Sunday, September 2, 2012

“From the Inside Out” (Mark 7:20-21)

S-1335 14SAP/3B 9/02/12 Hymns: (O) #301; (S) #234; (C) #398

Text: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Ephesians 6:10-20; Mark 7:14-23

Theme: “From the Inside Out” (Mark 7:20-21)

Question: “Do you have heart troubles?” Armour, SD.

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And He [Jesus] said, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts…’” (Mark 7:20-21).

Beloved in Christ, it is frustrating when you pick up a pear that is golden on the outside, but when you take a bite out of it, it tastes rotten in your mouth. When this happens, your expectations are not met and our anticipation becomes disappointment. The fruit looked so promising! But looks can be deceiving. What is the problem here? Rot. Rot that can’t be seen. For the pear, the fruit begins rotting from the inside out! This is invisible to the eye.

Not unlike the pear fruit, mankind, since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin; have been dying from the inside (where no one can see it) out. Even though we don’t see the dead heart of man, or the noxious odor that comes out of it, eventually it manifests itself when laid in a casket.

From the moment we have been born, the clock of death has been ticking. We are ALL dying from the inside out and when death comes, the outside catches up with the inside. At death we see the ugliness of what God told Adam and Eve, “The day you eat of this fruit you shall die” (Gen. 2:18).

Because of this internal death, our hearts can only produce the fruits of death. If you have come upon a carcass you see and smell the evidence of death—it stinks, maggots are everywhere and flies cover it. We cover our noses lest we inhale the stench of death and lest our eyes water.

In today’s text, Jesus teaches the Pharisees and Scribes that it is not the washing of the outside that is important, but rather that which is inside—the heart. The Pharisees and Scribes complained to Him, that His disciples didn’t wash their hands before they ate. But He informed them it is NOT what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of his/her mouth.

For this reason, Jesus states: What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” These are the fruits of a filthy heart that profuse with evil. It is from the inside out that the odor and stench flow.

No matter how much the Pharisees, Scribes and we try to wash ourselves, we CAN’T clean the heart. No matter what detergents, stain removals, or chemicals we use we can’t clean the heart. The heart can’t be cleansed by us it has to be done by the One who created the heart—God our Savior. That is why David begged God saying: “Create in me a clean heart O God” (Psalm 51:10). PAUSE.

Beloved in Christ, before we become too dismissive of these Pharisees and Scribes, it is important to confess that this text is not just about them; it’s about US! It shows our fallen condition. It shows us as we truly are no matter how we try to hide the truth of what is on the inside, we can’t hide it from God.

In the 50s and 60s and well beyond that, Rock Hudson was one of the hottest romantic leading men in Hollywood. (Maybe your mom remembers!) Six-feet-five, smile ladies would swoon over. Not until shortly before he died in 1985 did the public know he was a practicing homosexual—and that for the last years of his life he was infected with the HIV virus. Behind that million-dollar smile was an incurable disease taking its deadly toll.

Certainly people can smile nicely and be pleasant but still have sin and death down deep at their core. Like Rock Hudson, we are also those people who may look okay on the outside but are not fine on the inside. We may pretend that we are godly; we may act holier than thou, but deep within us is the evil that lurks in our dead hearts.

For this reason, this text is one that touches our dead hearts. If we continue to live without a heart transplant, it will eventually kill us. Jesus is teaching us that it takes something completely outside of us to wash us clean and produce in us a heart that befits His abode. In the book of Ezekiel, God says: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezk. 36:26).

This new heart is not our creation, or our restoration. It flows from Him whose heart is always pure and holy. God looked into His heart, not ours, to devise a plan for our salvation. The washing and restoration of our dead hearts began in the gift of Baptism.

It is worthy to note that the word “wash” in the original is “baptize.” When the Pharisees complained about the disciples not washing their hands, they used “baptize.” This shows again, it is God who does the washing and restoration of our filthy hearts to become pure and holy.

It wasn’t anything inside of us that paid for our sins—no good, pure thoughts of the heart, no
outward action that would please the strictest Pharisee. It was the God of heaven, infinitely above us, completely outside us, who came to earth and paid the price: His life on the cross. Don’t look to yourself as if you are so holy and pure, because we are not; look to Jesus up there on the cross: His pure, undefiled, sinless, heart-broken, and pierced through for our sinful ones.

It is through the loving washing of the Holy Spirit in Baptism that comes from outside of us—comes into our sinful hearts and brings the cleansing of Jesus’ death. He comes to wash our sins in a miraculous ways. He comes to bring healing and restoration. This is totally His work. He begins to reverse the events of the Garden of Eden; through His death and resurrection. He begins the healing process from the inside out. PAUSE.

Have you ever gotten an antique item? Perhaps, you have noticed scratches, stain and bare spots. Under the loving care of the gentle hands of someone, that piece of furniture can be restored again and proudly displayed in our homes or offices.

This is what God does in us through His Son. He takes that which is broken, filthy, polluted, stained and marred by sin and restores us with the cleansing agent of His blood into the perfect relationship with His Father in heaven. He presents us to God as His renewed child pure and holy.

Know this and know it well my beloved. The Lord Jesus Christ, comes today not in a whisper from within (our sinful hearts could play all kinds of tricks with that!), but in God’s external Word—of preaching, of absolution, when we read the Bible—and He declares us pure, holy, forgiven and restored to Him.

And while it is true, nothing outside a person and com­ing into him can defile us, taking into ourselves Jesus’ very body and blood in the Lord’s Sup­per does purify us. It brings forgiveness so real to us that we can taste it. Through these Means of Grace—God’s Word and Sacraments—He creates faith in our hearts.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, you who are loved and cherished, remember that Your Savior takes the ashes of your filth and dead heart and turns them into something beautiful and lovely and displays them in the corridors of heaven.

Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, because we have been baptized and washed by Him—we are clean from every stain of sin, do have faith and live now with the new heart to eternal life.

Today, remember, you are restored, renewed and reconciled to God, and your dead heart is alive forever. Amen.

Now the peace…


No comments: