HOW DID YOU GET YOUR HONEST AND GOOD HEART?
Only men and women with “an honest and good heart” receive the Word of God and are saved. Jesus said that. The Lord Jesus explained the parable of the four kinds of soil in these words. “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience,” (Luke 8:11-15). Notice the last sentence in that quotation. The people portrayed as “good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” The question we propose to ask – and answer – is this: how does a sinner get “an honest and good heart?” How did you get yours?
Honesty and honest Bible interpretation makes it clear that no man or woman was born with “an honest and good heart.” The Bible records the words of God as saying, “...the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth...” (Genesis 8:21). Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The Lord Jesus Himself said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,” (Mark 7:21). These verses make it clear: neither you nor I were born naturally with “an honest and good heart”! If none of us were born with “an honest and good heart” then none of us were born with the ability to qualify as “good ground.” Since only those classed by Jesus as “good ground” hear the Word, keep it and bring forth fruit, none of us can do those things. No man in his natural state can be saved apart from God somehow working in him – producing in him “an honest and good heart.”
Again we say, not being born naturally with “an honest and good heart” means that no man in his natural condition can hear the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. Such a person will not and indeed cannot receive the Word. That is exactly what Paul wrote: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Lacking two things (1) “an honest and good heart” and (2) the Holy Spirit, the natural man first of all will not receive the things revealed by the Spirit and second, he cannot – he doest not have the ability to receive the Word in a spiritually profitable way. So man as he is born the first time – the natural man – is hopeless and helpless except that God move in and change him from his natural state.
Some would argue with these words claiming that man is not hopeless or helpless. They claim that the natural man can do this or that or the other thing and bring about his own spiritual change. Some even teach that if a lost sinner will do this or that thing he will be born again. According to them man can bring about his own spiritual birth. But once again we quote the Words of God as penned by Paul: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” (Ephesians 2:12). Now either the natural man is hopeless to remedy his spiritual condition or he is not. Paul told the congregation in Ephesus that as lost Gentiles they existed “having no hope.” They were ignorant of the Gospel, and were not even Jews to whom the Old Testament promises were made. But even the hope of the Jews was imperfect and needed to be replaced. “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God,” (Hebrews 7:19). So then it is clear that in himself the natural man has no hope in himself. He is helpless to do anything about his spiritual condition. He is dead spiritually and cannot make himself alive. Furthermore the Lord Jesus made it perfectly clear that the new birth – the implantation of spiritual life – is a work of the Holy Spirit when He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:6-8).
Thus far we have shown from the Scriptures that people in their natural state – as they were born naturally – do not have “an honest and good heart.” Thus they are not “good ground” - the only ground in Jesus' parable that profits from the Word of God. Since only the “good ground” people are saved, the natural man must somehow be given “an honest and good heart” if he is to be saved.
The Bible makes it clear that no one can change his heart from an evil one to a good one – one that can hear the Word and bring forth fruit that lasts. Jeremiah's two-fold question and conclusion proves that the sinner cannot do good. He cannot do that which is wholly good. He cannot change his evil heart into one that does only good. Jeremiah wrote: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.”(Jeremiah 13:23). Even Israel, God's chosen earthly nation was marked with sin and could not themselves do anything to change or remove it. It is written of them, “For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD,” (Jeremiah 2:22). So it is with all mankind. Of rebellious Israel Isaiah wrote, “... the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment,” (Isaiah 1:5-6). Is there any reason to think that modern men – Jews or Gentiles – are any different from their ancestors? Paul's indictment sums up the natural man's condition. He wrote: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes,” (Romans 3:10-18).
So it is clear: first of all, man was not naturally born with a heart that qualifies him as “good ground.” Secondly, he cannot do anything about his sinful condition. He cannot change his heart. He cannot make himself “good ground.” He cannot produce in himself “an honest and good heart.” Unless and until God the Holy Spirit moves in, regenerating the spiritually dead sinner (see Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13) and creating a new heart in him, the sinner cannot be saved. God has promised to someday do for all Israel what He does for individual sinners now. He said, “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 26:36). In that day all Israel shall have “an honest and good heart” - a heart that will hear the Word and bring forth lasting fruit – evidence of their new hearts.
This change in the inner man – the heart if you please, is not only spoken of as God putting a new heart within the sinner, it is also spoken of as God opening the heart in such a way as to enable the heart to receive the Word profitably. An example of this is recorded for us in Acts 16:14 where we read: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” Today's popular religion says “open your heart's door and let Jesus come in.” The Bible says it is God who opens the heart in such a way that the person receives the Word. The Bible also speaks of this operation of God as being a circumcision of the heart. Paul wrote: “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God,” (Romans 2:29). The true children of God – spiritual Israel – are those who have experienced a “circumcision” of the heart. Stephen stated the truth about the unbelieving Jews of his day, saying to them, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye,” (Acts 7:51). Unbelievers need a circumcision of the heart!
So it is that in order for a sinner to have “an honest and good heart” he or she must experience an operation of God upon them. Paul called it quickening: a spiritually dead sinner being made alive. He wrote this in Ephesians 2:5: “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved.” And again in Colossians 2:13 he wrote: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”
The Lord Jesus in speaking to Nicodemus told him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit,” (John 3:6-8). In these words Jesus spoke of regeneration – the work of God which gives life to the spiritually dead sinner – working in him “an honest and good heart.”
All glory to the Lamb that was slain! It is God who works in sinners who by their natural birth are unable to contribute anything to their own salvation. That is what grace is all about. God bestows upon the sinner all that he lacks – all that he must have – in order to be saved. Paul summed it up this way: “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Are you able to receive the Word of God in a spiritually profitable way? It is God who gave you that ability by quickening you. Have you a new heart? It is the gift of God. Has your heart experienced a spiritual circumcision? That, too, is the work of God in the sinner apart from any merit or action of the spiritually dead sinner. All that you have spiritually-speaking comes from God. The flesh can only reproduce more flesh: only “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Give all the glory for the salvation of sinners to God – including your own salvation if you are saved. All the glory belongs rightly to Him! Do you insist that you did something in order to be quickened – to be born again? Have you such confidence in the flesh? Then you are not circumcised in the heart for Paul wrote these words: “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” (Philippians 3:3). The confidence and the boasting of God's children is in Him and not in ourselves. Selah!
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726