A Devotion for 12 February 2021 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do it.” (Ezekiel 22:14; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
The question posited in the above text should be an eye-opener and a grave warning to those who take their religion too lightly. It is a promise of endurance to the faithful and a dire warning to those who have rejected God. It is a simple question loaded with profound meaning. How shall we individually answer this question? Eternity depends upon the right answer.
The heart is like the broiling waters of the Deep – full of life but filled with mysteries unknown to man. The depths of that sea are beyond the fathoming of the worldly judge or seasoned seaman. Its darkest mysteries lie beyond the eyes of man to seek out. It is a Deep devoid of any public observation. The Ocean Deep often conceals in her turbid depths great treasures of the past and of much value to those who can get them today. The human heart also stores up treasures untold to the modern observer. But if the effort is successfully made to explore that Deep, there will be revealed great treasure. Often the treasure is elusive or even tragic. The Titanic still rests upon her keel in the silent sands of the Deep in the solitude of darkness and a cold and watery grave.
The popular movie, Titanic (1997), offered a theme song entitle, My Heart will Go on Forever. That is a beautiful song for a film that presents a warped fantasy of the historical facts surrounding the Titanic’s sinking. While it is true that the heart goes on forever, the bliss of that ‘forever’ is in doubt in most cases of those whose hearts are fixed on carnal concerns. True life is only that which is granted by grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Psalm 22:26, a Messianic Psalm, we are told, “The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.” What a wonderful promise to those who love the Lord – to be promised the riches and joy of Paradise with the saints; but what a dreadful verdict for those who have rejected the Lord and who will spend that ‘forever’ in the eternity of Hell. The better theme song of Heaven would be, O Worship the King.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. 11As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.” Jeremiah 17:9-11
What can grant the heart an eternal habitation with God? Well, the heart is a Temple – either of the Living God, or the Prince of the Air and Darkness. Our heart’s endurance depends upon who sits as sovereign thereof. If Christ is the sovereign of our Hearts, there will be no worldly weights to bind us to the gravitational force of the world – no cheap trinkets, fool’s gold, or carnal desires to weigh us down. The Heart ruled by our Lord is filled with the upward aspirations of the saints. But, if our hearts are filled with the malice and lusts of the world, or “If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; 21Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.” (Psalms 44:20-21)
The tales and legacies of the world that perishes may be written, EMBLAZONED, on the sinews of the heart. Or, the Commandments of God may be, by the grace of God, graven upon those sinews by the redemptive merits of our Lord. The Lord has promised to write His Law upon the Hearts of the Faithful. “Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:3) Herein is revealed once again the power of love to bind us in righteousness to God. That Law written on the fleshly tables of the heart is written by the indelible ink of blood – the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that performs the Open Heart Surgery that justifies and sanctifies through that blessed Blood of our Lord. The Holy Spirit is not into exercising the process of by-pass heart surgery, but the Holy Spirit works by means of transplant surgery whereby a NEW heart is given the elect and chosen vessel of the Lord. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26) Dear reader, please stop and meditate on the wonder and beauty of this promise just quoted for a moment. That old stony heart is of the world in the same sense as the offering of Cain was not an offering of blood but of the earth – it belongs to the world and will perish with the world; but the heart of flesh which the Holy Spirit implants is that heart whose Sovereign is the Lord and whose walls are graced with the very Commandments of God. It is filled with the ornaments of love and grace.
That heart of flesh is subject to feelings of compassion. The smallest pin-prick will draw blood just as the smallest sin will offend the Christian heart. The tender-walled heart of flesh will not only come to look upon the injured man on the Road to Jericho, but will be compelled by love to stop and expend time, resources and care on the wounded stranger.
The old heart of stone was oblivious to the weight of sin. No great measure of sin could crush or overcome that heart of stone. It felt no heavy burden of guilt. But the heart of flesh is easily marred and oppressed by the least of sins. It feels a need to call upon the Sin-Bearer to share its hurt and burden. The heart of flesh needs, and knows, the benefits of grace made available in Christ. That heart will dwell in the assurance of Christ when He says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The heart of flesh is a new creation of its Maker, the Lord Jesus Christ – fashioned by Him without the works of the flesh. Unlike the heart of stone, the heart of flesh is a living heart. That “heart shall live for ever” as the prophet avers. Just as there is no place found for the slightest transgression in the Paradise and Presence of a Holy God, neither can the heart of flesh deign to tolerate the slightest intentional sin – either, as our Prayer of General Confession says: sins of omission or of commission. “ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.” from Morning and Evening Prayer Service, Book of Common Prayer (Reformation Church of England). These words are part of the communal prayer which can be repeated by every worshipper with complete sincerity.
The heart of flesh, devoted to God, is like unto the Potter’s clay or the Magistrate’s wax – it is easily malleable into whatever vessel the Potter desires or whatever impression the King impresses with His seal. It bears His image, likeness, and representation. What is that Image? It is the Incarnate Word of God – the Word that lives, breathes, and compels works of righteousness in the heart of the believer. Salvation is by grace and none of works; however, the outward works and behavior of the Christian is visible evidence of salvation. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10) Before our election and calling in Christ, we were dead in trespasses and sin, A dead man can do nothing to amend his lifeless estate – it is the Voice of Christ calling from without the tomb that enters and quickens the heart of life. (see Ephesians 2:1-7)
When I write, I am aware of my inability to write or say anything of my own mind that is of worth; but it is the Word of God that imparts authority. It is the Word that is living, and any earthly light that I, or any other believer, can shed upon it that imparts true understanding to others comes from the Holy Spirit and not the heart of man. None my works are of any worth – it is the works of the Holy Spirit that works in us that performs the righteous works. So no pride can be taken by any believer of any good works he or she may do – it is of God’s work if it is of any value at all: “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:25-29) The greater works of Paul was not owing to Paul in the flesh, but Paul according to the Spirit. Let us never fail to give the Lord the praise and glory for every good work He may deem to perform through us and the grace of that NEW HEART.