Do Not Harden Your Heart
By Geneva Yoder
November 1, 2016
Paul starts Hebrews 3:7 by writing, Wherefore as the Holy Spirit says... and then quotes Psalm 95:7-11. By quoting Old Testament scriptures to these New Testament Christians, Paul is making it quite clear that the Holy Spirit still speaks to us today from the Old Testament. In fact, in I Cor. 10:1-11 he tells us the things that happened to the children of Israel while they journeyed in the wilderness were written for our admonition so we could be warned and learn from the mistakes they made. The danger of hardening our hearts is as great today as it was for the children of Israel in the desert. We need to heed the solemn warnings in the Old Testament against sin and hardening of our hearts, as well as those in the New Testament. All were given to us by the Holy Spirit, and these warnings are as applicable to us today as they were to Israel at that time.
Paul then continues with Today if you will hear His voice. A willingness to hear is crucial as well as a willingness to hear today. A lazy man will put off work until tomorrow, and a foolish man will put off forsaking his sin until tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes for them. A person who is willing to change today will soon be changed. A person who is willing to learn today will soon have knowledge. A person living in sin is unwilling to hear the voice of God and unwilling to obey. This is the evidence of a hard heart. We need to ask God for a willing and obedient heart and mind. We need to pray as David did, Search me, O God, and know my heart. . . see if there be any wicked way in me (Psalm 139).
Jesus said, My sheep hear my voice. There are many ways to hear His voice. As Christians we need to become well acquainted with the voice of the Shepherd, but a hard heart will keep us from hearing and recognizing His voice. The voice of the Father will speak to our heart. Some of the ways God may speak to us are:
- Through the Scriptures
- By preaching or teaching of truth
- Through our conscience
- Through circumstances and events
- Through the admonitions and counsel of other Christians
- By the leading of the Spirit or a "knowing" in the inner man
- Through dreams and visions
- By an audible voice
A hardened heart will have no interest in the Scriptures. When it hears truth preached, there is very little impression made on a hard heart. A hardened heart is one in which the conscience is dull and insensitive. A hardened heart will scarcely be moved by circumstances or the warnings of other people. And of course, a hard heart will not sense that still small voice in the inner man.
We must be moved by the voice of God speaking to us in our heart. It must cause us to change our course of action. To believe is not enough, even the devils believe and tremble. Our beliefs must affect our actions or it is not real belief, and we have been deceived. Harden not your hearts.
So, the idea here is that the heart is hardened by the refusal to listen to and obey the voice of God. I will give you a good illustration.
My husband has to get up every morning at 5:00 am, and I don't have to get up until later. His alarm clock is set to go off at 5:00 am, but I hardly ever hear it. The loud buzzing does not wake me up any longer, and most mornings I sleep right through it. The repeated action of ignoring the alarm clock has caused me to be unable to hear it. That is how a hard heart is created: the repeated choice of refusing to heed.
It seems to me there are three kinds of hardness of heart that we have to deal with and be on guard for. First, there is a natural hardness of heart that we are all born with. It is from the old nature of Adam and does not necessarily come by our choices, but by the sin of Adam. Because of Adam's sin nature, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and ye must be born again. Being born again of the nature of God is the remedy for this one.
Second, there is a hardness that can come because of offense (someone hurts you), especially to Christians, and I want to address this one very briefly.
- We must not become bitter or unforgiving when we are wronged. If it is another Christian who sins against us, we must confront him according to Scripture in Matt. 18 and hold him accountable.
- If we are wronged by way of persecution, we are to rejoice that we were counted worthy to suffer for His Name's sake, and we are to pray for those who persecute us.
The third kind of hardness of heart is the one referred to in Hebrews 3:12 when the author writes to the Hebrew Christians, Beware lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. This is the one I would like to address at length. A "departure" from someone or something comes in taking small steps or in making small choices, if you will. A departure from the living God would look something like the following steps I have outlined.
Step 1. Consenting to, in the mind, or agreeing with sin. (Verse 13 tells us that sin is deceitful, so this first step, or the very foundation of this "departure," is to join ourselves with a liar).
Step 2. Doing or committing the sin. The more times this step is taken, the harder the heart becomes.
