“The Heart of Sin: Lack of Love”
Pastor Joe Blankenship, 7/29/12
Text - Luke 15:11-32
I have read the story of Arthur Katz’s conversion on several occasions but was particularly moved by it this evening. I am praying the Lord uses His Words tomorrow to save some.
There was a man who felt the Spirit of God reveal the depths of his heart simply by reading a story in the Bible. I was so struck by this man’s story that I want to share it with you. It shows the power of God to reach the lost across time, simply by having them read His record of what His Son did long ago.
The man’s name is Arthur Katz. Some of you may be familiar with him. He tells some of his story in his book “Reality: The Hope of Glory.” Katz became an atheist and hardened cynic of life. Such cynicism leads naturally to despair. In the depths of his own such crisis, Katz found himself on a Greek ship, where a little book came into his possession that previously he would have scorned to read. But the deep crisis that then consumed his soul made him desperate enough to read that little book. It was a New Testament.
As he began to read it, in his own words, “things of unspeakable profundity began to break upon my heart; what shattering exclamations came at me from the mouth of Jesus.”
But, even though the Spirit of God spoke to him through the entire book, there was one episode in Jesus’ life in particular that penetrated to the depths of his soul: Jesus’ confrontation, in John 8, with the religious authorities over the woman caught in the act of adultery. Katz says, “My heart was pounding because I saw myself as one with her, caught in the sinful act, and I knew that I deserved what she deserved: the judgment of God–stoning, death.”
Katz describes himself at this point in his life as an atheist and cynic, who “did not know the meaning of the word ‘mercy’.” He then goes on to describe further what was going on inside him as he read the rest of this event in the life of Jesus. He had earlier read that Jesus had said that he came to fulfill the law, and Katz was quite familiar with what the law said about the situation: It demanded the death of the woman by stoning. If Jesus really meant to fulfill God’s law, he would have to call for her death. But that would mean negating all his message about love and mercy. Yet if he refused to do so, he would be guilty himself of breaking God’s law–he who said he came to fulfill it. One course of action would make him at least an accomplice to murder; the other a hypocrite and liar. There seemed no way out.
At this point, Katz closed the book, his heart pounding, his mind racing to find some way to deliver Jesus out of his moral predicament. There was none, no human way out, no answer.
Katz had found wanting the men of note that he had formerly looked up to: Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein. These former heroes had no answer for his questions; they had been gods who had failed. He re-opened the book with trembling hands, anxious to see what answer his new hero would give.
The description of the scene, as recorded in the Bible, burned itself into his mind: Jesus bent over, poking his finger into the dirt, while the self-righteous religious leaders watched him closely, eager to pounce on him whatever his decision. They had him trapped, they thought, with no way to escape.
In his mind’s eye, he saw Jesus arise, the tension reaching its maximum at that moment of decision for those attending that moment long ago–and also reaching its climax centuries later for one desperate to find truth. Here was a stark confrontation between those who knew only the letter of the law and its harsh demands, and One who knew the Spirit of that same law. What would Jesus do?
Breathless with anticipation, the modern-day reader let his eyes fall on the line of the page that would reveal all–and he read the words of Jesus: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7).
Katz describes his reaction to Jesus’ verdict:
“When that line floated up off the page and passed through my eyes into my brain, my body began trembling violently. It did not stop in my head, where I thought my life was, but moved down to where the true seat of life is, in the heart. I was cleaved in two by the power of God; the word that had issued out of the mouth of Jesus had divided my soul and spirit asunder (Heb. 4:12). No mere human mind could have produced that divine wisdom. At that moment I knew with complete certitude, atheist that I was a moment before, that this was the Word of God.”
That was the moment that Art Katz, cynical atheist, came to know him who is God and Truth.
But before that moment arrived, God, who is timeless but sees the end from the beginning, had arranged for a time of preparation for that culminating moment. Only later, after returning from his trip on this Greek ship, did Katz learn just what that preparation was.
He was giving his testimony about his newly found faith at a small church near where he lived, and afterwards a woman came up to him and told him that her daughter had been a student of his in high school. This daughter knew that he was an atheist and a radical and would come home in tears, weeping over him. The mother went on to say that since that first time that happened, she and her daughter had been praying for him.
