Issues of the Heart

-John Mac Arthur

The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama

City, California, By John MacArthur Jr.. It was transcribed from the tape,

GC 80-54, titled "Issues of the Heart" A copy of the tape can be received

by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.

I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the

original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may

appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to

the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in

placing the correct punctuation in the article.

It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription

of the sermon, "Issues of the Heart" to strengthen and encourage the true

Church of Jesus Christ.

Scriptures quoted in this message are from the New American Standard Bible.

Issues of the Heart

I have some concerns, OK? Can I just share them with you? Do you want to

know what's in my heart, what bubbles up inside of me? Now, I preach two

times a week, every week, at Grace Church, I have for twenty years, I have

preached about 1500 sermons. So I go from subject to subject to subject

pretty fast. But some things just never seem to be able to release their

grip on me. Do you have things like that?

They are the passions of your life. And I want you to know what they are.

The first thing that I want you to understand is that I am deeply concerned,

that the Church of Jesus Christ, really begin to live by This Book [Bible].

My preaching is not an exercise in oratory. My preaching is not an exercise

in clever homiletics. It is not even duty, it is a passion.

It says in Psalm 138:2 that, "God has exalted His Word above His Name." Can

you imagine that? This is a sacred trust. And I am deeply concerned that

the Church plays "fast and loose" with the Word of God. That men don't

accurately teach and preach it; and don't study it with commitment; that

churches don't apply it and live it out.

Everybody asks me about the Baker PTL scandal, what I thought of it, and my

response is this: The major scandal was not what they did with their bodies,

although that was wicked sin; the major scandal was not what they did with

money taken from God's people, under false pretenses, although that was

wicked sin. The major scandal of the PTL was the development of a system of

Theology, out of the Bible, that lets you live like that. That's the


I listened to a talk show on the radio one day, and a lady called up and

said, "I want to know how to tell a good church, what I look for in a

church." And the host of the program said, "What you look for in a church is

fellowship, sharing and caring." And I said, "That's the wrong answer." You

can find that in a lot of places. You can find that in a bar; find that in a

Service Club, the Moose Lodge, or the Royal Order of the Goats, or whatever

else you want to join.

Fellowship, sharing, and caring? Hey, there is only one question to ask

about a church, "How do they handle "The Book?" I have fear about that.

Will you open your Bible with me to Psalm 19? And I just want to touch

lightly on this. Some of you have heard the series I did on the "Sufficiency

of Scripture." But I just want to touch this lightly.

Psalm 19:7, "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The

testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the

Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is clear,

enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The

ordinances are true and righteous altogether."

Those three verse provide for us the greatest comprehensive statement on the

sufficiency of Scripture, anywhere in the Bible. Six titles for Scriptures;

It is the Law of the Lord; the Testimony of the Lord; the Statutes of the

Lord; the Commandment of the Lord; the Fear of the Lord; and the Ordinances

of the Lord. It is all those things.

It has six characteristics; it is sure; it is right; it is clear or pure; it

is eternal, enduring forever; it is clean; and it is true. Did you get that?

The Bible is perfect, sure, right, clear, clean, and true. And what does it

do? Converts the soul; makes wise the simple; rejoices the heart; enlighten

the eyes; endures forever; and produces comprehensive righteousness. What

else could you ask for?

And yet I look at the Church today, and I see the Church giving into

entertainment. Why? I read an interview by a well known Christian Rock

Singer, who said, "The reason that she sings the way she does, is to reach

the lost. She feels that she has to be "sexy" in a godly way!" What is

that? What do you mean by that? Do we believe that we have to hide the

Gospel? Are we creating synthetic seed to replace the good seed?

Do we have to be clever, and manipulative, and creative? We can't just

preach the truth? Listen, I believe that we have to go back to the Word of

God. I am concerned deeply that the medium is becoming the message in the

Church, and that there is no message anymore.

There is a new book out, fascinating book, comparing modern well known

preachers, with the great preachers of the American Awakening, George

Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards. The difference is shocking. When Whitfield

and Edwards preached, they preached theology, it was profound, it was deep,

it was Biblical. And the message was the issue. And the man was measured on

the basis of how he squared with the Word of God.

Today the medium of communication has substituted for the message. And

nobody seems to care what the message was. All they care about is did we

enjoy him. Frightening! I believe there is a famine of the Word of God. I

don't think people are going to deny the Word of God, they just ignore it.

