When Tragedy Strikes

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

What exactly does one say to another when tragedy strikes? We all wish that we had the perfect words that will appropriately capture what everyone is feeling, words that will comfort and encourage even the most downtrodden. We want to come up with deep statements about how “this is life” and “here is what you should be thinking at this time.” The reality is that we feel at a loss, unable to speak what we are feeling deep inside, unable to communicate what we think those who are suffering need to hear when likely they don’t want to hear anything at all. Bumper sticker philosophy and theology hardly provides much comfort when our hearts have been torn by real tragedy. Likely, the silence before we speak is going to be the most profound and appropriate response, at least initially.

Job’s friends understood this at first. When Job suffered his astounding tragedies, one after the other and no break between, his three friends came to comfort him. For a full week they sat there with him in silence, unable to capture in words what they were witnessing and unwilling to say what they were thinking. Yet it was during this time that they were their wisest and the most comforting to Job, for after they began speaking, Job could only say that they were miserable comforters.

Silence is sometimes the best response. Once we have had time to reflect, however, we usually can find important lessons that will be embedded in our minds from then on. If we can learn those lessons, then we can be the better for it (…)

When tragedy strikes, we are forced to consider several important issues:

1. Why? It is not trite to say that sin has caused the tragic problems of this world. Once sin came into this world, everything changed. Everything became subject to futility (Rom 8:20). The mark left by sin is tragic and ugly. This is the reason the gospel is such an important part of our understanding.

2. The Relative Value of Material stuff. What does it profit us if we gain the whole world and lose our souls? (Matt 16:24-27) Losing stuff isn’t as much a problem when we put it into perspective.

3. The Value of Loved Ones. People are always more important than things. When tragedy strikes, we look for the people we love first. This is as it should be.

4. The Value of Time. Tragedy will force us to prioritize our time, reconsider how we are using it, and try to use it wisely from then on (Eph 5:15-17).

5. Our Relationship with God. Must we be reminded that there is no more important relationship than that with God? Will we use tragic events as an excuse to run from God, or will we use them to draw closer to Him? (Psalm 73)

6. The Importance of Eternity. What we can see is temporary; what we cannot see is eternal. Therefore, we must look to the eternal and recognize that our real goal is to please God because one day we will be brought to judgment (2 Cor 4:16-5:10).

7. Our Perspective on Everything. How will we react to difficult times? What will we say to others? What will we do to cope? Will we pray? Will we meditate on God’s word? Or will we be anxious, worried, and troubled? See what Jesus says about worry and anxiety in Matthew 6:24-33. How much we are wiling to trust God speaks volumes about how we deal with matters that cause anxiety. That may be “easier said than done,” but it is the perspective we are taught to embrace.

Terrorism. Natural disasters. Crimes. Heartaches at every turn. What does it take to wake us up and make sure that we are right with God?

Tell your family that you love them. Quit the quibbling and fighting. Who cares who started what? Let’s get over ourselves and seek the welfare of one another. Let us humble ourselves before God and make sure that our priorities are where they should be.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col 3:1-4).

-Doy Moyer

 


The Bible: Inspired of God

Posted: May 22nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Bible” is the term men have used for centuries to describe what the Jews called “scriptures.” Bible means “book” and denotes the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. These 66 books are one book and in the Bible are referred to as “scripture inspired of God” (2 Tim 3:16).

“Scripture” means “writings” and “inspired of God” literally means what was “breathed” forth or “uttered” by God.  What is written in the Bible is what was spoken by God to its authors. Peter says the scriptures came not by the will of man, “but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:20-21). Beyond this, Paul said they were written “not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches” (1 Cor 2:13). More than 2500 times in the Old Testament its writers began their writings or messages with such expressions as “thus saith the Lord,” indicating the message came from God.

The preservation and circulation of the Bible from ancient times suggests that it is something special. Of all the writings of old, only the Bible has more than 100 copies preserved; it has thousands despite the fact that enemies tried hard in the second and third century after Christ to confiscate all copies and burn them. Copies of the works of famous Greek and Latin philosophers, playwrights, and orators were made a 1000 or so years after the deaths of the authors. Earliest copies and fragments of the Bible are found within decades of the time of their writing. Do you suppose there is something unusual and unique about the Bible?

