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HOW TO PREPARE YOUR HEART
TO RECEIVE GOD'S TRUTH

 

By Rolf Barnard

 

There is so much in the Bible, I hope that what I decided on is the mind of the Lord. I want to speak as carefully as I can tonight on the subject of preparing one's heart to receive God's truth. Preparing your own heart to receive the engrafted Word, which is able to save the soul. James 1:16-22: "Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of His Own will begat He us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." 

 

We notice here that James is writing to somebody he loved; he called them "beloved brethren." In these words that James wrote in verses 19-22, we find some excellent advice to anyone who is not yet united to the Lord Jesus. By way of advice, here are three things in these verses that are addressed to unsaved men and women who would prepare their hearts to receive the engrafted Word. He says of this engrafted Word that it is able to save your soul. Now it may seem strange that the preacher would say that if anybody wishes to become vitally united to Christ not just stand afar off and claim to believe in His work of atonement, but to be united to Christ for we definitely hold that you cannot have the merits of Christ's blood unless you have Him, for you cannot separate Him from what He did. We believe with all of our heart that multitudes of people honestly and earnestly are doing what they say "trusting in the shed blood of Christ," but they are not saved. Because we do not believe that you can participate in the merits of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, unless you are regenerated.


Thus we say to men and women that if you would in these days of religious confusion where everybody has a gospel, and everybody has a doctrine and everybody has six interpretations of those doctrines, and What I say is just what I say, and there is not much respect for what anybody says. But if you value your souls' welfare, you will take seriously the words of the Apostle James here, to prepare your heart, for unless your heart is prepared by you, you will never receive the Word savingly. Did you get it? You will spend all the days of your life, talking about how you believe the Word and how you are trusting in the blood. But an unprepared heart cannot receive the Word of truth. The only way to be born of the Spirit is by the incorruptible Word of the Living God.  That introduces me to the biggest tragedy of my ministry as I go from place to place; I wonder if anybody gets saved, because nobody has got time to prepare his heart. You didn't prepare your heart for whatever message the Lord has for you, because you didn't have time, did you? So it will just bounce off of you, and it will go in one ear and out the other. It won't be my fault and it won't be the fault of the Word. Your heart cannot receive truth unless it has been prepared, do you see it? Even if you are a Christian, you won't get anything out of anybody's divine service, unless you prepare your own heart. We must plow our own heart and prepare it, so if the seed would drop, it would fall on good ground.


Proverbs 16:1: "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord." Hosea 10:12: "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you." Any spiritual truth that falls on bad ground doesn't bear fruit. Matthew 13:8: "But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." Verse 9: "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." We are told plainly in those different parables that He went out and sowed seed, and the seed was good; there was nothing wrong with the seed or the sowing of the seed. The trouble was that He sowed it on four kinds of ground, and only one ground was prepared.  So the seed fell on some ground and the fellow was converted. You remember how old Bill got gloriously converted, and he shouted, and he went down on the streets and told how God had saved him. And two weeks later he folded up his tent, taken down the flag, and took off! You see, the Scriptures say there was no root there. He flourished for a little while, but because the seed didn't take root, the first time a little wind storm of adversity came, he played out. Matthew 13:5-6: "Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away."


But there was one type of ground, and one only, that had been thoroughly prepared. Matthew 13:8-9: "But other fell into and some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."  This is interesting in view of the fact that James is giving some advice about how men and women ought to hear the Word of God. This is excellent advice in Hosea 10:12: "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord till He come and rain righteousness upon you." Somebody said, "Well I don't understand that." Well, that makes two of us. There is very little in the Bible that we can understand, but thank God, we can believe. Now if any kind of Spiritual truth comes your way, unless your heart has been prepared to receive truth, you can't receive it; the truth will just bounce off.


