We live in a hard world…and we encounter it everyday.
We’ve all attended the school of hard knocks, lived between a rock and hard place, and discovered that there are no hard and fast rules. We meet people who are as hard as nails, drive a hard bargain, are a hard nut to crack, and are a hard act to follow. We encounter circumstances that are hard to swallow and have learned the hard way. We’re hard pressed, hard up, play hard to get, work hard, fall on hard times, and need hard cash. We offend someone and say, “No hard feelings.” Of course, we know without being told that this is not what the Lord wants for us. Out of sheer self-protection, our tendency is to become hard ourselves: we take a hard line, develop hard feelings, and in the process become hard-hearted. After thinking long and hard, many of us are hard of hearing on some matters, and we know that old habits die hard. Along the way, we run into hard voices, faces, attitudes…and hearts. So, let’s take a long, hard look at what the Bible has to say about hard-heartedness.
For those of you who are cruising right along with B90X, you would have finished the long prophetic book of Jeremiah and nearly finished Ezekiel.
In reading through the Bible we will have been introduced to roughly 3,500 characters. None, I repeat, none, is more enigmatic and melodramatic than our prophetic friend Ezekiel.
God tells Ezekiel He is sending him to a rebellious nation to share with them a message. And by the way, according to Ezekiel, why say something once, when you can say it over and over with all sorts of synonyms- the Lord tells him to not speak for a year.
Ezekiel is told to make a clay model of the city and pretend he is sieging it with a metal skillet.
Ezekiel is to lay on his side on some sidewalk for everyone to see. 395 days on one side for the number of years of Israel’s sin and then 40 days on his other side for 40 years of Judah’s sin.
He had to make special bread but cook it over dung to symbolize Israel’s degradation.
After cutting off all his hair and beard, he had to hid a little bit of it in the cuff of his coat, but the rest he had to divide into thirds. Each bit he had to treat differently. Hack one-third with a sword, burn one-third in a fire, and let one-third blow away with the wind.
There is more. Ezekiel employed more visual affects to make his point than any other preacher. He was the master of illustrated sermons.
Embedded in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel we found some new ideas. If reading swiftly and unaware, one would slip right over these ideas without even thinking that they were new or significant.
Let me read them to you. The first is Jeremiah 31:31-33.
I will be reading from the Complete Jewish Bible.
30 (31) “Here, the days are coming,” says Adonai, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Isra’el and with the house of Y’hudah. 31 (32) It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day I took them by their hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt; because they, for their part, violated my covenant, even though I, for my part, was a husband to them,” says Adonai. 32 (33) “For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra’el after those days,” says Adonai: “I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Something new is coming. People couldn’t hang with the old, they just flat broke the covenant set up by Father way too many times.
Ezekiel 11:19 and I will give them unity (undivided) of heart. “I will put a new spirit among you.” I will remove from their bodies the hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh;
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit inside you;I will take the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
We have two hearts. A physical heart and a spiritual heart.
When our physical heart gives us trouble, it is pretty obvious and can cause worry and stress for not only ourselves but the people around us.
Just ask Cindy. Or ask her family. Just that little 1 pound chunk of muscle can bring a bunch of folks to worry.
The signs of a bad physical heart can be obvious, not always, but for the most part, when our ticker flickers, we notice.
The more important heart is our spiritual model. One can have a bad physical heart and a healthy spiritual heart. But to have a healthy physical heart and an unhealthy spiritual heart, and it doesn’t matter how healthy you are, there are going to be tones of issues and struggles in your life.
The condition of our spiritual heart may be the most important element we deal with regarding our bodies and our spiritual condition.
The word heart shows up 725 times in the Bible and the preponderance refers to our spiritual heart in contrast to our physical heart. Then there are countless times when the theme of a verse refers to our spiritual heart, the specific word is just absent.
Typically when we just say ‘heart’ we are referring to our spiritual heart.
When we say heart, we are referring to our seat of emotions, the center of our personality, usually contrasted with our head and knowledge, it is center for our capacity to sympathize, feel, and show affection. It is our guts. The gut feeling we have sometimes. The Greek for guts is splangkna. The Bible says Judas spilled his splangkna on the ground. Then Jesus had compassion on the crowd, same splangkna. Click, goulashes, babaganoush.
Back to this idea of replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh.
Its interesting, when I was studying about this, I came across some information about the Egyptians and how they mummify folks.
One of the things they do is cut out the person’s flesh heart and replace it with a stone. Because they think that a persons true heart betrays them. That it reveals the truth about a person. Well, yes.
That a stone heart is able to hide things that the God’s can’t see. Interesting. There is some truth to that. When we have a stony heart, we are less like to emote honestly.
They thought they could fool God. Maybe their God, but not Yahweh. The omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God.
Whether Ezekiel was aware of this or not, I have no idea. Yet I find it interesting that Egyptian mythology has a place of influence in Hebrew culture.
How can we identify a hard heart?
Psalm 139 “Search me and know my heart.”
