Joseph Conrad wrote a book called, The Heart of Darkness about going into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s. It was pretty much unexplored and treacherous to travel to the interior of Africa, hence a great darkness in many people’s eyes.
In the Bible, Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?” In Romans 3:10-18, Paul elaborates, saying that without God, no one seeks after Him. We use our tongues to deceive, our lips have venom like asps, our mouths are full of curses and bitterness, our feet are swift to shed blood, and the way of peace we have not known. In reading this passage at a jail Bible study, one gal said, “that pretty much describes everyone I know, myself included.”
Not a pretty picture. It’s the heart of darkness. But what grabbed me in reading through the New Testament, as I’m now into Acts, are the motives of the people that rejected Jesus. They had a chance to accept Him, they heard the truth, but they flat out rejected it all for some base reasons that are common to all of us. This is the heart of rebellion. Let me highlight a few:
- Mark 15:10. Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priest had delivered Jesus up. The chief priests were jealous of Jesus. This jealousy theme is repeated again in Acts 5:17.
- Mark 15:15. So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them for them Barabbas. Pilate wanted the people to like him.
- John 12:42. Nevertheless, many of the authorities believed in Jesus, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. They were vainglorious, or in today’s slang: a glory hound or a glory hog.
- John 19:38. Joseph of Arimathea asked to bury Jesus secretly because he feared the Jews. He was a follower of Jesus, had not consented to the council’s decisions (though a prominent member) and was himself waiting for the kingdom of God. He was afraid so he acted secretly. At least he acted.
- Acts 7:25. Stephen was preaching about how the Jews’ forefathers rejected Jesus, so it was no surprise that they did too. Moses thought that the Jews would understand that he was to be their deliverer but they did not understand so they rejected him; Acts 7:35 saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?” They didn’t get it but with an edge, like ‘go away.’
- Acts 7:39 “So they refused to obey Moses, but thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned away saying to Aaron, ‘make us gods to go before us.’” 7:42 So God turned away and gave them over to worship the ‘host of heaven,’ the stars and images that they made.” They made fake gods instead of obeying the One and only God. So God gave them over to their fake gods.
- Acts 7:51 “You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.” Any time we are confronted with the truth and say no to it, we are resisting the Holy Spirit.
- Romans 1:21. “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” When you know the truth but reject it, you become foolish. It sends you down a dark path.
- Romans 1:24. “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” Romans 1:25. “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped the created things rather than the Creator.” When you reject God and choose a lie, you live out the consequences of that lie.
The Great Turn Around
Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, And to our God for He will abundantly pardon.”
In the midst of our rebellion, of our turning away from God and going our own way, God still calls us back. God loves us, He wants a relationship with us and sent His Son Jesus to redeem us from our heart of rebellion.
Call upon God while He is near, return to the Lord and He will have compassion and will abundantly pardon.
*Image from Quotefancy