Gospel

“What’s in Your Heart?” Exposition of Matthew 12:33-37

Audio of this sermon is available here.

A 2007 study by the academic journal Science indicated that humans speak an average of 16,000 words per day. The study found that the difference in the number of words spoken by men and women is negligible with women speaking 16,215 words and men speaking 15,669 a day. This study contradicted a study the previous year by Louann Brizendine, founder and director of the University of California, San Francisco’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic, in her 2006 book The Female Brain. This book claimed that women speak an average of 20,000 words per day, nearly three times the mere 7,000 spoken by men. I don’t want to get into this debate today. I will let you husbands and wives settle this dispute on your own time.

Let’s assume for a moment that we only speak 10,000 words a day. If that’s the case every five days enough words come from your lips to produce a 200 page book. Every five days! That’s 73 books a year. You can do the math on how many books your words would fill in your lifetime. Of all those words you’ve spoken in your lifetime, how many would you consider to be said carelessly? A lot of them! This is sobering when we consider the words of Christ in our text this morning that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” What does Jesus mean by this? There are two important principles that we need to consider. Let’s look at this morning’s text and see just what it means.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)

I. Our Words Reveal the State of Our Hearts, vv. 33-35.

Remember in the context that Jesus has just addressed the Pharisees who have committed the unpardonable sin by rejecting the evidence provided by the Holy Spirit through the miracles of Jesus that He was indeed the Messiah. Jesus was able to pronounce his judgment upon the words of the Pharisees precisely because He knew their thoughts (v. 25). In other words, Jesus know that the Pharisees’ words of blasphemy reflected hearts of blasphemy and He was therefore able to pronounce their final judgment in advance. The principle is stated clearly in the second half of verse 34: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, as I’ve stated it: “Our Words Reveal the State of Our Heart.” This is a scary proposition!

Having six children 13 and under means that for the last 13 years we’ve had a cup of something spilled every single meal. Often, someone will call out, “It’s just water.” This means they will be no sticky, sugary mess to clean up. We just have to get a towel and soak it up. Do you know what? We’ve never had anything come out of those cups that wasn’t in them. Whatever is in the cup, whether water, juice, milk, or Diet Dr. Pepper, that’s always what comes out. In a similar way, Jesus says that whatever is in our heart is what will come out of our lips with our words. When something jars you or upsets you and words come out of your mouth, it’s because they’re in your heart and they’re in your heart because you put them there!

We often say in words meant to comfort that “God knows our heart.” We are often reassured by thinking that although our actions and words may have been wrong, that God knows our heart and our heart is good after all. But this is not what the Bible tells us about our hearts. In Jeremiah 17:9, the prophet Jeremiah declared: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jehovah God responded, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Biblically, it is usually not a good thing that God knows our heart! It certainly wasn’t good for the Pharisees in Matthew 12.

The teaching of Scripture is clear: the words that come out of our mouths reveals what is in our heart.

Therefore, the next principle is true.

II. Our Words Will be the Basis of Our Judgment, vv. 36-37.

Here’s where it gets serious! Jesus says that we will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word which we speak! How many careless words have you spoken? If you’re 10 years old, consider nearly 700 books filled with your words. If you’re 40 years old, then you can imagine a library of nearly 3,000 two-hundred page books containing the words spoken in your lifetime. If you’re 60, imagine almost 4,500 such books. We have a lot to give an account for.

Jesus says in verse 37 that our words will either justify or condemn us. We need to realize that no matter how careful we have been with our words in our lifetime, there is more than enough evidence to condemn us to hell forever. If this is the final word, then we are all hopeless condemned sinners.

But I like the glimmer of hope of justification that is hinted out in verse 37. Some commentators take a lot of pains to explain why the gospel word “justified” is used here. They say that it is being used in its technical sense to refer to an acquittal in a court of law. That is certainly true, but I think there is at least a foreshadowing of the justification that comes through the “word of faith” which Paul talks about in Romans 10:5-10.

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

These verses state the same truth in a positive sense that Matthew 12:33-37 states negatively. Namely, your words reveal the state of your heart and your words will be the basis of your judgment. But here we are told that belief in the heart that is confessed with the mouth results in being justified/saved!

There is, therefore, hope for sinners whose hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. There is hope for sinners whose words should result in eternal condemnation. The hope comes from the fact that there was One who lived a sinless life. As the apostle Peter, one who knew Jesus, said, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” Because He was sinless in his words, yet suffered in our place the punishment we deserve for our wicked words and hearts, we can be forgiven/justified by one word! The “word of faith.”

Isaiah tells us that “they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (53:9). Yes, He was crucified, dead and buried though He was the spotless Lamb of God. Therefore, His death was not for His sins, but for the sins of all those who would put their trust in Him.

Conclusion:

Won’t you trust Him? One of my friends posted a great reminder on Twitter this morning. He said, “The Triumphal Entry occurred on lamb selection day for Jews. Jesus’ gesture: “Pick me as your Passover Lamb without blemish.” [@greg_thornbury Sun 24 Mar 08:26] This is Palm Sunday, the day of the Triumphal Entry, lamb selection day. Why look elsewhere for salvation? Here is Jesus, the Lamb of God who will take away your sin if you trust in Him.