Step 3. No longer seeing the wrong of your sin and past the boundaries of believing what God has to say about it.
Step 4. Openly defiant to the truth as given to us by God, in both your speech and your actions.
Step 5. At some point, you become no longer reachable by God or man, grieving the Spirit so that He leaves, with the end result being a seared conscience and a reprobate mind.
Praise God! Those who have known the Father and have "departed" because of sin can reverse their direction and come back to Him. This reversal is called repentance, and God the Father will be waiting with open arms to forgive and cleanse them. They can and will be restored as if they had never departed from Him. The mercy of God is extended to us, and we can come to Him boldly and without shame when we need His help to overcome and forsake sin.
For those who have not yet known the Father, the same is true. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Come before the Lord and pour out your heart to Him, surrender your whole life to Him, and purpose to obey Him no matter the cost. Confess and forsake your sin and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior and follow Him. Today is the day of salvation, and the Lord Jesus is calling out to you.
So, let us exhort one another daily. It is our duty to exhort each other in this way, and so much the more as we see the day approaching. To exhort means to speak to, to address, to admonish and warn. No doubt, many people have been severely wounded by the so-called "exhortation" of others, and much evil and damage has been done to the Body of Christ. This will, unfortunately, likely continue to happen, but is that a sufficient reason to disobey this command to exhort one another? I don't believe it is. Does this mean we should look for the faults in others so that we can be the best "exhorter" in the church? Of course not! Love does not look for faults; love is not easily provoked and thinks no evil. We need to grow up and learn to walk in the Spirit. The reason the Holy Spirit will lead a person to exhort another is for the glory of God and for His Kingdom, not to tear someone else down or to exalt yourself.
Now, let’s look at the deceitfulness of sin. Sin is from the devil. He is the father of lies, so sin is a liar. The person who commits sin is always under a delusion. Sin promises much but gives little,. It will give pleasure for a season, but that season is very short. It appears to be fun, but is actually filthy. It presents itself as pleasant, but is very destructive. It assures us of pleasure and fulfillment that it will never deliver. It will take us way beyond where we ever thought we would go, once we submit to it. If we could see the end of a journey with sin before we started that journey, we would flee in abhorrence. This is why we must trust God and believe what He says about the matter, because He can see the end of such a journey when we cannot.
The devil has had thousands of years to perfect his traps, and I see how he goes after young people in the body of Christ when they are in a vulnerable time in their life. While they are children, they obey the voice of God that comes through their Christian parents. When they reach the age of accountability to God and they have to start making their own choices in life, the enemy is ready and waiting. Because their faith must be a work in their own heart and not a hand-me-down from a church or from their parents, they will start to question some of the things they have been taught. I believe this questioning is normal and a part of growing up into maturity. During this time of questioning, the devil is willing to provide answers for them. If they humble themselves and pray and seek God's face for answers to their questions, they will come through this time safely. If they become prideful and pay no attention to the written guidelines God has for them in the Scriptures and the voice of the Lord speaking in their hearts, they will eventually find themselves in a place they never thought they would be.
What young person, now vigorous and healthy with a good prospect of a happy and fulfilling life, would ever take that first dose of drugs to fit in with friends, if they could see themselves a few years in the future when their health is gone, teeth missing, no money and alone in life? Sin will say, “You can stop at any time!" but sin is deceitful.
What young person, now strong and happy with a bright future, would ever take that first drink of alcohol at a worldly party that caters to their fleshly lusts, if they could see years into the future when their liver is destroyed and they've lost their home and family because of drunkenness? Sin will say ,"That won't happen to you!" but sin is deceitful.
What young lady, with a beautiful body and the hope of a loving marriage would ever wear clothes and behave in ways that excite the flesh and draw the attention of lustful men to attempt to fill her need for one true love, if she could see years into the future when her body and emotions are broken, having been used by many with no love from any? Sin will say, “You’re in charge and you can handle it!" but sin is deceitful.
The list of traps is endless, and they are not just for young people, by any means. But, praise God! He always makes a way of escape for us and it will always be through hearing and obeying His voice today! Our relationship with the Lord must be the kind of relationship that Jesus had with God the Father. Jesus is our example and He lived his life by hearing from the Father and obeying His voice daily.
— G. Yoder
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