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The Hardened Heart

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
June 5, 2022 7:00 pm

The Hardened Heart

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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June 5, 2022 7:00 pm

Join us as we worship our Triune God- For more information about Grace Church, please visit www.graceharrisburg.org.

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If you have your Bibles with you, I ask you to turn with me to Mark chapter 6, and we're going to start off by looking at verses 14 through 16.

In the word of it, he said, John, whom I beheaded, has been raised. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we continue to pray for Fran Ruisi, who starts radiation and chemotherapy this coming week. We pray that you would strengthen her, and we pray for the cancer to dissipate. We pray for Susan Gray, help her to completely heal with her heart issues.

Nicole Lowes, help her to get completely over this vertigo. Pray for this congregation, Congregation of Grace Church, that you would soften our hearts. Give us a sensitivity to your leading. We're living in a world that has become enamored with sin and resentful of the truth. How can we not fall into that trap? How can we resist the temptation to reject your principles and your grace and just give ourselves over to whatever brings us pleasure? Father, make us wise to the deception of the flesh. Make us aware of the strategy of Satan. Fill us with the love for your word, and fill us with the desire to please our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Father, use Herod's example to put the fear of God into our hearts.

Help us to run from the compromise that destroyed this man's soul. Keep my lips from error. Help me to preach the word faithfully, for it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that I pray.

Amen. You may be seated. I have shared this illustration with you before. If you remember it, please hold on with me.

But it's an illustration that perfectly illustrates the point that I want to try to get across to you today. Several years ago, when I was in my former church, I got a telephone call about a half hour before our Sunday night service was supposed to start. There was a woman in the community, and she said, is this Pastor Doug?

And I said, yes. And she told me who it was. She said that her husband had cancer, and that he was not doing well, that he was in the last stages of cancer, and they weren't sure that he would even make it through the night. And she said, Pastor Doug, could you come right now? She said, could you come and read scripture to him, and pray for him, and talk to him about the Lord? And I said, ma'am, I'm getting ready to preach in just a few minutes. But my music minister was there, Jim Kelly. And I told Jim the situation. I said, Jim, could you possibly go?

He said, I'll get Doug Joyner to lead the music for me, and yes, I'll go right now. And he took off. Well, about 45 minutes into the service, I saw Jim come back into the back of the church. He sat down and waited, and then the service ended, and Jim made his way straight to me.

His face was white as a sheet. And I said, Jim, what's wrong? He said, Doug, I've never seen anything like this in my entire life. He said, I walked into that man's bedroom, and he said, I had my Bible in my hand. And he said, when he saw my Bible, he looked at me and said, get out of here right now. And I said, listen, I just wanted to come and share the truth with you. I wanted to share some scripture with you.

I wanted to pray for you. And he said, I told you to get out and get out right now. Jim said he started backing up toward the door, and his wife apologized to him. And he said, all of a sudden, he said, that man just kind of grunted. And then he sat up straight in bed. And he said, all of a sudden, he screamed out, G.D.! And then he flopped back in the bed. And he said, his eyes were closed, and his breathing stopped. His wife went over, she checked on him. She looked up at Jim, and she said, he's dead. Jim looked at me, and he had tears in his eyes. And he said, Doug, that man entered into eternity, cursing the name of the Lord.

What makes a person's heart that hard? I had talked to his elderly mother a few days after that. She was a Christian. She shared with me that she raised him in a Christian home. And that all through his childhood and all through high school, he went to church. But then he got into his college years, and he said to her, I'm not going to church anymore.

I find it empty, I find it meaningless, and I'm not going. And she said that the transformation in his life was scary. It was not that he was apathetic or lethargic toward Christianity. She said he was antagonistic and hostile.

He hated God, and he hated the people of God. She said he would send him, he would send her articles through the weeks as he was off at college, articles about pastors that had gotten caught in sex scandals and money scandals, and it just got worse and worse. Said he would send her articles about churches that were splitting up because the people in the church couldn't get along with each other.

And he would laugh about that. She said he could point out a hypocrite a mile away and then say about that hypocrite, that's the reason I'm not going to church anymore. I don't want to have anything to do with it. What makes a person's heart that hard? Listen to the statement carefully. The people with the hardest hearts in this world are not the drunkards and the drug addicts and the prostitutes and the homeless people on Skid Row. The people that have the hardest hearts are the people that hear the truth of God over and over and over and over again and just kind of go through the motions. They're church attenders who hear the Word of God, and instead of repenting, they want to put God off. And they say, no, not now, maybe later, but I have sinned that I want to enjoy. I have pleasure that I want to get into, and I'm not ready for that now.

They think that they can do this on their own timetable, and they turn away, and their heart becomes more and more calloused till they get to the point where they just don't care. Today I want to look at a man in Scripture that is a prime example of a hardened heart. His name is Herod Anabas. He's the son of King Herod the Great. He's the teacher-arch of Galilee and Perea. And in verse 14, we are told that there was a messenger that came and gave him a message.

And the message was about Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons and raising the dead and turning water into wine. And the messenger told him, he said, some are saying that this is Elijah. Some are saying that this is the prophet of Deuteronomy chapter 18. And then Herod stood up and said, no, no, I know who this is.

I know exactly who this is. This is the man that I had murdered. This is John the Baptist, and he has risen from the dead. And of course he was wrong. But what led him to that conclusion? What led him to believe such a thing? It was the overworking of a guilty conscience.

He had murdered an innocent man, and not only an innocent man, but a man of God. His conscience was bothering him so bad that he was just about to lose his mind. He would go to bed at night, and he'd have these dreams about this bloody silver platter with the head of John the Baptist purchased on it. He'd hear a woodman out in the woods, and every time he would chop on a tree, he'd hear that thud, and it went over and over again, and he would hear the name John, John, John, John. He would see the prison. It would remind him of John.

He'd see the jailer. It would remind him of John. And then this messenger comes to him, tells him about the ministry of Jesus and what Jesus was doing here in Israel. And he says, I know exactly who that is. That's John the Baptist, raised from the dead.

A totally wrong conclusion. What led to all that? John the Baptist has been out by the Jordan River preaching his heart out. He's preaching to Israel to turn from their sins to repent and turn to the Lord. He's getting Israel prepared for the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. He's pointing out the sins of the soldiers and the sins of the religious leaders and the sins of the tax collectors. He's preaching his heart out. I'm telling you, he is shucking the corn.

He is preaching with great, great power and conviction. Now, we know from what Scripture tells us that Herodias hated John the Baptist and hated him with a passion. We know that at some point, John the Baptist had pointed out Herod's sin and Herodias' sin of entering into this wrong adulterous relationship. Now, when that happened, the Bible doesn't exactly tell us. And what I'd like to do is to give you a scenario that's just my conjecture.

I'm not sure exactly if it happened this way, but I think it's a very good possibility. King Herod had heard about this prophet, the prophet John. He decides to go out and take a look for himself. So they get in their black, shiny chariot.

They ride out to the hill that overlooks the Jordan River. And there, as he gets on the top of that hill, he sees John. This is where John's preaching and baptizing.

There's a huge crowd there. John's preaching his heart out. He is preaching to the people to repent, to turn from their sin.

He is preaching about the coming Messiah. And there are many, many people that are coming to John and they're saying, we are guilty, we need to repent. And John baptizes them with a baptism of repentance.

But as Herod and his entourage arrive at the top of that hill with their bodyguards all around them, as all that is taking place, it makes kind of a lot of noise. And so people turn around, they look to see what's going on, and then John looks up and he sees Herod. And everybody starts thinking to themselves, no, John, don't do it. Don't say anything to him. John, you'll get yourself in trouble.

It's not worth it. Don't do it, John. But John the Baptist is a prophet of God. And when God says speak, he speaks.

All hell can't stop him from speaking. And so the Holy Spirit of God just speaks through John and he looks up at Herod and he points up that hill. And he said, Herod, repent. He said, you're living with your brother's wife. You're committing adultery.

It's an abomination before God, repent. I can imagine Herodias slipping down in that chariot. She's embarrassed to death.

She didn't want anybody to see her. And here's Herod thinking to himself, hey, nobody's ever talked to me like that before. And they get in the chariot and Herod turns around to the chariot driver and says, get us out of here and get us out of here quickly. Now that's the situation, or at least how it could have been. We know that John said this to Herod and Herodias at some time.

