Now tonight I want you to turn with me to the 22nd chapter of Matthew’s gospel. And I want to speak on the subject “A Cure for Heart Trouble”. “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law”? “And Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and the great commandment, and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”.
Think of it. All the law and all the prophets hang on these two commandments. I want to give you the scripture text again so you can memorize it. It’s Matthew 22 and 37, 38, 39 and 40. And it’s no mistake that Jesus made. He did it deliberately. He listed the heart first. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy strength. You know, here in Syracuse, as you enter the city on I-690 there’s a huge billboard announcing that Syracuse is the heart of New York State and I believe it is. It’s the heart of New York State and President Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt were associated worldwide with central New York.
And Bernard Baruch, who was one of the great philosophers and advisor to six presidents and one of the most brilliant Jewish leaders in the country and a friend to me, once was asked by Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “If my head says one thing and my heart another, which should I follow”? And Bernard Baruch said to Mrs. Roosevelt, “Follow your heart”. You see, your heart is the center of your life. You know, if you think about your heart, your physical heart, it beats a hundred thousand strokes every twenty-four hours. It contracts four thousand times an hour. Our blood weighs about twenty-five pounds and all of it passes through the heart every four minutes.
In Proverbs 23:7 the Scripture says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. And the heart is used throughout the Bible. Considered far more than a bodily organ. It’s the seat of our emotions. As boys I remember we used to write our initials on trees or on the side of some barn our girlfriends name and a picture of the heart. Valentine’s Day is a day for sweethearts and the symbol is a heart. When we become frightened or excited, we put our hands over our hearts. It’s the center of our emotions. When we salute the flag, like we did the other day at the Rotary Club, when they were saluting the flag and singing the Star-Spangled Banner, we put our hands over our hearts. Or saying some of the great patriotic things, we put our hands over our hearts.
The heart is also the seat of decisive action. The Bible says, “The fool hath said,” not in his mind, but “in his heart, there is no God”. And the scripture says in Proverbs 4, “Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life”. The heart is the seat of belief as well as the basis of doubt. Christ said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts and murders and adulteries and fornications and thefts and false witnesses and blasphemies”. But you have something wrong with your heart and I have something wrong with my heart. Our hearts are diseased by a disease the Bible calls sin. You see heart is also the seat of life. The Bible says your heart will live forever.
Think of it, your body is going to die and go to the grave but your heart, your soul, your spirit, will live forever. A thousand years from tonight it will still be alive. When God looks at man, He doesn’t look at the color of his skin, the kind of clothes he wears, or his social position. The Bible says out of the heart of a black person or an oriental person or a white man or woman, out of the heart are the issues of life. And no physician on earth can tell one from the other. We’re all alike in the sight of God. The Bible says, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart”. And in the scriptures the heart is considered the symbol of the entire person.
When Steven of Colona fell into the hands of his assailants and they asked him in derision, “Wherein now is your fortress”? Steven placed his hand over his heart and said, “Here is my fortress”. Helen Keller who was blind and deaf and dumb wrote, “The best and most wonderful things in the world cannot be seen or touched but are just felt in the heart”. You see, the heart has come to stand for the moral, spiritual and intellectual life of a person. It’s the seat of a person’s conscience and life and extremely important. And the question I want to ask you tonight is this, “Is your heart right”? Is your heart right, is it right with God? Because if it’s not right with God, your sins are not forgiven. You’re not going to heaven when you die.
Our hearts have to be right. I do not ask about your outward life. I don’t ask about your intellectual life or your financial status or your social life. I’m asking about your heart. What about your heart? Dig deep into your heart tonight in your thinking. How are you toward God? Are you right with God? The Bible says, “Prepare to meet thy God,” and before you can prepare to meet God your heart has to be right and your heart has to be touched by the Holy Spirit. Now what does the Bible teach about the heart? The Bible teaches that our hearts are sinful. They’re sinful. Mine is, yours is. We’re born with it from Adam and Eve. It’s passed on from generation to generation. And the Bible says, first of all, that our hearts are full of evil imaginations.
Proverbs 6:18, “A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations”. What do you imagine? What are your fantasies? What do you fantasize about? And then secondly, the Bible says. The heart is desperately wicked and deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it”? That’s your heart. That’s what the Bible thinks of your heart. That’s what God thinks about your heart and my heart. The Bible says the heart is far from God in Matthew 15. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me”.
How many of us go to church and sing? How many of us go to church and listen to the clergyman? How many of us outwardly live a fairly good life, but our heart is far from God? We don’t have that experience with Christ in which He’s in our hearts all day long and we think about Him and pray to Him and He’s close to us, but He should be. And we’re not bearing in our bodies and in our lives the fruit of the Spirit which is love and joy and peace, and gentleness, faithfulness. And then the Bible says that our hearts are a treasury of evil. Mark 7, Jesus said, “For within, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts”. Evil thoughts come from the heart. Adultery. You might commit adultery with your body, but it starts in the heart and in the mind. And fornications, and murders and thefts, and covetousness and wickedness and deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride and foolishness. All these things the Bible said, Jesus said, come from the heart.
