I am guilty of it. You are too. None of us is immune, but that doesn’t make it excusable. All of us will one day face the Lord to answer for it. I fear it runs deep in our veins, clouds our judgment, and destroys our hearts. It clogs, corrupts, and condemns us. It is inexcusable.
It is undeniable. Anyone with “ears to hear” and eyes to see knows it is there. But what are we doing about it? Are we open to confessing it? Why do we justify it or pretend the elephant is not in the room?
I see it every Sunday. Maybe you do too. Every Sunday when I preach, I see it. I can sense it in the room. When I travel and preach in other churches or conferences, I know it’s there. I’ve seen it raise its ugly head. I’ve been on the receiving end of caustic remarks birthed by it.
It is repugnant and detestable to God. It causes the presence of God to be limited in the church. It impacts churches corporately and believers individually in marked and measurable ways. Although some might try to hide behind a religious facade, it’s evident. You can see it in the response to the Word, in folded arms during singing of praise songs and hymns. It reveals itself in the unbowed head, looking around the room, during a corporate prayer time.
It has been with us since the dawning of the age. It is found in every book, beginning in Genesis. It is present in the churches in Revelation. It bears the DNA of the devil, and is applauded in hell.
When I do not recognize it in my own life, I thrill the devil, quench the spirit, discourage the saints, dilute the power of the Spirit in the room and grieve God. I can’t justify it, excuse it, or blame anyone else. It is in me because of my depravity. If you don’t admit it’s in you, it’s a sure sign you are eaten up with it.
It’s resistance to the Holy Spirit. It’s the reason we can’t have revival on a corporate, national, or global level. It is the reason our altars are empty and our eyes are dry. It is what angered the Lord about the Pharisees. It is what Stephen confronted in his one sermon in Acts. It is what makes religious people hate spiritual people.
What are the symptoms? Demanding my rights, refusing to make a public declaration of my faith, refusing to repent, refusing to forgive, resisting brokenness, and in essence, calling God a liar. It is a denial that anything is wrong with me or my life.
It causes people to walk out when the preacher gets too close to home. It causes people to change churches rather than change their hearts. It leads to attacks from religious people who hate a preacher who stands for the Word of God without apology.
Let me just go ahead and say it. I’m guilty. You are guilty. If we don’t do something about it, we will lose the favor of God. God will not bless resistant people. One person sent me an email after a service and said, “I’m not sure some folks would come to the altar if Jesus Himself was telling them, ‘Repent or else…’” He has already said it.
That’s why some folks, even Christians, are living under judgment and the showers of blessings are withheld. They are resisting Jesus.
In Stephen’s sermon, he made an application that stings. “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did” (Acts 7:51). Through the centuries, God’s people never learned from their times of captivity. They continually demanded their rights and worshiped other gods and wouldn’t bow to the Lord. They killed their own Messiah.
Like it or not, we are no different. After 2,000 years of Christian history, we are still resistant and in desperate need of a repentant church. This verse defines the problem of the American church today. It may define your problem. Only you know. But I will say, “By their fruit you will know them.” How fruitful are you? How responsive are you to God’s invitation? How sensitive are you to the Holy Spirit? Can you hear the still small voice or do you only hear God in a crisis or a train wreck?
“Stiff-necked” is the same term used in Exodus 33:3 regarding Israel at Mt. Sinai. You can be stiff-necked and be in church every Sunday. You can be obstinate in your Sunday best. The word pictures one who defiantly refuses to bow before the Lord in humility and repentance.
People who are resistant, bow up when God’s Word gets up close and personal. They may even attack a preacher, but in reality, they are resistant to God. They resisted the prophets, and they will resist a preacher (Luke 11:47-51).
There is an alternative. We can repent of our resistance and resolve in our hearts to die daily to our will and live daily for His glory. We can ask God to make us sensitive to the still small voice of the Spirit. We can plead that God would restore the joy of our salvation. We can, and we must, if we are serious about our Savior.