When Hearts Attack

Text: Mark 7:14-23

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Dear friends, even if you were to quit all of your habitual cursing, swearing, drunkenness, lust, greed, and gossip, that would not make you a Christian.  You might go to hell for all that.  God is more concerned about the attitude and status of your heart![1]

That statement is a paraphrase of an old Lutheran theologian in a lecture to a bunch of young men training for the ministry.  His point was that these future pastors should not go into their future pulpits to simply rant about horrible sin that may be running wild in the congregation.  He was trying to show them that continual ranting would be useless.  Otherwise stated, the people will certainly quit the sinful practices that are rebuked from the pulpit, but then in two weeks’ time the parishioners would then return to their old ways.  The reason why?  This kind of preaching is aimed at the surface level and does not aim at the heart!  This kind of ranting is like cutting down the top of a nasty weed; however, as you know the weed will just grow back.  Clean the outside of a cup without cleaning the inside, the water will never be poured out clean.  Put a Band-Aid over a portion of skin cancer: it becomes concealed, not destroyed.  Wash, polish, and wax the outside of a coffin, it does not change the fact that it is full of dead man’s bones. 

Listen, dear friends, to rant against these visible sins, without getting to their sources, does not accomplish much.  The reason why this is so, is that from within, from the human heart, evil and visible intentions come forth.  

Now, it is true that God created humanity as good; however, sin is like a nasty virus that corrupts mankind.  It goes deep.  As a virus is a small infectious particle that invades living cells and wreaks havoc on the whole human body, sin likewise is throughout all of mankind as well.  This means that you and I are not slightly infected with the virus of sin, but rather this corruption is so deep that there is nothing complete or uncorrupted in the human body or soul.  Everything is infected: our thoughts, our emotions, our external actions, and ours doings.  All infected.[2]

Furthermore, the damage of this virus of sin is so bad that we typically do not even recognize it within our body and soul, but boy do we recognize it in outward actions, especially the sinful actions of our neighbors.  What I mean is that we can see this virus of sin at work, not in high temperatures or cold shakes or runny noses, but rather we see this virus of sin at work in the visible actions of theft, murder, fornication, adultery, slander, and so forth. 

The religious leaders during Jesus’ day were certainly serious and attentive to these visible sins.  It can be said though that these religious leaders did not recognize or see sin like an infectious internal virus.  But rather, they saw sin like a germ.  You know what I am talking about!  Germs: they are found on toilets, handrails, door knobs, cell-phones, pencils, and keyboards.  These nasty germs are lying upon unclean things waiting to pounce on you and get you sick.  To the point, the religious leaders saw sin not as an internal virus within mankind, but as germs that were out there on dirty things.  Thus, in order to protect themselves from these germs of sin, spiritual masks and spiritual gloves were needed.  Spiritual caution tape was required.  They concocted 613 rules to protect themselves from germs, to keep themselves away from sin.  Do not do this, but do that.  Keep away from this and keep away from that.  Look there, sinful germs; stay away.  Go here, it is sanitized, this path is clean and free from germs.     

Please know that this was not and is not all bad.  You and I should—yes, should—avoid these sin-germs. The Apostle Paul says, “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”  Exposing oneself to sin-germs is not good.  No rationale mind knowingly eats filthy germ infested dirt.

But like we heard from our opening illustration, even if you or I could keep all the germs away, that would not make us a Christian, for we have not dealt with the real issue.  That is to say, we have not dealt with the virus of sin within… the virus of sin that is at the root of all problems.  You may sanitize yourself of these sin-germs and you may purify your surroundings of these sin-germs as well, but you have not dealt with the sin-virus that lay within.

Jesus is really right; we must listen to Him.  He said, “There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”  This means that the greatest threat of evil for you and me is not some germ out there, but rather, an infectious virus right in your midst, the virus of sin that has permeated your whole being.

I don’t know about you, but this idea of sin as a virus that has infected my thoughts, words, and deeds, terrifies me.  I can somewhat deal with the idea of sinful germs out there that I need to avoid, but to hear from Jesus that I carry the sin-virus around inside of me?  That petrifies me, and it should do the same to you as well.  This is not good.   

Indeed, Jesus says that deep down in our hearts is the source of evil, not good.  Jesus says that we cannot trust our hearts for good.  We cannot trust our heart for truth.  Jesus basically says that we cannot trust our hearts – that our hearts are infected within.  You and I carry within us a deep core of rotten viral filth that is our sin.  It is disturbing to us to hear from Jesus that what is closest to us—our hearts—betrays us.