Or they don't think it is sufficient. They think it is the Bible plus

something; Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, or whatever.

But I believe that it [Bible] is sufficient and I am deeply distressed that I

see in the Church, a pervasive mentality that we have to manipulate people to

believe. We have to entertain people to get them in. And yet Paul said, "I

am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto

salvation." Is it not? "To those who believe, Jew first, and also the


I am greatly concerned, that the Church doesn't believe that it [Bible] is

perfect and able to transform the whole person. I am convinced that the

Church doesn't believe that it [Bible] is sure, trustworthy, and able to make

a simple person eminently wise. I am not sure that the Church believes that.

I am not sure the Church believes that it [Bible] lays down the right path

and brings joy to the heart. I am not sure that the Church believes, that if

you really want to see things clearly, you need to see them through the pages

of the Scriptures. I hear so many preachers who are doing everything but

teaching the Word of God with depth. That's a passion for me. I believe the

Word of God is sufficient for every Spiritual need.

I want to turn to another passage, I could say much more about that, that's

what your pastor says just after he has run out of material. I could go on

and on brethren, but ah....... The reason I know that is because I am one.

Isaiah 6, is the second issue that I want to address just briefly with you.

And I am not going to preach a sermon tonight. If you need to get a sermon

from me, buy a tape. I just want to share my heart tonight.

Verse 1, "In the year that King Uzziah died." You say, "Why is that there?"

"Is that important?" It is if your name is Uzziah. But you have to

understand that Uzziah had been king for fifty-two years. And the people of

Israel had been sliding down the pit of sin. But as long as Uzziah was on

the throne they felt secure, because he was a very good king. And he was

very effective in strengthening the land economically, militarily, socially,

and all of that, he brought peace .

So they had this guy for fifty-two years, they were feeling really secure.

Can you imagine having the same president for fifty-two years, everything

going well? And they just felt very good about everything, and then Uzziah

died. And it sort of symbolized God taking His hand off. And when Uzziah

died, Isaiah the prophet, went to the temple to see God. He wanted to "check

in" and find out what was "going on," because Uzziah was killed by God. God

killed him. You know why? Because he intruded on the office of the priest.

He got to feeling so good about himself, he tried to play the role of the

priest, and that was sacred, and God killed him.

And so Isaiah steps into the temple and he wants to see God. And he says, "I

saw the Lord, I saw the Lord." I don't want to take time to describe the

whole vision, but he saw the Lord. And the thing that he saw most about the

Lord is in verse 3, the angels began to cry back and forth about the

character of the Lord, and three times it says God is what? Holy.

He saw the Holy God in a vision, and the post of the door moved at the voice

of him who cried and the house was filled with smoke. And then, "Said I."

Now what do you say when you see God? "Woe is me!" Do you know what woe

means? Damn me, curse me, assign me to condemnation, send me to Hell, judge

me. I am wretched, I am wicked, I am vile.

You say, "Well, why do you say that Isaiah? You got a bad self image. You

need a Christian Counselor. You got to feel good about yourself. You can't

go around saying 'Woe is me, I am undone.'" Undone means disintegrating,

crumbling, "going to pieces," falling apart. He says, "I am a man of unclean

lips, I have a dirty mouth." You say, "Isaiah, you are a prophet, you have

the best mouth in the land, when you open your mouth, God talks!" "What are

you saying?"

"No, I have unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean

lips. And why do I feel that way, because my eyes have seen what? The

King." Do you want to know something? I am greatly concerned that the

Church does not understand the Holiness of God. I am convinced that the

Church plays games with a Holy God, and they don't know what they are doing.

And this is serious.

If Jimmy Swaggert really understood what the Bible says about how Holy God

is, he wouldn't have lived the lifestyle he has been living. You can't live

like that, if you understand how holy God is, if you have the fear of God.

And if you don't have the fear of God about your sin, then you don't

understand how holy He is, and how He feels about sin.

There is a man out in California, who says he went to Heaven and saw God.

And he gets on TV and says, "I went to Heaven and I saw God." The first time

I saw him [the man] my ears went up. It was on a Christian TV. He says, "I

saw God! And I went up and the Lord took me to Heaven and oh, we had a

wonderful time, and I toured the place and I saw my mansion." He said, "I

saw my mansion." I don't want to blow your dreams, but there are no

mansions. In John 14, "In my Father's house are many rooms," it says. You

are not living eighteen blocks down, and four to the right, you are living

"in" the Father's house! "So am I."

