Are You “Hard of Heart”?
Jesus Christ did more teaching in His three-and-a-half years of ministry on this earth than any other person has ever done, is doing now, or will ever do. Along the way, He met with every conceivable reaction from outright acceptance and willing belief to unreasoning hatred and blind prejudice.
Throughout the ages that have come and gone since Jesus Christ ascended into heaven following His resurrection from the dead, countless people have discounted His testimony, denied His miracles, ridiculed His teachings, and blasphemed His Name; many have gone so far as to declare that He never lived and walked the earth. Christians will turn the other cheek when Jesus Christ is the butt of jokes, the foil of late-night comedians and a freely used curse word; but whenever other religions such as Islam feel the least slight to their teachings, principles and prophets they will react with violent hostility.
If you are one who denies Jesus Christ… you are a fool, and Holy Scripture attests to this:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1)
As a solemn warning, Jesus Christ gave these words:
“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! (Matthew 18:7)
What Jesus meant by these words was a warning not to be one who would, through your actions, beliefs and words be one who would destroy the faith of others in Him. How great and sorrowful a travesty that your own soul and person will be destroyed through your arrogant and haughty unbelief, that you yourself will be condemned; greater yet is the malevolent spiritual cancer within you that destroys others by keeping them separated from the love of God in Jesus Christ that leads to salvation, condemning them, also! You can be assured that, if you are such a one, you will be punished in the fires of an eternal hell for what you are doing.
Do you believe that your words do not matter? Hear the words of Jesus Christ and understand that your words do matter (italic emphases mine):
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37)
It awes me to the core of my being to understand from Holy Scripture that there will be a judgment…
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, (Hebrews 9:27)
and to know that at that judgment all will have to give an account of themselves to God for every word that has been spoken; we will not be able to contest the sentence of an eternal, yet living, death in the lake of fire (should that be God’s judgment) because we will have been condemned by our own words. Understand that condemnation to hell for eternity is a consequence of our own willing actions, beliefs and words… God does not condemn the unrepentant sinner to hell, the unrepentant sinner does that.
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)
It is not all “doom and gloom”… those who believe in Jesus Christ as the One that God has sent stand justified before God, blameless because of what Holy Scripture promises:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
How is this possible?
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
Thus we are encouraged to live our lives appropriately:
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Understand what Jesus Christ is to all people (italic emphasis mine):
Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:7-16)
Jesus Christ is nothing if not consumed with love for God’s people… all of God’s people. He came to set us free from the chains of our bondage to sin and death, to break the hold of the evil one upon our lives, and allow us to know the true freedom that exists only in Him… the freedom to give God all the glory for the goodness He showers our lives with, the freedom to love Him with utter abandon as our Creator and the lover of our souls, the freedom to love all of God’s children as our brothers and sisters, and the freedom to do those good works that He has prepared before the beginning of the world for those who love Him. We are slaves to whatever has mastered us… the message of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is that we can choose to be slaves of Jesus Christ (as the Apostle Paul often declared that he was) and live in total freedom, experiencing the joy that comes only from the Living God; witness Jesus’ words in this regard:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
These words that Jesus Christ spoke were first prophesied in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament… some 700 years before Jesus Christ lived!
I am adamant when I say that, for those who know innately within their God-given consciences that there is a God and that His Son Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father, no proof is necessary… while for those who persist in their arrogant unbelief and hatred of God and His Son, no amount of proof, no matter how compelling, is enough.
You are… for lack of a better term… “hard of heart”.
