Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I recently saw a story on KOMO news about a woman name Tammy Gobin. Tammy lives in the Seattle area and runs a day-care out of her home. She has a PhD and is currently working on her master’s degree. Because of her high level of education Tammy could probably have any teaching job that she wanted, but, she won’t. Why? Because Tammy’s body emits an odor that others find repulsive.
Tammy Gobin has a rare disorder called Trimethylaminuria. People with TMAU are incapable of processing Choline, a chemical found in many foods like milk, eggs and fish. As a result, they emit a bad odor like rotten garbage or dead fish. No amount of specials soaps, perfumes or deodorant can make the odor go away.
There is currently no exercise regiment, no prescription drug and no therapy that will make Tammy’s system work properly. Because the source of her problem is internal, Tammy cannot change what makes her unacceptable to others.
I don’t have TMAU, but I have a similar condition, and so do you. Jesus speaks about our condition in the book of Mark. Our condition offends people, but more tragically, our condition makes us unacceptable to God.
The focus of our meditation today is, “The Evil Condition of My Heart”. We read…
GOSPEL READING Mark 7:14-23 (NIV)
14Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”
17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)
20He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
These are the words of God’s Son. May God’s Holy Spirit open our evil hearts to believe His words so that we may find forgiveness, rest and healing in Jesus. Amen.
Just before the words of our text, Jesus had fed 5,000 people with a miracle. Soon after that, some Pharisees and teachers of the law traveled up from Jerusalem to check on Him and see just what Jesus was doing.
When they arrived, the Pharisees were disturbed to find the disciples of Jesus eating with unwashed hands. That may sound a little funny, but to the Pharisees it was no laughing matter. Nor was it just a matter of personal hygiene.
The Pharisees always washed their hands in a specific, ceremonial way, before eating. This special hand washing was not one of God’s commands. It was one of the traditions that had been passed down by their elders. All the same, the Pharisees didn’t consider it optional. When the Pharisees saw the disciples were eating with unwashed hands, they looked down them as if they were sinning.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for accusing His disciples of sin when they weren’t sinning at all. And then Jesus gathered the crowd to Himself and said the words of our text.
Basically He told them, “It’s not the stuff that goes into you or touches you from the outside that makes you unacceptable to God, it’s the stuff that comes from inside your evil heart.”
When people first started noticing that Tammy Gobin didn’t smell very good, I bet she figured it wasn’t her. Maybe it was something she stepped in. Maybe it was someone else. Maybe there was a garbage nearby that people were smelling.
But soon, shifting the blame became impossible. Even though Tammy couldn’t smell herself, what others sensed was certainly coming from her. And since it couldn’t be washed off or perfumed over, it must be coming from inside her.
It doesn’t take much soul searching for me to establish that I am a sinner. Most other people would say the same. They’d say, “Sure, I’m not perfect either, nobody is. ”
Since we are all imperfect people we may be tempted to consider sin normal or even okay. But to God sin is a stench that He cannot tolerate.
When God reveals to us through His word that He can’t tolerate our sin, our first instinct is to blame something or someone else.
When God held Adam and Eve accountable for the first sin, Adam blamed Eve and even blamed God, saying,
“…The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it”(Genesis 3:12 NIV).
In turn, Eve passed the blame on to the serpent, saying,
“…The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13 NIV).
In the present day we are no different. When our sin causes pain and suffering there’s always something or someone else to blame.
It’s not my fault, I was criminally insane at the time. It’s not my fault, I’m just a product of my environment. It’s not my fault, my parents’ didn’t spend enough time with me when I was a kid. It’s not my fault, my spouse doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. It’s not my fault, the government didn’t prevent it from happening. It’s not my fault, it’s God’s fault for making me how I am.
But God is not evil, and He cannot be blamed for my sins. Nor can any other person be blamed for what I do or what I fail to do. As Jesus said,
“…evil thoughts… come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’”(Mark 7:21, 23 NIV).
Jesus listed some of the evil things that come from mankind’s heart. Jesus said,
“…from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.”(Mark 7:21-22 NIV).
I’m not going to talk about all twelve of these things. Even Matthew summarizes when he records this same thing in his Gospel. He only mentions six of these putrid fruits of man’s heart (Matthew 15:19). Jesus’ point is that the human heart is a pit toilet.
