A Tale of Two Conversions: Hardened


I grew up in a small western Oklahoma rural community with little to no religious convictions. I suppose that’s not the norm for a lad raised smack dab in the middle of the bible belt, but nobody has ever accused me of being normal. Oh, I remember attending a Sunday School class as a 5-year-old at a local Baptist church. I recall lots of coloring – and growing bean sprouts in a cup. I remember nothing else about it at all. After that stimulating experience I did not darken a church door again (weddings and funerals excluded) until I was well into my teenage years.

I’ve always believed in God. I suppose my parents ingrained that in me, though I can’t recall any specific instruction. I conceived Him as the ever watchful eye in the sky, who loved and protected me. The first traumatic moment of my early years came one July 4th evening as we went to a stadium to watch a fireworks display. It was an impressive exhibition of pyrotechnics. The crowd oohed and aaahed at every burst of light and color. However, I wasn’t impressed; I fretted through the entire show. With brow furrowed I tugged at my mother’s hand and whispered, “Are those fireworks hurting God?” My 5-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend an omnipresent God that transcends the material creation. Obviously I didn’t grasp his omnipotence either, else I wouldn’t have been concerned for his well-being in the wake of a few heavenward explosions.

So there you have it, perhaps my one and only childhood contemplation of God. I have no other memory I can recall that invoked God into the forefront of my conscience. I simply assumed God’s love, protection and providence. I had other, more important stuff to think and daydream about – with a heavy emphasis on daydreaming. Continue reading

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A Tale of Two Conversions – Introduction


And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”    (Matthew 13:3-9 ESV)

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23; ESV)

The Hardened Sinner

This parable of Jesus demonstrates the reality of how sinners respond to the message of the gospel of salvation. First, the seeds scattered along the path represent a hardened sinner, who will hear the gospel but doesn’t fully comprehend it, nor does he respond to the message in any kind of receptive manner. This could be manifested in one of two ways. First, Hardened could react with impassive indifference. The message may seem foreign or totally unrelated to his situation. He doesn’t feel convictions of guilt over sin. This sadly results in a callous heart unaffected by the mercy and compassion of a loving God.

The other opposite reaction is passionate hostility. Hardened may indeed be pierced by a conviction of sin, yet the desired effect is not contrite sorrow but self-righteous rage. The idea that he may be guilty of high treason against the Lord of all creation is more than a prideful soul can bear. What does Hardened do? Scripture explains that he will suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. (Rom 1:18) The soil of Hardened’s heart is impenetrable. The seeds of the scripture bounce harmlessly off the sun-baked surface, unable to find a place to take root and are quickly taken away. Continue reading