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Text Sermons : Classic Christian Writings : Revival Is A Searching Time By Roger Ellsworth

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"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).

"Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens" (Lamentations 3:40-41).

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).

How very sad are these words so often spoken by medical doctors: "You have heart disease." I wonder if the Lord Jesus Christ, who perfectly knows the spiritual condition of each and every one, is saying to many of us: "You have heart disease." The heart of the Christian may suffer from many diseases. We can even suffer from many at the very same time. I would like for us to consider some of the major diseases that affect the hearts of Christians.

One of these conditions arises out of the text above, Proverbs 4:23, that is – the unguarded heart. The author of Proverbs tells us to use all diligence to keep the heart. All kinds of evil things are constantly trying to slip through the doors of our hearts. We must be ever vigilant against them.

Another disease of the heart was identified by the Lord Jesus on the day of His resurrection. As He walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus with two of His disciples, He called them "slow of heart" (Luke 24:25). The slow heart is the one that is slow to understand and to apply the truths of God. The disciples to whom Jesus spoke had every reason to expect the resurrection of Jesus, but they had been slow to believe.

All we have to do to see the tragedy of the slow heart is to ponder how quick God’s people are in other areas. When it comes to sporting events and movies we are not slow. We are always eager to see these things begin, and we are sorry to see them end. All too often we are entirely different when it comes to the worship or service of God. We are often lacking in eagerness and desire. Instead we feel a sense of drudgery and heaviness. This is slowness in the things of God.

The Divided Heart

That brings us to – the divided heart. The psalmist prayed, "Unite my heart to fear Your name" (Ps. 86:11).

That prayer would make no sense at all if it were not possible to have a heart that is divided. The divided heart is pulled in different directions. It is the heart torn by competing loyalties or allegiances. On one hand it desires to give God priority but, on the other hand, it desires to lay the things of God aside so that it can embrace something else.

Revival requires us to battle the divided heart. It calls us to give the Lord priority, to demonstrate our interest in His work as well as our concern for the unsaved. But there will also be all sorts of things pulling at us from a different direction. All kinds of voices will whisper that we are just too busy to give ourselves to revival. Imagine it! Too busy for the God who made us, who saved us, who will share His eternal glory with us, who has blessed us with spiritual and material blessings and who gives us the very air that we breathe. Too busy for God! What an astonishing and breath-taking thing to say!

We often fail to see the evil results of our divided hearts. When the Lord’s work calls for our attention, we think our absence isn’t all that important. The Lord’s work will go on without us. The question is not, however, whether the Lord’s work will survive without us. It is rather this: What kind of example are we setting for family, neighbors and friends? Every time we place something of a lesser nature over the work of the Lord, we are telling others that it is right and proper for them to do the same, that the Lord’s work only matters when there is nothing else to do. Many Christians have seen their chickens come home to roost in children who have no interest at all in the house of the Lord.

The Proud Heart

The Bible also warns us about – the proud heart. The author of Proverbs says: "Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord…" (Prov. 16:5). A bit later he adds: "A haughty look, a proud heart…are sin" (Prov. 21:4).

Nothing is sadder and more tragic than pride in a Christian. Pride flies in the face of the essential nature of Christianity. One cannot even become a Christian apart from humility. Receiving God’s plan of salvation requires us to confess that we are guilty, undeserving sinners, that we cannot save ourselves. It requires us to come to the end of ourselves and to rest completely and entirely upon the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ, taking as our own the words of the hymn:

"Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling."

The fact that we come into Christianity through the door of humility doesn’t mean, however, that we are all finished with pride. It can creep into our hearts in several ways. We can be proud of our accomplishments. We can desire to be successful. We can desire to be served. We can be critical of others. We can be impressed with our own gifts. We can have a desire to be recognized and appreciated. We can allow ourselves to be hurt when others are promoted and we are overlooked. We can allow ourselves to be hurt when we are not asked to do something.

These are just some of the many manifestations of a proud heart. If these traits are present, they indicate that our hearts are diseased with pride and that we desperately need revival. One of the outstanding features of revival is the shattering of the pride of God’s people. During periods of revival Christians become so enflamed with the desire to see God glorified that they no longer care about themselves. They recognize that they are unworthy to be even in God’s kingdom and that it doesn’t matter what part they play in it. They recognize that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, and they turn with disgust from their proud thoughts and ways.

The Unmoved Heart

An episode from the life of Jesus brings to light yet another disease of the heart. The gospel of Mark tells us that when Jesus saw a great multitude coming to hear Him that He "…was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd" (Mark 6:34).

This description of the heart of Jesus speaks to us about the terrible disease of – the unmoved heart.

The situation that moved the heart of Jesus has not changed. Multitudes of people are still without the saving knowledge of Christ. They are indeed like sheep without a shepherd. If they do not come to Christ, they will be plunged into an eternity of despair. The Lord Jesus Himself minced no words about the terrors of such an eternity. He spoke of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. He spoke of darkness, fire and brimstone.

We will never have answered in this life all our questions about the place the Bible calls "Hell." We need not have them answered to know that it is a terrible place indeed. All Christians have come to understand the terror of that place and have fled to Christ for deliverance from it. But do we sufficiently realize that our unbelieving family members and friends are marching steadily toward it? Are we concerned about these unbelievers? The hymn "Brethren, We Have Met to Worship," calls us to concern for the unsaved with these lines:

"Brethren, see poor sinners round you
Slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving,
Can we bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers,
And the children sinking down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna
Will be showered all around."

Whether we realize it or not, we are all answering the piercing question of this hymn: can we bear to let our loved ones go? When our hearts are unmoved by the plights of the lost, when we are not praying, when we are not supporting the church, when we are not witnessing, we are essentially saying of our unsaved loved ones: "Yes, I can bear to let them go."

While professing Christians these days are often debating whether there is a hell, many of our forefathers concerned themselves with stopping people from going there. We would do well to stop our debating and give ourselves to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These are just some of the diseases that affect our hearts. I could also talk about the cold heart, the hard heart, the unsettled heart and the restricted heart.

The crying need of these days is for us to be searching our hearts so we can identify the diseases affecting them and turn from them. The crying need is for us to pray with David: "Search me, O God, and know my heart…And see if there is any wicked way in me…" (Ps. 139:23).

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