But he did not even know how to interpret the Bible. So whatever heaven he

went to, it wasn't the one in the Bible. But any way he said, "We toured,

and I saw my mansion, and I saw all the mansions etc.," He's a medical

doctor, so that gives him creditability with people, and he travels around,

and wrote a book about it. And then he says, "Whenever I want to renew my

visit to Heaven, I go to my closet and take out the tie I wore the day I

went, it still has the smell of Heaven!"

And then recently, he said he went back again, and I guess the circuit was

running a little dry, so he needed another trip to "stir up" the troops. So

he went back to Heaven, and he "got on" again recently and said, "I have been

to Heaven and I have a wonderful announcement to make, and this is exactly

what he said, "There are no bathrooms in Heaven." My blood began to boil at

the time, such sacrilege, such mockery. Take your show on the road, write a

book, be a television celebrity, but let me tell you something, sir, "If you

ever saw Holy God, you would be on the ground, with your face down crying for

the mercy of God. That's where you'd be, you wouldn't be on TV as some

celebrity. As a sinner in the presence of a Holy God, as soon as you see

Holy God, you would know that he sees your sin, and you are undone."

Remember the disciples, trying to cross the Sea of Galilee, and a storm came

up, and they were in a boat with Jesus? And the storm started "whipping up"

and the boat is "bouncing around," and the thing is starting to fill up with

water, and what is Jesus doing? Sleeping! I love that. Nobody else trusted

God, He did. And the disciples woke Him up, saying, "Lord, don't you care

that we perish?" And the Bible says, "They were afraid." And the Lord

looked out at the sea churning, and He said, "Shhhh!" And the wind stopped,

and the ripples didn't even go to the shore, they just flattened out. And

the Bible says, "The disciples were exceedingly afraid!" Do you know what is

worse having a storm outside of your boat? Having the God of creation in

your boat!

In Luke 5, Peter is trying to catch fish, which he never could do, because

after he was called to the ministry the Lord rerouted all the fish away from

his boat. And he is trying to catch fish, and he can't catch any, and the

Lord calls to him, and the Lord says, "Try the right side of the boat."

I don't know about you, but if I didn't know who that was, it would irritate

me a "little bit" after fishing all night, because that sounds like a pretty

silly thing to do. But apparently the voice of the Lord had enough

authority, and they pulled so many fish they couldn't get them. Do you

remember Peter's response? "Wow, what a miracle, wait until I tell

everybody." No! What did he say? "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a

sinful man. As soon as he realized that he was in the presence of God, he

could only see himself as an exposed sinner.

I had a pastor who is the pastor of a pretty "far out" Charismatic church,

and we were having lunch one day and he said, "I want to tell you something,

I don't know how you will deal with this," he said, "But sometimes when I'm

shaving in the morning, Jesus comes in the bathroom, puts His arms around me

and talks to me!" I said, "You mean Jesus, the real Jesus appears in a way

that you can see Him?" "Yes," he said, "Do you believe that?" I said, "No."

"No, I don't believe that, but what distresses me is I believe, you believe

that. I just have one question, do you keep shaving? Because, if you keep

shaving, my friend, it wasn't Jesus."

When a woman reach out and touched the hem of His garment, and he pulled her

out of the crowd, she was terrified. You would be "on your face." Do we

understand the holiness of God? I understand His grace, I understand His

love, I understand His forgiveness, we are good at that. Do we understand

how holy He really is?

Why is it important? Listen to Romans 10:3, "Israel," get this one, "being

ignorant of God's righteousness, went about to establish their own

righteousness. Do you know what their problem was? They thought God was

less righteous than He was. They thought they were more righteous then they

were and everything was fine. Many people in the Church live like that.

They don't think God is that upset about their sin, so they don't get that

upset about their sin, and we have an unholy Church, and we have unholy


I tell you something, if the leaders don't get serious about the holiness of

God, there is not going to be much hope for the Church. Leaders keep

falling, "right and left," into all kinds of immorality. People ask me

everywhere I go, "What do you think of that?" "I'll be real honest with you

people, I think you have one shot at a life of integrity, and when you have

"blown it" you are done. I believe that. 1st Corinthians 9:27 says, "Paul's

greatest fear was that in preaching to others, he would become disqualified."

