June 18, 2024

The Heart of the Matter is Your Heart

We use the phrase, “the heart of the matter,” to identify what is truly central. But what is the heart of the matter for every human being? From an eternal perspective, the heart of the matter for every human person, no matter their current situation, is the state of their own heart. The heart of the matter is the heart.

The “heart,” according to Scripture, refers not only to the central physical organ in our human body but to the center of a person’s psychical life. The heart refers to one’s emotions, will, and mind. The heart both determines and reflects upon the state of our moral relationship with God and with other people. Your heart is a big deal. 

The innermost purposes of your heart determine your spiritual state. Your heart can be for good, or it can be for evil. How do we know what the state of our heart is? Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart, too” (Matt 6:21). So, what do you want? 

Where is your heart? You can either have a heart which is “after God’s own heart,” like David (1 Sam 13:14). Or you can have a heart that seeks after idols, or false gods. We call for judgment upon ourselves when our hearts seek something other than the one true God (Ezek 14:1-8). 

God knows that our hearts are weak and prone to pride and to evil (Gen 6:5; 2 Chron 26:16). Our hearts become insensitive and hard when we turn away from him. This invites God to judge us (Ps 119:70; Zech 7:12). 

God gives us a conscience to remind our hearts that we are called to something better and that he will hold us to account in the final judgment (Rom 2:15-16). God is, moreover, merciful and wants to open our hearts to his free offer of salvation (Acts 16:14-15).

Please take a moment. and consider the state of your own heart. Are you right with God where it really counts, in your heart? Is there any tinge of rebellion against him? Are you beingswayed to trust in or desire something other than him? 

You know the wayward bent of your heart is true. But do not despair. You can ask God for his help. He truly wants to change your heart. Perhaps you might pray this prayer written by John Kettlewell:

I give you my heart, and I humbly pray that you would always keep it in your hands, since it is so unfaithful in loving what is good. When it is in my control, it is prone to follow all sorts of evils. Oh Father, keep my heart steadfast and unalterable in your ways. Let it not be inclined to any evil thing nor lean toward any of my former vanities. Keep my eyes from looking upon and my ears from listening to any sort of wickedness. Do not let my lips utter anything that is ungodly or my feet move even a step in any of the paths of death, but hold my whole spirit, soul, and body in a righteous fear of you. Keep me comfortable in the hope of your favor, through Jesus Christ, my blessed Lord and only Savior. Amen. (Cloud of Witnesses, 95)

As we pray for God to cleanse our hearts, he will send his Holy Spirit to change our hearts and give us righteous purposes. If you will pray like David did, when he fell into great sin, God will hear you and change you. “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:10).

Ultimately, the heart of the matter is your own heart. Will you ask him to change your heart to want him and his purposes for your life? He loves you and wants you to become a person after his own heart. He will forgive you and transform you. Just pray.

June 15, 2024

On Confessions and Creeds: Recent Writings and Presentations

During the past year, I have been asked repeatedly to address creeds and confessions in the Baptist tradition. The writings and presentations linked below may help you see the logic behind a recent proposal which has garnered widespread attention. 

Several leading pastoral theologians and academic theologians joined with me in May and June to propose and encourage the addition to the Baptist Faith and Message of an article containing the Nicene Creed. The concept has encouraged many people. 

Please join us in praying for the Southern Baptist Convention to make a clear statement of orthodox Christianity by adding the Nicene Creed in 2025. May Christ glorify himself through our common confession.

June 14, 2024

When Roman Catholics Get Something Right, Southern Baptists Should Say, “Amen”

My fellow Southern Baptists, there are times when we must lay aside old and oft overwrought prejudices. Despite their appeals to being the only real Baptists, we must refuse to give audience to the strident voices of those who play to fear and whisper of conspiracy and detect trends that draw you away from right action. 

Instead, we must learn to discern truth for ourselves. We must reject cynical and self-serving attempts to use our name for petty political power plays. We must speak clearly for ourselves, even if we speak the same truths as others who sometimes say things with which we don’t agree.

When the Roman Catholics get it right, and they do at least twice every day, we should stand with them. When the Roman Catholics speak necessary truths, then we must simply stand up and say, “Indeed.”

Now is one of those times when “we” Southern Baptists must take a public stand beside “them” Roman Catholics. 

We must all stand and speak together against any legislation which would force the radical transgender agenda upon our children. 

So, if you are fearful of saying the same thing as a Roman Catholic, as if the same confession somehow taints you, I ask you to examine the issue without fear, set aside your unnecessary qualms, and “gird yourself like a man.”

Let us rise up to speak the same truth with the Roman Catholics. I hope you will agree with me that, on this issue, “Cardinal Dolan is right. We must reject radical leftist attempts to force their views on our children. When Roman Catholics say something right, Southern Baptists should be able to and certainly must say with them, ‘Amen.’”