The Most Dangerous Disease
by Jeff Curtis
Some people suffer from a dangerous condition called “hardening of the arteries.” The medical term for this condition if “arteriosclerosis,” and is defined as “a chronic disease in which thickening and hardening of the arterial walls impair blood circulation.” A person who had this disease is in danger of suffering a stroke or heart attack.
An even more deadly disease is the “hardening of the heart.” Pharaoh had this problem. In Exodus 8:15 it says that Pharaoh “hardened his heart and did not listen” to God’s messengers. The Lord had just sent the second plague, frogs, upon the land of Egypt, as Moses had predicted. Pharaoh relented and asked Moses to remove the frogs, saying that he would let Israel go (8:8). Moses agreed, Pharoah named the time, and the frogs died. However, Pharoah didn’t honor his word; her refused to let the people go. He “hardened his heart.”
When we consider the hardening of Pharoah’s heart, we will notice how people today can be afflicted by the same problem.
How was Pharaoh’s heart hardened? Exodus sometimes says that Pharaoh hardened his heart (8:15), while other times it says that God hardened his heart (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1). Which one is right? Did God harden his heart, or did he harden his own heart? If we say that God did so, does that mean that Pharaoh had no will of his own, that he was unable to make any choice except the one that God imposed upon him?
The best solution to the problem is to recognize that Exodus first emphasizes that Pharaoh hardened his heart and then states that God hardened his heart. Both 4:21 and 7:3 speak of what God would do in the future; only after Pharaoh had hardened his heart does the text say that God hardened it. In other words, after Pharaoh had hardened his own heart, then God further hardened it. Pharaoh had decided on the road he would travel, but God perhaps gave him a push down that road or possibly made his road that much more difficult. We can be sure that Pharaoh had free will, just as we do. He was responsible for his own choices, and God will hold him accountable for the choices he made.
When we consider more carefully what happened when Pharaoh hardened his heart, we conclude that Pharaoh’s disease involved…; 1) persistence and stubbornness, 2) refusal to hear God’s Word, 3) unwillingness to accept abundant evidence of the truth of that Word, 4) arrogance and pride, and 5) a lack of compassion for people.
How can our hearts be hardened? “Hardening of the heart” is also a problem today. The New Testament says that some have their consciences “seared with a hot iron” (1Tim. 4:2; KJV). Also, it speaks of people who hardened their hearts (Mk. 6:52; Acts 19:9) and warns us against the hardening of the heart (Heb. 3:8, 13, 15; 4:7).
2Thess. 2:10-12 describes some who will “perish” because “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.” Who are these people who are sent along the path to destruction by God Himself? They are individuals who “did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” In other words, if a person does not love or believe the truth but takes pleasure in wickedness, then God may send them a “deluding influence” so that they will believe a lie and perish eternally. If we, like Pharaoh, deliberately choose the wrong path, God will not hinder us from taking it. Really, He may speed us on our way.
If we persistently refuse to hear His Word in spite of the evidence for its truth, then we have hard hearts. If we are full of pride and lack compassion for others, then we are like Pharaoh.
We need to remember that the hardening of the heart is more dangerous than the hardening of the arteries because it can lead to eternal death. God’s Word softens a hardened heart. The story of the cross and the Christ who died for us can dissolve that wall we have put up between us and God’s mercy.
Let’s come to God in faith and obedience.
Divorce: An Epidemic
by Jeff Curtis
Why do marriages fail? I want to consider four possible causes.
- Marriage is not viewed as from God but viewed as a purely human arrangement. Our society must know that God ordained marriage. The home and the family originated by divine decree (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18-24). Jesus said God joined the first couple for a lifetime commitment and that only He can give the reason to dissolve that union.
People may think that God has no authority over marriage. Many couples live together without the benefit of a marriage license. Others comply with the laws of the land but recognize no higher authority. But God’s laws are the authority, and they are for the betterment of humanity.
- Marriage is not viewed as a lifetime commitment but as a commitment until one decides to leave. Couple often take the marriage vow too lightly. We might expect this from unbelievers, but not from Christians.
Ignorance, therefore, can play a role in the failure of a marriage. Those who have been taught God’s plan for marriage may not even realize that the divorce and marriage that is so prevalent in society is wrong. People must be taught that God’s laws should prevail. God doesn’t approve of everything that man allows. We must obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-2), but only if they don’t conflict with God’s law.
- Marriage has no common spiritual bond. “Mixed” marriages were the plague of Israel (Ezra 9;10; Nehemiah 13:23-27). The problem was not interracial marriage, but mixed religious marriages. A Christian who marries out of his or her faith has a ready-made formula for disaster. Success stories are definitely in the minority.
Anyone who hopes to convert an unbeliever into a faithful Christian mate ought to do so before the marriage. Then he or she should wait long enough to be sure that the conversion is authentic before actually entering into the marriage.
- Marriage doesn’t include true love. Not all marriages are based on agape. Some are based on physical attraction alone. Others are based on financial security or social standing. People even marry for spite, but in the end, they hurt only themselves.
When couples genuinely love each other, any problem can be solved. Mistakes can be forgiven, and selfishness can be put aside (Ephesians 5:22- 29).
One common problem is a lack of preparation. Some couples, particularly young ones, rush into marriage without serious thought and preparation. Few things in life can succeed that way. A successful marriage requires physical, emotional, moral, financial and spiritual preparation. Realizing before marriage why some relationships fail can help couples avoid the pitfalls along the way to a lasting and happy marriage.