Greg Laurie - The Danger Of A Hardended Heart
But we're all going to have to face the serpent sooner or later and I think you know what I mean by that because the Bible on more than one occasion tells us that satan is a serpent. He came to eve and Adam in the garden as a serpent and he's described in revelation 20 as the old serpent who is the devil. And now in our story of Moses, he has to face the serpent of Egypt because actually the symbol of ancient Egypt was a cobra that even the Pharaoh would wear on his headdress, and you'll remember that the Lord directed Moses to take his shepherd's staff, throw it on the ground, it became a cobra, presumably, a snake at least, he grabbed it by the tail, it turned into a rod again, and he was to go in and perform this miracle in front of the Pharaoh, which was God's way of saying to Moses, "Take the snake by the tail: face your fears. You're going to overcome the Pharaoh and the might of Egypt".
But the thing is, is despite the many miracles that Moses was about to do for the Pharaoh, this man's heart became hard, and I'm going to talk about that in a few moments, but the hardening of one's heart can happen to anyone. Certainly, to a nonbeliever because every time you hear the Gospel, every time you hear God's offer of forgiveness for you and you reject it and say no to it, your heart gets a little harder. But even Christians can harden their heart, and I'm going to deal with the so-called contradiction of the Bible because one verse says, "Pharaoh hardened his heart", and another verse says, "God hardened Pharaoh's heart". So, what gives with that? We'll talk about that in a few moments, but in contrast to the hardened heart of Pharaoh, iron had entered the heart of Moses. He was full of faith and courage. The Lord spoke to him at the burning bush. Moses offered a lot of excuses, which God rebutted, and now Moses is ready for action.
How was he able to do it? Hebrews 11:27 gives us a little commentary. It says, "It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king's anger. And he kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible". That's what kept Moses going and that's what will keep you going - having your eyes on the one who is invisible. In other words, looking to the Lord, so let's pick the story up. Here's round one with Moses and the Pharaoh, Exodus 5. I'll read verses 1-3, "Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, 'thus says the Lord, God of Israel, 'let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness'. And the Pharaoh said, 'who is the Lord that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I don't know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go'. And they said, 'but the God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go three days journey into the desert and sacrifice for the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with sword'".
So, we'll stop there. So, the big moment has finally come. Moses knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I think he was a little shocked by how unresponsive the Pharaoh was. I think sometimes in the same way we think that once we commit our lives to Christ and choose to follow him and even take a step of faith and obey him that we're going to just have green lights and smooth sailing: but instead, we find we face opposition. We face pushback from unexpected places - maybe your family, maybe your friends, and sometimes even your Christian friends, certainly from nonbelievers. You face opposition all around, and by the way, that doesn't mean you're doing the wrong thing: that probably means you're doing the right thing. That's called spiritual warfare, and it's been said conversion has made our hearts a battlefield.
The moment you become a Christian you enter into a spiritual battle. You're either going to fight and win, or you're going to not fight and lose, but there's no other options. You're either going to gain ground on this battle or you're going to lose ground in this battle, and Moses was discovering this for himself that being in the will of God does not mean that you will not face opposition. So, what does Moses do? He's a little put off by this. He's a little disappointed and disillusioned, so he calls on the Lord. In Exodus chapter 5:22 we read, "Moses went back to the Lord and protested. Why have you brought all this trouble to your own people, Lord? Why did you even send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he's been even more brutal to the people and you've done nothing to rescue them".
Wow. That's a pretty honest prayer. Reminds us of the prayer of Mary and Martha after their brother died and Jesus showed up. They said, "Lord, if you would've been here my brother would not have died". That's a complaint. By the way, there's nothing wrong with complaining or lamenting in your prayers as long as it's in your prayers, not crying out against God, but crying out to God. "Lord, I don't get this. I don't understand this. I don't know why you've allowed this to happen to me and that's exactly what Moses did. If we would've read the next verse, which would've been, "And the Lord smote Moses and he was no more". It would've made sense, but we don't read that.
Instead God responds to Moses in Exodus 6 verse 6 the Lord says, "Therefore, say to the people of Israel, 'i am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression. I'll rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I'll redeem you with the powerful arm and great acts of judgement. I will claim you as my own people. I will be your God and you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from the oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I'll give it to you as your own possession for I am the Lord". So basically, God says repeatedly, "I am the Lord", verse 6, "I am the Lord", verse 7, "I am the Lord", verse 8. Take away message: he is the Lord.
