I pray with all my heart that God will awaken each one of us today to the sweetness, the loveliness, the glory of the gospel declared by Christ.
The above sentence was the final sentence of the final sermon preached on earth by R.C. Sproul. He preached from Hebrews 2:1-4 with a title A Great Salvation. The sermon was given in his regular pulpit at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida.
We may be tempted like those early disciples of Jesus to ask whether he cares when we seem to be perishing. These twelve men found themselves in the midst of a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee. While they panicked, Jesus slept. They awakened him with their question of his concern or seemingly lack of concern. Have you ever found yourself in a similar boat? Has it seemed to you as if Jesus were sleeping while some violent storm threatened you?
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.
During a 1976 interview with Playboy magazine, then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter said, “I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery many times in my heart.” Society lampooned Carter for his statement, but he did express an understanding of sin that goes deeper than outward actions.
A key question to answer regarding our walk with the Lord is whether we are obedient to his Word. But as this text indicates, we should ask an even deeper question, “Are we obedient from the heart?” That is, is our obedience more than mere outward conformity? God has called us to an obedience that wells up from the heart into our outward actions. Or in other words, do we have a deep desire to walk in obedience?
Human beings have a tendency to undervalue our thoughts as compared to our actions. This is especially true when it comes to our understanding of our need for God’s mercy and grace. Often we think that if we can avoid taking a sinful action then we have a fine standing before the Lord. What is missing in this assessment? Is it not that we fail to account for the many sinful thoughts that bounce around in our minds?
Jesus taught that we are as culpable for our thoughts as for our actions.
We may cringe when we read the following words from the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke’s gospel. How could anybody pray such a prayer? But I suspect that our cringing may be based on the fact that we are familiar with the story. We know before we ever read this section of Scripture that the Pharisee is the bad guy. So we avoid offering up these kinds of prayers. However we are not so keen on avoiding comparing ourselves to others in our minds and words to others.
“God, I thank you that I am not like other men.”
On one occasion I was speaking with a church going woman about a sinful issue in her life. At first she offered a few attempts at rationalizing her sin. She soon realized that those excuses sounded much more lame out loud than they had inside her own head. Finally, she blurted out, “Well at least I’m not like (name of another person).”