I was talking to a preacher the other day and he said, "Brother Barnard, I can't understand. I went through a Baptist college, I went through the seminary three years. I taught in one of our Baptist schools. I pastored in our Baptist churches and I held evangelistic campaigns all over the West. And until two years ago, I had never seen anything in the Word of God about salvation by grace." He said, "Now I pick up my Bible and it's on so many, many pages. But until two years ago, I would read the same verses, I studied the same chapters. I preached out of the same Book. I would read the verses and what the verses said just went in one ear and out the other." Even that preacher was not able to receive the truth until God had brought this thing and the other thing on his life, until he had a prepared heart. Now that is true of any unsaved person. You can attend services for years, and do what you call listen, but until you take seriously the fact that only by receiving the Word sufficiently until it takes root in here is any salvation produced. And no seed will take root unless the heart has been prepared. Your heart must be plowed. In James 1:19-21, He lays down three things that those who are interested in plowing their hearts, so they can receive the engrafted Word or the rooted Word, must do. The seed is sown and it takes root. If you plant a little tree, it has to go down and take root before it grows up.

 

That is true in salvation; sinners are not saved accidentally. A preacher tells sinners he can't save himself and that is right; a sinner is helpless. That's right, he cannot move into the Spiritual, because he is dead in trespasses and sins. But there are some things a lost man can do; he could look at himself through God's Law. A sinner could buy himself a Bible, and he could read carefully what God says about him. Then he needs to start plowing his own heart nothing to keep a sinner from doing that, is there? Now that wouldn't save him, but unless the sinner's heart becomes so that the seed will take root he may make a profession, he may have some kind of an experience, but unless the seed of the Gospel takes root, it will not bear fruit; and if you are not bearing fruit, you are not God's child. Is that all right?

 


James says there are three things that a sinner ought to do, if he is interested in having a heart that can receive truth. A sinner must cease from rebellion against the Word of truth. Look again at James 1:18: "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth." Man's attitude toward truth must be changed, and there is no power on earth that could keep the vilest sinner out of hell from making all the effort that a man can make to cease bucking Spiritual truth. Look what James 1:18 says about it: "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." Wherefore, in view of the fact that men are born again by the Holy Spirit with the use of the truth of the Gospel, verse 19 says, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak; slow to wrath." You must cut out all of this business of bucking the truth. When the Gospel is preached, there are those who do not make an effort to hear; the reason you don't hear is because you don't want to. This Word must be heard, and not bucked, and it must be received until it takes root. If it doesn't, you will just make a profession and go on to hell; it has got to take root. People are swift to mouth their ignorant nothings against the truth of God, and they do it with some enmity.


In Texas a lady rushed up to me and said, "Brother Preacher, I am just torn all to pieces; you are tearing everything up that I ever heard. All I ever heard is against what you are preaching." I said, "I am sorry to hear that. What was it about the message tonight that disturbed you?" She said, "Well, it was this morning and tonight. I have just walked the floor all day since the morning service; I have never heard anything like that." She was in a desperate condition. I said, "Tell me what it is. Maybe I am wrong. I'll listen." And she said so-an-so, and I said, "You didn't quote all the verse." She said, "Well, what is it?" I said, "You are the one that started it, you quote it for me." She said, "I don't know. I don't even know where it is found in the Bible." She was awfully well informed to be so torn up and be dead certain that what she was hearing was not so! She came prepared not to believe anything she heard. She had been warned not to come and hear me. If there is a person that wants to be dead certain to go to hell, you keep on closing your mind and refusing to be swift to hear the truth of God. The woman would quote part of a Scripture, but I said, "You didn't quote all of it." Then we would turn to it and read it, and she said, "Well I never saw that." Then she said, "But some of the things you said .... "I said, "Do I have Scripture for it?" I said, "Let's turn to some of those Scriptures and reread them and you tell me if you find fault with what the Scripture says." We turned and read some of them and she said, "I had never seen them in the Scriptures." Don't be in such a hurry, but be swift to hear and slow to rebel.  James says, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, "and that in view of verse 18, "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth."


Now I want to mention five great teachings of the Word of God about which men rebel. Unsaved men will rebel against all five of these things, or they will rebel against any of them. Unless your heart has been prepared. Only a prepared heart can take these five Bible teachings. (1) You will rebel about what kind of a person the Bible says you are. Look at your Bible and find out what it says about you and me. Romans. 3:10-18: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they now known: There is no fear of God before their eyes." Psalm 58:3-5: "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

 

Their poison is like the poison of a serpent; They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely." Isaiah 1:3-6: "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."


