Hardness Of Heart
It comes from self-interest. The "I want" factor. What I want, when it becomes more important than what God wants.
Alright, thank you very much and hello again, radio friends, how in the world are you? Doing Alright? Well, I trust so, bless your heart, hope everything’s Alright at your house. I’m feeling fine, hallelujah! So grateful for good health and a happy heart and a happy, loving home and the joy of the Lord in my heart. And most of all, grateful that you’re there, so that I can minister to you from the Word of God.
We’re looking at the closing verses of Mark, chapter 16. We’ve been walking through Mark for some time. And we looked at verse 14, where our Lord Jesus appeared to the eleven, as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart. And I told you that unbelief comes from neglect of the Word of God. It comes from the “what if factor,” “What if I pray and nothing happens?” And we need to guard so clearly against all that. And then it also comes from the “show me factor.” The crowd around the cross said, “Let Him come down from the cross and we’ll believe Him. “Show me and I’ll believe.” God doesn’t do that. He said, “You believe and I’ll show you.” If any men will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine,” Jesus said. “Whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.” “First obey, then you’ll know what the reality of God is.” So, guard against unbelief, now He said “hardness of heart,” “hardness of heart.” What is that, anyway?
Well, it comes from a number of things, I suppose. One is, the general suspicion that people have after a few years have gone by, and they’ve been fooled often enough, and so they’re suspicious and they don’t want to really to believe anything that is not in line with their own prejudices and preconceptions. Hardness of heart, in that case, means, “I’ve been fooled before, I’m not gonna believe what you’re saying now.” Now, there’s a certain healthy cynicism that you ought to have. Or call it what you will, sophistication or cynicism or realism, depends on how you apply the words, I guess. But there’s a healthy grown-up kind of looking at the facts that keeps you from being taken in. You don’t have to be naïve in order to be a good Christian. My old boss, Vic Cory, used to say, “You don’t have to have a high coefficient of gullibility in order to be spiritual.” You don’t have to be easily fooled and naïve because you’re a Christian. You can be sharp and wise and knowledgeable and realistic and perceptive. Not bitter, not cynical, really, in the worst sense of that word, but realistic and perceptive and still be a very good, Christ-honoring, Spirit-filled Christian.
See, the qualifications of the first deacons, it seems to me, are very much in point here. It said, “We’re gonna look for seven men of honest report.” You have to have a good reputation if you’re gonna serve God. “Full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” Now, to be right with God is number one, to have a good reputation so that you have a track record, people know that they can depend on you. Then it says, “full of the Holy Ghost, Spirit-filled,” so where what you say is backed up by the very power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and then it said, “full of wisdom.” Common sense, “horse sense,” my father used to call it. There is no substitute for being sensible. No substitute for having good common sense. So, you don’t have to give that up in order to be a Christian. At the same time, common sense and knowledgeability and a healthy sophistication need not leave you with a heart that refuses to believe God. It is possible to be so sophisticated that you discount everything that God is trying to say to you.
Jesus, our blessed Lord, said, “Except you become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” What did He mean? It is that childlike willingness to accept what God says that makes all the difference. Hardness of heart? Maybe some of us need to back off from our position of worldly wise knowledge and just say, “Lord, talk to me once again. I am your little child, I am the clay and you’re the potter, talk to me.” Do you know something? Your Heavenly Father will answer that prayer every time you pray it, if you give Him time, if you spend time with Him. Get alone with the Lord, take your Bible and a blank notebook and a pen, and you get down before your Lord and read His Word and pray and confess your sins and then ask God to speak with you and listen to Him, just as a little child would listen to a parent, and then write down what God says to you. It may be something that derives directly from His inspired Word, the Bible. It may be some impression that the Holy Spirit whispers to your heart, but whatever it is, God will speak to you and you’ll know that you’ve heard from Heaven. You don’t have to have hardness of heart there.
Now, there’s another reason why hearts are hardened and it develops that it’s a… It comes from self-interest. Pharaoh, I think, the King of Egypt, during Moses’ time is a good illustration of this. It said, “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” You find that expression coming again and again. Now, why? Because Moses had said, “My people… ” Jehovah says, “Let my people go.” And those people numbered some millions, at that time, according to our best estimates. So they were slave labor and they were making bricks so that some of the great edifices could be built there in ancient Egypt. And they weren’t getting paid, they were slave labor. Now, you can imagine then what went through Pharaoh’s mind. He said, “Why should I let them go to serve their God, whoever that is, in the wilderness? Why should I lose out on the money they’re making for Egypt? I’m not gonna let them go.” And so he hardened his heart, based upon his own feelings and desires.
