From the Pastor
Each month in our church newsletter - the Trinity Messenger - Pastor Hofmann authors a message to the members of Trinity. The topics range from current events at Trinity to scriptural teachings to things going on in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Check the archives to access previous month's articles from Pastor Hofmann.
Pastor Hofmann's May 2011 Message:
12Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19So we see that they were unable to enter because of their unbelief (Hebrews 3 ESV).
One of the main priorities of cardiologists in the last half of the last century was hunting for a way to clear arteries clogged by plaque. They experimented with rotating burrs to grind away the plaque. They tried using rotating knives to cut away the plaque. They tried using lasers to burn through the plaque. None of these methods had any real success.
But then in 1993, at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, researchers reported on another experimental device that worked like a tiny jackhammer inside the arteries. The device was inserted into the coronary arteries by a tiny wire called a catheter. There it emitted low-frequency, ultrasound energy, vibrating the jackhammer-like tip of the probe some 19,500 times a second, about one-thousandth of an inch back and forth each time. After the “jackhammer” had done its work, a balloon was inserted into the narrowed artery and expanded to open the artery so blood could flow freely.
In twenty-nine original test cases, the “jackhammer” seemed to accomplish something the other methods could not. It broke down the calcium and gristle in the hard plaque without harming the soft wall of the artery. This miracle breakthrough procedure of 1993 is now considered just another “tool” in the treatment of heart disease along with the newer “miracles” of by-pass surgery and valve replacement and heart replacement surgeries, etc.
Hardening of the arteries is one of the enemies of the heart, but there is a dangerous hardness that can also develop in our spiritual lives. It is a hardness that the writer of Hebrews spoke of. It is a hardness that constricts the life-giving love of God in our daily lives still today.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
There are a lot of people walking around with hardening of the arteries and other heart issues that don’t know just how close to death they are—that death can literally come at any time. They go about their normal routines, and even though they might suffer symptoms like shortness of breath or minor chest pain, they just dismiss them as nothing really to worry about.
In the same way, all of us by nature have hardening of our hearts toward God. We easily go about our normal routines without recognizing how close we are to the eternal death that we deserve because of our own unbelief. Even though there are very visible evil symptoms all around us, and in us, that tell us just how sin-hardened men’s hearts really are, our Old Adams regularly dismiss these symptoms as nothing really to worry about—as long as they don’t directly affect “me”, that is!
To illustrate how easily we dismiss the symptoms of our sinful nature as nothing much to worry about, all one has to do is look at the attendance drop from Easter Sunday to the following Sunday.
Easter is the high point for Sunday church attendance in the entire year, and it should be greatly attended because of what that day means concerning our own salvation and the resurrection of the body on the Last Day. That means there are more people in church on Easter hearing the Word of God and confessing their sins and receiving forgiveness in the Means of Grace than in any other Lord’s Day service.
But is the need to hear God’s Word and have sins forgiven any less important on the Sunday after Easter than it was on Easter itself? Much too often the deceitfulness of sin tempts so many of us to think that hearing God’s Word and receiving His absolution on Easter is enough to make gathering together for worship during the following weeks optional, as if our hardened hearts are not really as hard as Scripture tells us!
The truth is that every one of us sins daily in thought, word, and deed; every one of us commits sins we are not even aware of, and the only way that those sins will not be counted against our hardened hearts is if they are removed from us through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ. The deceitfulness of sin tempts us to think that faith in Christ is something that can be turned on or off as needed. But that is a lie from the father of lies! Faith is not a golden parachute that can be thrown out in case of an emergency, such as when a heart attack strikes and one is faced with the real possibility of standing before their Maker.
Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit; it is a gift of the Living God, but it is a gift that can be rejected through one’s own most grievous fault, and most of the time it is a gift that is rejected without even realizing it, as one gets caught up in the business of “today” and willfully not seeing the symptoms of sin for what they are. The violence in the world, the disasters of nature, the unbelievable evil things people do to each other, not to mention the things we ourselves do that we try to keep hidden, are all things that should tell us we are dying people in a dying world. They are all symptoms of original sin, and try as he might man has never been able to come up with a cure for his hardened heart!
No amount of good works can grind away sin. No number of good intentions, however sincere they might be, can cut away sin. No positive thinking, regardless of how earnest it is, can burn away sin. There is only one “miracle treatment” that can cure a sin-hardened heart, and that is the miracle of God’s Son coming in the flesh to take on the sin of the world and thereby satisfy God’s wrath against it on the cross of Calvary.
God used Jesus as His own “catheterizing jackhammer” to break through the hardened arteries of our sin. He ground away the plaque that we inherited from Adam as He was led like a Lamb to the slaughter. He cut away our sin as Jesus was pierced for our iniquities. He burned through our sin as He left His only-begotten Son to the fires and torments of the damned in hell as our substitute.
Hardening of the arteries is an enemy of the heart, but it is only one symptom of the sin that is killing us all day long.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
When Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me”, he did not mean that Easter and Christmas were enough. He did not mean that we could stop receiving His “soul medicine” during the summer months because we don’t “feel” the symptoms. He didn’t mean that the Sunday after Easter or any other Sunday is any less important than Easter itself. Jesus literally said, “Keep on doing this”, meaning, “receive my body and blood as often as possible,” for there is no time that we don’t need His forgiveness while we remain in our own body of death.
Every Sunday is a little Easter in its theme and message. Every Sunday God takes the jackhammer of His law to break through the sinful plague threatening to condemn each one of us, and He lovingly does this without harming the soft walls of our fragile faith. And after God’s jackhammer has done its work, O how the comfort of His Holy Gospel of sins forgiven through Christ balloons up in our hearts to open us to life eternal in His presence!
God grant every member of Trinity a new understanding of how easily each of us is affected by the deceitfulness of sin. God grant that Christ continues to draw us to Himself to give us new hearts purified in Him. God grant that we “see” in true faith the miracle of His life-giving love in each of our lives.