The Bible warns about the danger of a hard heart. It warns that a heart can be so hardened that it becomes resistant even to the words of God. It warns that a hard heart is an impenitent heart and that an impenitent heart is a heart that falls under God’s just judgment. In this brief exhortation, F.B. Meyer reminds us of the sobering truth that hearts grow hard slowly and over time, first through small acts of defiance and only later through more serious ones. So “guard especially against heart-hardening,” he warns.
Guard especially against heart-hardening. Hard hearts are unbelieving ones; therefore beware of ossification of the heart. The hardest hearts were soft once, and the softest may get hard.
The chalk which now holds the fossil shells was once moist ooze.
The calloused hand of toil was once full of soft dimples.
The murderer once shuddered when, as a boy, he crushed a worm.
Judas must have been once a tender and impressionable lad.
But hearts harden gradually, like the freezing of a pond on a frosty night. At first the process can be detected by none but a practiced eye. Then there is a thin film of ice, so slender that a pin or needle would fall through. At length it will sustain a pebble, and, if winter still hold its unbroken sway, a child, a man, a crowd, a cart will follow. We get hard through the steps of an unperceived process.
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By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
In his book Lessons from the Upper Room, Sinclair Ferguson provides an allegory he titles “The Stranger in Smokeland”—an allegory he says needs little interpretation. For that reason, I will provide it as-is, without commentary. I think you’ll enjoy it.
The Stranger had lived all his life in the Highlands. Here streams of crystal-clear water run; the flowers and vegetation are luxuriant; the mountain air is pure; the atmosphere is unpolluted. No one who lives here has ever died.
But the Stranger’s father had told him of a distant land where the air is polluted, and the inhabitants die young. The pollution and death are caused by a plant the citizens roll into tube-shapes, light, and place in their mouths, and then they inhale its vapors—they do not realize they are poisonous. Instead, they find their highest pleasure in this; they believe it keeps them healthy and that it protects them and is essential to a good life.
The parliament of the country has never enacted a law to this effect, but it is universally regarded as unacceptable for a citizen not to smoke. Now they have become so addicted to the lighted plant that they can no longer smell the odor it leaves on their bodies, their hair, and their clothes. They think that its effect on their skin and eyes enhances their attractiveness.
The Stranger and his father feel pity for this land. They decide that the Stranger should visit it, instruct its people, offer to rid the land of its pollution, and make a treaty for them that will guarantee clean air, good health, and endless life.
And so, the Stranger comes to Smokeland.
The citizens see that the Stranger never smokes. This makes them feel uncomfortable. He begins to talk to them about a land where no one smokes, where the air is fresh, the rivers are crystal clear, and everyone is healthy. He tells them that in this kingdom no one has ever died. He also tells them that his father, who reigns over the land from which he has come, sent him to Smokeland to set its citizens free from smoking and to rid their land of its noxious atmosphere. The air, he promises, will become pure, their breath will become clean, their clothes will no longer be impregnated with the odor of the plant—they will feel like new people altogether!
But instead of admiring his obvious health and listening to his message, the citizens of Smokeland become angry. They refuse to believe the Stranger; they tell him his claims cannot be true. They deny that they are unhealthy; they enjoy the smell of their clothes; they reject his message.
Nevertheless, despite the mounting opposition to him the Stranger continues to speak. He pleads with them to listen. But this simply angers the people. Now they plan to silence him.
One day they surround him, exhaling their smoke, breathing it over him. “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke like us!” they chant.
He refuses, but they insist. And when he still will not smoke, they surround him in even greater numbers. They press in on him, jeering, blowing the smoke of the lighted plant onto his face and into his eyes. They try to push the lighted tubes of it into his mouth. But he refuses to inhale. They persist. His clothes are now reeking from their polluted smoke, his face is surrounded by their exhaling, and he is covered in their spittle. His eyes are watering, and his heart is longing for relief and for the fresh air of home. But he refuses to smoke.
At last, the Smokeland citizens’ anger flares up into mob-rage at the Stranger’s persistence. Some of them seize him and hold him while others begin to stab at his body with their lighted tubes of the noxious plant. Finally, one of them pours flammable liquid over the Stranger’s head. They take the small flares they use to light the plant, and set his clothes ablaze. He is burned to ashes before them… he has endured the intolerable smoke to the end without yielding to the Smokers. They do not realize that he will rise again, phoenix-like, from the ashes.
(You can purchase Lessons from the Upper Room at Ligonier Ministries or Amazon)
By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
This week the blog is sponsored by Reformation Heritage Books, with news of books that point children to Christ.
Is this a familiar scene? You go to a bookstore to buy a Christian children’s book as a gift, and what you find are plenty of titles that provide good moral lessons – but are they spiritual lessons? Are they specifically Christian lessons? Do they point children to Christ and the character and nature of God?
What follows is a transcript of a recent interview with Joel and Mary Beeke – the publishing duo behind books for both family worship and character building in our kids.
