Wednesday, November 27, 2013

“Turning Hearts” (Malachi 4:5-6)

S-1392 26SAP/C 11/17/2013 Hymns: (O) #5; (S) #323; (C) #52

Texts: Malachi 4:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-28

Theme: “Turning Hearts” (Malachi 4:5-6)

Question: “What causes your heart to turn?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. lesson: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction (Malachi 4:5-6).


Most beloved of the Lord, it is easy to turn heads. The fleeting glimpse of beauty or ugliness can turn heads. A magnificent mountain or a mangled accident can turn heads. A stunning woman or a hideous injury can turn heads. But a heart is not turned so easily. Heads are distractible. Hearts not so much. That is because the heart is central to who we are. Your heart just keeps beating away. To be distracted from this task is to die. This is the way it is for the body. It is the way for faith. That which is your heart is central to who you are. This is great if we are talking about the heart of faith. But what if your heart is set on false things? It is also difficult to take your heart from that. That is what Jesus has come to do. Incarnation and crucifixion, Jesus comes to invade your heart. He doesn’t come to cajole your heart. He seizes it. He turns it from death to life. He takes possession of it. He buys it not with gold or silver but with His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. Your heart is now His. You are not your own. You belong to him. Your heart has been turned. This is not something you can do. It is an act of grace not decision.

Therefore, as the precious children of the resurrection be prepared for the working of the Holy Spirit upon your hearts today. Today, there will be a surgical procedure on your hearts and mine that will turn us again to the Great Divine Physician of mercy, grace, and love—Jesus the Christ. Today in this place you will hear the mind-boggling work of God on your heart and mine that causes you to know with certainty and confidence that our hearts belong to Him not only for a while but forever. PAUSE.

In God’s inspired and inerrant Word, God uses the term “heart(s)” at least 867 times. Much of His Word is instruction about the care and keeping of our hearts pure from sin and filth. So what does it take to turn our hearts back to Him? How does His Word affect this heart of ours to believe the pure and simple teaching of truth found in Scripture? How do we not let the devil rob us of the joy that fills our hearts because of what Christ has accomplished on Calvary’s cross, so that we may not experience the Dreadful Day of Judgment?

Certainly it is not easy to turn the heart back to God. For that matter, it is impossible for us to do so, on our own; but there are certain things that cause our hearts to skip a beat, or churn with anxiety.

Case in point, when you are in love and you see the person you love, it causes your heart to dance and be filled with joy. But at other times, the heart is aching, broken and filled with sorrow as you see the one you love is laying in a casket ready to be lowered into the darkness of the grave. When the doctor says to you, “Its malignant, we need to operate!” Or when a pastor receives a call to serve another congregation his heart turns and becomes unsettled and so does the congregation.

But the turning of the heart is the work of God. As we come in contact with the Word, that Word does its work of cleaning every evil, impurity, falsehood and inequity from us and fill it with the knowledge of the truth—that our redemption has taken place, our reconciliation has been completed and our rejoicing has begun.

That is precisely what Malachi teaches the people of Israel and us through these words: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction. The Lord is sending Elijah so that he may teach us the truth that sets our hearts free. Free to worship, serve, honor, love Him and be with Him.

Elijah did come. He pointed others to the coming of the Kingdom that they should repent and believe in Jesus Christ. He came with such a voice that it rang in the wilderness, in the cities and even in the king’s palace calling all to follow the Heaven-Sent Messenger—who would die for them and rise again to give them eternal life and turn their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.

It is impossible to avoid the power of God’s Word when you come in contact with it. That Word changes you forever and makes you a follower of Jesus. The Word of God we are told is: “…living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12), and Isaiah says, “…[the Word] shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (55:10-11). The Word of God was sent to turn the hearts of men and women to be hearts that believe in the Savior Jesus for salvation and forgiveness of sins. PAUSE.

That turning of heart was worked out in the life of any enemy of the cross who upon coming in contact with the Word his life was changed forever. This is his story.

In 1980 as a young Muslim man I had a very dear friend, who happened to be my brother. We did everything together. My brother was killed by Christian militia. I vowed revenge for his life. In the day time I went to college and at night I would roam the streets to kill the “enemies of Islam” as I called them. I led a double life: assassin at night and student in the daytime.

As a student at the American University, I had to take a course in cultural studies, for which I had to read selections from the Bible. I knew the Quran well, but the Bible I never held in my hands or even looked at. I read the Sermon on the Mount at the climax of my hate and thirsts for vengeance. Christ’s exhortation: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45) struck me with a full force. I felt that I had heard the voice of God in stereo. I knew what an enemy is, and sought to kill my enemies. But, in this strange, new and life-giving Word he felt that Jesus’ exhortation was superhuman and cannot emanate from an ordinary human being, but from a divine source. Though many of my religious leaders taught that the Bible was distorted by Rabbis and bishops, Christ’s words “Love God from all your heart, and love your neighbor” sounded authentically divine. Even through the loss of my brother, I thought: “There is another way, a way of forgiveness.” And there was! PAUSE.

Jesus the Divine Surgeon touched his heart and turned it around so that he became a follower of the Crucified One. He came to America, studied in one of our Seminaries and today, thanks to Jesus who talked to him in Beirut, Lebanon he is a Pastor of Kanisat Al Salam = The church of peace (Chicago, IL); and he speaks often to other Arabs and Muslims so that they may meet the same Savior who turned his heart from hatred to love, from death to life and from darkness to light. You have heard me speak of him many times. He is Pastor Hicham Chehab a dear friend and a brother in Christ.

By the grace of God, we, too, have been touched by that Word. In our Baptism as the splash of water was connected to the Word of promise our hearts were made alive and turned from death to life, and from darkness to light. And our hearts continue to be turned as we come in contact with the living Word offered on the Altar in Body and Blood—in, with and under the bread and wine. Here in this place, today Christ continues to turn your hearts to know Him, serve Him and follow Him forever.

Oh, the joy that fills our hearts to know that they have been turned simply by the Divine Physician, Jesus Christ. To Him Alone Be ALL the Glory now and always, amen.

Now the peace…


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