Who's the One Dying?
The other day, I drove past a horrible church sign. In big, black letters it read:
BE AN ORGAN DONOR, GIVE JESUS YOUR HEART.
It made me sad. First of all, organ donors have something good to give to someone in desperate need. This sign in front of an evangelical church insinuates we are a type of messiah, and that Jesus is the one in need. Where is this message in God’s word? As far as our heart is concerned, here is what the Bible says:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it (Jer. 17:9)?
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezek. 11:19-20).
I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart (Jer. 24:7).
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matt 15:19).
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia…The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after that she was baptized, and her household as well… (Acts 16: 14-15a).
Scripture does tell us to believe in Him with our whole heart, but it also tells us that our hearts are corrupt beyond our own repair. How can a depraved heart believe in and seek a good God for our righteousness? Paul says we can’t: “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom. 9:10-11). He explains to the Ephesians that we were “by nature children of wrath…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…through faith. And it is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2:3b-9).
God’s not in need. We so desperately are. “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, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom: 6:17-18).
I believe this church sign is a result of a misunderstanding between free agency and free will. Sure, we are free to choose according to our strongest desire. The problem is, until God in his rich mercy changes our hearts of stone, we do not choose The Righteous One; we choose to glorify ourselves (slaves to sin, children of wrath). We love to think that we have a free will. We have free agency. Our wills are in bondage to sin, until they are made right. Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3b, emphasis mine). How can we choose his kingdom if we cannot even see it? He explains, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where is comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (3:8). Then it should be no surprise when the words of our Lord in John reveal “You did not choose me but I chose you…” (15:16a).
Freedom isn’t much of a liberty if we are slaves to our sinful desires. And our deceitful hearts aren’t much of an offering to a holy God. A sign trying to call unbelievers to faith would do better by inviting them in to hear the preached word. This is the means that God has given us by which he creates a new heart of faith within us (Rom. 10:14-17).