When we have hardened our hearts, it’s difficult if nearly impossible for God’s Word to penetrate that tough exterior. In Acts 28:27, Paul used the term “calloused hearts” when dealing with the unbelieving Jews in Rome as he quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 to them. “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this peoples’s heart has become calloused.” Our hearts may acknowledge and even recognize that still small voice of the Holy Spirit…but when it comes time to heed His direction, we quickly turn away, refusing to obey out of rebellion and selfishness. And sadly, over time it becomes easier and easier not to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit, for over time our hearts become more and more calloused. So if today you hear His voice, trade in your heart of stone for a heart of flesh.
In I Corinthians 4:5 it tells us that God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. The life of our heart is a hidden life…or so we think. But God knows all, sees all, understands all, and will forgive all if asked. And in doing so we’ll be given a new heart…exchanging our heart of stone for a heart of flesh.
A hard heart is a rebellious heart…one that allows unbelief to draw it away from the truth of God. That’s why we’re admonished in the Bible to not to harden our hearts when we hear His voice. (Hebrews 4:7 & Psalm 95:7-8) So the antidote to a hard heart, (and what we should be praying for all our unbelieving friends and family) is found in Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” A heart of flesh is alive and new…and it’s a place where faith can spring up.
Can I as a Believer have a hard heart? The answer is yes! Now I’m not talking about full-out rebellion against God…I’m talking more about apathy. For the road to a hardened heart starts simply with indifference and disregard to the Holy Spirit. We hear but we choose to ignore. That’s because we arrogantly think we know better, so we slowly toughen our stance…digging in our heels…holding on to old habits we’re unlikely to ever change. A hardened heart does not happen over night…it is rather an insidious and gradual process of resistance towards God’s authority in our life.
Stiff-necked is a great word picture. It comes from oxen resisting the yoke placed on them by the farmer. And when we turn away from God and His Word…we’re essentially doing the same thing. We stubbornly think God’s yoke is too difficult to bear and so in rebellion we throw off the yoke of obedience. But it warns us in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” For we become totally deceived when we think that the yoke of sin is easy to escape out of…for in reality, the bondage of its yoke is far heavier and more difficult to carry.
This is from the Parable of the Sower, where the farmer sows the Word…the Logos…the Word of God, onto a hard-packed path. The seed just sits on top of the surface, unable to germinate and grow because of the hardpan – the unbroken subsoil beneath. To have a hardened heart towards the Gospel is to have an indifference towards the things of God…or to have an unfeeling conscience. So how can we pray for that person? We can ask the Lord to plow up that hard soil of rebellion in their life… that the Word of God may germinate and flourish there.
Are you walking around with a hardened heart? When we’ve been hurt over and over again, our only recourse is to protect our heart…our inner person. We put up a wall of callousness and apathy so no one can hurt us again. It’s effective, but makes us appear uncaring and insensitive to others. It’s also really lonely within those walls…but we’re too afraid and distrustful to allow anyone in…so instead, we put on the mask of indifference.
But you may also be walking around with a hardened heart from sin. Everything is going great… you can make it on your own…you don’t need the Lord. But obstinately refusing God will only lead to destruction.