Oh, yes! Consider that the Bible was not written by just one author. It was written by 30 or 40 different authors. And most of them lived centuries apart and did not even know one another. Yet when their writings are compiled into “one” book, they tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Its begins with sin and the loss of the tree of life, announces the coming of a Savior to redeem man from sin, describes and identifies that Savior and the plan of redemption—then ends with man reunited with God in the presence of the tree of life. How do you explain such unity and coherence in a book and its contents when so many men of so many different centuries did the writing?

You explain it by recognizing that it also contains scores of prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus, the establishment of His kingdom, and a new covenant by which men would be redeemed from sin. It foretells Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, being sold for 30 pieces of silver, riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension on the clouds, and the beginning of the church at Jerusalem. Can men foresee events so specifically many hundreds of years before they occur?

And how do you explain the Bible’s historical accuracy? Archaeologists for more than 100 years now have been turning up with the spade evidence of the historical and geographical accuracy of Bible references and statements. Nelson Glueck, renowned Jewish archaeologist, wrote: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological finds have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”

Surely the Bible came from God—not men! The hope it promises believers and the judgment it assigns unbelievers are persuasive reasons for any man who has doubts to investigate the claims of these ancient witnesses and writers.

-L. A.

 


Holding Forth the Word of Life

Posted: May 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Hello, Simon, did you hear about the incident up at the temple yesterday? We were a little late for the hour of prayer, and when we got there, we heard this awful commotion in Solomon’s porch. Peter and John had just healed a lame man—they’re always trying to get attention, you know—and Peter was doing the preaching as usual.

Well, Simon, you should have heard the sermon. No, on second thought, I’m glad you were spared the agony. Do you know that Peter preached the same old sermon that he used on Pentecost? People get tired of hearing the same old thing.

And he was so offensive. He actually accused them of being ignorant and said they had been guilty in the crucifixion of Jesus. They were guilty, of course, but Peter doesn’t have to be so plainspoken right to their face. And scripture, scripture, scripture! I get so tired of hearing scripture all the time. I thought he would never get through.

And, would you believe, it was the very time I had chosen to take Joseph with me. I was just mortified! I apologized for what happened, but I just know he’ll never go with me again. In fact, he might never speak to me again.

But that’s not all! Before Peter got through preaching, the priest and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came up and arrested Peter and John right there. Simon, I was so embarrassed! We’ll never do any good with all this bad publicity. They get a good crowd together and then ruin it all by getting arrested. The apostles don’t know a thing about gaining public favor.

And all they want is money. They probably want more people to sell their possessions. They won’t get mine! I can’t stand fanatics; besides, those people are just showing off giving all that money.

And, by the way, Simon, I hear they are counting the number of converts again. Boy, they sure do go for numbers. But let them count. The way they’re going, there won’t be a church left around here. We can just get ready to close the doors. Nobody wants to be a part of a church where the preachers preach the same old thing all the time and are constantly being arrested.

Did you say something, Simon? What did you say? The number is what? The number of men is up to… to… 5,000?!”

 -Bill Hall

 


God or Baal

Posted: May 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Baal.Baal” is a standard Hebrew word for “master” or “husband” and is often translated by these words in the Old Testament. We are, however, more familiar with its use as the name of a Semitic deity that was dominant in the land of Israel during the days of the divided kingdom.

Although it is a general term for a number of Semitic deities, the name is mainly remembered and associated with the god of false prophets who served Ahab and Jezebel at one of the lowest spiritual times of the divided kingdom. And most Bible students especially recall the contest at Mt. Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. There God displayed His power from heaven to prove to Israel that He, Jehovah, alone is God (1 Kings 18).

The acts of worship directed by Israel to Baal involved some extremely bazaar practices: sacrifices and burning of incense which often included the offering of children; priests dancing around the altar and slashing themselves with knives; gross lascivious, adulterous, and drinking celebration.