And then he says in verse 6, "I'll free you". Verse 6, "I'll rescue you". Verse 6, "I'll redeem you". Verse 7, "I'll claim you". Verse 7, "I will be". Verse 8, "I will bring you", and finally verse 8, "I will give". "Moses, I'm going to take care of you. I'm going to rescue you, redeem you, claim you because I am the Lord", and that is what God is saying to you right now because maybe you're facing a Pharaoh. You're facing some scary person or some frightening situation or a set of overwhelming circumstances and you don't know what to do. You're looking to the right and you're looking to the left. Remember when Moses did that before he killed the Egyptian. He looked this way, he looked that way, killed the guy. He should've looked up, and this is what we need to do. Look up.
But the problem is we can sometimes go a day without a single thought about heaven. We can go a month with any thoughts about the afterlife, but sometimes when you're down on your back, the only way to look is up, and I might be talking to somebody who's on their back right now, figuratively or literally and you don't know how you got there, but you're looking up to the Lord now. And that's what Moses needed to do - he needed to look to the Lord. It was an honest prayer. You remember Isaiah was a bit overwhelmed by the moral breakdown in Israel, and the situation of his nation, but then he writes in Isaiah 6, "I saw the Lord sitting on his throne. He was high and lifted up, and his glory filled the temple and the angels cried holy".
Have you ever noticed that when you come to church and you worship the Lord, it can change your perspective? Have you even noticed that you're driving along and you're stuck in traffic and you're not happy and you turn on some praise music, or you listen to a message from God's word and it changes your outlook? That's called looking up, you see, and that's what Moses was doing now as the Lord was preparing to do an amazing thing. So, let's shift gears. It's round two. Round one didn't go so well. Here's round two: Exodus chapter 7 verse 10, I'm reading, "So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and they did so just as the Lord commanded. And Aaron cast down the rod before Pharaoh and before his servants and it became a serpent. And Pharaoh also called his wise men and sorcerers and the magicians of Egypt. They did so in like manner with their enchantments for every man threw down his rod and they became serpents", but I love this little commentary, "But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods and Pharaoh's heart grew hard and he did not heath them as the Lord had said".
Okay, it's time for the conflict to begin. The Lord has predicted this is going to happen. So basically, a series of 10 plagues are going to fall upon Egypt and upon the Pharaoh, each gaining in intensity as Pharaoh's heart got harder. This includes the Nile River turning to blood, a plague of frogs, a plague of lice, and more to come. What is interesting is there's a strategy, or as president George W. Bush used to say "A strategery", a strategy to these judgements because in effect every one of these judgements from God was directed toward a God of Egypt. You see, the Egyptians worshiped just about everyone and everything. In the mind of the Egyptian, the Nile River was a deity. They even worshiped a frog God, believe it or not. Had the body of a woman and the head of a frog. Not very appealing. It was called heqet translated to our English word kermit. No not really. Kermit the frog sesame street news here. But they really worshiped a frog, which is pretty bizarre.
So the Lord said, "Oh, you want frogs, you worship frogs, I'll give you more frogs than you can shake a stick at. Oh, the Nile River, you think this is a deity. I'll turn it to blood". And this brings up an important point. It shows us one of the devil's most effective tactics. It's the tactic of imitation. Notice that Moses was able to turn the Nile River to blood and the Pharaoh's magicians, and by the way, these guys were like occultists. As we approach Christmas we'll talk about the magi. Remember them? They were magicians too. They were serving in the court of the king as astrologers and astronomers and they were deeply into the occult, so these guys were somehow able to recreate this miracle. A replication of sorts. I don't know what it was, but they were able to do it and Pharaoh's heart got harder.
And this brings us to the point of the devil's a good imitator. See, here's what he does: he floods the market with all kinds of cheap imitations making it harder for a person to know what the truth is. Our world is filled with all kinds of religious ideology with all kinds of gurus and self-proclaimed prophets and other religious leaders all saying they have the truth. What is the genuine article? Am I going out on a limb when I say it's the Christian faith. That is the only genuine article. Everything else is an imitation. Jesus put it best when he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the father but by me". Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares. He said a farmer went out to sow wheat, and in the night a neighbor, more like an enemy, came and sowed tares or the darnel seed. Now a tare is basically a thing that one plants that looks just like wheat initially, but later it actually uproots the wheat.
So, the devil puts all of these fake versions out there. We have Jesus Christ. He ultimately will have the antichrist. We have real Christians: he'll have fake Christians. I don't know who the Christians are. People say, "I'm a Christian" or they'll quote verses and then they'll attack you. I wonder, are you a Christian? I don't know. I'm not saying you aren't, but I'm not certain you are. By their fruits you shall know them, but ultimately, we'll know in the end who the real believers are, so God will determine that for us, but this was an imitation to confuse and Pharaoh's heart got harder. Here comes plague number one because the Pharaoh hardened his heart: the Nile River's turn to blood. That's in Exodus 7:14-18. Moses takes his rod touches the river, it turns to blood, kills all the fish and to strike the nile was to strike the very heart of Egypt.