So, the most important thing in the world for you tonight is to be sure that your heart is right with God and that you have been forgiven of all those things. And how many today have darkened hearts? I’m sometimes absolutely amazed at their ignorance of the world and their ignorance comes from the fact that they don’t know God. They don’t know the Bible. They don’t know God’s plan for the ages and so they make so many mistakes because their heart is dark, and Satan has blinded their eyes. And many times, I’ve talked to many people who have very little education, but they know God and they know more about what’s wrong and how to right it than those people with all the brilliant education.
You see, there’s something wrong with us that we don’t recognize in the world in which we live. Our world is secular. Our world doesn’t want to take into account that God exists or that man is made in the image of God; his heart is made in God’s image and made for fellowship with God and without God it’s dark. You see, the devil darkens our understanding. Sin darkens our understanding. Sin paralyzes our will. Dulls the conscience and defiles the heart. And then the Bible says we have unbelieving hearts. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be any among you with an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God,” Hebrews, the third chapter.
And then our hearts are blind. Ephesians 4, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because of the blindness of their heart”. Our hearts are blind. Would you like to have your heart illuminated by the Spirit of God? You that are watching by television can pick up that telephone and call that number on the screen right now and there’s a counselor standing by ready to talk to you about how you can have a new heart, because He promises a new heart to all of those who put their faith and trust in Him, and you can do it right now. What a wonderful thing.
And then the Bible says our hearts are deceitful. The heart is deceitful above all things. Think of it. Above all things your heart is deceitful. It deceives you. It deceives other people.
And then in Psalm 101 it says that our hearts are proud. “Him that hath a high look and a proud heart, I’ll not recognize,” says God.
Then the Bible says our hearts are rebellious. “But this people hath a revolting and rebellious heart. They’re revolted and gone”.
The Bible says that our hearts are idolatrous. We think of other things more than we think of God. And anything that you think more of than you do of God becomes idolatry. It may that box in the corner in your room that we call television. And you spend more time in television than you do in the Bible. More time thinking about what you’ve seen on the television than you do in the Bible. And sometimes I have to get down on my knees and confess that I’ve done the same thing. And I say, “O God, cleanse me and forgive me. I’ve spent too much time in front of that screen tonight. I should have been reading and soaking up Your word and spending time in prayer for people in Africa and people in other parts of the world where there’s so much hunger and so much homelessness and so much suffering”.
And then the Bible says our hearts are stony. “And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh”. The Bible says our hearts are stony, hard, cold and barren. That’s your heart. That’s what the Bible says. That’s how God diagnoses your heart. You go to a cardiologist to get diagnosed and he puts instruments on you, gives you a stress test or whatever, or you take a cardiogram or take an angiogram. I remember the first time I had an angiogram at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, I was little bit nervous about it and I lay there and I said to the doctor, there were several doctors, I said, “When are you going to insert that tube and put that die in my heart,” because they had a big screen up there. He said, it’s already in. Look up there. I didn’t even know it when they did it. And I’d been told by people, “Oh my,” and they had me nervous about it.
The Bible also says that our hearts can be hardened. You see, Pharaoh, I was watching a little bit of The Ten Commandments the other night when I was home. They had it running on one of the stations. And, uhm, how Pharaoh hardened his heart. In Exodus 7 it says, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hard. He refuses to let the people go”. God sent ten plagues to soften Pharaoh up and he promised every time he’d let the people of Israel leave Egypt. They were slaves in Egypt. But he didn’t do it. He broke his promise every time and he hardened his heart. And let me tell you something.
The Bible says, “He that hardeneth his heart, being often reproved, shall suddenly be cut off and that without remedy”. In other words, there will come the last time that you harden your heart and it will all be over. There will be no more chance for you. Because, you see, when you harden your heart it builds a little ring around it and the Holy Spirit may speak to you again, but your heart will be harder. It will be like Pharaoh’s heart getting harder and harder every time, until when God speaks to you, you can no longer hear Him. What about you? Is your heart right? God takes our heart out and ponders it. Think of the Almighty God studying your heart. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord pondereth the heart”.
Proverbs 21:2. The scripture says, “If thou sayest, Behold we know it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it and he that keepeth thy soul, doeth he not know it and shall not he render to every man according to his works”? He knows your heart. He studies it. You can’t fool him. You can’t hide. He knows all the secrets. How do you stand before God? Is your heart right with God? Then the Bible says he weighs the heart and tries the heart. What do you mean he weighs the heart? Well, He weighs your heart by the Ten Commandments. He weighs it by the Sermon on the Mount. He weighs it by the great law that we just read. He weighs it by the life of Christ. He weighs it by the teachings of Scripture on the way we ought to live. He weighs your heart. How much do you weigh?
