People’s Hearts are Calloused

Believe it or not, this is the last post on the life of Paul (at lease for this series in the book of Acts). Paul entered Rome and was allowed to stay by himself (Acts 28:16). It’s been a wild ride, from his family upbringing, to the Damascus Road experience, to a dungeon at midnight experiencing authentic worship, to the shipwreck and the miracles at Malta. I’m impressed with Paul, and how God used Paul’s passion and determination. This chapter in Acts provides a fitting conclusion for the book (Acts 28:16, 23, 30-31), but there are about six more years in his life, recorded in writing preserved by the Holy Spirit.

Paul is like that inflatable clown punching bag; like when you were a kid, you punch it and the weighted sand base brings it right back up. Paul came back for more. Nothing could defeat him. His passion for Christ kept him going.

The Jews came together once they knew Paul had arrived (Acts 28:17). He again tried to convince them in the Scripture that Jesus was the unmistakable Promised One. Once Paul realized that they were intentionally closing their hearts and minds to the truth, he responded with a word from Isaiah.

And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people,
When you hear what I say, you will not understand.
When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.
For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.” (Acts 28:27-27, Isaiah 6:9-10)

Don’t miss one of the most tragic elements of the Jew’s rejection: Paul was not trying to take anything away from them, God had something more to give them. Paul was not asking them not to be Jews, he just wanted them to receive their promised Messiah. In their religious system, Jesus did not fit their expectation.

How often do we cheat ourselves when we have as much as we want from God? We may have our salvation, but don’t expect me to become a fanatic about this Jesus stuff, or get involved in the church. Remember the words of Felix, “That’s enough” (Acts 24:25). God’s gift of salvation is complete and we can receive it on a daily basis:

  1. A greater filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31).
  2. A deeper wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8).
  3. A more obvious experience of God’s activity (John 14:21).
  4. More effectiveness in service (Psalm 127:1).
  5. Character conforming to Christ (Romans 8:29).
  6. A more intimate relationship with Christ (Philippians 3:10).

Whatever the reason for our resistance, we may be just like these Jews in Paul’s day. We must be aware of the outcome when our spiritual ears don’t hear, our spiritual eyes don’t see, and our spiritual hearts become calloused.  How often are we like this:

  1. Ever hearing but never understanding (Acts 28:26): he used the word never hearing which indicates a crippling activity that will not change. The word for understanding is suneimi, meaning assembling facts into a whole, a puzzle coming together. It’s like the mind grasping ideas and see the proper relationship between them. When we continue to resist what God has for us, we may cripple our ability to understand how it all fits together. Life is so much more difficult when we do not understand. Ignorance is not really bliss.
  2. Ever seeing but never perceiving (Acts 28:26): the word for perceiving is eido, which is not actually the ability to see, but the ability to know. People who don’t see with spiritual eyes cannot comprehend how others claim to see God at work (1 Corinthians 2:14). How often to people hear a testimony of God working in their lives and unbelievers are quick to write it off as a coincidence.
  3. Developing calloused hearts (Acts 28:27): the word calloused is translated from pachuno, which really means, “to make fat.” People who continually resist God will develop fat around the heart. The heart needs exercise to be healthy. The Jews ceased to exercise their hearts, and they became calloused.

Application: God has so much to give us, and how often do we tell him, “thanks, but I have enough already?” The old saying is really true, we don’t know what we’re missing. People on the outside honestly believe that they have a good relationship with God, but they have settled for so much less than God has for them. God has a plan for keep our hearts tender toward him (2 Thessalonians 3:5, 1 Timothy 1:5). Soften your heart and allow God to make you into something fantastic.

The Bible Regarding the Hearts of the People:

  1. Callousness: Isaiah 6:10, Matthew 13:15, Acts 28:27
  2. Hardening: Exodus 7:13, 22, 8:15, 19, 32, 9:34, Deuteronomy 15:7, Psalm 95:8, Proverbs 28:14, Mark 6:51-52, John 12:40, Hebrews 3:8, 15, 4:7.
  3. Going Astray: Hebrews 3:10, 12, 15, 4:12, 10:16, 13:9, James 4:8, 5:8.
  4. Unbelief: Matthew 13:58, 17:17, Mark 6:6, 9:19, 9:24, Luke 9:41, John 20:27, 1 John 3:19-20.
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