“Look and Live!” Isaiah 45:22

Yesterday, at the church where I pastor, the guest speaker was unable to make it because of inclement weather. Naturally I thought of the events surrounding Spurgeon’s conversion and the text God used to bring him to faith, so I pulled this sermon from my files and preached it. Audio version here.

Just this past week there was an anniversary of sorts. On January 31, 1892, the famous British preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon died at the age of 59. During his lifetime, Spurgeon preached enough sermons to fill 63 volumes. The sermons’ 20-25 million words are equivalent to the 27 volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The series stands as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.

On January 6, 1850 (or 13th, see Lewis Drummond’s case for this date in his Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers), just less than 163 years ago, Charles Haddon Spurgeon experienced salvation on a snowy day in England.

The snow was so bad that the young Spurgeon could not make it to the church he had planned to attend that day. So he turned into a small Primitive Methodist chapel. The minister was snowed in and couldn’t make it there, but that day a lay member of the congregation took as his text Isaiah 45:22 and read, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” (AV)

In this short text three important aspects of the gospel message are evident:

1. The Exclusivity of the Gospel Message;

2. The Simplicity of the Gospel Message; and,

3. The Universality of the Gospel Message

I. The Exclusivity of the Gospel Message, “Look unto me!”
This text is a very exclusivistic one. In this text the LORD says, “Look unto ME!” He does not say look anywhere you please, one look is as good as another. No, He declares that “there is none else.” The context of Isaiah 45:16-25 is very clear. Notice the exclusivistic claims there.

The New Testament Parallel to this passage is John 3:14-15 which refers to the account recorded in Numbers 21:4-9 of the children of Israel’s experience in which they were bitten by poisonous snakes. This plight had come upon the children of Israel because of their continuous complaining against Moses and God. After many people had already died from their snake bites, the ones who had been bitten but had not yet died cried out to Moses acknowledging their sin. God then provided a means of healing from the deadly serpent’s bites. It involved the construction of a serpent of brass placed upon a pole (the debatable source for the medical symbol). Anyone who looked upon the serpent on the pole would be healed and escape death.

The serpent symbolized the sin of Israel. Because of the Israelites sin of unbelief God sent the serpents in judgment. The serpent was a reminder of judgment which in turn was a reminder of the sin. Those who looked on the brazen serpent were acknowledging that their sin was the cause of their judgment and death.

Similarly, as Jesus Christ hung on the cross He symbolized God’s judgment upon sin. This was testified in the Old Testament in the words of Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: (23) His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

Likewise, Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 states that God made Christ “to be sin for us”! This means that God the Father treated His own Son as if He had committed all of our sins!

For he hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

In John 3:15 it is stated that as the wounded who looked upon the brazen serpent were restored to temporary health, so in this case eternal life follows from the faith of the believer on the crucified and exalted Lord. This is the message which Spurgeon heard 163 years ago. He later recalled:

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: — “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!

II. The Simplicity of the Gospel Message, “Look unto me!”
What a simple message! Look and Live! Look to Jesus now and Live! It is a simple message, but not simplistic. They are great depths of truth in the gospel that have occupied the greatest minds in human history, yet there is a simplicity that even a child can understand. As someone said of Scripture there are waters deep enough for an elephant to swim and shallow enough for a child to wade.

Again note the parallel to Numbers 21 and John 3.

To look, to believe, says more than mere cognitive awareness. It includes the recognition of a desperate need (Why else would one look?).

When someone turns to Christ, they are turning away from theirself. They are willing to be transformed. They don’t want to be left in the same state. They want to be changed! Faith and repentance go together!

Listen as Spurgeon describes his first encounter with the simplicity of the gospel:

Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “and you always will be miserable — miserable in life, and miserable in death, — if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.” I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said, — I did not take much notice of it, — I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, “Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.”

III. The Universality of the Gospel Message, “All the ends of the earth.”
Again, notice the parallels to Numbers 21 and John 3. In Moses’ day the invitation was open to everyone. Any who would look could be spared their violent death. In John 3:15, the text states that “Whoever believes will not perish, but will have everlasting life.”

This is a message that is for everyone of every race, class, gender and background. This the message that young Spurgeon also heard:

The preacher began thus — “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pains. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Ay!” said he, in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves.

Conclusion:
Have you ever looked to Christ alone? Are you still clinging to your righteousness? There must be recognition of your need for healing if you are to look to Christ. Do you realize that you need Christ?

Notice that I didn’t ask if you’re a church member. I didn’t ask if you’re a good neighbor. I didn’t ask if you’re a good father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, child, etc. Have you looked to Jesus?!?!

All of us were bitten by the serpent, the devil, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. As a result the poisonous venom of sin courses through our veins and will eventually lead to eternal separation from God in hell.

There is only one remedy, there is only one antidote! See the man hanging on the cross! See him bleeding and pleading for you! Look to him and you shall live! Look! Look! Look!