Furthermore, do you know what the most troubling characteristic of this sin-virus within us is?  The most troubling aspect is that you and I can do nothing about it.  Every righteous deed we try to do … every pure thought we try to have is infected by the evil that is within us.  We cannot help ourselves because our own heart betrays us and works diligently to drag us down to hell.  What hope do we have against such a severe sin-virus? 


My friends, we would be lost and infected forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation by a salvation that is beyond us – outside of us – greater than us.

Dear friends, hear the gospel!  Jesus Christ the Son of God has given Himself—all of Himself, nothing held back—to sin infected, virus stained, people like you and me.  He withheld nothing—for you. 

If anyone asks you about yourself, you can actually confess that you are one of those virus infected sinners.  But you can also confess and you should confess—no you must confess with boldness—that Jesus Christ is your Lord and that He has redeemed you and forgiven you from the infectious consequences of sin.  You are forgiven!  Yes, you!  You, who have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, confess confidently that Jesus has snatched you from the jaws of hell, won you, delivered you from the sin-virus-death you deserve, and restored you to the Father’s favor and grace.  Confess confidently in this world that is infected by the virus and germs of sin, that you are not possessed by the grips of this sin-virus, but belong to the Lord who was made to be this sin-virus for you.  Confess unashamedly, that this Lord Jesus Christ has taken you under His cleansing and healing protection, because He was damned in your stead.[3] 

Now, it is true that as you live life in this veil of tears that this sin-sick-virus will continue to cling to you until your death.  Day by day as long as you live, this sinful nature is carried around your necks.  Otherwise stated, it is true that the germs of sin will still abound around you.  And it is also true that you will suffer setbacks to this virus and these germs in your times of weakness.  When this happens to you though, you may be tempted to run and grab Clorox bleach, hand sanitizers, masks, cleaning rags, and so forth.  In other words, when you are deceived and suffer defeat to this sin-virus and sin-germs, when sin has its way with you, you may be tempted to try and scrub the sin out of your life.  You may be tempted to bleach it out.  You may try to concoct your own antibiotics and medicines to fight the virus and germs of sin.  Do not go here.  The reason why?  No matter how hard you scrub, no matter how much you clean, no matter how much you sanitize, you cannot eradicate this sin-virus.  You cannot do surgery on yourself.  You cannot cleanse yourself.  You are not the Great Physician.  You are not the antidote to viral-sin. 

Dear Baptized Saints, instead, remember your baptisms.  Your sin-sick-viral-infected old Adam is wicked, deceitful, lawless, slanderous, prideful, envious, foolish—and yes—unbelieving, yet, it finds its end in the waters of your baptism, a baptisms that connects you to Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

Definitely scrutinize everything carefully and be aware of the sin-germs of life that you come against, but remember your baptism more.

Definitely cling to that which is good and true, while resisting the sin-germs of life that are all around you, but remember your baptism more.

Definitely recognize and confess your viral-sin-infected nature within, but remember your baptism more. 

Steve Dawson
You are baptized!  Your baptism was not some scrawny, weak, and empty ceremony in the church, but an aggressive flood that covers you completely in the righteousness of Christ.  The power and effect of your baptism is the slaying of the old Adam, the slaughter and destruction of the virus of sin.  Therefore, as your virus-sin-filled-heart continues to yield sin, remember and return in repentance and faith to your baptisms, where this sinful nature finds its end and where you may daily be reminded that your baptism is your daily garment that you are to wear at all times.  Every day you are to be found not in the virus and germs of sin, nor are you to be found in your own attempts to scrub and sanitize these sins away.  That is not who you are   But rather, you are in this baptismal faith—you are baptized!  You are clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness—with all its fruits, suppressing this sin-virus.[4] 

You bunch of Baptized Saints, do not forget!  You have been washed.  The robe of Christ’s righteousness covers you and holds you in this sin-sick world.  Do not fear; do not fret; your baptism and forgiveness remain day by day as long as you live, for He is faithful to you.     

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] C.F.W. Walther, Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 91.

[2] Formula of Concord: Epitome I:8.

[3] Martin Luther, The Small Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther for Ordinary Pastors and Preachers: The Third Article on Being Made Holy. 

[4] Martin Luther, The Large Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther: Fourth Part Concerning Baptism.

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