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.

The God Who Seeks Sinners

“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that was not called by my name.
(Isaiah 65:1 (ESV))

In considering the saving power of God, many have struggled with the conundrum of the sovereign acts of God in salvation versus the need for men to call out to God in order to be saved. This issue has shown up most clearly in the American Evangelical church as the Seeker-sensitive Movement.

The Seeker Sensitive Church may be a twentieth century phenomenon in regard to the trappings of style and function, but its roots run all the way back to the revivalistic theology and camp-style meetings of men like Charles Finney and his ”new measures.” Not only were Finney’s practices firmly planted in Arminian practice, his theology went beyond classical Arminian theology and fully embraced the heresy of Pelagianism.

The theological underpinnings of these movements (Seeker-sensitive churches, Finney-like practices, Arminianism/Semi-Pelagianism, and Pelagianism) all place major emphasis upon the idea that the makeup of human reasoning and ability in making moral choices is either totally free from any effect of the Fall (Pelagianism) or only minimally effected (Semi-Pelagianism, et. al.). This important starting point understands and teaches that man is completely and totally capable of making a decision for or against the free offer of the gospel without the direct intervention of the Spirit of God. It is a free moral choice that he is fully capable of making.

Although the idea of man being a free moral agent is a great theological discussion to have, I’ll need to do that at another time. Instead, I want to address the subject of Isaiah 65:1 above. This verse looks at the salvation from God’s point of view. The Apostle Paul referred to this text in Romans 10:20 in reference to the salvation of the Gentiles, “the nation” not called by the name of the Lord.

It is helpful to note that in the larger context of Isaiah, the Lord is described as being willing to receive those who are broken-hearted and contrite. Israel had remained hard-hearted and stiff-necked. She had refused His many appeals and would find herself in exile for her sins. And yet, God had been patient and waited for her to return. As a matter of fact, throughout the book of Isaiah, the Lord repeatedly reaffirms His need to bring His hand of judgment upon Israel while also comforting His people with the fact that although He was angry, He would not be angry forever, and that He would never forsake His Beloved.

So, as the Lord speaks in Isaiah 65:1, He addressed these foreigners who are not Israel. They may not be asking for Him and they may not be seeking Him, but the Lord is portrayed as stating “Here I am, Here I am.” Our God does not hide, He does not obscure Himself or His free offer of salvation.

The problem is that men do not seek Him. They are blinded by their sin, warped in their thinking, devoted to their iniquity, and love the darkness rather than the light. But as John reminds us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 (ESV)). We may not seek God, but it is good to know that God seeks sinners that He might bring them to salvation.

It is good to know that God can take the hard heart of stone and turn it soft. He can open blind eyes so that we can see the loveliness of Christ and the filth of our own sin. And it is an anchor to the soul to know that my salvation is not secured by my righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ and His death upon the cross for me. I may fall a thousand times, but Christ will hold me fast. “Here I am. Here I am,” he says. May we take comfort in our great God and Savior’s words.

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.