A Hardened Heart

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A Hardened Heart.

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 26th a January 2020

When I started the year speaking about Courage and Honour, I really didn’t think I’d be taking one whole message to speak about something thing like Familiarity – which is what I did 2 weeks ago.

I’m discovering that there are many mindsets, attitudes and issues that actually have the potential to hinder our ability and our desire to genuinely honour God, and honour others.

I shared the story with you already – where Jesus entered the Synagogue and read this verse from the book of Isaiah: 

Isaiah 61:1 (NKJV),  “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;”

It was a history making moment.

And momentarily, all eyes in that synagogue were upon Jesus as He declared that today this scripture was being fulfilled before them.  He was Anointed.  He was the One this scripture was referring to – and the religious men were all amazed and in wonder…  It’s like the Spirit of God captivated their hearts with the revelation of the truth…  that the Messiah was actually standing in their midst!

It says that they all bore witness and they marvelled…

And that’s how it should have been.  That’s how it should have remained.

But all of a sudden everything changed as someone said:  “But isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  

And out of a place of familiarity – out of a place of resorting to a natural mindedness – all of a sudden the presence and power of God evaporated…

And rather than honour Jesus as the Son of God that He truly was, they turned against Him and forced Him to leave the city.  And it says later that He could not do many miracles in His home town…  and the reason was because of familiarity and unbelief.

Jesus was robbed of the honour that was due to Him – and everyone else was robbed as a result.

So I began seeking the Holy Spirit about my message for this morning – again thinking – now it’s time to really focus on what honour is.

But I’ve been side tracked again…  Not so much side tracked – but led by the Holy Spirit to speak about another danger that will definitely influence and rob us from honouring God with our life, and honouring one another the way we are called to.  

I want to just recall that picture I put up two weeks ago… 

How you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you.

So I’m beginning to realise that honour isn’t just a choice we make.  It is a choice!  But it’s not that simple.  They way we honour or dishonour others has a lot to do with our own self value – our sense of self worth – the way we’ve been treated in the past – the sum of our positive experiences and our disappointments…

This morning I want to speak about what it means to harden your heart…  because hardening you’re heart will be one of the greatest hindrances to you being able to bring honour where it is due.

When the bible talks about the heart, it’s usually referring to the core of our being – the essence of who we are – so it’s referring to our personality, our mind, the seat of our emotions, our desires, our understanding, thoughts and reasoning…   and probably more than anything, it’s speaking about our faith and believing.

No wonder the bible says: 

Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV),  “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”

Everything that’s worth anything comes directly from our heart – it’s who we are!

And for those in Christ – Praise God we have the foundations to build an honourable life and an honouring life – because we can claim God’s promise to Israel:

Ezekiel 11:19 (NKJV),  “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh”

That’s prophetic for Israel as He brings them back to their own land…  But in Christ He has also given that gift of a new heart to us as well.  

So I want to start with that encouragement.  We have what it takes to live fully for Christ – to live out of the brand new heart that He gave us when we were saved.

It’s confirmed in:

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV),  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

But we have to protect and nurture the new heart God has given us.  Because life is full of disappointments.  It’s full of suffering and pain. 

What does it mean to have a hard heart?  What are the symptoms of a heart that has grown cold and hard, or is perhaps on the way?

Be honest with yourself as we look at this – just as I have had to be honest with myself…  

Open your heart to the revelation of what you are carrying on the inside…  because that’s when healing and freedom is able to come.

Be like David this morning where he said to God:

Psalm 139:23,  (NKJV),  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties”

So No. 1 symptom…  – You don’t feel!  Simple. You’ve become detached from your emotions – detached from your own heart.  You not only don’t feel – you don’t care.  And when things are really serious, you don’t even care that you don’t care.  

That’s a sure sign that you have created a huge, thick wall around your heart – and it’s probably an attempt to protect yourself from being hurt even more than you already have been.

Healthy Boundaries are good.  Impenetrable walls are not.  

Walls mean you not only protect yourself from further hurt and pain – but you shut out all the wonderful emotions of celebration, and of joy, of contentment…  

You might stop crying – but you also stop rejoicing.   It’s just all numb.

You lose your passion.  And we all need to be passionate about something.  We certainly need to be passionate about Jesus!

How can we honour God and honour others if we aren’t able to share our inner world… our true selves…  our honest feelings…?   Intimacy with God and with other people is a gift – so what are we doing when we close ourselves off behind our walls?  We’re throwing away the gift of intimacy.  The gift is not just for you – but for others…  your gift of “in-to-me-see” is a precious gift to those you love and care about.

No. 2 – You don’t want to be around people.

Do you know what I think it is that causes us to retreat from people?  It’s not so much the person – but the brokenness, the life long patterns, the presumptions and judgements that we make…  when we put people in a box and don’t even give them the chance to climb out.   And I know those things can be hard to push through.  But Jesus says – look to the heart.  Stop looking just at the outer.  