If we do not live as we ought to, there is a consequence. The fact that many people do not live as they ought to, but as, in many cases, dedicated and implacable enemies of the Cross of Christ without any remorse for doing so, does not alter the reality that there is a consequence (italic emphases mine):
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)
Those who freely and openly do not believe in God, who spit upon Him and the Son He has sent for their salvation, who blaspheme Him, who disobey Him, who lead others into sin, who encourage their sin, who engage in all manner of filthy and corrupted living without repentance, be warned…
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
Jesus was not an angry man, but He could (and He did) display righteous anger when it was well warranted. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their arrogant and stubborn unbelief, and for leading others into the hell that they would soon experience themselves because of the way in which they lived their lives… if you are an unbeliever, substitute your name for the term “Pharisee(s)” in the following verses and read about yourself (note that Jesus mentioned a condemnation of these men to hell… this will be touched upon later):
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:13-36)
So hard were the hearts of the Pharisees against Jesus after He rightfully condemned them that when Jesus raised a man called Lazarus from the dead (after he had been in the tomb for 4 days), the reaction of the Pharisees… even those who eye-witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus… was to actively seek to kill Him, which they were finally able to accomplish.
If you are an unbeliever, Holy Scripture attests this truth… that there is no excuse for you that will prevail before a just God on the day of judgment:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
Why is God’s wrath being directed against these people? Is God simply being vindictive? No!
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:21-32)
This is the bottom line:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Remember that I said I would touch upon hell. If you are an unbeliever, do you boldly scoff that there is no God and there is no hell? Do you dare to blaspheme the Word of God that says there is indeed a hell? Witness a story that Jesus tells from the Gospel of Luke:
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “ (Luke 16:19-31)
Note that both Lazarus and the rich man are in a conscious state… we learn from this that death is not “the end”. Oh, far from it… it is only the beginning. Those who have lived in a righteous manner are held for their eventual eternal life in God’s Kingdom, to be forever comforted by the Triune God and the company of the righteous of all ages. Those who have lived in an “it’s all about me” manner are held for their eventual eternal life in hell. Note that the rich man is not only separated from the righteous and from God Himself, but is in active torment… this even before the final judment before the Great White Throne. Yet even in his torment, knowing that his sentence is just, the rich man still arrogantly asks Abraham to ‘send Lazarus’… as though Lazarus was just another of his former servants… for relief by a fingertip of water!
This is what it means to have a ‘hard heart’… to not know, and never, ever to know, the goodness, grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and provision of a pure and holy, just and loving God.
Especially note that those who are saved and those who are condemned are separated from one another for eternity… no one can cross over from one place to the other. Hell is therefore an eternal, filled-with-day-and-night-torment separation from God and all that is pure and holy.
Yet continuing in his arrogance and hard heart, the rich man continued on to ask Abraham to ‘send Lazarus’ to the houses of his brothers, so that they would not also come to the place of torment where he was. What the rich man did not understand (and what any unbeliever does not understand) is a fundamental principle that I touched on earlier in this post (italic emphasis mine):
“… I am adamant when I say that, for those who know innately within their God-given consciences that there is a God and that His Son Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father, no proof is necessary… while for those who persist in their arrogant unbelief and hatred of God and His Son, no amount of proof, no matter how compelling, is enough.”
Why would God send anyone from the dead, from places from which it has already been demonstrated that there is no return from, to compel anyone to believe in Him and in the One He has sent? There is an abundance of evidence throughout creation that God exists, God’s Son Jesus Christ was sent to save men’s souls, and God’s Holy Word and His Holy Ghost are the constant provisions in this world to those whose hearts are open to His message… God is not mocked; He will not beg anyone to believe in Him, and He will not diminish His glory so that mere men may be satisfied that He is who He claims to be.
Remember what I said about… no proof being enough proof for those who will not believe?
Unbeliever, hear these words of Jesus Christ, and be in fear:
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:4-5)
OK, at this point, I have made my case. Let’s assume that you as an unbeliever have been convicted by the Holy Ghost to understand that there is a God, and that He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die as the payment for your sins so that you might stand blameless before Him on the day of judgment. What do you do at this point? The following from the book of Acts indicates what you must do (italic emphasis mine):
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:36-39)
Fall on your knees, confess your sins before God, and repent of them… ask to be covered with the blood of Jesus Christ, and ask Him into your heart to be the LORD of your life… and you will be changed in a manner that you will surely be amazed at, for the old person will have died, and the new person will have been born:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
Holy Scripture blesses our surrender to God… He saves us!
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)
Jesus is for everyone!
God bless you, and thanks for reading!