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A Hardened Heart

A Hardened Heart

In my last post, I started taking a little side trip to discuss mercy, from a biblical perspective. I explained that mercy is one of three foundations of God’s righteous law. The three are faith, judgment, and mercy.

Now we need to understand the important role that mercy should have in our lives.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you,

1 Peter 1:3-4

The mercy of God speaks of new birth and an inheritance. It’s the family blessing of God. As I said in my last post, mercy is the reward for being an obedient child of God.

In essence the walk of sonship is the walk of mercy. It’s a higher way of life than the faith-walk.

But, what we don’t get, is how it ties into the fact that God exists outside of time. That’s why His mercy looks random to us sometimes.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.

1 Timothy 1:12-13

This is Paul’s testimony of the work of Christ in his life. Paul received mercy, not based upon what he had done, but upon what God knew he would become in the future.

God knows who is going to respond to Him. So, He sometimes bases the blessings He gives on that foreknowledge. That’s why many seemingly sinful people receive protection, provision, and grace long before they bow their knee to Christ.

The Lord knew that you were going to choose Him. There are others, however, that He knows will never choose Christ, no matter the circumstances. Mercy is always based on obedience – past, present or future.

Now with an understanding of the mercy of God we can move forward with our study of Romans.

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Romans 9:17

We need to understand this verse from the standpoint of God’s mercy. This verse doesn’t say, “I made you king…” It literally says, “I resurrected you…” God got what was on the inside of Pharaoh to come out. These things sometimes only come out in the heat of emotion.

If you read Exodus, chapters 7-9, you’ll see Moses going before Pharaoh again and again. Each time Pharaoh says he’ll let Israel go, but then he goes back on his word. He wants to negotiate, and look kingly, but his heart was actually against Moses and Israel.

Finally, God declared that He had spared Pharaoh to show His power. In that way, God’s mighty name would be proclaimed throughout the earth.

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Romans 9:18

According to His will, God grants mercy to His obedient sons and daughters. Others, the Lord will make stubborn, because that’s what they want to happen.

God did not do something with Pharaoh against his will. Just the opposite – God strengthened Pharaoh’s resolve to do what was already in his heart.

God didn’t want Pharaoh to cave in to the pressure from his advisors or magicians. God gave Pharaoh the backbone to do what he actually wanted to do.

That’s why it’s so important for us to pray for God to soften the hearts of those around us. We don’t want anyone hardened against the Gospel of Christ.

Question: In what ways have you seen emotions bring out what’s in a person’s heart?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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There’s No Convincing a Hard Heart

As we continue our study of the Gospel of Mark, we come to a point where Jesus is met by some Pharisees.  They start to discuss theology with Him.  But they have an ulterior purpose.

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus.  To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.
Mark 8:11-12

The Pharisees were the spiritual authorities in Israel.  They were the ones who the people looked up to for guidance and counsel.

In the natural, you could say that there was a lot riding on this meeting.  If the Pharisees accepted Jesus as their Messiah, then the people would follow.  If they rejected Him, it would be harder for the people to be convinced.

On the surface, it seemed pretty innocent.  A group of spiritual leaders looking for more information upon which to base their decision.  That’s not what’s happening here.

We’re dealing with a group of self-righteous leaders, who don’t want to lose their power base.  The appearance of the Messiah would make them step down a rung on the ladder of authority.  It was in their best interest to find a reason to reject Christ.

Of course, that’s always the reasoning of the self-righteous.  They put up a smoke-screen of seeming to want to accept you.

“Show us a sign from Heaven, so that we can follow you.”

This isn’t how self-righteousness works.  In my experience, self-righteous people are looking for signs that you’re not truly a believer.

“You can’t possibly be a strong Christian.  I saw you dance and drink the champagne toast at the wedding.”

These Pharisees had already concluded that Jesus wasn’t on their level.  After all, He heals on the Sabbath.  He doesn’t even make His disciples perform the religious rituals, like fasting and hour-long ceremonial hand washings.

How do you convince someone whose mind is already made up?  It requires supernatural wisdom.

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?  I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.”  Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
Mark 8:12-13

This is the key to walking in the wisdom of God.  The original Greek version of this verse specifically says that the Lord groaned deeply in His spirit.  Most people don’t realize that Jesus had a rich prayer life in the spirit.  For a more detailed look at this, click here.

This is why we need to cultivate our spiritual prayer language.  It’s how we tap into the mind of Christ.  It’s the channel for the wisdom of God to flow through us.

We think that we always need to defend ourselves.  We get into arguments trying to convince people that we’re right.  The truth is, even though we’re right, God’s wisdom might be to simply not answer them and walk away.

That’s what the Holy Spirit led Jesus to do in this instance.  The Pharisees had already made up their minds about Him.  Nothing He did would change them.

This is a reason we need to pray regularly in the spirit.  We must be prepared to face the challenges ahead.  It doesn’t matter if it’s people who are challenging us or the enemy’s kingdom.  It’s the wisdom of God that will ultimately bring the victory.

Question: When have you received supernatural wisdom as a result of your prayers?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Seeds on the Street

Our Supply in GodIn today’s post, I’m continuing to talk about the parable of the sower.  The disciples didn’t understand it when Jesus gave it to the crowds.  So when they were alone, they asked Him about it.

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable?  How then will you understand any parable?  The farmer sows the word.”
Mark 4:13-14

In His explanation of the parable, Jesus makes it clear that He’s talking about ministry.  Specifically; sowing the Word.  The Word He’s talking about here is the Greek word, logos.  Logos refers to the Word that is spoken in preaching or teaching.  For detailed posts about this truth, click here.

The Lord is giving an in-depth look at what happens when the Word is ministered.  There are various groups of people who hear the Word.  The effect is different in each group.

The first group Jesus deals with is what He calls those along the path.

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown.  As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Mark 4:15

The question is; who are these people?  The path is a ribbon of hard-packed earth.  It has been trampled by generations of traffic.  It’s dry, hard, and unyielding.

These are people who have absolutely no interest in hearing from God.  They just happen to be in earshot of someone who’s speaking on God’s behalf.  The message isn’t directed at them, but they happen to hear it.

Why is this the case?  Simply put; there’s not a farmer on earth who would intentionally sow his seed on the road.  That should be the case in the spiritual realm as well.

That’s why understanding the different types of people in this parable should be important to ministers of the Gospel.  There should be some discernment that goes along with the ministry of the Word.

I know that there are those who feel they need to preach to everyone within earshot.  But that’s just the opposite of what Jesus taught.  The seed of the Word is precious.  It shouldn’t be wasted on unproductive ground.

Listen to how the Lord explained it.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”
Matthew 7:6

That being said, what CAN we do about people in this condition?  I’m in no way saying that we should write them off as unreachable.

The fact is that a road can be turned into a fruitful field – but it requires a lot of work.  These people need to be prayed for.  But I’m not talking about a simple, “God, please open their eyes. Amen.”

In order to make them ready and able to receive a Word that could save them, they require someone to intercede for them.  This may include spiritual warfare to break up their hardened heart.  Turning a path into good soil requires time and effort.

The church needs willing intercessors who can take on this responsibility.  Are you one of them?

Questions: Who do you know that may be a person on the path?  How can you pray for them?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2018 in Ministry, Prayer, The Gospel, Word of God

 

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