What is Harder than a Rock? The Human Heart

As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster.” Jeremiah 44:16–17 (ESV)

“As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.””
Hebrews 3:15 (ESV)

It is amazing how hard the heart of man can become. The Bible likens it to a stone because it can become unfeeling and unbending like rock. But the metaphor of a rock falls short when it comes to the depths of that unbending attitude.

In Jeremiah 44, the prophet once again declared the coming judgment of God as well as the mercy of God if they would only repent. But instead of repentance, the people doubled-down in their sin. They not only wouldn’t turn from their sin, they would instead make sure that they kept their vows to their false gods and continue to make offerings, just as their wicked forefathers and leaders had done before them.

This people who would not keep their covenant promises to the LORD, were so ingrained in their sin that their hard hearts led them to lock on to their promises to worship false gods like a pit bull onto a piece of raw meat! In this way, they were not like rocks. Rocks don’t get harder, but people’s hearts sometimes do. They don’t just reject God, they go even further and show their open disdain and hatred of God.

But what is even more amazing than the hardness of man’s heart is the grace and mercy of God. In Hebrews 3, the writer of this letter uses the rebellion of Israel in the Old Testament as an example. The failures of Israel become a tool for teaching, showing that God will keep his word and punish those who insist on rebelling. But along with that, even hundreds of years after these events in the wilderness, God is still offering mercy and forgiveness to all who will listen and come to him. What overflowing grace!

The offer of the free grace of God is still offered today. Men and women can dive deeper into their sin so that their hearts become completely unfeeling and their hatred against God and everything else is seething. Or they can listen to the Spirit as he speaks through the Word of God and offers to them salvation and cleansing from all their sins.

Some offers are too good to be true, but not this one. This one is genuine. If you don’t have forgiveness from God, then this offer is for you. Don’t pass it by. Don’t grow colder and harder. There is only pain, misery, and death on that path. Go to Jesus. He receives sinners and turns them into saints.

Doomsday Preppers

For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

(1 Thessalonians 3:4, ESV)

Over the last several decades, many within the American Church have moved from an attitude of expectancy for the imminent return of Christ, to one where the world isn’t so bad and, since we kinda like it here, we should make our stay more comfortable. After all, the world was much more accepting and tolerant of Christian ideals and the gospel message (so long as we modified it a bit and kept all those judgy parts out).

What too many evangelicals forgot was that embedded in the Christian message of Christ is a subversive element that demands that rebellious sinners must bow the knee to Christ and come to him as King and Savior. Somehow evangelicals thought that they could woo and attract the world to like us, then maybe our softer, gentler message, and before they caught on, they’d be loving Jesus. There are still many churches that continue on believing this fantasy.

But as Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, the church should have maintained its course to proclaim an uncompromising message that would eventually result in a head-on confrontation between Christ’s servants and the servant of the ruler of this world.

Instead of settling in for a long, delightful stay here in this world system that rejects our God, the Church and her ministers should never have capitulated to the spirit of the age, and should have stayed the course. And instead of a watered-down gospel message to the world, the Church should have been proclaiming the message of faith in our God who will carry us through the fire and the water, and will lead us home, even amidst a world that is burning with rage against the King.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”” (Psalm 2:1–3, ESV)

Now, in 2020, the climate has changed, and in many churches where the softer, kinder message of cultural sensitivity has ruled and where being buddies with Jesus was the goal, the people of God are largely left unarmed to defend against an openly hostile public. They have failed to become battle hardened and ready. Many are filled with fear instead of faith. Some are placing their trust elsewhere, like when Israel called upon the pagan nations to save her.

And it’s not as if these things should have surprised Christians. The world has never really been favorable to our faith. They have been more tolerant at times. They have let us speak, and meet and even testify of the Lord. But we have been tolerated, not embraced. Why should we be surprised? Did not our Lord warn us? ““Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26, ESV)

It is still not too late to be prepared. If those who have bought into the softer-gentler form of Chrisitanity will faithfully return to the Word of God, we will find that it contains all we need to refocus upon the truth and find our greatest comfort and hope. When we once again place our hope in Christ, our eyes on heaven as our true home, our needs satisfied in Him alone, we will no longer love nor need this world. When we see sin and wickedness more clearly, we will long to be free from this world that drags us down. We will long for our resurrection, for our glorification, for our eyes to see Him face to face, as He is.