But there’s something else. All the way through the scriptures we read about the blood of Jesus Christ. Somebody said don’t you think that the scriptures have too much about blood. Some have called it a slaughter-house religion. There is a lot about blood in the scriptures. But the Bibles says without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. If Jesus Christ had not died on that cross and shed his blood for you there’s no way you could be forgiven of your sins. It means that his heart bled and it is only through the cleansing of that blood that we can be forgiven. And then the Bible says God prepares the heart by the Holy Spirit. He prepares your heart. Your heart’s already been prepared for this meeting tonight. He prepares for the many experiences in your life.
The Bible says the preparations of the heart in man are from the Lord. Many of the experiences that you thought were terrible was God preparing you. The Bible says He opens the heart. Acts 16:14 Whose heart the Lord openeth. How wonderful for God to prepare the heart then open the heart. Then he enlightens. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened. Without the enlightenment, the opening and preparation by the Holy Spirit no one could receive Christ. You see, salvation is of the Lord. We receive but its all of God. He’s the one who gave His Son on the cross. He’s the one who sent the Holy Spirit to convict you. He’s the one that made it possible for you to come here tonight so you can receive him into your heart. And the Bible says that He gives a new heart. God says an old heart will not do.
You have to have a new one and God doesn’t just patch you up. “A new heart also will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh”. God says a new heart is what you need. What about you? Have you received this new heart from God? You say, Now Billy, I’ve been baptized, I’ve been confirmed, and I try to live a good life. I don’t succeed, but I try. And I try to get to Sunday School once in a while and I go to church, or I watch on television some church service. And we think that’s enough. But it’s not enough.
Oh yes, you may be born again at the moment of confirmation but many of you need to reconfirm your confirmation vows. You need to come to the Lord and say, “Lord, I haven’t kept those vows. I want to re-confirm them. I want to re-dedicate my life to what I promised at confirmation or what was promised for me at baptism”. Many people like that. Thousands of people. Whether you’re what denomination. It makes no difference. A little Sunday school girl was asked which of the beatitudes she would rather be like. She said pure in heart. They asked why. She said, because I could obtain a pure heart, I would possess all the other good qualities that are spoken of in this chapter.
If your heart is right, the rest of you is going to be right too. Christ changed the pattern of living. He said, “A good man out of the good treasures of the heart bringeth forth good things and an evil man out of the evil treasures brings forth evil things”. Christ said, except a man is born of above he cannot see the kingdom of heaven. How do you receive him? First, you must repent of sin. You have to say to God, “O Lord, I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I’m willing to change my way of living”. That’s repentance. I’m willing.
Notice, you can’t do it yourself. God has to help you even in the repenting. And then you receive him by faith. When I stepped up on this platform the other night for the first time, I didn’t stomp it, check it, to see if it had been built to hold a man. I had faith in the people that put it here. When you sat in that seat you didn’t look it over and feel it to see if it would hold you. You believed in the people that built it. That’s the same kind of faith we’re talking about here. Faith in Christ. Not in anything else except Christ and what he did at the cross and at the resurrection when God raised him from the dead and he’s alive.
I’m going to ask you to do it as we saw last night more than a thousand people do. I’m going to ask you to get up out of your seat. From up there in the top gallery and around, it will take an extra minute or two. And all of you down here that God has spoken to and in the choir. You may be a leader in the church. Last night we even had a clergyman come. But you may want to make that commitment. I’m going to ask you to make that commitment tonight and say, “Lord, I want a new heart. I want to leave here a new person. I want to walk a different road”.
Jesus said there are two roads. There’s the narrow road and the broad road. You’re on one or the other. Which one are you on? Young people, older people, whoever you are, I’m going to ask you to come stand here publicly. Why do I do it publicly? When Jesus died on the cross, He died publicly in your place and God laid on Him all of our sins. Publicly. He said, if you’re not willing to acknowledge Me publicly before men, I’ll not acknowledge you before my Father which is in heaven. Something about coming and making it public that he requires. And it also psychologically does something for you. And then you must follow him and serve him. It’s not just a one-time experience. This is the beginning of something new that’s going to be daily with you in which your trusting him. You’re willing to take up the cross and deny self and follow him. You’re willing to look on your neighbors and the needs of the world in a new way.
I’m going to ask you to get up and come right now. And after you’ve all come, I’m going to say a word to you, and have a prayer with you and give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. And if you’re with your friends or relatives or you’ve come in a group, they’ll wait, but you get up and come. We’re only going to keep you a few moments here. Just get up and come right now. Hundreds of you that God has spoken to. There’s a little voice inside that says you ought to come. You come tonight. From here, up there and in the choir. God has spoken to some of you. Get up and come.