Heart Transplant

Heart

In 1967 a South African grocer named Lewis Washkansky was dying from chronic heart disease. When a 25 year-old woman died in a car accident, he became the first human being to receive a heart transplant. He died 18 days later from pneumonia as the anti-rejection drugs left him susceptible to sickness.

After a decade of anti-rejection drug research, heart transplants were more successful, with many patients living for up to five years with their new hearts. Today, the prognosis for a heart transplant is for an average of fifteen years of extended life. As successful as this operation has become (3,500 annually worldwide), the greatest difficulty is the availability of donors. There are far more people who need hearts than there are hearts to give.

Would the truth be known, each of have a heart disease—not our physical hearts, but our spiritual hearts. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus said that the heart is the source of sin, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23).

We all need a spiritual heart transformation. The good news is that God is a spiritual heart surgeon. He promised the people of Israel, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). Rather than taking a spiritual heart from another, God creates anew. Jesus likened this to a “new birth” (John 3:3). Paul called it “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

He will give a new heart to those who seek it.

When the Trials Come

In this life trials will come. It’s not a matter of “if” trials will come, but rather “when” trials will come. So, the question that all of us face is this: what will sustain you when the day comes?

Many find solace in God’s love and care for them, which is well and good. But, those same people will often limit God’s involvement in their trial. In other words, they will say that God would never bring a trial in their life, because God has only their good in mind.

Unfortunately, those who think this way lose the comfort that could be theirs. If God is not powerful enough to keep the trial from you, what assurance do you have that God will be able to remove the trial? You have none.

A better, more Biblical course is to trust that “Our God is in the heavens. He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). When a trial comes upon a believer, it comes from the sovereign hand of our God for our good (Romans 8:28). God will not bring it beyond our ability to triumph through it (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will sustain us through the trial (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). When it has accomplished its purposes, He who brought the trial will bring it to an end.

In other words, believing in the goodness of God AND the greatness of God is the key to sustaining you through trials.

Right With God

Every religion in the world is an attempt, in some measure, to answer the most basic question: “What must I do to be right with God.” Or, in some cases, you might say, “What must I do to be right with the gods” or even, “what will be the path to greatest blessing in my life.” It matters not whether we speak about Hinduism or Buddhism or Animism or Wicca or Islam or Judaism or Christianity. They are all seeking peace and blessing with the spiritual world.

Now, most religions answer that question by some sort of ritual that you must do — offering incense, eating the right food, saying the right prayers, behaving in a certain way, attending religious gatherings. The Hindus and Buddhists place food before their idols. The Animists worship their ancestors. Wiccans use magic to harness the powers that reside in nature. The Muslims pray toward Mecca seven times each day. And the Jews of Jesus’ day followed their traditions.

Christianity is unique. Rather than seeking outward conformity to religious activity, Christians seek an inward transformation. Rather than a focus upon the activities that one does, the focus is upon our faith in Jesus Christ–His death and resurrection–which imputes righteousness to us. And from our faith, then, flows a heart for God that expresses itself in love and good deeds.

“[God] mad [Jesus], who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sandcastles

Sand castles are beautiful things. They take our minds away to faraway places with ideals of princes and dragons and lords and battles. To make sandcastles well, they take a lot of sand a lot of water and a lot of patience and a lot of talent.

But, we all know that every sandcastle, no matter how intricate and beautiful, will eventually find itself beaten down by the wind and the rain and will soon be a pile of sand again, some of it being swept back into the sea.

The Bible says that we are like sandcastles. We too are wasting away. The older you get, the more pains you will have and the slower you will move. Eventually, you will return to the earth. God said, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

Yet, for believers in Christ, we have reason not to lose heart at this reality of life, because God is working inside of us to produce something that will last for eternity. Paul explains, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

The Subway Guy

Perhaps you know the story of Jared Fogle, often known as “The Subway Guy.” He lost 245 pounds in one year by eating nothing but Subway, every day. Certainly, he didn’t gorge himself. Rather, he chose only the healthy items on the menu and ate them in moderation (two sandwiches a day with no oil, mayo or cheese). He was transformed from a 60-inch waist and 425 pounds to 180 pounds. Jared Fogle was transformed with a new diet.

Christians are transformed by faith in Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we believe in Christ, we are changed people. Paul spoke of his transformation with these words: “I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Timothy 1:13).  Those in Corinth were fornicators and idolaters and adulterers and effeminate and homosexuals and thieves and covetous and drunkards and revilers and swindlers, but were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Restore Default Configuration

Our computers are wonderful tools that can help us with all sorts of things. We can read the current news on them. We can write letter papers on them. They can help us manage our finances. They even entertain us. However, there are times when they give us headaches. Through some file we deleted or some setting that we made, they can get messed up. Thankfully, we can use the “Restore Default Configuration” to help us in our distress. This will restore portions of our computer to the way that the manufacturer intended it to be.