We must suffer in this world. We must face persecution. We must be reviled because of Christ. We must be ready. It is coming.

But we must not be afraid. We must not shrink back or compromise. We must not fear man who can only kill the body. We must cling to the One who has saved our souls. We must cling to the promises. We must cling to the cross.

Are your prepared? Are you ready? Jesus is coming soon. Until he comes, may we be engaged in the good warfare, taking as many with us to heaven as we can.

When the Struggles Run Deep

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

(Ephesians 5:3–8, ESV)

What happens when a sinner is redeemed? Do all of their sinful habits and lifestyles instantly disappear, with no trace or spot left? Yes and no. Before the holy eyes of God, our sins, every one of them, vanish beneath the blood of Christ. But for now, there remains in us an ongoing struggle that is a battle between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the Holy Spirit who now resides in us. At times, the battle cools and the temptation will lay dormant. At other times it will be sparked and set ablaze like a fire in a powder keg.

As Paul has laid out in Epehsians 4, we need to live or “walk” in a manner worthy of our calling, and this new lifestyle must be empowered by the Holy Spirit filled life (Eph 5:18). The new life in Christ is too often described as something it is not. The miraculous redemption we receive is described in terms that are over-realized; making young Christians think that their new life in Christ has given them complete mastery over their sin. But that sort of idea is dangerous for two reasons: It does not warn of the power of the flesh and the strength of temptation, especially in those areas of past habitual sin. The second reason this idea is dangerous is the fact that most new Christians are told very little about the need for dependence upon the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to defend against the overwhelming urges to give in to sin. The result is that they try to overcome their temptation with will power and fleshly means and end up failing.

In Ephesians 5, Paul deals with some pretty strong sins that were affecting some of the Christians at Ephesus: sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness (v. 3), filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking (v. 4). These sins, like all sin, have been conquered by the cross of Christ. Those who place their trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation have been cleansed and set free from the filthiest of sins. We need to say that more. We need to let the man or woman who is mired in shame and guilt know that Christ can set them free and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. They don’t need to clean up themselves in order to come to Christ. As a matter of fact, they can’t. As the song says, “What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

But we must also acknowledge that once a person has come to Christ and been washed clean, and they are justified with Christ, they are not incapable of the temptation to sin. If this were the case, then Paul’s words of warning would make no sense. Neither would all of the exhortations in the New Testament about fleeing from sin and temptation. And since we are to grow in holiness, and to learn to grow in dependence upon the power of the Spirit, and to wield the Sword of the Spirit, we need to also acknowledge that the young Christian is in need of discipleship, patience, and brotherly oversight. And this is especially true when the struggles run deep.

In our society today we have been hearing more and more about the “gay Christian.” In this passage, Paul is pretty clear–there is no such thing. But that doesn’t mean that we will not have new believers who will need us to walk with them as they battle sin and temptation. They will need much prayer, Bible instruction, love, friendships, and hospitality. So will the Christian struggling with other forms of sexual immorality, and adultery. So will those struggling with anger, gossip, ingratitude, coveting, bitterness, and shame. The list is never ending. We need one another. None of us has arrived, but we are all making our way.

We cannot accept that Christ saved us so we can remain in our sin, therefore we can continue to wallow in it. But neither can we say that Christ saves us and therefore, temptation is stricken from our hearts so that we no longer struggle with it anymore. If that were true, we wouldn’t need the Church, we wouldn’t need each other. And we wouldn’t need Christ or the Spirit of God. May the Lord help us to reach out to those who are struggling. And may we be prepared to go with them for the long haul, knowing that this is how Christ uses the Church, the Spirit and the Word to bring about our sanctification.