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Sermon #88[i] — Romans Series
Title: The Heart Searcher
Text: Romans 8:26-27
Subject: Christ the Searcher of Hearts
Reading: Psalm 139:1-24
I want you to open your Bibles to the glorious eighth chapter of Romans. I call it the glorious eighth chapter of Romans because that which is written in these 39 verses is truly glorious. It begins with no condemnation (vs. 1). It ends with no separation (vv. 35-39). And everything between is grace all grace. Eternal, everlasting grace is the message of these 39 verses of Inspiration! In this chapter the Apostle Paul gives us a glorious description of…
Š The Believer’s Freedom from Condemnation in Christ.
Š Our Peculiar Privileges as Brethren with Christ and as the Children of God the Father with Him.
Š Our Everlasting Security in Christ.
Yet, in the middle of this glorious chapter, Paul deals with some grievous and gloomy things. Look at verse 23. — “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
What are these “firstfruits of the Spirit?” The firstfruits are the first pickings of the harvest. The firstfruits are judged not by quantity, but by quality. If the firstfruits are good, the full harvest will be good. The “firstfruits of the Spirit” are the graces of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): faith, hope, and love. They are the pledge, the earnest, the forerunners of the full harvest awaiting God’s saints in heavenly glory. Grace on earth is the pledge of glory in heaven!
Yet, while we have the firstfruits and though we have grace, as long as we live in this world, waiting for the glory promised us, we “groan within ourselves.” We groan under the felt burden of sin, the plague of our hearts, the pollution of our souls, the power of darkness. Our indwelling corruptions, our frequent waverings and our wanderings from him whom we love cause us to groan before God.
But we groan in hope, “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Waiting for the completion of our adoption, the resurrection of the body, when we shall receive the full inheritance of the sons of God.
Now, look at verse 26. — “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know no what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
Though we are freed from all condemnation, blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, and secured from all possibility of separation from the love of God in Christ, still we are weak and needy creatures. Our weaknesses great! Our infirmities are many! Without the indwelling Spirit of God, we are nothing and we can do nothing!
Particularly, Paul says, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought!” Like the disciples of old, we feel our need to cry daily, “Lord teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). All of us are apt to ask for things that are not good for us, because we do not know what is best. We do not know what we need.
Š Job (Job 3:1-3).
Š Moses (Exodus 32:32-33).
Š Jonah (Jonah 4:3).
Š Paul (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
What is worse yet, as James tells us plainly, our prayers are often nothing but the expressions of our own carnal lusts and fleshly desires (James 4:3).
(James 4:3) “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
“But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” — We are fickle; but God is faithful. He who began his good work of grace in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). The Author of our faith will be the Finisher of it (Hebrews 12:2). Paul says, the Holy Spirit “maketh intercession for us.” But how? We know that Christ alone makes intercession for sinners with God. He alone is the Mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5-6). The Holy Spirit does not intercede for us with God the Father; but rather, dwelling in us, he intercedes with us and for us. As Christ is our Advocate in heaven, he is our Advocate in our hearts. He intercedes for us in this sense:
Š He teaches us to pray. All true prayer is his work in us.
Š He shows us our needs.
Š He stirs our hearts to prayer.
Š He puts in our hearts the desire for what God has purposed.
Š He gives us liberty and boldness at the Throne of Grace, through the sprinkling of the blood of Christ.
Š He puts within us “groanings which cannot be uttered,” sighs that baffle words. Like Moses and Hannah, who prayed silently, though ardently, the saints of God are caused by the Spirit to pour out their hearts to God, though often we are unable to express in words the great burdens of our hearts. Often our natural desires and our true, spiritual desires conflict with one another; and it is our true, spiritual desires which are the work of God the Holy Spirit.
Illustration: Christ in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38-39).
When we pray, if we truly pray, what we really want is…
Š The Will of God.
Š The Glory of God.
We subject all our desires to those two things.
That brings us to verse 27. —– “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
Proposition: Let me talk to you now for a few minutes about The Heart Searcher. –— In this verse Paul tells us that Christ, the Searcher of hearts, who alone knows the mind of the Spirit, is our Intercessor with the Father.