There is a parallel in our lives as well. When God created the world, He created Adam and Eve, perfect and without defect. However, through their sin, the world has become messed up. You merely need to look around to see the devastation that sin has caused. Yet, God has provided a “Restore Default Configuration” option for us. It’s called Jesus Christ. When we believe in Him, we are restored (in some measure) back to the way that our Manufacturer intended us to be–righteous before God.

“God made Jesus, who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is great news!

One Way Justice

None of us like it when we are treated unfairly. We are disappointed when we deserved the promotion, but it went to another co-worker. We get angry at the driver who ran a red light and wish that a policeman was around to catch the reckless driver. We get upset when we get blamed for something that we didn’t do. At these moments, we feel violated and want justice.

But, have you ever noticed that your sense of justice usually goes only one way? What I mean is that you don’t often get upset when things unfairly go your way. When you get the promotion over a well-deserving co-worker, you are normally elated. When you run the red like, you are thankful that there were no police to see what you did. When you mess up and receive no blame, you feel fortunate.

Why aren’t you crying for justice at these moments? Because your sense of justice goes only one way.

The cross of Christ is justice averted. When Jesus was crucified upon the cross, He was dying for our sins! It was Jesus, who knew no sin, who became sin for us. Rather than receiving the wages of our sin, which is death, we receive the grace of eternal life, which He earned for us. (See Romans 6:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21).

This grace can be yours. You simply need to trust in Christ.

The Prince and the Pauper

I recently picked up Mark Twain’s classic, “The Prince and the Pauper.” It’s a typical Mark Twain work, very entertaining. You can read it for free here. You can listen to it for free here. (I like to listen as I follow along in the written text).

Anyway, this is a story of contrasts. All the Prince had ever known was the luxuries of the castle and the aristocracy. All the Pauper had ever known was the difficulties of the slums of England. Yet, this changed when they switched places. The Prince began to know the common life and the Pauper began to know the royal life.

It’s a great picture of the gospel. Before coming to earth, all Jesus ever knew was glory with His Father. Upon the earth, all we ever knew was the realities of sin and the difficult effects that sin creates. But, all this changed when Jesus switched places with us at the cross. He took all of our sin, that He might give to us all of His righteousness.

“God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Tom Sawyer had to trick them

One of my favorite stories of all time was written by Mark Twain in his classic, “Tom Sawyer.”  Aunt Polly told Tom Sawyer that he had to whitewash the fence–a job he detested. But, Tom was ingenious. When Ben Rogers came up in his bike, heading off to the swimming hole, Tom ignored him, paying attention to his job on the fence. Ben started to tease him about going swimming, when he was stuck whitewashing the fence. But, Tom said that the work suited him quite well. Ben said, “Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?” Tom replied, “Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence very day?”

With that change of perspective, Ben was intrigued with the job and asked Tom if he could do a bit of whitewashing. But, Tom refused to let him help, ““No – no – I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence – right here on the street, you know – but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

After a bit more pleading, Ben finally offered Tom his apple to paint the fence. Tom obliged and let Ben whitewash the fence, as he enjoyed Ben’s apple. Soon, several more of Tom’s friends came by and gave Tom their trinkets for the opportunity to whitewash the fence. Soon, he had so many helpers that “If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.” (You can read the whole account here).

We have a need in our church–a single mother needs help staining her fence. Some men in the church have a heart to help her with her need. We made the opportunity known, and they did it, without any trickery. Such ought to be our service to Christ. “We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

Learning from Experience

In 2 Timothy 2:1, Paul exhorts Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This is crucial advice for all who are seeking to live the Christian life. In fact, it’s the only way that you will endure in your faith, constantly praying, constantly trusting, constantly leaning upon Christ.

This isn’t pie in the sky theology for Paul. He knew from experience that such is the way to live the Christian life. See, he experienced a thorn in the flesh. Whether it was a physical ailment or a wicked person or a demonic spirit, we don’t know. But, we do know that it was painful and that it caused Paul to seek the Lord three times for it’s removal. But, God refused to remove it.

But God didn’t leave Paul alone. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). As the weeks and months rolled by, Paul was able to experience the grace of God as sufficient for him in his weakness. In 2 Timothy 2:1, Paul is merely passing this on to Timothy, to help Timothy in his weakness.