Have you ever struggled with how you should go to others with the gospel of full surrender to Christ? When a person is caught in his sin, desiring life apart from God, we tend to go to him in one of two extremes: we are either condemning or careless. These are rooted in the two expressions of a proud heart: (1) stone (condemning) or (2) sand (careless).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described the be-do-go of full surrender, teaching that who we are to be (Matthew 5), determines what we are to do (Matthew 6), which determines where we are to go (Matthew 7). The Master Communicator elaborated on the heart and mannerisms of an effective carrier of His gospel message. He conveyed that we should not go to the world either condemningly or carelessly; rather, we should go connectedly with the Spirit of God in total humility with a heart of clay (Matthew 7:1-12). Consequently, every encounter with another person is a three-way call. When we are connected with God and connected with others, then they are connected with God. Whereas pride brings static to the line; humility offers a clear connection.
Do not go carelessly with a hard heart of sand (Matthew 7:6). After describing the characteristics of a stone heart that condemns, Jesus warned of the opposite kind of pride, one that is careless and loose with the gospel message, naively scattering it to cynics who would automatically reject what they hear. Jesus painted the image of wild, ravenous dogs and pigs that would not give any consideration to a pearl of wisdom (Matthew 7:6). Proverbs teaches of the same dilemma that occurs when one attempts to argue with a fool (Proverbs 26:4-5). A hard heart of sand tells carelessly because a sand heart is loose and licentious, often pretending to connect with others, while disconnecting with God. A heart of sand requires a storm to be malleable and restored.
This is why Jesus taught in parables. He was careful with His words, discerning the wisdom appropriate for the level of hard-heartedness among listeners. Jesus pointed out that cynical hearts were already hard, so if He merely presented truth, it would automatically be rejected. However, He knew that if He would share a story, then people would leave thinking about its details, and from that could perhaps discover the truth of the story in an unthreatening fashion. The truth concealed could be the truth revealed by sharing a story. This practice followed a typical pattern: two thousand years ago, a Rabbi would teach a parable and then explain it more fully to those who would call themselves his disciples.
Jesus warned the hard-hearted Pharisees of carelessly speaking against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:34-37). Contrastingly, Jesus was careful with His words with Nicodemus (John 3:1-21). Jesus discerned the wisdom appropriate for the level of hard-heartedness with the rich young ruler. Solomon communicated that when attempting to connect with others, we must discern the wisdom appropriate for the level of hard-heartedness: “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning” (Proverbs 9:7-9). Paul agreed, teaching that we should be wise with outsiders, discerning the wisdom appropriate for their level of hard-heartedness (Colossians 4:5-6).
With whom have you been careless with communicating the gospel? Why? What steps could you take in order to discern their level of hard-heartedness? Make 2015 the year that you go connectedly with the gospel of full surrender.