How often do we ask Father this question? How often do we ask others this question about ourselves and really stop to listen to what they say?
Risky I know. But how are we going to move away from a hard heart to an undivided, fleshy heart?
Just because someone has a hard or calloused heart doesn’t mean they are in sin or in rebellion. Nor is the evidence of sin the result of a hard heart. However, they can be in parallel.
We have the ability to shut off our hearts. God made us that way. God created us with the ability to shut out things we don’t want inside of our hearts. We have control over what comes in, and what comes out. This was created in us for good, so that we could shun things that could potentially hurt us and keep us from knowing God. Unfortunately, it works both ways, and without even realizing it we can create a callous towards God’s power and influences in our lives.
”A hardened heart dulls a person’s ability to perceive and understand. It is the equivalent of spiritual retardation.”
After Jesus had fed the 4000 men, plus woman and children, the disciples were complaining about not having enough food for themselves in their boat. Mark 8:17-18, “Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are you hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?”
Jesus had just performed a miracle right in front of the disciples’ eyes. But, instead of focusing on the supernatural and what God could do for them, the disciples basically limited God in their own hearts because they lacked faith. They hardened their hearts towards the power God had just displayed in their lives and forgot about everything just revealed to them. When we focus on the natural (as in, the limitations of living on earth and being a human) instead of on the supernatural (as in, the unlimited power, sovereignty and authority God has), we forget about everything God has done for us, which in turn makes our hearts calloused.
A. How do you know you have a hard heart?
1. No interest in kingdom things.
2. No desire to read the Word of God.
3. Lack of a desire to grow or do Father’s will
4. Loss of compassion for those in need.
5. Loss of interest in serving outside ourselves.
6. Lost excitement for the work of God.
7. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19 that hard-heartedness is the spirit behind divorce.
Not divorce in marriage solely, but divorce in relationships of all kinds. Divorces in ethnicity, divorce between brothers in Christ, divorce in businesses, divorce in schools, divorce in churches, divorce between nations, divorce between anything is the result of folks not trying anymore. Giving up is a symptom of hard-heartedness.
Hebrews 4:7 “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” This is the command of God for us. If we have calloused hearts, we are holding ourselves back and limiting God’s power in our lives with our own thoughts. Let’s expect the supernatural from God and receive with openness the miracles and grace He gives us daily. We are the only ones losing if we don’t.
B. How does our heart become hard?
1. The continual practice of sin.
We can get good at it.
We become deaf to the voice of Father. Hebrews 3:15
Law of Entropy- left to themselves, things naturally deteriorate rather than improve.
Sin takes us farther than we are willing to go, Keep us longer than we are willing to stay, and cost us more than we are willing to pay.
C. How do we move from heart of stone to a heart of flesh?
1. The Spirit of God Chisels Away at Hard Hearts
One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction to people’s hearts. It was the Holy Spirit working on the hearts of the Jews on Pentecost when they said, they were pierced to the heart. Perhaps today the Spirit is working on your hearts and bringing conviction through the Word of God, if so I hope that the conviction you may feel will be taken as a message from God. People respond all sorts of ways when they feel convicted. Some people push it off and take it as nothing. Other people heed that conviction and are thankful that God has revealed to them the errors of their ways. Maybe the Spirit of God is trying to chisel away at your heart of stone.
2. The Word of God Chisels Away at Hard Hearts
The Word of God is one of the most powerful things that there is. It is the Word of God that is called the sword of the Spirit and is our weapon against the Devil. The Word of God tells us what it is that God expects of us. We learn right from wrong and we learn God’s standard. We can learn in His Word where we are not living up to what God expects. It is in the Word of God that we can find help for our problems, we can claim promises that God gives us, we can learn the way of chiseling away at our hearts.
3. The Fellowship of the Saints Chisels Away at Hard Hearts
The fellowship of the saints, of God’s people is one of the greatest remedies for the hard heart. There is something special about gathering in fellowship that has a away of softening the heart. If your heart is hard one of the best things you can do is consciously make a choice to be where God’s people are, find opportunities to fellowship. Today, perhaps by being with God’s people your heart is being chiseled away at.
4. The Guarding of our Hearts Chisels Away at Hard Hearts
I believe another way that our hearts are softened and chiseled away at is by being careful what we allow into our hearts. Jesus taught plainly, that it really does matter what you allow into your hearts, because that goes to your heart and eventually will come out.
Perhaps, you need to guard your heart and remove some things from your way so that you are not polluting your mind and heart. By guarding your heart and keeping yourself clear from impure things you can chisel away at your hard heart.
5. The Repentance of Sin Chisels Away at Hard Hearts
The best way to soften a hard heart is through repentance of sin. It is through repentance that we have the promise of wipping our slates clean and being made right. We have the promise of forgiveness of sins.
I John 1:9
Perhaps today your heart has become hard. I want to encourage you today to repent of that sin that had held you back from God. Repentance is not just being sorry for the sins that you have committed though, it is a change in the lifestyle for the better.