I think it could be like that. But what took place over the next few months that hardened his heart? I want to share with you six problems that came up into his life that I think hardened his heart. Number one, toleration of unwise counsel.

Toleration of unwise counsel. Look with me at verse 17. For it was Herod who sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her. Now I might be wrong, but I think if John had gone to Herod privately, Herod might have listened to him, at least a little bit anyway. But Herod was not by himself, his wife or mistress or whatever she was. She was with Herod.

And I mean to tell you, when all this happened, she was on him like ugly on ape. When she heard all this, she was mad. You've heard, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. She was living that out. She was so mad, the steam's coming off her head. She was cursing John the Baptist, she was cursing Herod, and she said, I can't believe that he embarrassed me like that in front of everybody. She said, he is the most intolerant man I have ever seen. He's not right. This is bad. He should not have done this. And she said, listen, if you don't do something about him, if you don't have him arrested, I'm going to make your life miserable.

Herod's in that chariot. He's thinking to himself, I don't really want to imprison John. Everybody seems to love him. I don't really want to do this. But he did make us look awful bad. And he did do some saying some things that just hurt me.

And now if I don't do something about it, my wife's going to make my life miserable. So what did he do? He took the counsel of Herodias, and he had John arrested and thrown into the palace dungeon. People, be very careful of the counsel that you tolerate. In Psalm chapter 1 verse 1, it was David who said, blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. The corollary of that is miserable is the man who walks in the way of the ungodly. What is unwise counsel? Unwise counsel is when somebody is counseling you to disobey God's word. Teenagers, young people, it's those friends of yours who tell you to throw away your virginity.

Oh, it doesn't really matter. You need to have this exciting experience. Or those friends that tell you, go ahead and try marijuana. Everybody's doing it. Why not? Or that man at work, your buddy, who tells you, go ahead and get involved in an extramarital affair.

Man, it'll be so exciting, the most exhilarating thing that you've ever done. Proverbs 19 21 says, there are many devices in a man's heart, nevertheless the counsel of the Lord shall stand. So oftentimes a naive heart will begin to harden when it begins to tolerate unwise counsel. Number two, he was taken in by religious accommodation. Look at verse 20. For Herod feared God, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

Herod was not an atheist, he was not an anti-religious man. He had respect for John the Baptist, had admiration for him. But now he's standing there by himself and he's thinking to himself, wow, I'm the top political official in the entire land. I have position, I have possessions, I have stuff.

I have all the pleasurable things that I could ever desire right there at my disposal. But yet I don't have peace, and I don't have joy, and I don't know what's going to happen to me when I die. Then he looks at John the Baptist and he says, look at the difference. Here's John the Baptist who has nothing materially. He's living out in the desert, he eats off the land, locusts and wild honeys. He's got nothing except the clothes on his back.

That's all the material possessions he has. And yet he's got unbelievable peace, and he's got great, great joy. And he's not afraid of anything.

He isn't even afraid of death. He said, I can look at John and I can see the Lord in his eyes. And I think Herod was saying, man, John's got something that I just don't have. So he's got John down in the palace dungeon, and I think probably a couple times a week when his wife would go to the beauty shop, he would sneak down and talk to John. And I can see him, he goes and he takes his chair, he turns it around, he sits down in it. John's in this cell right in front of him. And he says to John, all right, John, tell me about this God you serve. Why is it that you would rather stay in this stinking prison cell just chained up like an animal?

You would rather do that than be free as a bird. He said, why would you rather do that when you can just shut your mouth and go free? He said, is your God really worth it? I can see John the Baptist stand up, and I mean he begins to preach. And he tells him about the steadfast love of Jehovah. He tells him about God's sovereignty and God's holiness and God's power. He tells him about the law of God and the consequences for breaking the law of God. And the Scripture says that Herod heard him gladly.

What's going on there? Herod hears the preaching of God's Word. He hears great truth. He hears things that ought to convict his heart, but he listens to that. He walks out, and he does nothing about it. He doesn't mean there's no repentance, there's no real brokenness. He does nothing about it. There is no change, and there is no repentance.

What is that? I call that religious accommodation. It's just going through the motions. It's what James was talking about when he said that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. A preacher's job is not to entertain you. It is not to stimulate you intellectually.

