A Bad Man Made GoodPastor Lutzer | November 26, 2000
Before Paul’s conversion, he tried to destroy the Church and approved of Stephen’s murder. No one can say, “I’m too bad to be saved.”
Selected highlights from this sermon
Can a bad man be made good? First we need to realize that we are all bad. When it comes to sin, we all have a pre-existing condition. We’re all desire driven and accustomed to evil.
That may sound harsh, but it is true. However, we can be transformed. Our desires can change, but they can only be changed by God. You need a love for Him, His word, and a love for others. You need a sense of brokenness and humility. These can only be implanted into your heart by God.
And if you think your sins are too big or too many, think about the Apostle Paul. He persecuted Christians – even to their deaths. But God changed his heart and his desires, and he became the author of a good chunk of the New Testament. His love for God, for Christ, and for God’s Word is on every page he wrote.
So yes, a bad man can be made good, but only through Christ.
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Last summer I took time to read the book Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had heard about it all my life but had never read it. I checked it out of the library and decided to see what Robert Louis Stevenson had to say. The premise of the book is that really man is not one but two. There are two of us inside here. On the one hand, there is the intellectual part. That’s the Dr. Jekyll, the noble part, and the part that can be very generous and kind and caring. On the other hand, there is the Mr. Hyde part of us. That’s the dark animal instincts. That’s the selfishness, the lust and the greed, and the problem is that the two of us are chained together and there’s nothing that we can do about it, so Mr. Hyde resents all of the control and the restraints that are put upon him by Dr. Jekyll.
Dr. Jekyll is grieved and lives in remorse that he so often is influenced by what Mr. Hyde really wants in the depths of his desires. “Now,” says Stevenson, “what would happen if it would be possible to separate the two, allowing Dr. Jekyll to become a good man, as good as men can become, and allowing Mr. Hyde to become evil without restraints?”
In the movie version of the book Dr. Jekyll is a very kind man and woos and wins a young woman’s heart through his kindness and his love. Then he drinks a potion and becomes Mr. Hyde, and so he becomes evil, uncaring, abusive and terrifying to her.
Now we may question whether or not the theology of Robert Louis Stevenson is right in all respects, but he’s on to something, is he not? Is it not true that there are these two parts of it? You think of the women who might be able to testify that when they walked down an aisle to marry someone they were marrying a Dr. Jekyll – kind and loving, and then they woke up on their honeymoon next to Mr. Hyde.
So what would it be like if indeed the restraints were gone? Well, listen to the quote from Oscar Wilde who won many awards for his writing. This is what he said. He said, “The gods have given me almost everything, but I let myself be lured into long spells of senselessness and sensual ease. Tired of being on the high side I deliberately went to the depths and searched for all the new sensations. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity came to me in the sphere of passion. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that little actions of the common day make or unmake character, and therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one someday has to cry aloud from the housetop. I was no longer the captain of my soul and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.” That’s Dr. Jekyll, the good part, but Mr. Hyde, evil and unrestrained.
Well, as you know we’ve been in a series of messages titled Why Good People Do Bad Things and it’s time to wrap some things up, to put some things in perspective, and then talk about the topic about how God changes bad people.
Let me give you some of the statements that I’d like you to be able to take home with you in terms of why good people do bad things to kind of put some kind of a summary on this.
First of all, let me say that essentially the premise of the topic has been wrong – why good people do bad things. Jesus made it clear that there is no one good but God. When the young ruler said to Him, “Good Master, what must I do to be saved?” He said, “Why do you call Me good? Unless You are calling Me God, it’s out of place because there is none good except God.” We have all turned from our own way. We have all done our own thing. We have all willfully sinned against God.
You know there is medical insurance that you can purchase that does not cover pre-existing conditions. Well, you know the problem is that when it comes to sin, all of us have a pre-existing condition. We were born into it. We love it by nature. We are under the condemnation of it and as a result of that all that we have to do is to follow Mr. Hyde wherever he might lead us, and as a result of that we can do some very terrible things because there is none who is good.
Let me give you a second reason. As we’ve emphasized in preceding messages, we are oftentimes basically rationally inhibited. We are desire driven. We do what we want to do and we ask the Dr. Jekyll to cover for us, to use his intellect in order to justify what Mr. Hyde wants to do, and therefore we think to ourselves that if we only knew the truth we would do it, but the fact is we know the truth and we still don’t do it because we are driven by these desires.
