[Mar 11]--Judicial Hardening

            All right guys, kindergarten is over; it’s time to talk about an issue which is a little deeper than what we’ve had so far. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I don’t delve into deeper theological topics unless it’s necessary. You’re not going to find here a big discussion on details about the “End Times,” for example. The reason I don’t do that is because I’m a practical theologian. If it doesn’t affect your daily walk with Christ, and especially if the Scripture isn't crystal clear about it, then I tread very lightly upon it if I address it at all.
            I can’t do that here. This is something that every Christian needs to wrestle and come to terms with. It’s a recurring theme in the Bible (so it’s not obscure), and it IS something that can directly affect your relationship with him.
            The term, as you might have guessed from the title, is “judicial hardening.” What does it mean, and how does it affect me? Let’s start with a basic proposition: Every bit of spiritual understanding comes from God himself. If we're going to know anything about the Lord and how to relate correctly to him, then he has to reveal it to us one way or the other. And I don’t mean just the bare facts themselves, like what’s written in the Bible. I mean the Spirit has to actively work on our hearts and make God’s truth clear to us. There are plenty of people who study the Bible and have no true understanding of what it’s really saying, and the truth of Scripture has no impact on a life by itself. It has to be wielded as the Sword of the Spirit.
            OK, we’ve got that, right? But what if a person resists the truth of God’s word and the activity of the Spirit in their hearts? Is that possible? Well, Stephen said it was. In his speech before the Sanhedrin, he warned them that they were resisting the Spirit. The Spirit was speaking to them—presumably while Stephen was talking—and they literally shut their ears to both of them.
            Well, one of two things happens. Eventually the Spirit gets through to them and they repent. Or something else can occur, which is pretty frightening. Jesus warned about this: “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Paul did too--When he starts out the book of Romans with a general indictment of humanity as they turn away from his truth, he uses the phrase three times: As an end result of their rebellion, “God gave them over.”
            Here’s the pattern: The Lord reveals something of himself to humanity. Maybe not everything they would want or need, but enough to get them started. If they take what he's given them and act positively on it, they'll get more. This'll continue until they come into a full relationship with him. But if they turn away from what the Lord’s already given them, then eventually what little they have will be taken away. Keep saying to him over and over and over “Go away, go away, go away,” and eventually he says “All right, I will.”
            This is where today’s passage comes in, which is the springboard for today’s topic. The prophet complained that the Lord was “deceiving” them by giving them false prophets. Of course, they always had the Torah and the genuine prophets. If they chose to listen to what the Lord had already given them, he would give them more. But if they chose to listen to the false prophets, he'd eventually “deceive” them by giving them over to what they wanted to listen to.
            Yes, this is a danger today. If lost people keep on turning away from what God has revealed to them of his truth, he will eventually abandon them to the darkness. And yes, that can happen in this life.
            What about us? Can this happen to believers as well? I believe it can. If we turn away from what our Savior has revealed to us, then we risk placing ourselves under his more harsh discipline. If he can’t get to us through the regular avenues like his word, prayer, and the church, he’ll use rougher methods. Remember, if he loves you, he’ll discipline you. One way or the other.

Father God, only you can give me understanding. Only you, through the work of your Spirit, can soften my heart and change me from the inside-out. Please. 

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