The Bible says some terrible things about us folks. And you can't take it, you rebel against it, and you are going to keep on rebelling against it until you end up in hell, unless you make up your mind that you value your eternity-bound soul and you start preparing your heart and asking God to enable some of the truth about yourself to sink in there and take root. And you get desperate to find out whether there m any hope for a person that is a big sinner like you are. You just can't take that apart from a prepared heart. God says your best righteousness is as filthy rags. You drink iniquity like water; you just lap it up. Your very plowing is sin; your imaginations are evil. The thoughts of your heart are rotten, and if we could open you up, out of it would come all these filthy things.  The Bible talks that way about men. Genesis 6:5: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. "Job 15:16: "How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?" Isaiah 64:6: "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf,' and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." And unprepared heart will buck that, and yet you will never be saved unless it is brought home to you what kind of a person you are! Because you will never be interested in getting to Christ until you see how awfully sinful you are. Be swift to hear what God says about you!


If I were preaching to nice people, it would be different, but I am not. I am preaching to people who are born in sin, conceived in iniquity, and you are a cesspool and hotbed of rebellion against God. You hate everything that is high and holy, and if it were not for the restraining power of the Spirit of God and the influences of the Gospel in this world, this would be only a madhouse here. You are not nice people; you are a mined people; you are a rebellious people; you are a stiffnecked people, and you don't like to be told that. And you are going to hell fighting it, unless your heart is prepared to receive God's truth about yourself.  Then there is another teaching in the Word of God that is wrapped up in this business of the need of a prepared heart: Men do not get saved apart from being confronted with the strictness and the severity of God's Holy Law. Where no law is preached, there is no Gospel preached, because the Gospel can only be preached in the context of the Holy Law of God. And where men and women are not awakened by the utter strictness and the terrible severity of God's Holy Law, they will never be interested really in having a part in the merits of the shed blood of the Redeemer dying on the cross. I know that's so. And yet all I've got to do to an unsaved man, in the Name of God, is tell him not to do something, and he will be sure to do it. That is his nature. They hate law and restrictions.


And yet unless a man is confronted with and becomes swift to hear how terribly strict God's Holy Law is, and how unutterable, how horribly severe His Law is, they will never be interested in the Lord Jesus Christ and only a prepared heart can receive that truth. It will just bounce off of you; it bounced off of me and I had sinful flesh just like you have. You have got to face it. You better become swift to hear how strict and severe God's Law is. If it is as strict as the Bible says it is, you dead-sure need a Saviour. If it is as severe as the Bible says it is, my, how terrible it will be to go out and meet God in Whose hands will be the penalty, and He will punish them in hell in all eternity.  Matthew 13:41-42: "The Son of man shall send forth His angels and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Luke 12:5: "But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him." Revelation 21:8: "But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."


There is a third Bible truth that cannot be received except by a prepared heart, and that is the absoluteness of the sovereignty of God. I don't mean the sovereignty of God - lots of people believe that but the absoluteness of it. We are living in a day now when most people accept the Lord, some of the wicked people will brag on the Lord. Multitudes accept the Lord, but the Lord they accepted has been stripped of His glory. If you take Christ out of His office, people will take Him as their buddy-buddy; even the Hollywood actors are buddy-buddy with this little Lord that everybody likes today, but it is the Lord stripped of the absoluteness of His sovereignty. And you can't take it. I don't care how big a profession you make, you will buck it, you will rebel against the utter absoluteness, the totalitarian rule and reign and claims of King Jesus. You can't take it, except with a prepared heart.


