We will guard our hearts no matter what happens. We will rationalize or pretend whatever is necessary to bring our lives into some kind of equilibrium. It’s the human way.
While we hear with our ears, we interpret the data through our hearts and minds. That is the real battlefield in terms of the gospel.
We find an excellent example in Acts where two similar messages evoked diametrically opposed reactions.
The initial gospel sermon used the life of Christ, the reign of David and the authority of the prophets as its foundation. Peter charged the Jews with killing Christ (Acts 2:36). Yet, the listeners asked what they had to do to correct their sin (Acts 2:36-37).
Accordingly, 3000 were immersed into Christ (Acts 2:38-41). Their hearts allowed their ears to listen with a view to something larger than themselves.
Meanwhile, the same basic message brought a quite different reaction. Stephen, a powerful man of God, stood to address the Jews in Acts 7. In a lengthy discourse, he appeals to prophecy and Old Testament characters to prove his teaching (Acts 7).
Stephen’s message takes a dramatic turn between 7:50 and 7:51. Clearly he was reacting to something in the crowd and in 7:52-53 they take him by force and execute him.
It seems the crowd in Acts 2 was comprised of more of the common man while Jewish leaders in Acts 7 took charge since it became the impetus for widespread persecutions (Acts 8:1-3).
Both sermons charged the Jews with murder but only one brought out their bloodlust. Notice that in both passages they were “cut to heart” (Acts 2:36; 7:54).
In Acts 2, they accepted Peter’s charges and repented (cf. 2 Samuel 12:1-7). In Acts 7 they put their sense of power and financial gain over the message. They heard the gospel through filters that distorted the good news.
Each of us must humbly see the larger picture and listen to God’s Word with a view to heaven.
Some who evangelize ask a question, “If I could show you something in the Bible that is different from what you believe, would you change?” If the answer is no, there’s no reason to spend any time on them.
We must be willing to repent and be transformed by the power of the Word (Romans 12:1-2). How we listen is the first step.