Divisions: I want to show you four things in this text.
1. The Heart Searcher — “He that searcheth the hearts.”
2. The Knowledge of this One Who Searches the Heart — “Knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.”
3. The Intercession of the Heart Searcher — “Because he maketh intercession for the saints.”
4. The Method of His Intercession — “According to the will of God.”
The Heart Searcher
First, I call your attention to the Heart Searcher himself. —– “He that searcheth the hearts.” —— This is the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Savior. None can search the heart but he who made the heart. The searching of the heart is the prerogative of God alone. No one has the ability to do it but him; and no one has the right to do it but him.
“As we by searching discover and treasure up that which is worth the search, so God represents himself as the Searcher of the hearts of his people for his own precious deposit, and to reject and eject all that is of the world, the flesh, and the devil” (Thomas Bradbury).
Because he searches the heart, hypocrisy is the work of fools (1 Chronicles 28:9).
(1 Chronicles 28:9) “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever.”
As Solomon might deceive David and all of Israel, so men deceive men; but no one can deceive God. God sees all things. He sees us as we really are. He looks beyond the mask of our profession and sees what we are.
Our Lord Jesus searches the hearts of men by the piercing, penetrating power of his Word (Hebrews 4:12-13). — The Word of God pierces and penetrates the heart. Like light shining in darkness, it shows us what we are.
(Hebrews 4:12-13) “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (13) Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
He searches the heart by the piercing, penetrating power of his Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10).
(1 Corinthians 2:10) “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
When the Spirit of God searches the heart, he makes great revelations of things that could never be known without him.
Š He shows us our sin.
Š He shows us the merit and efficacy of Christ’s righteousness and blood atonement.
Š He shows us the goodness and grace of God in Christ.
He who searches the heart knows all about me — He knows everything in the heart. Nothing is more terrifying to the hypocrite, and nothing is more comforting and delightful to the believer than the knowledge that Christ our God searches and looks upon the heart (John 21:15-17). We can never get out of God’s sight or reach; and so we would have it. With all the personal vileness that God’s searching exposes in me, still my cry is — “Search me, O God, and know my heart!”
Š David sought this searching (Psalm 139:1-6, 23-24).
(Psalm 139:1-6) “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. (2) Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. (3) Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. (4) For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. (5) Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. (6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”
(Psalm 139:23-24) “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (24) And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Š Nathaniel looked upon this as an identifying characteristic of our Lord Jesus as the Christ of God (John 1:48-49).
(John 1:47-49) “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! (48) Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. (49) Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.”
Š The Samaritan Woman believed because of it (John 4:29).
(John 4:29) “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”
Š Peter took refuge in it (John 21:15-17).
(John 21:15-17) “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (αγαĻας) thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (φιλω) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. (16) He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (αγαĻας) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (φιλω) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (17) He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (φιλεις) thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest (φιλεις) thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (φιλω) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
Second, Paul shows us the knowledge of this One who searches the heart. — He “knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” — The Lord Jesus knows all about us, even when we are puzzling and confusing to ourselves.
He knows the mind of the Spirit in the experience of every believer. Though our Lord Jesus was altogether without the need of grace, because he was perfectly righteous, yet as a man he lived in this world as one constantly ministered to by the Spirit. The Spirit, who is given to us by measure, was given to Christ the Man without measure (John 3:34).
All that he was and did in his earthly life and ministry he ascribes to the Holy Spirit.
Š Was he born of Mary? It was by the work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).
Š Was he consecrated to God in his baptism? It was by the Spirit of God descending upon him (Matthew 3:16).
Š Was he led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil? It was God the Holy Spirit who drove him into the wilderness of temptation (Matthew 4:1).
Š Did he return from his temptation untouched by it? He returned in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14).
Š Did he identify himself in the synagogue as the One of whom Isaiah wrote? It was by declaring, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18).
Š Did he cast out demons? It was by the Spirit of God that he did so (Matthew 12:28).
