SermonOvercoming Religious Hardness
An all-creatures Bible Message

Overcoming Religious Hardness
A Sermon Delivered to
The Compassion Internet Church
18 June 2017
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References

Matthew 9:1-38

Overcoming religious hardness, or exposing it in public, was a main objective of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus wanted to bring people to repentance for the ways they were living in the likeness of the world around them, and lead them into the kingdom of God, but unfortunately the religious leaders were hindering them.
And since today is also Father’s Day, we believe that the most appropriate way of overcoming religious hardness is by honoring our Father in Heaven and follow His heavenly will here on earth.
Let’s begin this spiritual journey by looking at Matthew 9:1-38…

1. And getting into a boat, He [Jesus] crossed over, and came to His own city.
2. And behold, they were bringing to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven." 
3. And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes."

We hope we all see hardness of heart of these scribes.
They were only interested in having people follow their interpretation of the Law; they weren’t interested in having this man healed.
Their hardness of heart had no room for compassion or empathy for this man; they were more interested in the way that Jesus was about to heal this man, and to find fault with Him.

4. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?
5. "For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, and walk'?

In answering these scribes in this way, Jesus was overcoming religious hardness.

6. "But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" — then He said to the paralytic — “Rise, take up your bed, and go home." 

Jesus is giving us a perfect example of what we talked about last week; perfect heavenly love fulfills Biblical Law.

7. And he rose, and went home.
8. But when the multitudes saw this, they were filled with awe, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

In reality, we believe that we have always had this authority, but the religious leaders concentrated on the Law and not how the people could live in the heavenly will of God, and be filled with His heavenly love.
Even to this very day, each and every one of us needs to learn how to overcome religious hardness.

9. And as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, "Follow Me!" And he rose, and followed Him.

Jesus sees the intent of Matthew’s heart, and not the worldly way in which he was earning his living.

10. And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.
11. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?"

Once again the religious leaders allow their hardness of heart to overcome the heavenly will of God; they can’t even wait to see what Jesus was going to do.
So Jesus gives us another example of overcoming religious hardness.

12. But when He heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 

Sickness is not always physical; it can also be spiritual, which is exactly what Jesus is addressing.

13. "But go and learn what this means, 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." 

But religious hardness of heart is not limited to healing someone of physical or spiritual illnesses; it can also involve many other things.

14. Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?"

Even the disciples of John are falling into the trap set by the religious leaders, which is still going on to this very day, and we need to learn how to recognize it for we need to be overcoming religious hardness.

15. And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Even fasting should not be simply a religious ritual; it needs to be a spiritual calling of mourning for the hardness of heart in the world, whether it is personal with us, or involves the ungodliness in the world around us.
Fasting must be personal to us; it only should be between us and God, and has nothing to do with anyone else; it’s not for anyone else or for show; it’s about our own mourning before God, and only God.
Then Jesus went on with what we believe are examples of overcoming religious hardness, and the things that the religious leaders want to inflict upon the people that are not in the heavenly will of God.

16. "But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results.
17. "Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."

These two examples are like saying that it’s okay to cause another living being, an animal, to suffer and die so that we can satisfy our gluttony, when in fact there are plenty of whole unprocessed plant foods that will satisfy our hunger with the added benefits of improving our health and helping to protect the environment, which are all in the heavenly will of God.  
Suffering and death are never in the heavenly will of God.
The only one who likes suffering and death is the devil. 
Those people who are partakers of the exploitation of animals, or indifferent to their suffering and death, are really followers of the ways of the devil and this corrupted world.

18. While He was saying these things to them, behold, there came a synagogue official, and bowed down before Him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live."

Notice the faith of this man; he really knows the truth.

19. And Jesus rose and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.
20. And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak;

21. for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I shall get well."

Notice her faith also.
The faith of these two people is really doing things that are overcoming religious hardness, for they are going against the ways and teachings of the religious leaders.

22. But Jesus turning and seeing her said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." And at once the woman was made well.

Also notice the humbleness of Jesus; He didn’t take any of the credit for healing this woman, instead He said that her healing was brought about by her own faith.
And, we almost forgot about the religious official’s daughter…

23. And when Jesus came into the official's house, and saw the flute-players, and the crowd in noisy disorder,
24. He began to say, "Depart; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him.

They knew who Jesus was, and yet they allowed their own hardness of heart to rule their lives.
We need to overcome religious hardness like this.

25. But when the crowd had been put out, He entered and took her by the hand; and the girl arose.
26. And this news went out into all that land.
27. And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, and saying, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"

Think carefully about what Jesus does next…

28. And after He had come into the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord."
29. Then He touched their eyes, saying, "Be it done to you according to your faith." 
30. And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, "See here, let no one know about this!" 

We have no way of really knowing whether they were healed by their own faith, or the healing from Jesus or God in heaven.
But from their actions, they believed that the healing came from or through Jesus.

31. But they went out, and spread the news about Him in all that land.

In one way they were disobeying Jesus, and in another way they were overcoming religious hardness that wouldn’t accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord.
But these miraculous happenings didn’t end here, for the Lord wanted to show the people that He was in control, and not the religious leaders with hardened hearts.

32. And as they were going out, behold, a dumb man, demon-possessed, was brought to Him.
33. And after the demon was cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled, saying, "Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel."
34. But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."

We hope we all see the Pharisees’ hardness of heart, which made them unable to recognize that God was performing miracles in front of their very eyes.

35. And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
36. And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.
37. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
38. "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."

Jesus wanted us to know how to be overcoming religious hardness whenever we encountered it.
If the religious leaders wouldn’t live in the heavenly will of God, it was no excuse for the people not to, and Jesus was showing them how.
And this religious hardness still exists today, and we all need to overcome religious hardness by living in the heavenly will of God and setting an example for other people to follow.
As an example, if our religious leaders continue to corrupt God’s creation by promoting the exploitation of animals by eating them and having fund raisers where the tortured remains of animals are served, we need to reject their corrupt ways and eat only the whole plant foods that God created for us to eat in Eden.
We also need to recognize the fact that eating animal products not only harms the animals, but it also harms our health by promoting chronic diseases, and pollutes our environment.
Therefore, if not eating animals becomes our way of life, and we can feel the pain and suffering of the animals and the whole of creation, and we are truly seeking to help end the corruption of creation, we will be overcoming religious hardness.
We all can do this, if we want to.

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