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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                                       Sermon #1228

September 13, 2015                                                                                                    Acts 2:37-47

Dr. Ed Pettus


“Desire: Cut to the Heart”


  1. What are our desires?


I want us to think about our desires.  Desires are the things we long for, yearnings, hopes, and dreams.  Desires might include success, happiness, health, family, friends, belonging, purpose, or fulfillment.  Sometimes it is just a big bowl of chocolate ice cream!  Free will has been described as exercising our strongest desires.  We will do what we desire to do, good or bad, that is how desire works.


For those of us with a few years experience, we know that desires change.  What we once desired in our youth has faded away.  When we have children our desires are transformed in another direction. 


Distractions sometimes lead us away from what we desire.  A greater problem is desires that oppose God’s way. 


Galatians 5:17  “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”  Our battle is between the desires that come from our flesh – the senses of the body and the weakness of our human frailty, and the desires that come from God in the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.  



2. What shapes our desires?

  1. Experiences


Our desires are shaped by our experiences.  Many of those desires are developed in childhood as we see the things that our parents desired and later on our friends and then the things that touch our hearts.  I remember a time when I was complaining to a friend about my dad, I don’t remember the details of the complaint, but my friend stopped me as asked me to consider all the things my dad had introduced into my life, the things I desired.  My passion for sports cars and sports car racing was born from my father’s interest in it.  My desires were shaped in that. 


            b. God’s Desires


For the Christian who takes seriously the life of discipleship, we are shaped by the desires of God.  Things like:


Hosea 6:6  -  For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.  When Israel grew to desire going through the motions of commitment to God, Hosea brought God’s desires to the forefront reminding Israel that God desires steadfast love and knowledge rather than empty offerings and sacrifices. 


We know that the whole of the Bible speaks to the things God desires: love, faith, hope, trust, commitment, and the like.  Part of how we come to know those desires is to know the word of God and to seek to keep God always before us.  Our hope is that we might become shaped bvy God’s desires by yielding our own desires to match God’s. 


             c.  Prayer


There are probably lots of other things that we could say about what shapes our desires, but the last one I want to mention is prayer.  If we consider the Psalms as humanities prayers to God we might look to Psalm 73:25 “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”  We might rephrase that line into a request of God, “Lord, make my desire nothing on earth besides you.” 


One of the reasons I felt called to preach this message today is all of us lack the desire expressed in Psalm 73.  None of us desire God solely.  But we know this is true, the Bible tells us this.  We fall short of the glory of God, we are broken.  But, there is still good news because Christ has redeemed us from a life of despair and because of the gospel, we have been transformed into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).



                   3. Cut to the Heart - Acts 2:37


There is power in the gospel to transform us into a people who seek after God, even if we fall short from time to time.  The power of that gospel is seen in Acts 2 when Peter preaches the gospel to the Jews who had gathered for the festival and when Peter had finished the narrative says that they were “cut to the heart” (2:37).  “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” 


Let’s take a look at two aspects to this verse.  First, the phrase “cut to the heart”.  This is the place where our desires are born and raised.  It is from the heart that we practice obedience and do God’s will (Rom. 6:17, Eph. 6:6).   When these people were cut to the heart, their desires changed.  The New American Standard version uses the word “pierced”, they were “pierced to the heart”. 

This brings us to the second observation from Acts 2:37, they asked, “what shall we do?”  In one sense they are asking about the desires of those who believe.  They used to live by their flesh and now they want to know how to live by the spirit.  Peter responds with calling them to repent and be baptized and they would receive the Holy Spirit.  Now, when the Holy Spirit enters their lives, everything changes.  In Acts 2:42 we see how their desires had changed.  “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  Desire is evident in our devotion.  We do what we desire the most.  We pursue what we cannot life without. 


Deep within our soul is the truth about ourselves.  Psalm 42 says it this way, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”  The journey we travel seeks to conform our frail humanity to our soul that really does seek after God.  Make this your prayer!  “Lord, may I thirst for you as a deer thirsts for flowing streams.”  How might we renew our desires in this direction?



           4. Renewal of Desires

  1. Put Off/Put On - Colossians 3:5-17


Paul tells us to put off the old nature and put on a new nature.


Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


In Christ we work constantly to put to death in ourselves all that would be opposed to God.  We work constantly to put on the goodness of God as Paul reveals in this passage. 



           b. Away with Worldly Desires - 1 John 2:15-17


John is very specific about desires in his first letter, 1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”    


Desires are steeped in love.  We do what we love to do.  Therefore, do not love the world or the things of the world.  What are those things?  Desires!  Desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and the pride of life.  All of those desires will soon be gone.  But, but, but, whoever does the will of God abides forever.  We might also say, whoever desires the will of God lives forever!


                    c. Put on Godly Desires - Acts 2:42


I want to go back to Acts 2.  What gives us our desires?  It is whatever has cut to our heart.  I spoke of how we often fall short in fulfilling our desire to love God with our whole heart, or desiring God above all else, or any other desire that glorifies God.  The next question is how do we put on godly desires?  I know that the yearning for God is there deep within each of us.  We tend to suppress it or we get distracted by life or we just don’t know why we don’t have proper desires. 


I want to encourage you today to pray for desire.  If you lack desire I only know of one solution – pray for it.  Lacking zeal, love, devotion?  Pray for it.  Pray that love for God will cut to the heart.  Pray that devotion will cut to the heart.  Pray that zeal will cut to the heart.  Pray that desire will move to devotion and commitment and love.  One final note: When the church desired to please God and devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, God added to their number those who were being saved.  I’m not claiming that God will bring thousands to our doors, but what I do believe is that God blesses the church when our desires lead us to devote ourselves completely to him.  Amen.