I’ve told many of you the story of one of my experiences at seminary which was rather unpleasant. For the benefit of this sermon and for those who might not have heard it, I’ll tell it again.
Cheryl and I were very fortunate to have the two most important student-worker positions during our time at seminary. I was the supervisor over the student workers in general labor. Basically the guys who take care of things like sanitation, furniture moving (by the way, it seemed whenever a professor moved an office it was always upstairs and never down), the grounds and other general things around the seminary.
Cheryl was put in charge of the student food-bank. This is where the students could supplement their food needs with donated food. It ran much the same as any food-bank and it was lots of busy work, which Cheryl thrives in as many of you know.
Because this was kind of a unique situation on campus, the seminary magazine decided to interview us. This was a great honor and we were happy to do it. It was after this magazine article was sent out that the unpleasantness began.
There is a blog-sight I don’t recommend called John the Steadfast. It’s a blog for ultra-conservative Lutheran pastors who usually find fault with this or that. They have never liked Concordia-St. Louis because they feel it is not rigid enough on teaching all things Lutheran. Because of this, there are those who love to look through the magazine for things to attack. Now, I know that most don’t do this who participate in the blog-sight, but some of them do, unfortunately.
Well, during the course of my interview, I happened to mention that I liked Concordia-St. Louis because they understood that the heart knowledge was more important than the head knowledge. The reporter assumed everyone would know what I meant so he neglected to put in the explanation. What I meant was that knowing about something can only get you so far unless you truly believe in it and are willing to apply it.
Well, you would think I had told everyone to throw away their Bibles. Soon after the magazine was released, the attacks began. They called me names, they called my professors names. They said that my statement was proof that Concordia- St. Louis was nothing more than a touchy feely seminary. Many of the professors, including Dr. Meyer, the President of the seminary, came to my defense because, unlike John the steadfast bloggers, they actually took the time to know me. Not once did any of the pastors who attacked me or the seminary, call to find out the truth.
The truth is, there is something different about knowing something in your head and knowing something in your heart. I often bring up the example of knowing who Jesus was and knowing who He is. It’s one thing to know about the historical Jesus, it’s entirely another thing to understand His importance in your life as the risen Christ today.
There are too many people today who will attend church services all over the world who will claim to know Jesus but really have no relationship with Him. There are many who, when asked if they are certain they will go to heaven might say “yes” with their heads but are not yet sure in their hearts. We might know the right answers, but that doesn’t mean we all believe in them.
Today we start a new series entitled, “Dealing with Life.” During these next few weeks, we will attempt to study life issues as they have to do with people who claim Christianity. We look at the world around us and we see that claiming Christianity is a much different thing then it has been in the past. No more is the Christian looked up to in certain circumstances. At one time, not too long ago, being a Christian, and especially a Christian pastor, was looked on with a great deal of reverence and respect. Now we find ourselves facing criticism for our beliefs, and our way of life is seen as hypocritical and judgmental. We are called haters and homophobes and, more and more, society is shielding itself from the Christian church and its teachings.
That’s why it’s critical that we speak of some of the things we must face in life, and our faith is chief among those topics. That’s why I started with this topic of the Head verse the Heart. It’s really a statement I wish to make on faith itself.
Probably my favorite story on this topic has to do with the Pharisee named Nicodemus. He is a great example of the head not matching the heart. His knowledge was vast. He knew Jewish law enough to teach it. He was required to memorize the first 5 books of the Bible. He was wise and respected for his knowledge. He had plenty of head knowledge, but didn’t yet have the heart knowledge that would serve to save him. Today there are lots of Nicodemus’. They have just enough knowledge to vaccinate them from the things that are most important. What sets Nicodemus apart from others like him is that he yearned to learn more.
When you hear about Jesus, what immediately comes to your mind? Is it the historical facts, or is it the knowledge of the heart? Who is Jesus to you? Does the word relationship come to mind? Do you want more than just to know about Him?