You know, during the days of the enlightenment it was believed that if only we could somehow educate people that morality would be on a new plane. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much the Dr. Jekyll part of us knows, it is Mr. Hyde who most often gets his way.
Thirdly, we deal with our unmet needs in idolatrous ways. Instead of fleeing to God (and that’s why we preached on shame and anger and addictions as a part of this series) there is something within us that says when we have this need, “I want to meet it,” and we don’t go to God. And rather than bringing our desires in line with what God requires, what we do is we shape a god who is in line with the desires that we want to have. And so we warp the truth and we seek fulfillment in all the different places where it cannot possibly be, and as a result we begin to do some very bad and possibly even evil things.
Let me give you a fourth reason. We trust our ability to control sin. We say to ourselves, “I know where I can stop. I know where it is possible for me to do X, Y and Z and at the end of the day I will know how to make sure that I put a little box around it,” but God does not allow us to do that as we learned last week. God is a God who begins to move in and He begins to give us that light and begins to make us uncomfortable, but we think that we’ve been able to pull it off. In the recesses of our minds, in those secret chambers, we can do as we please and not even God is allowed to enter.
When we think of moral failure or spiritual failure we usually think of a blowout, don’t we? We say, “This man was going along the road so well and then suddenly everything went wrong.” Maybe it wasn’t sudden. It is generally said that when a tire blows up it’s because there have been cracks in that tire all the way along the line and now suddenly the separation begins to take place, and the blowout occurs, but actually there were signs way back when that the tire was beginning to fall apart.
A number of years ago I spent a half an hour with Richard Dortch. Many of you will remember him if you remember back to the early eighties. He was one of the workers with Jim and Tammie Bakker at the PTL Club. You’ll remember the story. And Dortch was on television with them, defending them, and so forth, and eventually went to prison, and wrote a book entitled Integrity, What It Is and How I Lost It. It’s an intriguing book. It’s a good book because if there’s anyone who came clean it was Dortch. He confessed his sins to anyone who would listen because he so desired to be right with God. But I remember what he said. He said, “It is almost impossible to get by telling only one lie.” It’s almost impossible because you begin to tell one and then you have to tell another to cover the one that you told, and on and on it goes. And what the devil wants us to do is to make such a heavy investment in the sinful direction of our lives that we will not be able to pull back because we have invested too much and we can’t go back without paying a tremendous price, as we emphasized last week.
Let me give you another reason. It’s a final reason. It’s a fifth reason, and I have to explain it before I give you the bottom line. We as human beings aren’t changed necessarily because we see the light. We can be talked to. It can be explained to us. We can even agree that it’s right, but if our heart isn’t where it’s supposed to be, all the truth in the world is simply shunted aside. It is like water on a duck’s back.
And what we learned last week is that the Holy Spirit of God has to move in and make us so uncomfortable, make us so desirous of God’s blessing, that finally we cry up in our misery and say, “God, do whatever You have to do.” So what I want to say to you today is that people don’t change just because they’ve seen the light. They only change when they feel the heat. Unless the Spirit of God urges them, unless they are exposed they just keep on going. They listen to messages and they maybe even read their Bibles on occasion but there is no transformation because the desire is not there.
When I was the pastor of another church I remember a couple that brought their teenage son to me, and the boy was really messed up. He was into drugs and into immorality and the whole shmear, and he didn’t want to come and see me obviously, but the parents insisted, so here he is. Now he comes into the office and in effect says, “Okay, here I am. Fix me.” I’m sorry. I can’t fix you.
So the question today is how is a bad man made good? Immanuel Kant, though brought up in a pietistic home, did so much damage to the Christian faith as a philosopher in Germany. However he did ask a question that is important. He said, “How can a man who by nature is evil become good?” Well that’s our topic today.
The Bible says in the book of Jeremiah, “Can a leopard change its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to evil.” Because people are accustomed to evil they oftentimes die evil. I wish I could tell you that there are all kinds of people out there who are evil but they are going to die good. No, they aren’t, but some are, and we’re going to talk about how that happens, but many of them are going to die in their sins. How can you do good, those of you who are accustomed to evil?