At those words, Katz says something exploded in his heart. His own words of reply seemed to him like a needle stuck on a record: “So you’re the one, so you’re the one, so you’re the one whose prayers have entered me into the kingdom of God.”
I have chosen these two incidents in the life of one man to illustrate the profound realities of how one comes to know Christ. It is the deepest experience a person can have, yet it has its roots in the common, ordinary things of everyday life: a class in school, a trip on a ship, reading a book that one has been taught to shun–and most of all, Truth seeing the true hearts of those who would judge others while their own hearts are filled with worse sins than those they judge. ….”
The Words of Jesus and the prayers of one who loved enough to pray – God’s means are simple but awesome.
The Psalmist gets it right of course when he says in Psalm 115, “Our God is in the heavens. He does whatever He pleases.” For reasons that please the Lord He often places in situations where it is obvious that crying out to Him is our only hope. Derek Cox spoke this week at Project 61 and said, “God will not let us live a life where we don’t need Him.”
As the days drew near for Project 61 we became aware of a serious transportation shortage for getting kids to and from the camp. The transportation options we had in the past and the ones we had been pursuing began to fall through one after another. At one point we were down over 100 spots – that would mean that 100 less kids could attend Project 61 than in previous years. A church that has been extremely gracious and involved in the past decided because of insurance reasons that we would not be able to use their bus and then on Monday morning at the start of Project 61 week informed us that would include their vans as well.
Friday night at Secret Church we had devoted an extended time to praying for Project 61 camp and people were fervent in seeking the Lord’s provision for a bus or two. We continued to seek the Lord through the weekend and had another corporate prayer time on Sunday. Early Saturday morning we had contact with a ministry just outside of town who had a bus for sale but they were mainly interested in exchanging a van for it. We had an old van but it was in the shop and we didn’t get it out in time to meet with them on Saturday.
Monday morning at 11:00 we went to meet this ministry about their bus (a 1998 Bluebird School 46 passenger bus with a new engine with 25,000 miles). Our van we were considering exchanging as a part of a purchase breaks down again in their parking lot! and dies 6 or 7 times before we get out of their site. Things didn’t look to promising though the pastor said he would talk to their insurance guy about letting us borrow it for the week. We got our van back to a gas station and added some new gas and it began to run well for the first 15 miles back towards Tulsa.
I called the pastor with the bus and told him perhaps it was bad gas and the exchange might still be a possibility. He said, he would get back with me. It didn’t sound very promising and then the van broke down again and had to be towed in to our mechanic.
Our volunteer campers were meeting at 4:30 to head out to Keystone State Park where the training and worship services would take place and then the Sports Clinics where the transportation would be most needed begins early Tuesday morning. I argued with God about the need and what was at stake for His name but as the hours grew closer I was mainly trying to figure out how to communicate to our interns and faith family why God didn’t answer. I was far from faith- FULL.
At 3:15 I got a call from the church whose vehicles we had used in the past and the staff pastor I know the best there informed me that they had decided to provide buses and vans along with drivers! – for the week. At 3:45 the ministry with the bus for sale called and said they couldn’t let us borrow it but they would sale it to us and asked what we could give. We were able to purchase the bus for $1000 plus either the 1989 van if it was running (it’s not) or some more money up to but not more than $2000 total. The bus is in excellent condition and several of our men think it is worth closer to $25-$35,000!
Later Monday evening a group of doctors who had been considering helping to sponsor the camp but had not done so (and we assumed were not since camp was already starting) – they called and donated $1500 for transportation costs!
God showed Himself very faithful and by Tuesday morning we had more transportation than in the previous 8 years and over 180 campers plus another 100 plus volunteers attended the camp. And our intern staff was rejoicing that we had gotten rid of the van that breaks down all of the time! :)
We don’t think God’s provision for the buses was the result of our prayers or certainly not just about transportation but an opportunity for the LORD to show Himself as the Provider. We are hopeful that He will be seen and known as the “Lord who provides a way for sinners to dwell with Him” in the lives of those who heard the gospel this week and through the relationships that were formed that will give birth to students being in our tutoring programs and involved in our church family at Springs of Grace and eventually in the family of God.
Keep praying to the God who is always faithful to His promises. He is righteous. Just wanted others to hear another story about the greatness of our God – and if you prayed with us – thank you as well.