Such antics and practices warn us that “idolatry” is a powerful influence on men and that it can get absolute control of their lives and totally dominate them. And it should be a reminder to those of us in the modern world that not only is covetousness and materialism idolatry but every lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes can become objects of devotion that rule man (see Col 3:5; 1 John 2:15-17). And it must also warn us to worship the God who created us and avoid devotion to the “gods” of our own imagination and creation.

God.God” is the word the Bible in both Old and New Testament uses to describe “deity”—a species of being that is distinct from man, above man, and over man. He is described as the all-powerful and all wise and all loving person who could speak and by His very words “create”—create matter and space, shape matter into objects, and breathe life into many of these objects.

God’s ultimate creation among earthly objects and life was man who was made in the very image and likeness of God. Man, unlike the remainder of earthly creation, was designed with intellect, emotions, will, conscience—and was required to determine his own actions. He acts on the basis of his own choices. This means that man can and may decide to reject God, deny His being, and renounce His commandments (see Genesis 1-3).

God’s design of man and His plan from the beginning were to instruct him, insist that he obey His instructions, and punish him if he disobeyed. Man was informed of all this at the beginning and he understood it—though he chose to disobey and follow his own will. God’s plan from the beginning and to this day is rather simple: “believe” what I say and “obey” My will.

Man at the beginning and ever since has more often than not chosen to “direct” and “follow” his own will. This results in, regardless of what term you give it, “idolatry”—devotion to and worship of man’s own imaginations and lusts. The eternal result is death—separation from God eternally in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (see Rom 6:23; Rev 21:8).

Man’s situation today is no different from the days of ancient Israel when they had to choose between “Baal” and “God.” Our choice is still between devotion to the “Baal” or “god” of our own thinking and creation or to “Jehovah” the “God” who gives us being and insists that we “trust” Him and “submit” to His instruction.

-L. A.

 


Ready To Listen

Posted: May 9th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant hears’” (1 Sam 3:9-10)

As we seek God, we must keep ourselves open to His word. Like rich, fertile soil ready to receive the sower’s seed, our hearts must be receptive to the word which God intends to plant there. Although marvelous good things can come from God’s word in our hearts, this word can’t even take root in our hearts if they’re hard or unhearing. We must be ready to listen.

To be ready to listen means that we are ready to receive whatever God wishes to say. Yet our hearing is often hindered by presupposition and prejudice. We already have fixed ideas about what God “must” say, and there are limits to what we’ll listen to, even from God. But if we limit ourselves to what we want to hear, not many of us will hear what we need to hear. It is critically important that we move past our personal preferences and allow God to say to us whatever He wills. After all, a servant is in no position to dictate to his master what instructions the master is allowed to give. As those who would serve God, we have not been asked to serve in “an advisory capacity.” It is our role (and our high privilege) to wait upon His word and do His bidding, whatever that might be. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.”

The gift of language has been vouchsafed to us by God. But the gift was not given just so that we might speak; it was given that we might hear when our God speaks to us. Great issues hinge upon our choice in this matter. Readiness to listen is no accident of personality, randomly possessed by some people and not by others. It is a deliberate decision we make to open ourselves to God’s word. James encouraged us to do this: “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:21-22). If we can honestly say what Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears,” then we have a maturity that can take us toward an even greater maturity in the things of God.

“One of the highest and noblest functions of man’s mind is to listen to God’s Word, and so to read His mind and think His thoughts after Him” (John R. W. Stott).

 -Gary Henry

 


“Joining” The Church

Posted: May 9th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Preachers, a generation or so ago, often stressed to brethren and listeners in general that non-Christians cannot “join” the Lord’s church. By explanation they noted that the Lord “adds” alien sinners to His church (Acts 2:47). Brethren would often ask: what did Luke mean then when he said that the apostle Paul “assayed to join himself to the disciples” at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26)?

This explains why a number of years back a few of our older brethren commented to me that a visiting speaker referred several times in his sermon to brethren “joining” the church where he served as an evangelist. “I thought,” one of our brethren remarked, “you couldn’t join the church.” That raises the issue of how the expressions in Acts of “add to” and “join” the church are to be reconciled or explained.