There’s something else about that verse however, and that is this. If there is going to be a transformation it has to come from outside of the human personality. You know, the New Age movement always says that what you need to do is to look within and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and that yes indeed, God helps those who help themselves. And so what you do is you try to somehow bring about these changes by all of the enlightenment that you have. It will not work. The leopard cannot change his spots. It can’t be done. The leopard can’t wake up in the morning and say, “I want a lion’s skin because a lion has no spots, so today I’m going to change my spots. Spots, be gone.” The spots are still there. No matter how optimistic, no matter how much he believes in himself, no matter how confident he is that if he just has the right amount of information and the power of positive thinking (like the little engine that said, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,”), he can’t change himself. My dear friend, if you want a fundamental change it has to be a God thing.
Now it’s true that mankind can change some things. Sometimes they change behavior. There are people who overcome alcoholism. There are people who are in prison. They get out and they no longer go back into prison because they live a different lifestyle. That is true. There is such a thing as behavioral modification, but my friend, today, when it comes to spots (and I take those to be the stain of sin), only God can take those away. And when it comes to the human nature, as we’re going to see in a moment, only God can change it and implant within us a new desire and a new heart. “I will take out the heart of stone,” God says, “and I’ll give you a heart of flesh.” That is a God thing.
Now to illustrate this I want us to look at the conversion of the Apostle Paul. Take your Bibles and turn to 1 Timothy 1. You will recall that the Apostle Paul was on a mission to exterminate the Christian Church, and he wanted to do that because there was a fundamental problem he had with accepting Jesus as Messiah. He had many problems but the most basic was this, that Jesus was nailed on a cross. And the Bible says in the book of Deuteronomy, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” So for Paul it was absolutely unthinkable that the Messiah would be crucified, that the Messiah would be cursed. Therefore what he wanted to do was to take all those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah and literally rub them out.
Now notice what he says in 1 Timothy 1 beginning at verse 12. “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer.” Let’s stop there for a moment. He was a blasphemer because he denied the deity of Jesus Christ and he desired to make sure that everyone else did, and he forced other people to deny that Jesus was the Christ, so he said he was a blasphemer in his past life. And then he says he was also a persecutor. Now I’m going to read for you exactly what it says in Acts 9:1-2, “But Saul (and that was his name before he was converted and God even gave him a new name because God cleaned him up so drastically), still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way (that is Christianity), men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
Paul said to himself, “There are some Christians who are running around the country. Some of them are going to Damascus, and I know that there’s an enclave of them there, and what I want to do is to go there and extradite them to make sure that they suffer full punishment. Whether that punishment be jailing or death, let’s take care of this sect,” as he believed it was. So he was a persecutor of the Church. But notice in 1 Timothy he’s not finished yet. He says, “I was a persecutor and an insolent opponent.” The Greek word is huberous. It refers to those who are insolent, those who are cruel. In fact, Aristotle gave this definition to the word. He says, “To hurt and grieve people in such a way that shame comes to the man who is hurt or grieved,” and huberous refers to a man who finds delight in his own cruelty. So the Apostle Paul went to the limits of sadistic brutality. That’s who he was.
How is God going to change him? Jesus comes out of heaven and reveals Himself to him. Why that? Why doesn’t He use Ananias? Why doesn’t He use some of the believers? Do you understand why? It’s because there wasn’t a person around who believed that Saul could have been converted, so the Christians were staying as far away from him as possible, and nobody dared witness to him. So Jesus said, “Because I’ve chosen him to be my apostle I’m going to come out of heaven Myself and appear to him.” And that’s exactly what happened there in Acts 9.
I shall pick up only one or two of the verses. “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” And the rest of the story is that he begins to understand that indeed Jesus is Messiah, God, a very God.
Now let me ask you the question, “What does God do as a result of this?” By the way, the vision was so real that later on the Apostle Paul is going to argue that he has a right to be an Apostle because he has seen the risen Christ. Just like the disciples who saw Jesus after He rose from the dead, in the very same way Paul says, “Have I not seen Christ in the flesh?” That’s how real the revelation was to him.
