“The sin sick heart”
(Ill.) A long time ago, in what seemed like a galaxy far, far away, I played softball. I had a bat (show bat) that looks normal but contains an interesting technological marvel. It is filled with water. When held up right, it is almost weightless. When you swing, the water rushes to the head of the bat, giving you a very powerful swing. At the time it was ASA approved (not sure). The bat looked normal, but contained a secret.
So it is with the heart. The prophet Jeremiah noted that the heart looks normal but is actually sick. The sickness is called sin.
I. The state of the heart: sin.
It is not popular to talk about sin. When sin is mentioned it sounds judgmental, like an unfair accusation. However, it is necessary.
(Ill.) In 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car, sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, was laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait. Now the police and the owner of the VW Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life than to recover the car. So often when we do not talk about sin and its effects we are in danger and are actually eluding rescue. [Michael (Tony) Klinedinst]
A. Most important question: thoughts, affections, and intentions.
1. The heart is the true person.
a. Without God it is a “false self.” In other words, it is not what God designed it to be.
b. Without God it will lie to you, trying to hide what is really there.
(Quote) “Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.” [Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine]
2. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." [Psalms 4:23]
a. The heart is ruled by what’s inside it.
b. What you plant there is what you get.
B. Root of evil in the heart: “self-will” (selfishness and self-centeredness)
1. Sin sick.
a. Sickness controls the person.
b. Sickness controls the possibilities.
"Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression." [Psalms 16:13]
2. “Beyond cure” because it is beyond our ability to know.
a. (KJV, and others) “desperately wicked.”
b. The image of desperate is one of a “lose - lose” mentality. Willing to do anything (and everything) to stay sick.
(Ill.) A certain man wanted to sell his house in Haiti for $2,000. Another man wanted to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn’t afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.
The moral of the story is, “If we leave the devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ’s habitation.” [Daniel Brinton ]
C. So what’s the danger?
1. Sin is self-destructive. (In a sneaky unhealthy way.)
(Ill.) The Eskimos of Canada and Greenland have an interesting, if rather cruel, way of hunting bear. They will take a bone and sharpen it at both ends. Then they will then coil it through a process, freeze it in blubber and lay it across one of the paths the bears travel. As the bear comes along he smells the blubber and in one gulp he takes it and swallows it, not knowing that it’s just blubber on the outside, but on the inside there’s this twisted, sharpened bone. The minute he swallows it he’s dead. He doesn’t drop down just yet, but every move he makes, every step he takes, causes that bone to twist and to slash and to tear and the internal bleeding starts and the Eskimos just follow the tracks of that bear until it dies. It’s the same way as a person who says, "I’m going to save my life, I’m going to keep my life for myself, I’m going to do what I want to do." The minute you do that you are already in the process of dying and destroying your life. [Owen Bourgaize]
2. Sin is self-deceiving. You can’t always see it.
Rodney Buchanan tells the story of a wilderness canoe trip (in Algonquin Provincial Park) with some friends when they paddled up to a small island. The rangers were digging like mad and taking buckets of lake water and pouring it into the holes. When they asked what was going on the rangers said that they were putting out a fire. The adventurers didn’t understand since they didn’t see any flames, but the rangers explained that it was a root fire. Someone had built a campfire where there was a root close to the surface. From there the fire had spread underground to several trees. You couldn’t see it, but you could feel the heat coming from the ground. The rangers told them that if they did not put it out, it would burn down the entire island. [Rodney Buchanan]
3. Sin separate us from God and each other.
The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter's night. He said, "The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth's winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness." [Unknown]
II. Then need of the heart: truth.
A. The only source of truth is outside the individual... God.
1. God searches the heart and examines the mind.
a. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." [Hebrews 4:12]
b. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." [James 1:2]
B. God must diagnose the heart.
1. We cannot because:
a. We are ignorant. (To us truth seems fluid.)
b. We do not want to know. (Ill.) Intense light after complete darkness.
c. We think we are “good” (which does not address the corruption of sin.)
d. When we begin to learn, it is painful... so we shrink back. (BTW, the "old fashion," and good word, to describe this is “conviction” which is supposed to move us toward “godly sorrow” and “repentance.”)
2. God can because:
a. God designed the heart.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." [Psalms 139:13]
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." [Psalms 139:23 -- 24]
b. God alone is the standard of perfection.
(Ill.) A man worked with children who lived in sewers - somewhere in South America. He used to go into the sewers himself to try and help the children who were living there. Imagine you had been one of those children - virtually blind through living in the darkness. Filthy through living in the waste from thousands of homes. Maybe this man offers you a chance to leave. You jump at the opportunity, but has he leads you out, as your eyes become accustomed to the light at the end of the tunnel, you start to see the state that you are in. No matter how hard you try to brush the filth off, the stains will not go away. And of course, the nearer you get to the light coming in from the entrance of the tunnel, the dirtier you appear. Naturally you would shy away from ever coming out of the sewer until you’re fit to be presented to the outside world. The problem of course, is that you cannot be made clean until you come out of the filth of the sewer, and by coming out it’s inevitable that you will be made aware of your own filth.
If we are to see God’s holiness, it is certain that we will recoil at our own sinfulness. [Mark Barnes]
III. The necessary cure:
A. Accept God’s search.
1. We can say “No.”
a. God allows us to keep our heart disturbed, desperate, and deceitful. (Sick with sin.)
b. Living an unexamined life is comfortable but dangerous (eternal hell or heaven is at stake).
2. We can profit from such a search.
a. A cover up keeps things the same old same old.
b. God’s honest opinion and transforming power give us a chance to move from sinner to saint.
B. Accept responsibility.
1. Without God we are helpless against sin but still held accountable.
a. Helpless because we are naturally drawn to sin.
b. Accountable because God has given us a choice.
2. Jesus payed the price so we do not have too.
a. Jesus sacrificed Himself; to exchange for our guilt for His righteousness.
b. What you do with Jesus (hate, ignore, believe so that it changes) will be the determination of our eternal destiny.
(Ill.) A professional carpet-layer stepped back to survey a newly installed carpet. Reaching into his shirt pocket for a cigarette, he realized the pack was missing. At the same time he noticed a lump under the carpet in the middle of the room, about the size of the missing cigarette pack. There was no way to retrieve his cigarette pack from under the attached carpet without ripping everything up and starting over. Finally, he decided to beat the object flat, thereby destroying any evidence of his mistake. Gathering his tools, the carpet layer walked out to his truck. There on the seat of his truck was the mislaid pack of cigarette. As he lit one up, the homeowner hurried out of the house and asked, “Hey, have you seen my son’s gerbil?” [Braude’s Treasury of Wit and Humor, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Hills, NJ.]