out the other. And, for anyone aware of how the world works, light drives out darkness. Every time.

So, we come to verse 19. The judgment. Jesus came to rescue us. He is the Light of the World. But people loved the darkness because their works were evil.

All of us share that judgment, that our works are evil. From day one we serve our own interests, not God’s. We gather glory for ourselves and we resent that God would demand the glory He deserves.

I pray that those who read this, if you have rejected God’s loving nature in Jesus, that you will repent–turn from thinking that your works of evil cannot be forgiven and accept Jesus as your substitute for God’s punishment. Let Jesus clothe you with His righteousness so that you can receive God’s love.