9“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.
In our sermon this morning, we study Romans 3 and the universality of unrighteousness. As Paul will summarize, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Or, as Jeremiah reminds us today, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” So let us consider some implications of our sinful, fallen nature.
I am sure that many of you have heard of the man who shot and killed several people at a massage parlor in Atlanta recently. A professing Christian, he apparently told police that he had been struggling with sexual sin and so decided to attack the massage parlor. Apparently, he believed that if he were to get rid of these women then he would be eliminating that which he found so tempting. In other words, he believed that his primary problem was outside of him.
But what Jeremiah insists is that our fundamental problem is not outside us; the problem is inside us – in our hearts and minds. Your problem is not other people. Your problem is not your circumstances. Your problem is your heart. You are corrupt and do not fear God. This is your root problem.
So if you are a man dealing with sexual temptation – your problem is not women. If you are a woman dealing with envy or bitterness – your problem is not that others have wronged you or that others have the gifts you want. If you are tempted to drunkenness – your problem is not alcohol. Your problem is not outside but inside. Men are not the problem; women are not the problem; sex is not the problem; liquor is not the problem; money is not the problem; the problem is your sinful heart that twists and abuses these good gifts that God has given.
So notice what this means. This means that the chief threat to your home is not outside your home. The chief threat to your home is inside your home. It is inside every sinner who resides in your home. You are a sinner. If you are married, your spouse is a sinner. If you have children, your children are sinners. And the chief threat is there, in those sinful hearts.
So let’s say you’re relatively poor. You don’t own your own home, have as nice a car, have as many toys; you can’t travel like your neighbor does or afford those organically grown foods – truly you’re suffering for Jesus. So you make some impulsive and foolish financial decisions. You buy a car you can’t afford; you run up credit card debt; you get yourself in a bind and now you feel like you’re drowning. What do you do? Do you blame your circumstances for your impulsive decisions? If you do, then you will never grow, you will never change. In most situations, finances are more about our hearts than our circumstances. “The love of money,” Paul writes, “is the root of all kinds of evil…” If you’re willing to confront that heart issue, then you can truly grow.
Or, fathers, let’s say you’ve had a hard day at work. You come home. Your children disobey and, rather than get up and do the hard work of lovingly disciplining your child, you lash out at him with your voice or strike him in anger. Whose fault is that? When your conscience smites you, can you say to your conscience, “Hey, I was tired! He shouldn’t have disobeyed. It’s his fault. It was a hard day.” No! Your circumstances do not justify your sin. Now, they may help contextualize your sin. By observing them, you may be able to learn more about yourself, to understand when you are particularly tempted to sin so that you can fight that temptation in the future. That is the process of sanctification and it is a good and right process. But what you cannot do, if you really want to grow in Christ, is blame your sin on your circumstances.
Let’s say, teens, that you get frustrated with your parents. You don’t think they’re listening to you or understanding you or seeing things the right way. So you roll your eyes or you speak disrespectfully. Whose fault is that? When your parents confront your disrespect, can you excuse yourself? Can you say, “Well you made me angry! It’s your fault!”? Is your disrespect their fault? Will God excuse you? No!
There are times when we Christians act as though our problem is primarily external not internal. We say to ourselves, “We are raising our kids in just the right way, so we won’t have the problems that people out there in the world have. Our kids won’t look at porn. We won’t have unwed mothers. Our kids won’t be drunkards. We’ll never have a child tempted to commit suicide. Our method will work.” If you think that way, then you have not yet reckoned with the depth of your sin, your spouse’s sin, and your children’s sin. Methods will not save us. Laws will not save us. Only the grace and mercy of God in Christ can save us and our children from destruction.
And so reminded that our hearts are desperately wicked and that we cannot save ourselves, let us confess our sin. Let us confess our need for the forgiving and transforming grace of God in Christ. And let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.