Echoes From the Campfire

You’re hating too hard…  Hate is a cruel master.
              –Elmer Kelton (Bitter Trail)

    “A wicked man hardens his face, But as for the upright, he establishes his way.”
              –Proverbs 21:29(NKJV)
I came across some thoughts last week in my reading that need to be shared.  I have never pondered them before; I have never even seen anyone discuss them.  I’m glad for those who study the Word and share it for dull-minded ol’ fence posts like me.

         “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what are we to do?'”
                   –Acts 2:37 (NASB)

         “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.”
                   –Acts 7:54 (NASB)

If you read the New King James, they both render it “cut to the heart.”  I like the King James and the above New American Standard for they give a slightly different rendering for the words mean something slightly different.  
    In Acts 2:37, the response of the crowd to Peter’s message was they were “pricked in their hearts” (KJV), or “pierced.”  It means “to stab”; it depicts something sudden or unexpected.  The Holy Spirit used Peter’s words under the anointing to stab the people with the “sword of the Spirit.”  Conviction spread through the crowd, the words were received, and three thousand where added to the church.
    Turning to the words in Acts 7, there is a different scene.  Stephen spoke to the religious leaders and the Scripture says they were “cut to the heart” (KJV) or “cut to the quick.”  Conviction was still there, but there was a totally different response.  The Holy Spirit “cut through their hypocrisy and exposed them for who they were.” (Larry Turner)  There was no remorse, there was no repentance.  Instead they were filled with hatred and rage and rushed out to stone Stephen.
    Throughout my life I have often wondered at the different responses to the Holy Spirit.  Years ago I read or heard, that the Holy Spirit will either convict or enrage.  Actually He always convicts, the response is what is different.  In response, Pharaoh hardened his heart; in response, David repented.  People haven’t changed, the truth will either turn them toward God or it will cause rage, resentment, and hatred and hearts will be hardened.  There were many things that could be said here, the heart wasn’t prepared, the heart wasn’t ready plowed, etc., but whatever, the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing and where He is placing the Word.
    Peter and Stephen preached the truth, both men were full of the Holy Spirit–yet the listeners responded differently, some believed, some refused.  A.W. Tozer says, “It is the Holy Spirit or darkness.”  Adrian Rogers said, “The same sun that melts the ice will harden the clay.”  How do you see people responding to the truth?  How do you respond to the Truth?  It is either toward light or into darkness where there is the absence of light and you stumble along becoming more bitter and more angry.  It is either the stone, cold heart melting under the warmth of the Holy Spirit, or it is becoming harder, baked like a brick.
    I like the way J.B. Phillips translates these verses:  “When they heard this they were cut to the quick…” (2:37); “These words stung them to fury and they ground their teeth at him in rage.” (7:54).  The Word “cut,” “pierced,” “stung,” “pricked” whichever term you choose to render, but the response is what resonates:  repentance or rejection.