The explanation, first of all, demands an understanding of the word “church” and two distinct uses of it in the scriptures. The word “ekklesia” [Greek, “church”] sometimes refers to the “universal” church and at other times to the “local” church. The universal church is comprised of all Christians everywhere—whose names are enrolled in heaven (see Hebrews 12:22-23). A local church includes only members of a single congregation in a particular geographical area. The churches in Kirkwood, Hazelwood, Ellisville, St. Charles, Westlake, etc. are often referred to as local churches or congregations. In contrast, the totality of Christians who have been added to the Lord’s church since the day of Pentecost until today make up the universal church.

Three texts of scripture in Acts speak of becoming a member of the church universal and having one’s name written in heaven.  First, when Luke writes “and there were added to them in that day about three thousand souls,” he refers to those who had gladly received the word and were baptized into Christ (Acts 2:41). They had been added to the Lord and their names were enrolled in heaven. Note grammatically that Luke uses the passive voice which means that these sinners did not add themselves to the Lord but were added by someone else. Second, Luke notes just six verses later in this chapter that the “Lord added to them day by day those that were saved” (Acts 2:47). Here he uses the active voice but notes that not the sinners but the Lord did the adding. Third, and finally, Luke says that “believers were the more added to the Lord,” again using the passive voice (Acts 5:14). Clearly, alien sinners did not “join” the church but were “added” by the Lord.

This means that when Paul was baptized to wash away his sins, the Lord “added” him to the church and his name was enrolled in heaven. He was, thus, already a member of the universal church when he came to Jerusalem and “assayed to join himself to the disciples” there (Acts 9:26). This tells us that after we obey the gospel it is important to actively “join” ourselves to other disciples in a local congregation with whom we can assemble on the first day of the week to fulfill and obey God’s teaching that has been assigned to and commanded of local churches. Local churches met to observe the Lord’s Supper, to sing to one another and God, to offer prayers to God, to contribute funds to fulfill God’s work on earth, and to edify and exhort one another by a study of God’s word (see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 11:23-26; 1 Cor 12:12-31; Heb 10:24-25; Eph 4:11-16).

Disciples are added by the Lord to the general assembly and church of firstborn ones, but they must decide, choose, and “join” themselves to a local body of saints. Joining a local church is significant and profitable, brethren, but it is a choice each of us—not the Lord—must make.

-L. A.

 


Incredible Power: A Lesson From The Nursing Home

Posted: April 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

…On this particular day I was walking in a hallway that I had not visited before, looking in vain for a few who were alive enough to receive a flower and a few words of encouragement. This hallway seemed to contain some of the worst cases, strapped onto carts or into wheelchairs and looking completely helpless.

As I neared the end of this hallway, I saw an old woman strapped up in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discolored and running sore covering part of one check, and it had pushed her nose to one side, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly… I also learned later that this woman was eighty-nine years old and that she had been bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone, for twenty-five years. This was Mabel.

I don’t know why I spoke to her—she looked less likely to respond than most of the people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said, “Here is a flower for you. Happy Mother’s Day.” She held the flower up to her face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke. And much to my surprise, her words, although somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. She said, “Thank you. It’s lovely. But can I give it to someone else? I can’t see it, you know, I’m blind.”

I said, “Of course,” and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one, and I stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, “Here, this is from Jesus.”

That was when it began to dawn on me that this was not an ordinary human being… Mabel and I became friends over the next few weeks, and I went to see her once or twice a week for the next three years… It was not many weeks before I turned from a sense that I was being helpful to a sense of wonder, and I would go to her with a pen and paper to write down the things she would say.

During one hectic week of final exams I was frustrated because my mind seemed to be pulled in ten directions at once with all of the things that I had to think about. The question occurred to me, “What does Mabel have to think about—hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it’s day or night?” So I went to her and asked, “Mabel, what do you think about when you lie here?”

And she said, “I think about my Jesus.”

I sat there and thought for a moment about the difficulty, for me, of thinking about Jesus for even five minutes, and I asked, “What do you think about Jesus?” She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote, and this is what she said:

“I think how good He’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know… I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied… Lots of folk would think I’m kind of old-fashioned. But I don’t care. I’d rather have Jesus. He’s all the world to me.”