Hello, Joel and Mary. Tell us a little about what inspired you to write your new set of books, God and Me?
Joel: My dad originally said to me as a boy that when God saves someone, He puts into their heart the three jewels of faith, hope, and love, so we thought it was really important to do a series of books for young children on these three jewels—some of the basic fruits of salvation. This was important because very few books focus on a child’s need to be saved.
Mary: We want children to understand that – what does it mean to be saved?
Joel and Mary, how did you collaborate on this project? Did one of you take the lead?
Mary: I would say we came up with the ideas together. We brainstormed together for ideas about children’s books. We came up with this as the very first need. I then wrote the stories. Joel edited them and added the theological content, including the section for parents.
What makes God and Me different from other children’s books?
Mary: It pulls in the story at an everyday level—something that commonly happens in a child’s life. It puts that in the context of faith, hope, and love and some of the children’s struggles. Also, the really special thing is that it has two soul-searching questions at the end of each book. It also includes concise explanations that help the parents understand saving faith and then explain it to their children.
We wanted artwork that was a little more realistic. For us, cartoons are not quite as attractive for these important topics. Why treat something true like you would fiction? We went with watercolors that are nicely done. We hope this artwork attracts children to interact on a more personal level.
Joel: The goal is to be very realistic about their souls, their needs. Hopefully, as children read this with their parents, they are talking to them about the “one thing needful—” to be united with Christ by faith, hope, and love.
Okay, Joel and Mary, last question. Why is it important to teach children theology at a young age?
Mary: Because they have to be born again. They have to know God. That is the most critical need; children too must be born again. If they can be taught these basics of the Christian faith at a young age, it will help them to know the Lord and grow in the Lord.
Joel: We are also hoping to help them avoid the two extremes of easy believism and presumptive regeneration. We truly want parents to evangelize their children, their Covenant children. The Covenant does not mean that they are automatically saved; the Covenant does not replace the need to be born again.
Please pray with us that God will bless these books and use them to convert many children and maybe even your child as well as they wrestle with “Do I have faith, hope, and love as a fruit of the Spirit’s work in my soul? Have I been born again?”
Thank you, Joel and Mary.
By Tim Challies — 9 months ago
It’s a double birthday here today, so happy sweet 16 to Michaela and happy something a bit beyond 16 to Aileen!
Today’s Kindle deals include a John Piper classic.
(Yesterday on the blog: Like a Ruined Castle)
How to Fall in Ministry (and What to Do When You Do)
Jared Wilson writes about ministry leaders being exposed in their sin. “Each time it happens, we get less adept at incredulity, less inclined to outrage and distress. We’re not happy about it, of course, but we are, sadly, getting used to it. Then the backward troubleshooting begins, the diagnosing of sicknesses long after the deaths. Ministry post-mortems tell us so much, but it would be great if we could see the falls coming. But can’t we?”
Twitter Anger and the Righteousness of God
“If we are not angry about something today, then it seems we must lack virtue. How could the cultural dialogue surrounding gender, sexuality, abortion, racism, and countless other issues not lead to anger? You would almost have to be dead inside or extremely apathetic not to be triggered by these things.”
3 reasons Christians slander one another
And in a similar vein, here’s Aaron Armstrong. “I have a confession: I am, on occasion, a doom-scroller. I can easily get sucked into reading nonsense Christians say about one another on Twitter. And I can get riled up really quickly, especially when I see people committing a sin specifically condemned in Scripture: ‘Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters’ (James 4:11a).”
Thinning the Peaches
“It hurts to rip healthy, growing peaches off a tree, but if I don’t then I won’t have much edible fruit later in the summer. If the nutrients gathered by the roots are spread too thin across too much fruit, then each peach will end up small and will lack the necessary amount of sugar for that delicious, sweet taste. Not only that, but the sheer weight of so many peaches would break many of the branches.” As is so often the case, there’s something we can learn from nature.
What to Ask a Passage Before You Preach It
“Good questions force us to identify treasures we often miss. Those treasures come in all forms. We see God’s holiness, our sinfulness, as well as God’s sovereignty and grace. We also discover his promises, our identity in him, and more. Therefore, when observing a text, here are five questions that have helped me. Over time, you’ll develop your own.”
Apologetics: Final Examination for Christian Apologetics
I quite enjoyed reading the questions Timothy Paul Jones asks of students in the final exam of his Christian Apologetics class. They are based on memes, Metallica, Star Wars, and so on.
Flashback: If Only I Had Been Saved By Merit!
One of the hardest tasks for every Christian is to deeply believe and forever remember that we’ve been saved by grace. This is a lifelong challenge because our natural tendency is always to veer back to merit, to assume that we’ve been saved by something we are, something we’ve got, or something we’ve accomplished.
Death is half disarmed when the pleasures and interests of the flesh are first denied. —Richard Baxter