Just a few days ago I had to stop watching the nightly news because my six year old daughter was in the room. It wasn’t because the language was bad, but because the things being described were so despicable. One story was titled, “Woman Charged in Murder, Theft of Fetus”. The world is full of examples of what lies in the heart of mankind. And what lies in the hearts of mankind are the seeds of unspeakable actions.
After the Great Flood of Noah’s day, God said,
“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…”(Genesis 8:21 NIV).
Jesus wasn’t just talking about other people when spoke of rotten hearts. He meant you and he meant me. The apostle Paul accepted this truth, and expressed it when he wrote,
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”(Romans 7:18 NIV).
When Jesus speaks of our hearts, He’s not speaking of the organ beating in our chest. He’s referring to the center of who we are, the core of our being. That is the source of our evil deeds. And because this is so, we cannot hope to separate ourselves from the source of our sin. It is part of us that we are incapable of amputating.
Tammy Gobin couldn’t remove her digestive system in order to escape the source of her smell. We can’t remove our hearts to escape the source of our sin. And because we can’t, our condemnation unavoidable. God cannot tolerate the wicked. Psalm five declares,
“You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
with you the wicked cannot dwell”(Psalm 5:4 NIV).
Tammy Gobin couldn’t shift the blame, she couldn’t separate herself from the source of her problem, and sadly she couldn’t fix her body with exercise, drugs or therapy.
The same is true of sinners. We can’t blame someone else for our sins, can’t separate ourselves from our evil hearts and we can’t fix the source of our unacceptability to God. We can not rehabilitate ourselves. Our evil hearts can only be fixed by God.
Sinners are not rotten to the core, we’re rotten from the core. If we try to cover our sins with smiles and nice words and helpful actions, those things will only go so far. Like perfume, they’ll eventually fade away and reveal the stench of our underlying sinful heart.
Any suggested solution to our sin problem that doesn’t include a complete replacement of the heart, fails to recognize the full effects of sin’s infection.
Rotten is the perfect word for describing our sinful hearts, because you can’t fix rotten. You can only replace it.
And that’s where God comes in. Only God can put a clean heart into us. Only God can replace our inner, rotten heart with a new, clean, healthy one. Only God can change us from the inside out, and God does that through Jesus Christ.
When the Holy Spirit gets us to the point where we really understand sin and it’s source - then we realize:
I can’t blame things for my sins.
I can’t blame others for my sins.
I can’t rehabilitate my self.
I can’t transplant my own heart.
And all this leads us to the conclusion that we are doomed to be unclean forever, unacceptable to God and separated from Him for all eternity.
But this is where Jesus steps in to correct us. He says, “That would be the case, but I’ve taken your blame and your condemnation. You couldn’t put your blame on someone else, so I went ahead and took it from you.”
The story of how Jesus went to the cross shows us how He was tortured in our place. Because of the things our hearts produced. The Good News of Jesus tells us point blank that all the evil deeds that ever sprung from us, are forgiven because of God’s suffering servant, Jesus.
And through the Holy Spirit’s inspired words in the New Testament letters we find out another most remarkable turn of events. While those who trust in Jesus still retain their sinner’s rotten heart, God has given them a new heart too. One than fights against the old with the Holy Spirit’s help.
And at the last day that old rotten heart will be taken away forever and the new, sin-free heart will remain the only one. The core of our being will be free of sin. Free of guilt. Free of doubt. Free of pain. Free to live with God and for God in heavenly perfection.
And all this will be because of Jesus. Who would not say, “It’s not your fault” because it was. All this will be because of Jesus Who would not say, “You’re okay just the way you are” because we weren’t. We will be pure because Jesus told us the truth about our rotten hearts, and then did the work necessary to give us new hearts, uniting us forever to God the Father, through Jesus’ own selfless sacrifice.
Dear Christians, you have wicked hearts. But you also have new heart through faith in Christ. Keep listening to the Holy Spirit in God’s Word so that those new hearts keep beating. And thank Jesus today, for fixing the heart of your problem, your heart.
I’d like to close our meditation today with the responsive reading of Psalm 51. King David wrote this Psalm, and in it he mentions many of the same thoughts we’ve been considering.
The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.