What happened? Let me explain what happened and then we’ll look at the text and find out how God did it. Paul’s mind was changed about who Jesus was. He now realized that the very act of persecuting the Church of God meant that he was actually persecuting Christ Himself. “Who are You, Lord?” He recognizes Christ to be God, a very God, so he changed his mind about Jesus. That’s not where the transformation ended. If all that would have happened is that Paul would have changed his mind about Jesus, he’d have simply turned around and begun to persecute all those who don’t trust Christ. He would have just been the same person with a little bit more added information. No, my dear friend, when God converts somebody He changes the desires. The desires are changed. The nature is changed.
During the days of the first great awakening in the 1750’s in America, hundreds of people were being converted. Many people were listening to the preaching of Edwards and Whitfield, and conversions were taking place all over. But the revivalists were very concerned because whenever you have a movement of the Holy Spirit of God, Satan always impersonates that movement, and furthermore people want to get caught up in it, and they have false assurance. There were people hopping around with supposedly a great deal of joy even, and Edwards would look at them a couple of months down the road and say, “You know there’s no evidence that you have actually believed in Christ in a saving way because I don’t see it in your life.”
So in order to defend the movement, Edwards wrote a book entitled Religious Affections. We could translate it religious desires or proper desires. And what he said was that one of the first evidences of the new birth, that one has been saved, is a whole new set of loves. One loves differently. “Whom having not seen, ye love (speaking of Christ) and though you see Him not, you rejoice with joy, unspeakable and full of glory.”
Imagine that you so love a person whom you have never seen that you are filled with unspeakable joy. And then Edwards went down the line that God implants within us a love for Himself, a love for His Word, a love for others and a sense of brokenness and humility. And all those things are a God thing within the human heart if it’s a true conversion.
Now I have to ask you a question. As I was preparing this message it dawned on me that there could be dozens of people listening to this message, and eventually thousands listening once it’s on the radio, who think that they are saved and are not. And the reason that they think they are is because they say, “I went forward. I believed in Jesus when I was a child,” or maybe “I said the prayer, and I said this prayer and I’m basically a good person and so forth,” but there’s no evidence that the work of God has actually taken place in their hearts, and they don’t love God, and they don’t love Christ, and they don’t ever rejoice in Jesus with joy unspeakable and full of glory. They have never been born again by the Holy Spirit of God. That’s so sobering to think that there could be people in the choir who have never savingly believed on Jesus, even though they are singing these marvelous, marvelous hymns. There could be ushers. There could be Sunday school teachers. There could be deacons. There could be members of our executive committee who in one sense give some indication because they are very religious and very fine people, but their hearts have never been transformed by God.
You see, when it comes to love you can’t just will to love. Oh there’s a sense in which we can will to love our enemies, but there’s another sense in which love cannot be turned on and off like a faucet. You can’t say to yourself, “Well, you know, I’m just going to choose to love,” and there’s no feeling and there’s no affection. I’ll just simply choose to love. Nor can you stop loving. Think of all the lovers who have had broken hearts because they wish they could turn it off but somehow the heart is not subject to the head. It just keeps going on and that’s why you have so many tears and brokenness, and sometimes it takes years to get over a relationship.
What I’m saying is you can’t wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “Today I am going to love God. Today I am going to have a hunger for the Word of God. Today I am going to love Jesus.” You can’t do that. The only way that can happen is if God does a miracle of implanting that love in you because it is not something that arises from our sinful hearts. So the Apostle Paul had this conversion experience, and all throughout his writings he talked about his love for Christ and his love for God.
How did God do it? Very quickly notice. We’re back in the text in 1 Timothy 1:13. He says, “But I received mercy.” What is mercy? Mercy is God preventing us from getting what we deserve because we deserve judgment. Mercy is God withholding that judgment. And it’s a free gift obviously. Paul says, “But I received mercy.” It’s in the passive tense. He says, “All that I can do is receive it.” It’s just like vegetation cannot cause rain but can lay back and enjoy the rain. In the very same way the mercy of God came to the Apostle Paul. Furthermore he says next he received grace. This is in verse 14. The grace of God was poured out on him abundantly.
