For years it has been a great joy and privilege to serve The Lord in the former Soviet Union. Almost every year I would travel there to do a wide variety of things to further the Kingdom of God and I look forward to my next opportunity. Each trip included a visit to Red Square – the iconic location of so much history featuring St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin. You’ve seen it many times on news reports or documentaries about Russia.
I have many wonderful friends in Russia and Ukraine. Each trip I have been greeted warmly by believers and non-believers alike. Even though the Soviet Union was well known for repression and atheism there are many believers who have survived and even thrived under persecution. Russian history is interwoven with religion and the official religion of Russia is Russian Orthodox.
The Kremlin, or the castle, is the walled brick stronghold next to Red Square and is the center of the Russian government as it was the political center of the atheistic Communist regime in the Soviet Union. Remarkably, the Kremlin is filled with spiritual symbols.
Surprisingly, the centerpiece of the Kremlin is Cathedral Square. It is filled entirely with ancient churches and cathedrals. Over the exit door of the western wall the Russian Orthodox Church has two murals. The mural on the left depicts paradise; the one on the right depicts hell. Between them, above the door, the Lord is shown on the Great White Throne.
Now, can you imagine Stalin, Lenin, and other atheistic Communist leaders passing these murals? They were no strangers to its visual images, that had to have passed them thousands of times, but apparently were blind to the images’ spiritual significance!
We don’t need to travel to the former Soviet Union to find people who have ignored symbols pointing to God. Virtually every town in America has a church steeple topped by a cross. How many people who see the cross each day stop to consider what it really means?
This week I was reading Jesus’ words from Matthew 13:14-17 (NIV):
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Did you know God actually speaks to people? Blackaby pointed out that God speaks by His Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church (or other believers). He has something to say to you and me. Tragically, we may be guilty of having “calloused” hearts, closing our eyes, “hardly” hearing.
Obviously, those who have not surrendered to Christ and refuse His grace and mercy are guilty of this. Equally sad is when Christ-followers do this. Which begs the question, how can one follow Christ if he is not listening to Christ?
Why would anyone stop their ears to God’s words? Verse 15 explains the results of hearing, “understand with their hearts and turn.”
We may hear, but if we don’t obey and turn from our sin we don’t really hear. The fact is, our sinful nature does not want to hear because deep down we know that we will have to change.
There is a high cost to closing our ears to God’s words, even unintentionally. This is not just true for the unbeliever. What has God been saying to you? Are you listening?
Someone said, “There is none so blind as those who will not see.”
Let’s pray along with the psalmist, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.”