Tag Archives: devotional

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?”

Creepy.

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.

Born Again!

Galaxy copy

“… unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

Nicodemus, like many who read the Bible, was perplexed! He was a respected man of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews. No doubt he was blameless with religious pedigree and solid moral character. Had anyone seen this man of the upper-crust religious society, they would have known him and paid due respect.

If this were today, we might celebrate Nicodemus because he sought out Jesus! Although he did so under the cover of night, hoping for his earthly curiosity to go unnoticed by those of his social standing.

He confessed Jesus as a teacher from God. The high-churchman acknowledged Jesus as being from God and having words of instruction (though he felt ashamed to approach him in daylight).

Nicodemus knew that Jesus had power from God to perform signs. Anyone seeking fame in this world would accept these words of high praise from such a lofty man. “Rabbi,” “Teacher” from God.

Perhaps Nicodemus expected Jesus to be grateful for this recognition from the seat of religious power. In his mind, perhaps he thought Jesus would join with him and establish himself alongside the other religious elite.

Instead, Jesus looked at this man, impeccable by any human measure, and saw that his nature was earthly, not spiritual. This man, cloaked in darkness and seeking the Lord was as far from experiencing the spiritual kingdom as an unborn child is to experiencing the world at large.

“unless one is born again…” 

Nicodemus must have been taken aback. Here he’d just flattered this poor man with divine titles and he condescends to tell him what he needs? And what is this nonsense of being ‘born again?’

“… unless one is born of water and the Spirit…” 

Jesus’ reference to water, being so close to the ministry of John the Baptist certainly shouldn’t have been lost. John baptized with a baptism of repentance. Not only were people acknowledging their sinfulness before a Holy God, but they were repenting of that life in expectation of the Messiah and the new life He would provide.

Jesus referenced the water of repentance and the Spirit, His Holy Spirit, as the two parts of a new birth which would allow a person to experience the kingdom of God (which is, at this point and currently, a spiritual one. See John 18:36, “my kingdom is not of this world”).

Nicodemus remained amazed. He recognizes that something powerful and uncontrollable is happening, like the wind (vs. 8 ” the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it”) but Nicodemus doesn’t understand it and doesn’t know its source.

In the end, despite his religious rank, he was a man of the world, unable to experience or understand the work of the Spirit.

Are you a Nicodemus?

Many will admit Jesus was a prophet or teacher … and even that he was “from God.”

Many admit Jesus is God’s son, one part of the Holy Trinity, God in the flesh!

Many, because of this creed, will perform religious acts, penance, baptism, church attendance, festivals, dietary rules, etc. Such people may be extremely virtuous and moral. They are admired by those around them for their charity and piety.

But they seldom want to go deeper into God’s Word than the superficial. Christianity is an outward religion for a healthy life, not an inward birth of a new life. 

In reading this, you may admit that you haven’t experienced anything new. Church and religion is nothing more than a habit or a culture of comfort for you. When you read the Bible, you see strange tales of talking donkeys, animals on boats, waters parting and bolts of lightning shooting down from some dark, mysterious mountain. Jesus teaching sounds vague and enigmatic, like that of some guru.

If that’s the case, despite some clergy christening as an infant, or some well-practiced catechism, you haven’t been born again. You experience no more of the kingdom of God than does an embryo the world that is  yet in its future.

But you can be born again. By the water of repentance and the Spirit of Jesus’ resurrected life.

Today could be your birthday.