You know, in Greek it’s super grace. It’s the Greek word huper from which we get hyper. You know children who have hyper energy or they are hyperactive. What we mean is they’re super active. That’s the word that is used here. Paul says, “You know, when God saves some people all that they need is grace, but because I was such a super sinner I needed super grace – special grace – because I’m a big sinner. I’m not just one of these little sinners brought up in the evangelical church who goes to Sunday school and wins awards and quotes verses of Scripture. I was somebody who was trying to kill the people of God and defaming the only Savior who can possibly save people from their sins. I was a blasphemer. This is bad stuff. Oh boy, when God saved me He had to have super grace.” And this meant that the transformation of the heart took place, but also that God granted to the Apostle Paul the gift of righteousness so that he would be declared as legally perfect as God Himself is, which is the only way we can get into heaven.
Today I speak to some of you who need super grace. If the truth were known and if all the secrets were out of the closets, there are some of you listening to this message who have done terrible things, maybe even criminal things, things that if they were really known you might be put behind bars today. And you say to yourself, “If there’s anyone who needs to be saved, it is I, but I don’t need just the grace of God. I need super grace.” Paul says, “That’s what I received.”
John Newton, who was a slave-trader, wrote his own epitaph. I think that’s important to do. Someday I’d like to write mine but I don’t want to rush it. (laughter) He said, “I was an infidel, a libertarian and a slave-trader. I was, by the mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith I had at one time determined to destroy.” Now that’s conversion where you become a lover of the Gospel.
Now notice that Paul says, “I received the mercy of God. I received the grace of God.” What else did he receive? He received the showpiece of God. I’m using that word because it says in verse 15, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Paul said, “Just look at my pedigree. Look at my resume. Look at what I was doing, but for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners (Listen up, those of you who think that you’ve sinned too much for God to forgive you.) Jesus Christ might display His unlimited patience (And now here’s the word I want.) as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.” Underline the word example. In Greek it means a first draft, a prototype or a sketch.
Paul said, “God decided to show mercy upon me so that throughout all generations - 20 and 30 generations and centuries from now - people would be able to say, “If God can save Paul, He can save anybody. I was the worst that God had because it involved a change of mind. It involved a change of heart, and now nobody who ever hears the Gospel can say, ‘I am too bad for the good news.’”
How are we going to summarize this today as we conclude this series of messages? How does God make a bad man good? First of all, let me say that the issue is not the greatness of your sin. The issue is the ability of God. You see, God gives righteousness to the “goody two shoes” people, like the man who told me the worst thing he ever did was wrap a golf club around a tree in a fit of anger. I mean aren’t you just impressed with that? Aren’t you just saying, “Wow? What else can he do? Can he also walk on water? I mean that’s marvelous.” God saves those people by giving them the righteousness of Christ, and how does He save the vilest offender? How does he save the criminals? I’ll tell you how he does it. He does it by giving them the gift of righteousness. The issue is not the extent of your sin. The issue is really the willingness of the hard heart. That’s the issue. It is true that “the vilest of sinners who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”
Secondly, the issue is not whether you repented but whether you are repenting. See, this is what happens in evangelical circles. We say, “Well, of course I am saved. I prayed a prayer when I was six years old (or when I was three years old, or when I was two years old, as two year olds are able to pray as their mother leads them).” And you know they say, “Of course I’ve accepted Jesus at camp.” And they are looking back to some experience. What Edwards and some others wanted to say was that you could never have assurance of salvation by looking back to an experience. You can only have assurance by looking to today and saying, “Has God implanted within me a love for Him and for His Word, and have my desires been transformed not from within but from without through the intervention of God?” That’s the big issue and therefore proof of the Spirit and the life of brokenness and humility. It’s a life in which we recognize our great sin, and we never get over the wonder of His salvation, and therefore we are putting our arms around people who also need the same salvation, not by thinking that they are so much worse than us. No, no, no because we have seen our sin, and it is ugly and we received His grace and it is beautiful. And we say to others, “You receive that grace too.”
Now of course, to go back to Robert Louis Stevenson’s analogy, unfortunately when we are saved the Mr. Hyde within us does not leave and say adios. Mr. Hyde shows up and Mr. Hyde in fact begins to give the new nature that God implants within us all kinds of trouble. So the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh and we are in this tug of war that sometimes gets worse (after we are saved) than it was before we were saved. Before we were saved we just fulfilled our desires and took them wherever they led. Now suddenly God has implanted new desires within us and the conflict intensifies.
