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THE LORD KNOWS THE TRUE INTENT OF THE HEART

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

27 SEPTEMBER 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 6:5, 8, 22
7:1
8:20-22
Psalm 107:33-38
Isaiah 6:5-8

God's grace is truly amazing!

The Lord knows the true intent of the heart.

Yes, He knows exactly what each and every one of us is really like.

For even if we have done horrible things in our lifetime, and we come to realize the error of our ways, and are truly sorry for what we did, and want to change our lives, the Lord will forgive us and restore us.

But the reverse is also true.

John Newton, the former slave trader, who wrote the words to “Amazing Grace,” was one of those who truly repented and was saved.

But note the way the Lord saw the world in the days of Noah.

Note Genesis 6:5 –

5. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

The Lord saw no receptor for His amazing grace.

The people He Himself had made were no longer interested in Him; in fact, they flaunted their wickedness in His holy presence.

But in the midst of all of this evil, the Lord did find one receptor, as we see in verse 8:

8. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

But why did Noah find favor in the eyes of the Lord?

What was it that set him apart?

Verse 22 gives us the answer:

22. Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.

How does the Lord see each of us?

Is the true intent of our heart to serve the Lord and be obedient to His every command?

We can't answer this question for someone else; we can only answer it for ourselves.

But sometimes we are pulled by the people around us, and those closest to us, to do things counter to the will of God.

And because we don't want to lose our human relationships, we go along with other people.

If this is how we are, then we will run an even greater risk of losing them, and perhaps ourselves, in the process.

Note what we are told in Genesis 7:1 –

1. Then the Lord said to Noah, "Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.

It doesn't say that Noah's wife was also righteous before God, nor does it say that His sons or daughters-in-law were righteous, either.

What we are told is that only Noah was righteous.

Then why did God save the other members of Noah's family?

He did it because of His love and grace and mercy for Noah – and not for his family.

We who know the truth must do what we know the Lord wants us to do, no matter what others in our families do, or what our friends do.

If we really want to save someone we love, then we must be the one to live righteously before them and before God.

We must love them and pray for them; but it won't do any good to beat them over the head with the word of God, if they have no heart or mind to receive it.

It is only our love that can melt the hardness of their heart.

Noah and his family still remained upon the earth; they didn't go directly to heaven, and perhaps there were some who never went.

But it was Noah's righteousness that saved them for a second chance, and it was his righteousness that gave us the many chances we have today.

Note Genesis 8:20-22 –

20. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

21. And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.

22. "While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
And cold and heat,
And summer and winter,
And day and night
Shall not cease."

It wasn't the smell of burning flesh that produced the soothing aroma to the Lord; it was the smell of repentance.

The animals symbolically took upon themselves the sin of Noah and his family, and it was the smell of the burned sin that had the soothing aroma.

God did not want the animals to die.

When God separated Noah and his family from the peoples of the world, He hoped that they would become obedient and sin no more, but obviously they knowingly fell short of God's desire.

And, as the Lord said, "the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth."

God saw that no matter what He did, the intent of the human heart would remain evil.

Their sacrifices would never take away their sins, for the intent of their heart remained evil.

It appears that instead of Noah's righteousness rubbing off on the others, that they contaminated Noah, for if Noah had no evil intent, and remained truly righteous, he would not have killed innocent animals.

Noah would have prayed for the forgiveness of his family, and for the lives of the animals, but there is no mention of this in the Bible.

In fact, there is a good indication that they ate the roasted flesh of these animals.

However, Noah obviously prayed for his own forgiveness, and for the members of his family, and for the animals aboard the ark, but we seriously doubt that any of the animals sinned.

Noah knew that evilness would continue upon the earth, for it was still with him and his family at this time.

He was asking God to hold back His wrath, and give the earth and all His creatures all the days of their respective lives to repent of their sins, and soften their hearts to receive the Lord's grace.

This is God's grace: that He endures our sins for a time so that we would repent.

And remember – for us today, it is our true repentance and acceptance of the sin that Jesus Christ took upon Himself, our sins, that unlocks the receptor to receive God's amazing grace.

It is not some formula prayer.

But the Lord our God continues to remind us of who we are in His eyes, and what He sees in our heart by the condition of the world around us.

It is as the psalmist wrote in Psalm 107:33-38.

33. He changes rivers into a wilderness [or desert],
And springs of water into a thirsty ground;

34. A fruitful land into a salt waste,
Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it.

35. He changes a wilderness into a pool of water,
And a dry land into springs of water;

36. And there He makes the hungry to dwell,
So that they may establish an inhabited city,

37. And sow fields, and plant vineyards,
And gather a fruitful harvest.

38. Also He blesses them and they multiply greatly;
And He does not let their cattle decrease.

Look around – at your own life – what do you see?

Are you prospering – or are you decreasing?

Now look beyond yourself – and note what you see.

What do you believe the Lord is trying to tell us?

Is he pleased with us?

Or, do you believe it's time that we change?

It is also God's grace that is showing us all this; but, then again, it does require some softness of heart to be able to see.

The prophet Isaiah had a time in his life when his eyes were fully opened in the presence of the Lord.

Note what he said, and the way the Lord responded, in Isaiah 6:5-7.

5. Then I said,
"Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."

6. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs.

7. And he touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven."

This is God's amazing grace.

But it doesn't end here.

Our relationship with Him must be ongoing.

Note verse 8:

8. Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Here am I. Send me!

Here am I. Send me!

Here am I. Send me!

Are you prepared to say that?

Are you willing to say that, and mean it?

Are you willing to do whatever the Lord tells you to do, and go where He tells you to go, and say what He tells you to say?

Are you willing to live your life for the Lord?

If we are not willing to do all this, then we are not fully His.

And, if this is the case with you, then this is most likely why something is missing in your life.

The only reason I am standing behind this pulpit today is because years ago, I saw the truth and the glory of the Lord, and said these very words.

And God's amazing grace and his love has been working with me ever since; and I continue to experience my heart becoming softer and softer.

Not softer in weakness, but softer in strength.

Softer in compassion and love in the midst of hardness, yet with the strength to set an example.

And I'm nothing special.

I'm just a willing instrument of the Lord.

And there isn't one of you here today who couldn't be truly special.

Each of you has the ability to do bigger and greater things for the Lord; to set a better example than me.

And in some things, some of you have set an example for me, so that I, too, will grow.

But everyone should strive to do more and be a better example; for that is what it takes to be a church – a true church – a family of God that helps and encourages each other.

This is the heart that God wants to see in each of us.

This is the heart that is prepared for heaven.

Is yours prepared?

I really and truly pray that it is.

Receive God's love and amazing grace, and enter His glory.

For once you've truly decided to follow Jesus, there's no turning back.

Amen.

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