I just saw my brother-in-law, Torrey Johnson, again. We see each other now and again across the years, great man of God that he is. I remember in the days when he was in itinerant evangelism, he had a campaign in a town up in northern Michigan, somewhere. And he told me that one evening after the service there came this beautiful young lady up the aisle, accompanied by a gentleman, and our Brother Torrey had been preaching very straight truth about the matter of living right and forsaking all sin and repenting and straightening up. And so the lady said to him, as I recall his, what he said to me afterwards, said to him, “I am in love with this man and I am going to marry him, as soon as he has a divorce from his wife. If I receive Christ as my Savior, would I have to give this man up?” And, well, Torrey said, “What do you think?” She thought a moment and she said, “Yes, I think that’s what you said, really, that if I become a Christian I’ll have to give up this man.” She thought a moment and then turned on her heel and said over her shoulder, “Well, then, I’ll take this man.” And they went out into the night, unsaved and out of the will of God, having made the decision.
Well, that happens every day somewhere, doesn’t it? Tragically, and such sad results, too. People buy themselves a basket of heartache when they disobey God’s Word. But there you have it, a hardened heart comes from self will. Pharaoh said, “I’m not gonna let these people go. It’s costing me money. Why should I let them go? I want them to stay and be slave labor.” And so, “He hardened his heart,” it says. Incidentally, after he did the hardening it says God hardened his heart. There is a sense, beloved, in which when a person determines to disobey God, God will say, “Alright, if that’s what you want, then you can have it.” Every parent has gone through that at some time or other, some matter has been just insisted upon by the child and insisted upon and there’s been pleading and crying and whining and cajoling and teasing and finally you said in some irritation, “Alright, if that’s what you want, go ahead, you got it.” The child then got what he or she wanted, with predictable results, it wasn’t too pleasant.
So it is with God, Pharaoh hardened his heart. And then you read later on God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Why? Because once you determine that you’re gonna disobey God, He says, “Alright, if that’s what you want. Alright, you can have it.” You have the same approach in Romans 1. “Because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” If you don’t wanna let God use your mind, then you’ll have to use it your own way and it’ll be a reprobate, twisted, distorted way. Now, what are we talking about? Hardening the heart. What does it come from? It comes from self-interest. It comes from self-interest. The “I want” factor. What I want, when it becomes more important than what God wants, then my heart is hardened. Now bring that back to Mark, chapter 16, “He upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart.”
What did they want, that they hadn’t gotten? Well, it’s pretty plain. They had wanted a messiah who would lift the yoke of Rome. The two people who were on the way to Emmaus said that, “We trusted that it had been He that would deliver Israel.” They were looking, even the apostles, for a messiah who would lift the yoke of Rome and make Israel a sovereign nation once again. And so they didn’t get what they wanted and so it was impossible for them to believe that God would do it any other way. Small thought here, am I talking to somebody who prayed for something and didn’t get it and in the process you sort of turned against God? I get mail from people like that every now and again, and maybe I’m talking to somebody just like that today. You prayed and asked for something and you didn’t get it and as a result you say, “Well, God let me down.” And you sorta turned away from God and your heart is hardened, as a result. You don’t pray much anymore and you don’t have much use for God, because you didn’t get what you wanted. Well, that’s what ailed the disciples, as well.
They wanted a messiah who would be a political deliverer. God had in mind a messiah who would be a spiritual victor. Oh, beloved, would you learn today to wait before your Lord until you know that you’re getting what He has in mind for you? Let God make your heart tender, once again. Turn back to Him and ask Him to forgive the times when you’ve been resentful to Him and when you’ve blamed Him for things or when you thought maybe He had forgotten you and had turned away from you. Ask Him to forgive all that and ask Him to give you, once again, a tender, tender heart. Our Lord Jesus spoke of unbelief and hardness of heart because, He said, “They believed not them which had seen Him after he was risen.” The real proof of the reality of Jesus is what He does in people’s lives. Let that be so in your life today.
Dear Father today, save us from unbelief and hardness of heart. Help us to believe God’s Word and help us to have hearts that are sensitive to Thy Will. In Jesus name, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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