Pastor Jonathan Edwards has a great illustration to help me make my point. He uses the example of honey. He says, “Your mind can know that honey is sweet, people can tell you that it tastes yummy, you’ve read books on honey, etc. but you haven’t actually tasted it.
You know about honey in your head, but not in your heart. When you actually taste it, you experience it for yourself, you know it in a deeper way, and you can know it in your heart.
Now, I want you to be sure. I am not talking about being led by emotions. We have far too much of that in this world. Here at Prince of Peace we take great care to teach the Gospel message. We value proper Biblical knowledge and this kind of head knowledge is essential if you plan to take the next step with your heart. If you are not taking advantages to grow in this way, then you are missing much more than you know.
When we teach the Gospel message, however, we need to do more than to learn with our heads. More importantly, we need to apply it to our lives. It needs to become more than just facts to us. It needs to become real to us, personal. When you are told that Jesus died for you, it should reach you somewhere deep inside because you not only have the knowledge of the head, but of the heart.
One way to think of this is in the attitude you take when you read your Scriptures or attend church. Are you doing these things because you feel obligated to do so? Do you feel you have to pay Jesus back by being more studious? Are you trying to get on God’s good side by showing the appearance of devotion? Is it simply a place to meet with friends?
Or are you doing these things because something inside you draws you to it? Are you here this morning because you overflow with gratitude for what Christ has done for you in your life? Are you loving Jesus only with your head, or is the heart involved also?
Many people struggle with a head vs. heart problem. If you’re in a similar frame of mind, there is no need to feel guilty. Romans 8:1 assures us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We all struggle with heart knowledge from time to time. It’s something we are continually striving towards and disciplining ourselves for. That’s why proper study is important. That’s why willingness is key.
It’s relatively easy to begin the process because head knowledge is essential for heart knowledge. You can’t believe in something you know nothing about. You can’t apply it to your life if you don’t know what to apply. But don’t let it stop there. What you may need is not more data.
Many people approach the Bible this way. They strive to learn facts and figures in the Bible. They want to know the history behind it and the context of the stories, but it stops there. These facts are all well and good and I stress the importance of learning these things. But don’t be satisfied with simple details, strive to take the next step.
The heart includes the things you can’t really describe but that you know. It is a special knowledge that can only be applied to us by the Holy Spirit Himself. It can be built up with head knowledge but it involves a deeper understanding of Christ and Him crucified.
Have you ever read a section of scripture a bigillion times and then when you read it again, it suddenly takes on a life of its own? Suddenly there is new insight within you that you had never seen before. It might be because of something you just experienced or something that you were just struggling with. It can happen in your reading or in its telling or even in its melody. But suddenly this part of Scripture has become more meaningful. When the Scripture comes alive in this way, you have experienced the heart knowledge I have been speaking of.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Scripture is one way God speaks to you. There is a reason they call it the Living Word. This passage in Hebrews can not only reveal things to our natural minds but also to our very soul.
When I speak of heart knowledge, I speak of God reaching deep within you to give you a deeper knowledge than you could ever receive from any book.
It’s the kind of knowledge that protects and directs us from all the devil’s attempts to pull us off the narrow path. It’s a God of relationship doing as he has promised by rewarding our bond of faith with His affection. It’s that light that Christ invites you to follow.
It’s a knowledge not based on emotion but on a certain connection to something greater. It’s not puppy love or even love in general, rather, it’s an understanding, a knowledge far beyond an earthly phenomenon. It’s a knowledge based on a bond of love that only God can provide.
So, study. Learn all you can about your creator. Come to understand the dynamics of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Study the work of the Holy Spirit. Read your Bible. Attend Bible studies. Read as many books on Christianity as you can. But don’t limit yourself to facts and figures.
Through prayer and petition open your hearts to God in a new way, a more personal way. As you read His Words to you, listen with the ears of your soul. Become more aware of how he is leading you and shaping you to become the person He created you to be. Our God is a God of relationship and He messuages the heart of your soul to get it beating again. Invite Him in and find out what a God sized love can be, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Amen.