Š Did he offer himself without spot to God? It was through the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).
Š Did he rise again from the dead? It was by the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). — He was “justified in the Spirit.”
Even now, our Lord Jesus Christ performs his work for us and in us by his Holy Spirit. All his works of grace in us are “according to the mind of the Spirit” and by the Holy Spirit.
Š Did he instruct the Apostles after his resurrection? It was through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2).
Š He gives dead sinners life in the new birth by his Spirit (John 3:5-8).
Š In the new birth, the Lord Jesus puts his Spirit in us and causes his people to live in the Spirit. All who believe live in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). —— Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a charismatic second work of grace. It was the work of Christ at Pentecost which we come to experience in saving grace. If I have been born of God, I live in the Spirit (Romans 8:9).
Š The Lord Jesus comforts his redeemed by the Holy Spirit, our Divine Comforter, Guide, and Teacher (John 16:7-20)
(John 16:7-20) “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (8) And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on me; (10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
(12) I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. (13) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (14) He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (15) All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (16) A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
(17) Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? (18) They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? We cannot tell what he saith.
(19) Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? (20) Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”
Illustration: The Disciples on the Emmaus Road
Š Our Lord Jesus lives in us by his Spirit and by his Spirit seals to our hearts all the blessings, gifts, benefits, and covenant promises of the Triune God (Ephesians 1:13-14). — “Born of the Spirit!” — “Partakers of the Divine Nature!” — “Christ in You!”
Whatever gifts of grace I possess are the gifts of God the Holy Spirit, who is the ascension gift of Christ to his people (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
Š If I have faith, it is the fruit, operation, and gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Š If I have hope, it is “through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).
Š If the love of God is shed abroad in my heart, it is by the Holy Ghost given to me (Romans 5:5).
Š If I pray, it is in the Spirit and by the Spirit in me (Romans 8:26; Jude 20).
Š If I sing, my singing is nothing, unless I sing in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Š If I preach, my preaching is altogether useless unless I preach in the Spirit (1 Peter 1:12).
“Every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
Every thought of holiness,
Are His and His alone!”
All these things are the works and gifts of God the Holy Ghost in his saints. Yet, there are times when our spiritual life is at such a low ebb that we cannot see any grace in our souls, Even then, especially then, our Lord Jesus, the Heart Searcher, knows all about us and tenderly cares for us. Even when we know it not, “He knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” (See Psalm 42:5-11).
(Psalm 42:5-11) “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. (6) O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar. (7) Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. (8) Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. (9) I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? (10) As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God? (11) Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Often our faith is so mixed with unbelief that as Peter sank in the waters so our hearts sink in darkness until we are made to cry, “Lord, save me, I perish!” Then he stretches out his hand and lifts us up. —— How often our love to Christ is so cold that we cannot call it love, though love him we do. Like Peter, we have a strange way of showing it! Yet, our Lord knows how to draw out the confession, “Thou knowest that I love thee.” —— Even the unbelieving cry of his disciples, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” arouses the attention of our Savior; and he soon answers, “Peace, be still!” —— This is what I am saying, the Lord Jesus knows even the whisperings of our hearts and is ready to answer them. —– “Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him.” (John 16:19). —— He is always more ready to teach than we are to be taught, more ready to help than we are to be helped, more ready to answer prayer than we are to pray, and more ready to forgive than we are to be forgiven.
Our Savior knows the deepest, truest desires of our hearts. — He “knoweth the mind of the Spirit.”
Š Our Faith in Him.
Š Our Love for Him.
Š Our Longings to be Like Him.
Š Our Desire to Do His Will.
Š Our Yearnings for His Presence.
Š Our Concerns for His Glory.
“He knows the words I mean to speak
Ere from my opening lips they break.”
Third, look now at the intercession of the Heart Searcher. —— “Because he maketh intercession for the saints.” —— Paul speaks of two intercessions, the intercession of Christ for us in heaven and the intercession of the Spirit in us on earth. I have shown you how the Spirit makes intercession in us. Now I want you to see how that Christ makes intercession for us. To make intercession is to interpose with a plea, to plead for another, to entreat for the acceptance of another.