It is not to give you philosophies of life that you might mull over. The preacher's responsibility is to teach you what the Word of God says and how that is to be applied to your life. The preacher's responsibility is to challenge you with the gospel. Folks, it was Jesus who said, He said, Give me my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

And what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? I'll tell you, that challenge right there demands a response. What kind of response? Maybe breaking down and just crying. Maybe yielding to it. Be absolutely broken by it, but don't listen to a challenge like that and say, Are you okay? Or, Yeah, that probably sounds right, but I really don't want to deal with it at this point in time.

That is extremely dangerous. And if you do this, you are on the road to a hardened heart. Point three, toy in with sinful pleasure, verse 21 through 22. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias' daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests, and the king said to the girl, Ask me for whatever you wish and I will give it to you. Queen Herodias was not only evil, she was extremely smart.

She knew and was waiting for the perfect time. And so on Herod's birthday, she invited all Herod's friends, the high military commanders, the political officials, the high muckety mucks there in Israel, and she invited them all to come and celebrate with him on his birthday. She also knew Herod's weakness, and that weakness was lust. So she brought her own daughter in to dance before Herod and all these other friends.

The girl comes in and she does this very wicked, very seductive dance, and the men are yelling and screaming and screaming out lewd comments to her, just going through all this and doing that. Herod's heart was burning so hot with lust that he couldn't even think straight. Folks, listen, the devil's not stupid. He doesn't go fishing without attractive bait.

He knows where your weaknesses are, he knows where your vulnerabilities are, and he knows the exact best time to tempt you. Now, I'm not a legalist. I love the grace of God. I want to extol the grace of God every opportunity that I get, and I don't think that God loves me more because I obey his law or I'm faithful to a commandment that he gives.

I don't think that at all. I know that God's grace is built on his mercy, not on anything that I do. I understand that, but I'm learning this lesson. When I am slack and I am lazy in my obedience to God, when I find myself making the soft, easy decisions in life, I lose the sense of God's presence in my life, and I lose my spiritual edge. In Psalm 101, verse 3, David said, I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.

Men, there's no way in the world a man can sit in his living room and watch some of the channels that are on TV right now that are accessible to just about anybody and watch the sensual things that come through that TV. There's no way he can do that and keep his spiritual edge. There's no way that a lady can read some of the articles in some of these women's magazines and it not affect your walk with God.

So when we decide to quit fighting and just to be passive with these things that God is dealing with our heart about, we are on the road to a hardened heart. Point 4 is trifling with vows, verses 22 through 23. For when Herodias' daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guest, and the king said to the girl, ask me for whatever you wish and I'll give it to you. And he vowed to her, whatever you ask me, I will give it to you up to half my kingdom. You know there's stupid and there's real stupid.

This was real stupid. Here's Herod, his friends are there wishing him happy birthday, patting him on the back, telling him what a great guy he is. And this girl comes in, she starts dancing, everybody's yelling and screaming, all these lewd comments and all this stuff. And Herod says to her, oh honey, said you have made me so happy.

You have made our guest so happy. I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you anything that you want up to half my kingdom. Now that's bad enough. But then he says, wait a minute, I swear to do this.

I vow that I will do this. Yes, you ask anything you want up to half my kingdom and it's yours. So the girl says, wait just a minute, I'm going to go counsel with mom. And she runs back to Herodias who's sitting there like a ravenous dog waiting for the daughter to get there. Herodias says, what's going on and what did he say? And she said, well, he said that I can have anything I want up to half of his kingdom.

And she smiles wickedly. And she said, it worked. I got him. I got him. Nothing else would have gotten him. But this will get him because he's trapped by his own vow.

That's just an interesting thing to me. Now, he never said this with his lips, but I think what's running through his mind is that he understands what's going on with Herodias and he hates it with a passion, but he's trying to figure out what he's going to do with it. The best thing that he could have done with it is this. He could have had a little bit of backbone and he could have said, listen, listen, Salome, who was Herodias' daughter. He said, listen to me. John the Baptist belongs in my half the kingdom and no, I will not put him to death.

It's not going to happen. Party over. He could have done that, but he didn't do that. He looked out at all his friends out there. They've just been patting him on the back. They've been telling him what a good guy he was. He loves being the center of attention.

He loves being praised and he loves people talking about him in a right and good way. He didn't want to lose that and he knows now that this could be a very difficult thing. He knows now that he's made a vow and if he breaks that vow, then they may think bad of him.