So, in a way the Lord is saying, "Is this your God? I'm going to take your God down to reveal to you there is no God but me". People make Gods out of a lot of stuff. The Bible tells us, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols". An idol? A God. It can be anyone or anything that takes the place of the true God in your life. For some it might be a career. For another it might be their fame. For another their beauty, or their money, and they worship at the altar of that God. And when I say worship I mean that's all they think about. That's what they're passionate about. That's the first thing they do when they get up in the morning. They think about that. They pursue that thing. And sometimes the Lord will bring our Gods down so we will understand there's no God but him.
Well this didn't even impact Pharaoh one bit. We read in Exodus 7:23, "He returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind". Yeah, until plague number two came along. He changed his doom. That was the invasion of frogs. Exodus 8:1-2. So, all of these frogs show up. God says, "You want to worship your frog God, you want kermit? You got kermit. You have frogs in your oven. You have frogs in your bed. You have frogs in your fridge. You have frogs in your vehicles. You have frogs on your shoulders, under your feet. Wherever you go there will be frogs".
Now, I lived in Hawaii when I was a little boy, and there were a lot of frogs in Hawaii. I love reptiles, but I have never been that fond of frogs. They kind of gross me out a little bit. They're just so slimy and ick you know. Worse than holding a frog is stepping on a frog right. Okay, so what would in Hawaii is it would rain and all these frogs would come out. They're all excited you know. And then the rain would stop and the sun would come out and they're all in the street like whoa. And they'd get run over by cars so they are all sort of lying there in kind of this position you know. We'd pick them up and throw them. They were like frog frisbees. They were only good for one throw. But frogs everywhere and this kind of freaked out Pharaoh and he went to Moses and said, "Please pray to your God and tell him to remove the frogs". So, the frogs all died.
So, I love the King James version of what happened. It says, "The land stank". It's just sometimes you've got to pull out a King James word. "It stank" is a great word. That land stank, man. Yeah. So, Pharaoh is like "Pray to your God. Help me out". Okay. "Lord, intervene". And the Lord did and the Pharaoh is like, "Yeah, see you next plague". Don't we do the same thing? Think of people that make great promises to God. "Oh God, if you get me out of this mess I'm in", usually a mess you've created for yourself, and the Lord intervenes and helps you then you go and do it again and again so the Pharaoh kept hardening his heart. Now, let me return to this idea of a contradiction in the Bible because it says multiple times Pharaoh hardened his heart. Romans 8:15 being one of them, and then we read in Exodus 10:1, "And the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart".
Okay, so which was it? Did Pharaoh harden his heart or did God harden his heart? Answer: both. God has given to each of us a free will, the ability to choose. God honors that privilege that we have. He will not force you to do his will. Sometimes it seems like he ought to but he doesn't. He'll say, "Here's a choice", like he says in Deuteronomy, "I set before you life and death. Blessings and curses, choose life that you may live, that's your choice. I'm even telling you what choice to make. Okay, Pharaoh here it is. Release the Jews or don't release them". And Pharaoh says, "I'll harden my heart". The word that is used here for harden can be translated strengthen or stiffen. The Lord strengthened Pharaoh's heart. In other words, Pharaoh made his decision and the Lord strengthened him in it.
You see, you make your choices, then your choices make you. But Pharaoh was culpable, Pharaoh was responsible, and if your heart gets hard it's because you chose to harden it yourself. How does one get a hardened heart? You might be surprised by my answer. One of the easiest places to get a hardened heart is where you are right now - in church. Church? Well, it seems like this is the place where I should have my heart softened. It can be and it should be, but for some it isn't. As I've said before, the same sun that softens the wax, hardens the clay. So we're all hearing the Word of God today. I don't decide, or let me restate that. I decide how I'm going to receive this word. So, some are listening with an open heart wanting to do what God says, and their heart will get softer more pliable: and another is listening to the same message and they're saying, "I've heard that before. I already know that. You're not telling me anything new".
And the problem is, is that same message that is impacting one is actually causing you to have a harder heart. You become hardened by the very truth that should've softened you. You become judged by the very message that should've set you free. Sometimes you hear of PK's getting in trouble. You know what a PK is right? Preacher's Kid. So, this person's a Preacher's Kid and they did all these horrible things. People say, "Does that shock you, Greg"? My response is I'm more shocked when they don't do that stuff. I'll tell you why preachers' kids are such notorious sinners. Because they're put under a lot of pressure from the first day.
