Saturday, August 22, 2009

Arteriosclerosis – Hardening of the Heart!

There are many things which are eating away at our culture, country, and churches. Recently, I have re-read the book "Why Churches Die?" by Dr. Mac Brunson and Dr. Ergun Caner and have been touched, once again, by their diagnoses of local congregations. On Wednesday evenings, I have offered to the congregation where I serve a series of devotional type of messages (from the Bible and this book) to point out some of these diseases. Some of the conditions related were "Myopia" (short or near-sightedness), "Atrophy" (lack of use), and Glossitis (use of the tongue) ; but to compare the modern day "cultural Christianity" to arteriosclerosis was also a stroke of genius. The words which follow only scratch the surface of what needs to be considered.

  • His name was Bobby Dean. On the Saturday afternoon that He died, quite likely, he carried all the stubbornness into eternity that he lived with on earth. A couple of people have suggested that when he was greeted in heaven, he lodged some complaints about his surroundings. In his last weeks on earth he gave the nurses grief and dismissed visitors with a wave of the hands. By those who knew him, he was a grumpy & cranky old man.
  • Bobby was a hard worker all of his life. As a farmer, he was on the tractor before daybreak and did stop his labor until after sunset. Every Sunday "morning" he was in HIS pew at church. He would enter "right at" time for the service, look over and critique the bulletin, and then sit with arms crossed while evaluating the message of the preacher. He liked his last preacher more than most, but still gave his pastor grief about the invitation.
  • One time the Pastor mustered of the courage and asked Bobby why he was so opposed to the call for commitment. The answer was, "Waste of time." He went on to say, "I came forward 60 years ago, go saved and baptized, and haven't felt any reason to come forward since then." The pastor was amazed and said, "You've never have a time of recommitment, repentance, for prayer or rededication?" The harsh answer was, "Those are just preacher term, ain't no need." Bobbie finished, "Now Preacher, that maturity." Candidly, this is not maturity rather it is a hardness of the heart. Every one of us, believer or non-believer, allows sin into our lives and when we sin, God will issue a call for our penitence. If we respond, our heart is softened, conversely if we refuse to respond, our heart become hardened. In medical terms this compares to the disease arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis will be our aid tonight as we consider the Local church and why it is dead, dying, or dynamic. For our Biblical Basis let's read our text.
  • There is much about this story which never ceases to amaze me. First, how did Nabal hook a woman who was of such spiritual and ethical character that she would become royalty? Some will suggest, "Because he was rich." This brings up my next amazement, "How did someone named "Nabal" get rich? His name literally means "fool" or "senseless" and in verse 25 Abby says, that he "lives up to his name, stupidity is all he knows." My questions can go on and on, but the truth is, "Nabal was hard, arrogant & difficult." In other words, he was eaten up with a hard heart or arteriosclerosis.
  1. The Description – In medical or biological terms, this disease is a condition developed from the hardening of the arteries. Plaque and other impurities develop in the blood vessels and attach themselves to the side of the arteries and over the course of time occlude the flow of blood. If not treated, the vessels will eventually be completely blocked which will bring on a heart attack, a stroke, or even death. Bad diet & lack of exercise contribute to this. One word of opinion; unlike the actual disease which is seemingly difficult to reverse, God can reverse the spiritual strain if we'll allow him to.
  2. The Development – Just like our blood stream has all of these fats, plaque, and other impurities available to attach themselves to our vessels and cause damage, our hearts and souls have the same thing. Every time you and I sin, more impurities are released in our spiritual circulatory system and God moves in with His convicting Holy Spirit to calls us to repentance. At this point, we have a choice, we can repent or resist. When we resist, those impurities attached themselves to our heart and it becomes a little more hardened, our soul become a little less sensitive, & our ears become a little less in tune to the voice of God. Every time God speaks to us about anything and we reject His leading, another layer of callousness forms over our heart. Here is the thing about a callous; it has no sensitivity because there is no life in it, no fresh blood flows through it, and no living nerve ending exist. As we look at and inject Nabal into this thought process, we find that he was indeed affected with this disease.
  3. The Diagnosis – Instead of going through this entire story just notice a couple of things with me. When David sent his 10 men to ask for help, he felt confident that Nabal would respond affirmatively. Yet, Nabal show extreme arrogance, insolence, and even back that up with sarcasm. Arrogance or pride may be the leading cause of a hard heart within the church today. The average congregation thinks it to be extreme to respond to God in contrition. Nabal shows his colors in his questioning. He was too proud, wealthy, and self-important to respond to anyone. Make no mistake David was angry and said, "Saddle up your horses & prepare for battle." While this was happening, Nabal was oblivious to the trouble he was in. When we have the spiritual version of this, we too are just as oblivious to our trouble. In fact, when Jesus taught about the second coming, He said, "Some will be saying 'peace & safety' and the end is at hand." The Watts translation of this says, "While they THINK all is well with their soul, the sound of judgment comes." This is a call to wake up. For arteriosclerosis the Mayo Clinic suggests several possible treatments: Anti-platelet med, Anti-coagulant, Hyper-tension, as well as some others. But what prescription drug can turn the clock on our spiritual version.
  4. The Drug – We can learn from Abigail. She came to David like we have to come to God. We should come in humility, honesty, and in brokenness. God resist the proud but gives "GRACE" to the humble. In our weakness, He is made strong. Don't end up like Nabal. He became so hardened and then so enraged that had seizures & was paralyzed. In Hebrew, those 2 words mean "his heart died within him" and "his heart became like stone." The word gives us a medicine for this malady and it's called confession and repentance. While these are not popular words in the 21st century American church, the divine requirement does not change.


 

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