It wouldn't be a bit of trouble in getting most people converted in America if everybody in this country would do like most preachers have done: Preach a Jesus who has been stripped of His glory. There is no trouble in getting people to accept Jesus, this nice little Jesus that buddy-buddies with people and lets people go on and live as they please. But the difference is, this Jesus Christ has no rivals; He is absolute, He has the reigns of every man's heart in His hands, and He exercises those reigns.  If I am speaking to somebody that doesn't know my Lord, you had better take this seriously. You will never get saved if you don't get serious about this. The Word of the truth of the Gospel has got to take root, and it will take root in your heart only as your heart has been able to thrust out the rebellion that is in it. You were born with it, born with rebellion against these great truths.  There is another truth that men cannot take, unless it is with a prepared heart: That the way of salvation is in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Self-righteous people will go to hell saying, "I think I am as good as the other fellow. I think if he makes it I'll make it. I am not such a bad fellow." You will keep talking that way and you will never care anything about the blood of Christ. You will never have any interest in the truth that you are in such a desperate condition that Another (and that One is the Son of God) had to die or you would go to hell. This truth is going to have to take root; your heart needs to be prepared.


Now as I have been preaching these 38 years, I have found out that some people, at least in their heads, will say, "Well, Brother Barnard, I can take the strictness and severity of God's Law, and I can take the fact that the only way I can be saved is by Jesus dying, and I can take the sovereignty of the Lord. But when I come to this last truth of the Bible that involves this matter of salvation: that saving faith is not simply the act of the will of the natural man, it is not moral persuasion but is a grace of an in-ward and spiritual view of Christ in His sweetness and glory. And that while you have to exercise faith, God has to work it in you before you can work it out. That is the most offensive thing in the Bible, that is what stirs up people in my meetings more than anything else. They have heard all their lives, "Now sinner if you just take Jesus as your Saviour, He will save you." That would be fine, if you could do it and unless you do do it, you are going to hell. But the most offensive thing in the teachings of the Word of God is: God requires faith, and you ain't got it, unless He is pleased to give it to you. Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Not of works, lest any man should boast." Hebrews 12:2: "Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."


You can make all the decisions you want to, but you will never be joined to Christ by making a decision. We are all eternity-bound men and women, and unless God Almighty is pleased to perform a miracle in you and reveal Christ in you, you are doomed for hell. Now that is offensive, isn't it? And if you don't quit rebelling against it, and start preparing your heart to ask God to break up your old heart and help you to throw your rebellion down, and become a swift to hear person praying that the truth may be buried in there and rooted in there for we are born by the will of God through the Word of truth. Romans 10:17: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." 1 Peter 1:23: "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. "Men just can't take that, and therefore it is left out of what is called preaching today. Your heart needs to be prepared and unless it is, you will rebel in every one of these five things. You just can't take them with a heart that hasn't been plowed. James says, "You be swift to hear."


I want to mention two other things that James says. "Lay aside sin in your life." Who is to do this? The man who wants a prepared heart, the man that wants to be saved. James says, "I'll tell you what to do: (1) Be swift to hear, cease your rebellion against truth; (2) You lay aside sin. James is not teaching that a man must be sinless and perfect in order to be saved, for if that was true, nobody would be saved. But what James is saying here, you have the heart and mind and be willing to lay aside any and all sin which keeps you from receiving God's truth. God commands you through James that you had better not keep on hugging sin, you better lay it aside. You say, "Will that save me?" No, it is a matter of heart preparation. What saves you is the truth taking root in there, but it is not going to take root in there as long as there is sin you cling to.


You say, "What can I do about it?" James says, "Lay it aside." You say, "That's hard to do." Yes, that's right. That is the reason this matter of salvation is an agony. Acts 14:22: "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." I don't know your heart, but if there is anything keeping you from becoming a devoted disciple of my Lord, please lay it aside. That won't save you, but it is heart preparation, and it is going to take place before God saves you and you are to do that. Lay it aside.


Then James says, "Receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls." Be swift to hear and lay aside whatever sin you love. The trouble is not that you don't understand; the trouble is s-i-n, SIN. You are not going to hell because you don't understand the doctrines of the Bible; you are going to hell to pay for your sins. You lay aside anything in your life that is keeping you from receiving God's truth. And then just like a little child, God says it, you just believe it. Amen! You are liable to come to the assurance of God's wonderful salvation, if you keep on just believing what God tells you. James would say: "Take time to prepare your heart by being swift to hear and slow to rebel, by laying aside sin and with meekness receive the engrafted Word which is able to save your soul."
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

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