And then Mabel began to sing an old hymn:

“Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all. He is my strength from day to day, Without Him I would fall. When I am sad, to Him I go, No other one can cheer me so. When I am sad, He makes me glad. He’s my friend.”

This is not fiction. Incredible as it may seem, a human being really lived like this. I know. I knew her. How could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled, and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain without human company and without an explanation of why it was all happening—and she lay there and sang hymns. How could she do it?

The answer, I think is that Mabel had something that you and I don’t have much of. She had power. Lying there in that bed, unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk to anyone, she had incredible power.

-Thomas E. Schmidt

 


Faith Is Like That

Posted: April 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

On a trip to the mountains of the American west we decided to cross a pass that was above 10,000 feet. We could see the summit in the distance and started on the designated route, following markings the map told us would take us there. There were times the summit was obscured by trees and turns in the road. There were a series of difficult switchbacks and dangerous curves that called for caution. Sometimes it seemed the grade was down hill away from the summit, or even carrying us back where we came from. An occasional car was disabled along the way and we wondered if that might happen to us. Someone would ask how much further it was and we wondered if it was worth the effort.

We reached the top and felt the joy of achievement. We paused and beheld the beauties we could not see from below. From this vantage point we could see for miles, whereas below we were limited by distance and obstructions. We saw the road we had traveled and from the top it didn’t look near that difficult and long; it now had a beauty we could not appreciate as we traveled it. The journey up was well worth the effort for the joy we now had.

Walking by faith is like that. God in His word gives us just a glimpse of the summit, enough that we long to be there, a place of rest and beauty beyond imagination. We may not fully understand until we reach the end but it will be worth it. The fact that others “break down” will not stop us. The difficulties of “switch-backs” and “dangerous curves” do not frighten us. God has set up “guard rails” and “sign posts” for our protection and guidance. Though we be weary and wonder if it be worthwhile, and how much longer we must climb, “we faint not … our… inward man is renewed … our light affliction worketh for us … an eternal weight of glory.” To attain “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens … we walk by faith and not by sight: we are of good courage … we make it our aim to be well pleasing in His sight” (2 Cor 4:16-5:9)… That’s what walking by faith is all about.

-Morris D. Norman

 


Balance

Posted: April 30th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

I have never possessed much dexterity and have not been known to perform phenomenal physical feats. That may be the reason I am enamored by circuses and the incredible stunts these entertainers display. Even to this day with childlike amazement and appreciation I watch jugglers, trapeze gymnasts, and high wire performers.

Having walked as a kid along the top rail of wooden fences and fallen, I can especially appreciate with wonder the balancing acts performed by high wire tightrope walkers. Even with those long balancing poles the feat is still beyond my belief and comprehension. And to watch those “daredevils” carefully sway one way and move the balancing pole the opposite direction to keep upright on the wire is a reminder of the delicate balance Christians must maintain spiritually.

Over my life of preaching and several years serving as an elder, I have noted two types of saints that have gotten out of balance in their efforts to serve the Lord. Some of them are so predominantly dedicated to “zeal” and enthusiasm for the lost that other matters are deemed insignificant compared to evangelizing sinners. There are those who have reached such a point of imbalance that “doctrinal” issues are deemed unimportant. They know nothing, as they might put it, “save Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). The worship of the church, for example, need not be scripturally defined as long as the saints are filled with God’s Spirit, are sincere, and are on fire for the Lord. Scriptural condemnation of going beyond the teaching of Christ has little effect on them (see Gal 1:6-9; 2 John 9).

This problem has another side. Other brethren often lack enthusiasm and zeal for the lost, but are determined to maintain “doctrinal” soundness. Eagerness to teach and save sinners is not a top priority for them and is replaced with a hardnosed, unfeeling, calculated determination to follow the letter of the law. As long as the church is right doctrinally on the work of the church, the organization of the church, the worship of the church, the marriage and divorce question, etc.—all is well and the Lord is pleased. After all we must abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). One can get the impression in some cases that the power of truth energizing their souls and filling them with compassion for the lost is not a matter of serious concern. We’re right, the attitude seems to be, and that’s what matters.