I believe you can be disqualified. How? 1st Timothy 3 says, "You have to be

blameless and above reproach." And if you are not blameless and above

reproach, then you are not qualified. By the grace of God, God expects

people to set the standard. You say, "Well, how fast should a leader be

restored?" It all depends on what leadership is, if leadership is gathering

the troops and raising money, speaking to the people, being an interesting

guy, then "get him back."

But if leadership is modeling godliness, then maybe he never comes back,

because the model is shattered. My fear is that what the Church has done is

this, since we can't find enough godly leaders to meet the standard, we lower

the standard. The holiness of God, the holiness of God, our hearts must be

committed to that.

Well, there are many other things I could say, Psalm 101 says, "He who is,"

get this, "upright in heart, shall minister to me." Isn't that good? "He

who is upright in heart shall minister to me." I am concerned about who is

going to have the right to minister. I will be honest with you, I am

concerned about restoring people to ministry, who have been disqualified.

Bring them back as fast as you can.

I am concerned about that, do you know what is going to happen? That's going

to be the new trend, "Pastors into sin, restored back into the ministry."

And do you know what they are going to be saying, "We understand your sins

and your problems better than anybody else, we have been there!" And we are

going to have this new restored clergy, and the rest of God's faithful

servants, who have been obedient to Christ, and walked in faithfulness, are

going to wind up as second class citizens who don't really understand people.

Frightening. The standard gets lower and lower.

I am concerned also about a lethargy in the Church. A lack of spiritual

commitment, of real spiritual commitment. I see a lot of Christians who just

sort of "flake," you know? They are not involved. It's heart breaking.

Three weeks ago, four weeks ago, I guess, I talked with a pastor from Russia.

He came to visit Grace Church. He didn't speak any English. He had heard

about our church, I guess, when he was in his country. He wanted to see our

church on his visit to America so he came to our church. He spoke no

English, only Russian. He had a lady with him who spoke Russian and Spanish,

and she had a friend who spoke Spanish and English. We had a very

interesting conversation!

From Russian to Spanish, from Spanish to English, from English to me, and

then back through the same circle. He said to me, first of all he wanted to

know if we had any material in Russian? And I told him we had the book, "The

Charismatics," it just had been translated and was being distributed, and I

gave him a copy of that. then he said, "I just don't understand how you can

minister in America, I don't understand it, with a low level of commitment."

He said, "Do you know that no one in Russia, would ever, ever, pretend to be

a Christian. Do you understand that? You don't want to pretend to be a

Christian. They put Christians in jail. Unless you are one, you are not

going to fake it." And he went on to say that every time they opened the

Word of God, everyone comes to feed on the Word. And here we are, "Fat and

Sassy," in America, aren't we? It's a heart rending thing. I am concerned

about apathy.

One other thing, I am concerned about the gospel we preach. I am concerned

about the gospel we preach, somebody said, a Calvinist said, "Sometimes we

don't present the gospel well enough for the non-elect to reject it. Kind of

an interesting statement isn't it? I didn't say that, someone else said


There is a very great amount of confusion today about the gospel. Take it

from me folks, I am in the middle of a battle on this right now. The little

tape series we did on examine yourselves, the new book, "The Gospel According

to Jesus," which I have been working on, really for ten years, just came out

this week. The most significant book I ever written in my life. The gospel

is under attack.

There are people going across this country, widespread, in fundamentalist,

and evangelical circles, saying, "All you have to do to be a Christian, is to

believe the facts of the gospel in one moment of time, and if you never

believe it again, and you become an agnostic, and apostate, or an atheist,

you are still saved. You don't ever have to bear any fruit, you life doesn't

have to change, it has nothing to do with salvation.

Do you know what that kind of gospel does? That puts people on the broad

road who finally wind up saying, "Lord, Lord," and they hear, "Depart from

me, I never knew you." The most frightening thing in the world to me, would

be the reality of Matthew, Chapter 7, and verses 20 and following, to think

you are going to Heaven, and you wind up in Hell. Because, someone gave the

gospel, that wasn't the true gospel.

I have just written this book to counter the argument that they say you

should never ever call on anyone to repent from their sin. You should never

call on anyone to submit to Jesus Christ as Lord. You should never say to

anyone, "Follow Jesus Christ in obedience." Salvation is just believing and

that's it. Later on, they can get serious about "Making Jesus Lord." Wait a

minute, you don't make Jesus Lord, Jesus is Lord! You don't say, "Look,

I'll let you in my life, but you can't be Lord. You have got to be who I am

telling you to be." Ridiculous!

I am convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ, visible, is filled with

unconverted people. Unconverted people! And we accept some, "Raised Hand,"

"Signed Card," "Walk the Aisle," some moment of whatever, emotion, to be true

salvation. And we say, "Well, I know they divorced their wife, and I know

they are adulterous, and I know they drink a lot, and I know they don't come

to church, but I remember the day they, "Walked the Aisle." Well, "What in

the world" does that mean? What does that mean?

Jesus preached repentance, Jesus preached submission to Him. One last

Scripture, in Matthew 19, don't turn to it, I'll just mention it, the rich

young ruler said, "What must I do to have eternal life?" And Jesus said,

"Sell all you have," and do what? "Give it to the poor." Jesus said, "Come

follow me."

Here's a guy who comes to Jesus and says, "What do I do to get

eternal life?" Jesus said, "Give your money away." Is that the right

answer? You put that on your quiz at Bible College and you will flunk! What

do you mean, "Give your money away," is that salvation by philanthropy? And

if you get saved by giving your money away to a poor guy, then he's lost,

because he's got it! You can stand there and hand it back and forth and hope

that you don't have it at the Second Coming. "Sort of like" musical chairs.

What is Jesus saying? The young man said, "I want eternal life." Jesus

said, "Yeah, that's fine, but we are going to deal with something else first.

Are you willing to follow me?" He could of asked him anything. This was an

arbitrary command, "Sell all, give to the poor." Because He knew that money

was the god of this man's life. And he said, "Let's deal with the issue, I

know that you want eternal life, but are you willing to give up everything,

if I ask you?" And he went away. Salvation is an exchange of all that I am

for all that He is. It's saying, "I won't follow me, I'll follow you."

I wish that Evangelists would stop saying, "Make a decision for Christ," and

call on people to follow Jesus Christ. It is a life commitment. The man

went away, he didn't want to follow Jesus Christ, he wanted to rule his own

life. He didn't even want to admit his sin. Jesus said, "Keep the

commandments," and he said, "I've kept them all!" He wouldn't acknowledge

his sin and he wouldn't submit to the authority of Christ. And Jesus said,

"He went away."

Two things basic to salvation, turning from sin and following Christ. That's

true salvation. And I am so burdened, because I know there are churches were

people are sitting deceived, who think they are saved. Look at your life.

Look at your life. Do you follow Christ? Let me put it simpler, do you want

to follow Christ? Do you desire to follow Christ? And when you don't, are

you saddened by that? Are you grieved by your sin? That's the mark of


It's not that following Christ is the perfection of your life,

but it is at least the direction. The truly saved, very simple, "Love Christ

and hate sin." Love Christ, hate sin. It doesn't say, "They don't sin," it

says, "When they do sin, they hate it." Paul says in Romans 7, "The things

that I don't want to do, I do. The things I want to do, I don't do. Oh,

wretched man!"

Well, those are the burdens of my heart, and I just wanted to share them with

you. We need your prayers.



OK! New Christian...What Now? | Bible verse for every letter of the alphabet.| Church History Summary.| The Christian Message.| Election. | Is Hebrews 6 a warning? | Seven Incontestable Questions. | Ironside: Agnosticism. | Issues Of The Heart - J. MacArthur. | Natural Laws and God's Laws. | Possession: The Devil Made Me Do It! | The Preisthood Of All Believers. | Why Jesus? | Knowing Why You Believe - Evidence - Bible. | Discussions With Unbelievers. | Inerrancy. | What Does It Mean To Be A Christian? | First Adam; Then Eve; then what? | What Will People Think? | Perfect For All Time. | Jesus Is Lord. | Spiritual Strength And Power. | The Biblical Calendar Of History. | Studying Your Bible. | Computer Analysis Of The Books Of The Bible. | Early Christianity - Is The Record Sound? | The Bible - The Most Popular Book. | Credentials Of The Bible. | Doomed - to Hell. | Faith And Works In The Plan Of God. | Others Can But You Can't. | Impositions - giving to God and by God. | Why Did Christ Die? | The Successful Christian - #1. | The Successful Christian - #2. | Is It What We Say Or What We Are? | Forty-day Bible Study. | Is Baptism Necessary For Salvation? | How To Overcome Sin - Charles Finney. Death. | Why We Reject This Version. | How Does God Keep His Promises? | Radical Genesis Evangelicals.

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