[forthright] Open Heart Surgery

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Wed, 03 Mar 2004 13:16:52 -0600
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: The X-Files

Open Heart Surgery
by Mitchell Skelton

Yesterday a member of our congregation underwent
open-heart surgery. Open-heart surgery is a very
delicate procedure. While this Christian lady is
still in very serious condition, many people have
the surgery today and in many cases, it has almost
become routine. No matter the habitual nature of
this type of surgery, you still want the most
accomplished surgeons, the most up-to-date
equipment, and the very best of care. Open-heart
surgery is a step of faith and hope. Hope because
you know you have heart problems that can be
corrected and faith because you place yourself
entirely under the care of another.

In the book of Acts, we find the first "open-
heart" surgery recorded in the New Testament. "On
the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the
river, where we expected to find a place of
prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the
women who had gathered there. One of those
listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in
purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a
worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to
respond to Paul's message. When she and the
members of her household were baptized, she
invited us to her home" (Acts 16:13-15a NIV). Of
course, the physical heart and the heart that
Lydia had opened are entirely different. Paul
preached the word to Lydia, the Lord opened her
heart, and she responded.

The Power of the Word of God

Paul would be the first to reject any claim that
it was by his power of persuasion that Lydia
became a Christian. Moreover, he would be the
first to assert that it was the power of the
Gospel. "For the message of the cross is
foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us
who are being saved it is the power of God" (1
Cor. 1:17). The power to save is in the word of
God acting upon the heart of man. The heart of man
longs to be filled. People spend countless hours
and dollars in search of the true meaning of life
only to come away empty. Make no mistake about it;
man's heart will be filled. The only question is
who will be the one to fill it? Will it be Christ
or Satan? Satan can fill a person's heart, as in
the case of Ananias (Acts 5:3). However, Christ
can and wants to dwell in man's heart. "I pray
that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen
you with power through his Spirit in your inner
being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts
through faith" (Eph. 3:16,17a NIV).

The spiritual heart is like the physical heart in
that it can become sick. Our spiritual heart can
be stubborn. "But because of your stubbornness and
your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath
against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when
his righteous judgment will be revealed" (Rom.
2:5). It can be hardened. "They are darkened in
their understanding and separated from the life of
God because of the ignorance that is in them due
to the hardening of their hearts" (Eph. 4:18).
While our hearts can reject God, they also can be
cut. "When the people heard this, they were cut to
the heart and said to Peter and the other
apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37
NIV).

Open Heart Surgery - God's Way

Lydia heeded the gospel message, and God opened
her heart. "For the word of God is living and
active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it
penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and
attitudes of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). The psalmist,
David, realized that only God was able to cure his
heart disease when he proclaimed, "Create in me a
pure heart O, God" (Psalm 51:10 NIV).

The word of God is powerful, both convicting man
of sin and leading us to salvation. However, it is
still our choice whether or not to believe the
gospel. God never forces anyone to obey Him. Lydia
believed the good news about Jesus and was
baptized (Acts 16:15).

Just as the physical heart can become diseased, so
too, the spiritual heart can be sick. Physical
open-heart surgery requires hope and faith.
Spiritual open-heart surgery also requires hope
and faith, hope that your problems can be
corrected and faith in the one who can heal you,
Jesus Christ the Great Physician.

Do not harden your hearts and reject the Lord.
Hear the word, and let it have a good effect in
your heart. Be captivated by it and respond to it.

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