Someone said to an Indian, “I have two dogs within me. I have that evil dog, and I have a good dog. Which one wins?” The Indian said, “Well, the one you feed the most.” So what you do now is you begin to feed on God’s word, you begin to feed on the blessings of God, the hymns of the Church and the body of Jesus Christ, and as a result of that new appetite that God has implanted in you, it becomes stronger and stronger, and when Mr. Hyde knocks on the door, you can more confidently tell him that he no longer has any authority over you. But the conflict is there.
I have to ask a question of those of you who say you have repented. Sometimes when a person falls into sin people say, “Well, you know, he fell into sin a year or two ago, but did he repent?” Well, that’s a nice question, but that’s not really the question. The question is, “Is he repenting? Today does he yield to the authority of Jesus Christ?”
And then third, the issue is not what you can do alone but what the body of Christ can help you do. There is no question but that there are sins that people get themselves into (and I emphasized this in a preceding message) that they cannot get out of alone. They need help and that’s what the body of Christ is all about. That’s why we have prayer groups. That’s why we have small groups. That’s why we have these opportunities to stimulate one another to good works and to study the Word together, and to pray together, and to think together, and to fellowship together. It’s because we know that we can’t fight this battle on our own. But the transformation of heart can take place. God does take bad people in this life and make them good, not perfect, but good people. God does do it.
Many of you will remember that during the seventies New York was terrorized by the Son of Sam. There were all kinds of murders taking place throughout the city of New York and everyone was alert. All the women were taking cover and making sure that they didn’t walk the streets alone. And it turned out, I believe, that the Son of Sam turned out to be David Berkowitz.
When my wife and I were in New York just a couple of weeks ago and talked to Jim Cymbala, he was telling us about the marvelous conversion of the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, whom he visits often in prison. And he said that Berkowitz is leading Bible studies. He has deep regret over what he did. He is not looking for parole. He has received several 100-year sentences. And then Pastor Cymbala said that he is encouraging a Christian publisher to publish his story and the publisher said to him, “Yeah, but do you know for sure he’s saved?” You get weary hearing about all these people being converted in prison. Prison is a nice place to get converted. Right? I’ll never forget Pastor Cymbala’s response. He said, “I said to this Christian publisher, ‘I know Son of Sam. I know that he’s saved but I am worried about you.’” He said it good naturedly, you understand.
Son of Sam is in prison today in New York leading people to Christ, holding Bible studies, and giving evidence of the fact that God does take bad people – evil people – and He does make them good.
And so I have to push the responsibility on you today. It’s not a God problem. It’s a heart problem. It’s a willingness for you to receive Christ as Savior as was mentioned today where you transfer your trust to Him, where you trust the Holy Spirit of God to do His deep work in you and then say, “I need the evidence of God’s implanted miracle in my life,” because people have prayed prayers, they have gone forward, they have had all kinds of emotional experiences, but they have never savingly accepted Christ as sin bearer. And as a result of that they’ve never been converted. Though they are good people, and though they sing, and though they go to church, God has not yet saved them.
So are you saved? That’s a good place to begin.
Augustine, whom we often quote, had a mistress, and after he was saved after reading Romans 14 he met the mistress along the street. And she ran after him. He ran away and she shouted to him, “It is I, it is I.” And he turned back and said, “But it is not I. It is not I.” Why? God changed his heart and gave him a new set of desires.
Look at Paul. “Through I, the worst of sinners,” he said, “Jesus displayed His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe, that nobody would ever say, ‘I’m too far gone.’”
The issue isn’t God today. It’s you. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we thank you for this series of messages that has enabled us to look into the human heart in all of its deceit and all of its deception. It’s not pretty. And we thank You that in Your grace You have chosen to not reveal to us the depths of our evil because we could not take it if we could see it as You do. And yet, Father, You have shown us enough for us to know that unless You save us we will not be saved. Unless You forgive us we will not be forgiven. And unless You change us we will not be changed. And so we invite Your blessed Holy Spirit today to do a work in the lives of all who have heard.
How many of you say this morning, “Pastor Lutzer, I want God to change me. I want God to change my desires. I want to be born from above.” Would you raise your hands, please? A number of people have raised their hands, especially in the middle section, but also the aisles.
Father, we ask in the name of Jesus that all who raised their hands today will be saved by You. And we pray, Father, that Your blessed Spirit would do what we can’t. Come, Father, because we are so needy. Reveal Christ to those who have raised their hands and to those who should have that they may be saved. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.