Summary: Sin in the human heart is addictive and destructive. But Christ can create a new and life-giving deposit in the heart.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC October 19, 1986
Only this week they drove another nail in my coffin. Those tireless, relentless researchers who ferret out the causes of cancer and who puzzle out the hows and the whys of heart disease published findings designed to frighten the likes of me. I am one of those who begins his day with two or three cups of coffee at home, then comes to the office and plugs in the coffeemaker before saying hello to the secretary or opening the brief case. Now the newspaper says that researchers at Johns Hopkins University Medical School are able to point to a link between coffee drinking and heart disease in the sample they studied. Not what I wanted to hear, not the kind of results I was hoping for. I was so unnerved when I read it that I had to brew up a pot in order to steady my system. The one redeeming factor is that these researchers had established this connection, this linkage between coffee drinking and heart disease by studying the incidence of both in some 200 graduates of their own medical school. Ah, now I can take comfort; I am not a graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School, so maybe it won't apply to me!
Nonetheless, we have in recent years had to learn to live with the language of heart disease, much of it centered on the way our eating and drinking habits affect that vital muscle. We have learned to count the cholesterol and to control the carbohydrates. We have twisted our tongues around words like polyunsaturated and angioplasty. People are actually clamoring to get open heart surgery; it used to be traumatic to have open heart surgery, but I gather that it is now so routine that you ain't anybody unless you've had it. It's the latest status symbol; and a triple bypass is nothing, you are not in the big leagues unless you can brag about quadruple or quintuple bypasses. All because the blood vessels serving the heart gather deposits and the deposits prevent the blood from flowing as it should, and thence disease, heart disease, from deposits in the heart.
The tough part about this, of course, is that everywhere we turn and read about this business we learn quickly that you and I are contributing to our own rapid demise. It's not only the coffee I guzzle several times a day, but it's also that tasty but deadly compilation of fats and sugars and oils and salt and all the rest of the stuff we stoke the furnace with. Somehow or another, the tastier it is the more deadly it is. The more that food reaches out and tempts you with its succulent smells and its tantalizing aromas, the more it is likely to be a contributor to those dangerous deposits in the heart. It's like the cartoon I saw some years ago, in which the stout lady was complaining to her friend, “Everything I like to do is either immoral, illegal, or fattening.” Wow! What world!
And don't tell me to go join our neighbors the Seventh Day Adventists and eat their diet. I'm afraid I'm still looking for meat, lean red meat. When my brother-in-law some years ago was confined to a Seventh Day Adventist hospital recovering from some broken bones, he insisted that his mother smuggle a hamburger in. I understand, I understand, don't you?
Deposits in the heart. We know that physically it's bad for us, but we just don't want to stop doing those things that leave those deposits. Deposits in the heart; we recognize what we should eat and what we should not eat, what we should and should not drink, but there is something so attractive and so addictive that we just go right on woofing down the fats and lining our throats with alcohol (there's another sermon, by the way: how even Baptist folks, who used to know better, get themselves into this trap). We just go right on, building up those deposits in the heart.
But what if I were to tell you this morning that there are some other deposits in the heart which no microscope would uncover, which no researcher would likely find through his statistical methods? What if I were to describe for you some more· deposits in the heart which are just as addictive as the fatty foods, just as intoxicating in their own ways as a couple of fifths of what they euphemistically call distilled spirits? What if I were to tell you this morning of yet more deposits in the heart, deposits which can become a life and death matter? Would you be interested? Would it matter to you? Would it be worth something to you?
All right, let's try. Deposits in the heart; what else besides the clog and clutter the cardiologists have to ream out of us because of our self-indulgent eating and our nonexistent exercise? Deposits in the heart: