Summary: God gives us a heart transplant when we become believers in Christ. How are we doing at taking care of our new heart?
How’s your recovery coming? Don’t look at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about. How’s your recovery coming? Recovery from your heart surgery? Okay, your spiritual heart surgery? How’s your recovery coming?
You all know that heart disease comes from a number of factors: stress, diet, exercise and heredity. A person who continues to eat greasy hamburgers, Fettuccini Alfredo, fails to exercise regularly, works more than sixty hours a week and has a history of heart disease in their family is bound to have heart problems later in life.
As technology and medicine continue to advance, we are blessed to have many new procedures to correct many of the problems that have plagued people for centuries. Heart transplants are an amazing work of scientific genius and the graciousness of heart donors.
When a person receives a new heart, they receive medication to make sure that the body does not reject the new tissue. In addition, the doctors advise them to break their unhealthy habits. They prescribe a regime of exercise, a healthy, well-balanced diet low in cholesterol and fats, and to balance work and rest in the person’s daily routine.
We are people who have received new, transplanted hearts. All of God’s children have. Our Gospel lesson describes our hereditary condition. Out of the evil heart comes evil, thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. That’s the way that we were, the way we’d be if we hadn’t been baptized. But God has given us new hearts.
Now, we believe and trust in God. God has given us new hearts through our baptisms. He has created faith in us through His Word, working with the water in baptism. The Holy Spirit has come in and done a heart transplant. He has taken out our old heart that is selfish by nature and replaced it with a new one that wants to love God and wants to love its neighbors. God has given us new hearts through our baptisms.
How are we to take care of our new hearts that God has given to us? He doesn’t want us to just fall back into our old habits again. He wants us to take care of these hearts. He has also given us some wonderful gifts in order to protect this new heart and make it grow strong and healthy. God has given us His Word to nourish our hearts. When we come to God’s house to hear it read and preached, God is feeding these new hearts of ours. He also wants us to read our Bible as our daily exercise for our new hearts. In addition, Jesus gives us His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper to provide sustenance for our faith. So how’s it going?
So how is your recovery coming? Are you sticking to your spiritual diet? Or are you sneaking too much junk food? Are you getting your spiritual exercise? How about the stress? Are you stressing about whether God will take care of all of your needs? How’s your recovery coming along?
I have something to confess to you. Sometimes I don’t take very good care of my new heart. Sometimes I’m a Pharisee. No, not one of the ones Jesus encountered in today’s Gospel lesson. I’m a Pharisee nevertheless and my new heart suffers. Let me tell you about it. My first year in St Louis at the seminary, I signed up for intramurals. When I went to the bulletin board to see what team I was on, I found out that my team was named after a beer. Then I looked again and discovered that every team was named after a beer. There must have been a mistake. Surely, the students at Concordia Seminary were above such silliness. Were we really naming intramural teams after beers like some sort of fraternity might? We certainly have to e above all that. I came to the seminary to learn more about God’s message of salvation and how to communicate it to other people effectively. I came to get right with God, to be more holy. To get away from the stain of sin in the world. I decided to boycott intramurals. Not only that, but I tried to get the intramural chairman to change the names of the teams. I’m a Pharisee all right. I made up my own rules about what was right and wrong and then I tried to make people follow them too, accusing them of being wrong.
That’s what our text says Pharisees do. Jesus quotes the Old Testament. Prophet Isaiah, who wrote, “They have let go of the commands of God and are holding to the traditions of men.” That’s exactly what I did, isn’t it? Instead of following God’s commands, I made up my own and followed them instead.