I have two sons. One, of course, as you know is with the Lord, Christopher. My other son JoNathan is now a pastor, but both of them were prodigals earlier in life and I had a lot of patience with my sons because I knew the foundation had been laid, and I believed that they would make that deeper commitment to Christ, which they both did in time, but you see what can happen is you're so familiar with these truths and you're raised with them and then when you're a Preacher's Kid people put you under extra pressure. You know, the Preacher's Kid shows up at Sunday school the teacher will say, "Oh, we have the pastor's son here don't we, and we know he'll be a perfect example". To a kid that's like, "I'm going to make trouble. That's what I'm going to do". So, pray for preachers' kids. It's hard. Or any child of someone that's in ministry.
But not only nonbelievers can get hard hearts, Christians can get them obviously. Jesus's own disciples allowed their hearts to harden. When they ran out of food before he performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, we read in Mark 8:17, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Don't you perceive and understand? Are your hearts hardened"? Let me ask you today, Christian, do you have a hardened heart? How do you know? Well, maybe one way is you just stop caring. You just don't care. You don't care about your spiritual growth. You don't care about your Christian brother or sister. You don't care about lost people. You don't want to worship. You come into church and when others are engaging in worship, your arms are folded and not only do you know want to worship, but you're even judgmental of those who do and you sort of look down on them. "Oh, look at that. That's far too emotional for me".
Another sign of a hardened heart is your always critical. Some people think they have the spiritual gift of criticism. That's not a spiritual gift. "Oh, this is wrong here and that's wrong there and why did they do this and what about that", and always complaining. Always criticizing. That's a sign of a hardened heart. You always see the bad. You never see the good. And then when people accept Christ, you're like who cares. It doesn't affect you at all. In fact, you're irritated if I go a little bit longer or whoever is preaching to give an invitation. "Oh, does he really have to do this"? Yeah, I really do. I really do because God cares about lost people, and you used to be a lost person. I'll tell you this, if you're in church with a friend who has not accepted Christ on that day when I or someone else is giving an invitation, you're praying that your friend responds or your family member: but if you have a hard heart you can't remember the last time you brought anyone to church.
Yeah, Pharaoh hardened his heart. We want to keep a tender heart. I remember years ago I was in Portland, Oregon, at a Billy Graham crusade and after Billy spoke we got in the car and we're driving out and I loved one point he made. I turned over to the back where he was seated with his son Franklin. I said, "Billy, I loved your point when you said Christ can re-sensitize your conscience", and that's what God can do. Your heart may be a little hard, but Christ can re-sensitize your conscience and he can soften your heart.
Hebrews 3:12 from the Phillips translation says, "You should, therefore, be most careful my brothers", so this is being directed toward believers, "That there should be in any of you a hardness of heart which refuses to trust, and instead deserts the cause of the living God. Help each other to stand firm in the faith every day while still called today and beware that none of you becomes deaf and blind to God to the elusive glamour of sin for we continue to share what Christ has for us as long as we steadily maintain until the end the trust with which we began". Yes, don't harden your heart. The Bible says if you can hear his voice do not harden your heart. Yeah, you harden your heart and then God will strengthen you in that decision.
So let me say something in closing to someone that is not a believer. Maybe you've been here before, maybe this is your first time, but you've not asked Jesus to come into your life yet. He can change your life, he can forgive you of all of your sin and you can have a fresh start, a new beginning, if you ask him to come into your life. He died on the cross for your sin and he paid the price for every wrong you've ever done and then he rose again from the dead. Now he stands at the door of your life and knocks and says if you'll hear his voice and open the door he'll come in. Would you like Christ to come into your life? Would you like to be forgiven of your sin? That can happen for you right now. He's just a prayer away. So, in a moment we're going to bow our heads and we're going to pray and I'm going to extend an invitation to anybody that wants to believe in Jesus. Let's pray.
Father, I pray that you'll speak to the hearts of those who do not yet know you. Lord, we know you love them with an everlasting love. We know you want them to believe. Help them to do that now. Help them to come to you now we pray.
Now, while our heads are bowed and our eyes are closed and we're praying together, maybe there's somebody here that would like Jesus to come into their life. They would like to be forgiven of their sin. They would like to go to heaven when they die. If that's you, if you want Christ to come into your life, if you want him to forgive you of your sin, if you want your guilt taken away, if you want to go to heaven, would you just raise your hand up right now wherever you are and I'll pray for you. God bless you and you. Raise your hand up high where I can see it. God bless you and you. God bless you. Wherever you're seated, raise your hand up. I can see you. Even in the back there. God bless you. God bless. God bless all of you. Pray these words:
Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner but I know that you're the Savior who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. I choose to follow you, Jesus, from this moment forward as my Savior and Lord, as my God and my friend. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.