So what's happening? He is trapped by peer pressure. Folks, it was Jesus himself who said, woe unto you when all men speak well of you. In John chapter 12 verse 43, the scripture says that the rulers of Israel, that they did not confess Jesus openly because they love the praise of men more than the praise of God. Folks, everybody likes to be accepted. Everybody likes to be praised. Everybody likes to be loved and we like that, but we don't like criticism, do we? We don't like to be put down. Let me tell you something.

If you stand for God and you stand for truth, it's coming because people will call you narrow, they will call you bigoted and they will say that you're just totally intolerant. Herod's got a decision to make. Murder or offend his friends.

Integrity or compliance. Right or wrong? Herod chose wrong. He said, well, I guess I just got to go ahead and do it. I'm trapped by my own vow. I guess I've got to go ahead and have him beheaded and he does it.

All right, point six is tempered by time. I want you to turn all the way back to the Gospel of Luke. Chapter 23 verses 11 through 12. And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him, then arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that day, for before this they had been an enmity with each other.

Now, many months have passed by. Something's taken place in Herod's heart over those months. Right after Herod had John the Baptist beheaded, his conscience was killing him. That's all he could think about.

That's all he could dream about. It was bothering him horribly. Like I said, when he had a dream, it was always dreaming about John the Baptist and he could see in his mind the head of John the Baptist perched on that bloody silver platter. And it was just killing him. His conscience was still very active at that point in time.

But now several months have passed by. And Pilate doesn't want to have to be responsible for totally the one who condemns Jesus. So he sends Jesus to Herod. He says, here, you deal with this too. Herod's happy about this.

He likes it. And the Bible says that he led his soldiers to treat Jesus with contempt. They put a robe around his shoulders to make fun of him. They beat him in the face.

They laughed at him and they mocked him. And then Herod sent him back to Pilate and said, you have my permission. You have my permission to take this man and crucify him. I want you to nail him to the cross.

That's what I want you to do with Jesus. But he did that with a smile on his face. It didn't bother him. There's no hurting heart. There's no stinging conscience.

He didn't care. It was a heart that was hard as stone. That's exactly what happened to the man that my music minister tried to minister to. His heart was so hard that he went into eternity, went into eternity cursing the Lord. I want to share with you John MacArthur's assessment of Herod, and I thought this was good.

This was in closing. In his interactions with both John the Baptist and Jesus, Herod Anabas stands like Judas as a monumentally tragic figure in history. He had the greatest man who had ever lived, the most honored prophet of God in his hands, and he locked him in a dungeon until he had had him executed. More importantly, he had an audience with the king of kings, and he mocked him and turned him away.

Such wasted opportunity was the result of his insidious love for sin, his arrogant unwillingness to believe, and his cowardly fear of the truth. Herod claimed to rule over others, but in reality, he was a man controlled by the fear of man. His fear of the people initially kept him from killing John. His fear of his friends finally compelled him to authorize John's execution. His fear of John made him anxious when he heard about Jesus, but his fear turned to scorn when he finally had an audience with the Son of God.

Herod feared everyone except the Lord, and he lost his soul as a result. To put it plainly, the hardened heart is the result of not having a fear of God. Folks, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Let me ask you something. Are you going through the motions? Are you hearing the truth at church? Are you hearing the responsibility that you have to turn from your sin and repent, and are you pushing that away?

Are you saying, it doesn't really matter? I can deal with this later. I've got a long time to live. I can get saved later, and that way I can enjoy my sin.

I want you to know that's a dangerous, dangerous position to be in, and if you're in that position, I would caution you with all my heart, turn from that, run to Jesus, who has great mercy, and whose blood will wash away all of your sin. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we study today the progressive nature of heart hardening.

We think that compromise is no big deal. We don't realize that with every compromise we make, we lose sensitivity to your spirit. Help us to look at Herod and shudder. Help us to realize that the heart hardening process is real and it's dangerous. Give us motivation and heart that we refuse to compromise when conviction comes. Make us quick to repent. Make us hungry to please you. We love you, Lord. Help us to love you more. For it's in Jesus' precious and holy name that we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-08 21:56:04 / 2023-04-08 22:08:40 / 13

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