Missing in both kinds of brethren are fundamental elements of truth. Zeal without knowledge and obedience, as in the first instance, was insufficient for Jews who had a zeal for God but rejected Jesus as Messiah and for Apollos who zealously affirmed that Jesus was the Christ but had not learned the truth about baptism (Rom 10:1-3; Acts 18:24-28). Understanding and obeying the truth, in the second case, when the cares and concerns of the world breed indifference, unconcern, and a lukewarm spirit toward sinners calls for and demands zeal and repentance to fire up their souls to put the kingdom of God first and go everywhere preaching the word (Rev 3:15-22; Matt 6:33; Acts 8:1-4).

What is missing in each of these classes of brethren is balance. The first believes, maybe sincerely, that he is driven and guided by God’s Spirit and needs no lecture on doctrinal issues from a brother whose spirit is as cold as yesterday’s ashes. The second can prove with book, chapter, and verse everything he practices and needs no lecture on zeal by one who follows his own subjective will and displays outright disrespect for plain biblical statements of truth. Zeal plus truth and obedience will spare men from the disaster that awaits all of those who lose their balance and stumble.

-L. A.

 


Hardness of Heart

Posted: April 24th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

We know that heat will harden clay and melt butter. The difference that produces these two effects is not in the nature or degrees of heat but in the qualities of these two substances. They both react in these ways because of what they are.

A simple illustration of this kind can teach men a valuable lesson about the effect of God’s word on their lives. The word of God is always the same, whether it is preached to a Jew or a Gentile, to a male or a female, to a Catholic or a Protestant, to a Muslim or a Hindu, to a prostitute or a virgin, to a happily married couple or troubled divorcees, etc.

Each class of people enumerated here has different backgrounds, has faced varied influences in life, was subjected to dissimilar teaching as children, underwent distinct treatment by parents, and experienced social, economic, and educational influences unlike one another’s. This may mean that they all will not respond to the teaching of the Bible in the same way. While this is unfortunate, it doesn’t have to be.

Man unlike butter and clay, is not an unalterable substance or a programmed robotic entity that has no input into what he thinks, what he believes, or what he practices. What a man is depends on the choices he makes and he can become with different understanding and different choices something altogether different from what he is.

What can alter a man’s character is the word of God. God Himself changes not and His word abides the same forever and ever. And what God’s word says to one man it says to every man. As 500 degrees of temperature is absolute, so is God’s word. The effect, however, that it has on man depends on what kind of person each man is in his heart. If a man has a heart that is open, that is honest, that is good—he will respond by understanding, receiving, and obeying God’s word.

But if, as the Jews of Jesus’ generation, a man’s heart is “waxed gross,” he will close his eyes and ears to the truth and will not “understand with his heart” and will not “turn” to the Lord (see Matt 13:14-15). The word “gross” is an old word for “thick” and “fat” and means, as John’s account says, to be “hardened” beyond penetration (see John 12:40). The idea seems to be “insensitive” and “past feelings” (see Eph 4:18-19).

Who can forget the account of Pharaoh and his stubborn will? The Egyptian leader was determined to keep the Israelites in bondage. Why would he be open to let God’s people go? After all, they made his bricks, they built his cities, and they worked his fields. Why would he not rebel with hardness of heart to God’s command, “Let my people go” (Exod 5:1).

This is the point we must get from Jesus’s rebuke of the Pharisees. They had their own set of views, knew what they wanted, and, as a result, hardened their hearts against what Jesus taught and the direction He willed to take them. Men and women of diverse backgrounds and points of view respond in the exact same way today. They are “insensitive” and “hardened” to Jesus’ teaching because, as Pharaoh, they are committed to their own set of ideas and practices.

This can happen to any one of us today. To turn to God and find salvation in Jesus Christ, every man of whatever sort or whatever viewpoint must open his heart to receive and obey what Jesus teaches whether he likes it or not!! Truth is not about what any one of us likes or wants, but about what is right—“ye shall know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32).

-L. A.