June 13, 2017
“Go to this people and say: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused;…” Acts 28:26
People aren’t saved by logical arguments for their heads, but by understanding with their hearts.
Over the years, I have had several friendships with people who have questioned my faith and challenged the ideas of God & Scripture with me. Because of our friendship, I would do my best to help explain their questions or answer their arguments, and in most cases, at least provide some answer to think about. But I cannot recall ANY of them changing their mind or starting a relationship with God out of the discussion. In fact, it often got dropped and we would move on without agreement. In each case, I tried to maintain the friendship, but it often would fade away over time.
Then there have been many conversations with friends who didn’t come to argue or debate a point, but came to learn and understand. Not that I was the expert they needed, but they came looking to figure it out. These folks OFTEN found some answers they were seeking, and God OFTEN brought out answers in the conversation. And I have been privileged to see a number of them start a relationship with God out of those conversations – in some cases even baptizing them!
There is a difference between trying to approach God with the head versus approaching God with the heart. The brain, even though larger in size than the heart, is not big enough to fathom all of the logic of God. (No one can have the mind of God!) But the heart has this ability to expand in understanding God far better. Isaiah said it centuries ago: You will be hearing and seeing, but not getting it with the brain; because you’ve already hardened your heart. Instead of seeking to know God, you have come to argue his existence.
I have learned over the years it is better not to "win people" with arguments. Even Christians, when they want to debate some technical doctrine or theory, need to be interested in learning together before I will engage the conversation. That’s because the argument only does more damage to the heart, hardening it even more. I would rather be considered dumb and hope for a future time their hear might be ready than do more to harden their chance at salvation.
However, the sad part of this often quoted verse for me is not the hardness of other people’s hearts, but the hardness of my own. I too am guilty of having a hard heart on some areas and not even realize it until sin has done the damage. The cement of pride can get in the way of understanding my wife, loving my family, or obeying completely God’s Word. It took years for me to want to UNDERSTAND giving, serving and witnessing for Jesus. It has been a lifetime struggle to push down pride and ego in order to understand the teachings of Jesus. I’ve got some more work to do on this, and maybe you do too.
So listen to Isaiah (and Jesus, and Paul) from this text: stop trying to argue or justify our behaviors, and try to listen with your heart in order to understand His ways. Use the heart’s capacity to understand instead of your head. And what you will find is that the head catches up soon after!