Thursday, May 24, 2012

Igniting Hearts

In Luke 24, after Jesus' resurrection, two men were walking along the road to Emmaus discussing the events of Jesus' crucifixion and burial. Jesus walked near them and, having not been recognized by the two men, asked the two men a series of simple questions. The two men had hoped Jesus was the Messiah, but suffering and death seemingly quashed those hopes. Jesus answered His rhetorical question, "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" with "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:26-27).

The necessity of the sufferings of the Messiah before entering His glory is answered by biblical study into the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus began with Moses (the Pentateuch) and all the Prophets (writing prophets) and interpreted all the Scriptures what the Messiah is said to fulfill in prophecy. No doubt, a great deal of biblical typology was utilized by our Lord to explain "the things concerning Himself." Along the nearly seven mile trek, Jesus informed these two men of all the Old Testament teachings on what the Messiah was to endure and how Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies. The Old Testament is filled with Christ on every page!

After Jesus explained the Scriptures, the two men recognized Him and Jesus vanished. Then, the two men said, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Their hearts burned during Jesus talking with them and during the explanation of the Scriptures. Before Jesus taught the Scriptures to them, these two men were discouraged and doubted that Jesus was the Messiah, even at the news of His empty tomb (Luke 24:21-24). How were their eyes opened and hearts ignited?

Word and Spirit

The Word of God alone has the power to open the eyes of the spiritually blind and grant to sinners the perfect righteousness from God (Romans 1:16-17). The faithful teachings of the Word of God is the mode Jesus used to open the eyes of these two men as well as His own disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:44-45). Persuasive techniques and philosophy cannot open blind eyes. The saying heard often in churches today is modeling Christ for the world, also known as "living out the gospel." We are to display the greatness of the glory of Christ, but our moral modeling is not the gospel. Jesus did not play charades making the two men on the road to Emmaus guess what He was talking about. Jesus spoke to them and explained the Word of God to them. We are messengers of God with a message that is to be spoken. The gospel is a spoken event.

The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word of God spoken to give sight to the spiritually blind. The Apostle Paul told the church in Thessalonica, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake" (I Thessalonians 1:4-5). The power of the Holy Spirit regenerates (that is, cause to become born-again) the chosen people of God when the Word of God is spoken from a believer with full conviction. Acts 16:14-15 describes how Lydia had her heart opened by the Lord to understand the biblical teachings of Paul. Commenting on this passage, the reformer John Calvin said, "we see that not faith alone, but all understanding and knowledge of spiritual things, is the peculiar gift of God, and that the ministers do no good by teaching and speaking unless the inward calling of God be thereunto added." We must believe and speak of what we believe to ignite the regenerating fire within the hearts of sinners.

Seed Spreading

In the Parable of the Sower (or Soils), Jesus tells of four types of soil (hearts of people) that the seed (the Word of God) falls upon. Three of the four soils produce nothing that lasts, while the "good soil" is the person who hears the Word of God and understands it, then produces fruit for the glory of God (Matthew 13:23). Although the Word of God accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit is the only way to ignite a sinner's heart toward repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, such evangelism is no guarantee that all will be saved. If we take the percentage of the soils (75% unsaved), the vast majority of the faithfully spoken Word of God falls on those who will never believe in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Does the Word of God thus fail? The LORD says in Isaiah 55:10-11,

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
   and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
   giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth;
   it shall not return to Me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
   and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

The Word of God accomplishes its mission of igniting the flame inside the heart of God's chosen people. The good news is that God's Word does not return to God empty at all, but returns with a most blessed harvest of once dead sinners now with clean hands and a pure heart gathering around His glorious throne praising Him!

The flip side to this good news of salvation is that God's Word purposes many to condemnation because of the hardness of their hearts. The temptation for the Christian is to change tactics or reword the gospel for to suit the taste of our hearers. When we are spreading the seeds of the Kingdom, we do not hinder the power of God in the gospel spoken by softening the impact on the hearts of sinners in any way. To pervert or peddle the Word of God, but we preach the whole counsel of God with full conviction that the Word of God would accomplish its purpose to save some and condemn others (II Corinthians 2:14-17).

Igniting the hearts of sinners toward a bright flame of repentance and faith in Christ Jesus is a supernatural wonder by the sovereign grace of our God. God has given us a message to spread to all people without hesitation, addition, or subtraction. The message with the Spirit has the power to save sinners for the glory of God! Let us resolve simply to grab the sack of seeds and sow. Nothing less will save sinners.

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