We have a beautiful, graphic type and picture of Christ’s intercession in Leviticus 16, where God gave commandment concerning the work of the high priest on the Day of Atonement.
(Leviticus 16:9-14) “And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. (10) But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. (11) And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: (12) And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: (13) And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not: (14) And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.”
(Leviticus 16:20-22) “And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: (21) And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: (22) And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.”
Š v. 9 — The Sin-Offering — Christ, the Lamb of God.
Š v. 12 — The Burning Coals of Fire – The Sufferings of Christ.
Š v. 13 — The Sweet Incense — The Intercession of Christ.
Š v. 14 — The Sprinkling of the Blood upon the Mercy-Seat Seven Times — Complete Atonement!
Š vv. 20-22 — The Scapegoat — Christ Who Took Our Sin Away!
Atonement is the basis of intercession and the two can never be separated. Without atonement intercession could not be made. With atonement intercession cannot fail! And the atonement and intercession were made for the same people.
Š The Lord Jesus Christ, by his death on the cross made atonement for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Š By his resurrection life he makes intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25; Zechariah 3:1-5).
Š The perpetuity and efficacy of his priesthood and the prevalence of his intercession are the glory of his gospel (1 John 2:1-2).
(1 John 2:1-2) “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (2) And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
(Zechariah 3:1-5) “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. (2) And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? (3) Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. (4) And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. (5) And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.”
Method of Intercession
Fourth, in the last phrase of our text you will see the glorious method of the Heart Searcher’s intercession. —– “According to the will of God.” — Christ our Mediator and the heavenly Father are ever one in will, word, and work.
Š On earth he did his Father’s will perfectly.
Š In heaven he intercedes “according to the will of God.”
He seeks for us that which it is the will of God to do and give, no more and no less (Romans 8:28-39). But notice the words “the will of” are in italics. That means that they were added by the translators.
This last phrase might be better translated, “according to God.” If that is the case, Paul’s meaning is — Christ intercedes for us as God! He does not plead as a suppliant on bended knees or with uplifted eyes, but with the dignity and grace of One who is God, One who never sinned, One who knows nothing of failure.
Š He pleads with God upon the basis of God’s own holy character as a just and true God.
Š He pleads with God as an equal; for this Man who is our great High Priest is God.
I am represented before the throne of God by a holy, sinless Man, who is himself God. Before he entered into heaven he put away my sin, so that my sin could never appear against me in the presence of God. And all that he seeks from God for me, it is the will of God to do!
One last thing, — notice how Paul speaks of those for whom Christ makes intercession. — “He maketh intercession for the saints.” — Saved sinners are saints, God’s holy ones, God’s sanctified ones.
Š Sanctified by Election.
Š Sanctified by Redemption.
Š Sanctified by Regeneration.
We are transgressors. We would never think of denying that fact. And we rejoice to know that Christ makes “intercession for transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). But we are not transgressors, we are not sinners before God, in the sight of God!
Taking John 17 as the model of Christ’s intercession, you will notice that the Intercessor never speaks of his people as sinners. He does not offend the ear of his holy Father by calling his dear children sinners or transgressors. Seven times in that chapter, when he refers to us, he speaks of us as “Those whom thou has given me.” He never mentions what we have done, but only what he has done for us. —– “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”
The blood of his atonement has washed away all our sins, and the sentence of eternal justice upon all God’s elect is — “Justified from all things!” — “Cleansed from all sin!” — “Accepted in the Beloved!” — “Complete in Christ!”
“There David shines without a stain;
Uriah’s blood shall ne’er be known,
For like a millstone in the sea
Are all his black transgressions thrown!”
(Hebrews 10:11-14) “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (12) But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; (13) From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. (14) For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”
(Numbers 6:24-26) “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: (25) The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: (26) The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”
[i] Danville — Sunday Morning — May 22, 2016
Sovereign Grace Assembly, Cornelius, NC — (SAT – 05/14/16)