I’ve shared with you before, that one thing that our time in counselling has taught us, is that how a person is behaving on the outside, is rarely a true indication of what is going on on the inside.

Anger, depression, anxiety, dysfunctional responses…  these are often covering over a deeper form of brokenness that is genuine and real.  Other people have walls of rejection, fear, jealousy…  all kinds of things.  

But does that mean we isolate ourselves?  Distance ourselves?  Remove ourselves from those we regard as too difficult to deal with?

We set ourselves up to be super cautious of new people we meet.  We’re wondering how long it will be before they disappoint us – let us down – rather than seeing the potential and opportunity for a new friendship.

It’s so easy to stop caring, stop loving, to stop believing for people to change, for them to be healed and restored…  it’s easy to close ourselves off and build walls of protection.  But do you know what that does?  It kills your heart.  Your heart becomes dead.

I want to encourage you just like Paul encouraged the people in Corinth – open your hearts again to others.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (Passion),  “My friends at Corinth, our hearts are wide open to you and we speak freely, holding nothing back from you. If there is a block in our relationship, it is not with us, for we carry you in our hearts with great love, yet you still withhold your affections from us. So I speak to you as our children. Make room in your hearts for us as we have done for you.”

What a wonderful prayer…  and it’s for us as well…  that we would open our hearts again – let our affections loose again…

No. 3 – Sin has created a blockage in your heart.

I was reading how there is such a parallel between what happens with our natural heart – and what happens with our spiritual heart.

Heart disease happens when the flow of oxygen is restricted in our heart…  and that’s usually because of a blockage.  Heart disease can be inherited – or you might say – generational…  the blockages might be the result of poor diet, lack of exercise, an unhealthy lifestyle.  And the arteries become hardened.

These are generalisations for those medical people amongst us.  Don’t stone me for a poor representation of how it all happens.

But spiritually, sin becomes a blockage to our heart.  The spiritual oxygen is restricted.  We become lethargic and tired spiritually.  We lose energy – and what is happening is that our heart is hardening.  It’s hardened and blocked with guilt, shame, fear, unbelief, separation from God as we try to hide our sin from Him.  And eventually our conscience becomes seared… 

And the heart – the place where we commune with God – loses its vitality – loses its ability to hear…  to discern…  to respond…

You can try a heart bypass or quench it with medication – literally…  or dull the pain with some other addictive substance…  but all the while, our heart is dying.

No. 4 – A hardened heart leads to unbelief.

In Luke 16, it speaks about the times that Jesus appeared after His death, to the women at the tomb, and then to other followers – and yet the 11 disciples refused to believe.

Mark 16:12-14 (NKJV), “After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.”

Hardness of heart and unbelief go together.

Smith Wigglesworth interrupted me at this point, as he often does.  He’s been dead for 73 years, but somehow he seems to shout out to me (not literally) and say have a read of this.

He’s talking at the moment in his devotional about Thomas not believing until he placed his hand in Jesus side, and touched the nail wounds in His hands.  And how Jesus’ touch is life changing.

Quote – “Under His touch, even the stoney hearted Thomas believed.  Oh, my God, how You have had to manage some of us!  Have we not been strange and very peculiar?  But when God’s hand comes upon us, He can speak to us in such a way;  He can give us a word or a look, and we are broken.  Has He spoken to you?  I thank God for His speaking:  Behind all of His dealings, we see the love of God for us.”  Unquote! 

The most powerful weapon we have against unbelief – is the same weapon we use to overcome a hard and stoney heart.  It’s called repentance! 

Let’s be like David, and cry out to God for forgiveness and mercy.

Psalm 51:10-12 (NKJV),  “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your  generous Spirit.”

Psalm 51:17, (NKJV),  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”

It’s pretty obvious that the opposite to a hard heart is a soft one – a supple one – an open heart.

I’m not finished just yet, but I want to pray over us at this point – because I don’t know about you, but there’s plenty just in that lot that many of us will be identifying with.  And if you know God is speaking to you right now – let this be your prayer.  Let repentance do its work.  Let brokenness have its way.

And if you’re sitting here thinking, well I don’t know what all the fuss is about.  This doesn’t apply to me.  I’m all good.  There’s no hardness in my heart.

Then can I just say – we’ll be praying even harder for you! 

“Father, ultimately, you are calling us to be a people of honour.  A people who honour you and honour one another.  But out of your grace and mercy towards us, You are revealing the depths of our own hearts and removing the hardness of heart that is hindering us and preventing us from being Your honourable people.

Lord, we ask for Your forgiveness.  We repent of our unbelief, our attempts to cover our pain and brokenness with chemicals and substances – even blame shifting and denial.

We ask that you help us to remove the hard walls – the blockages – the self protective barriers that have isolated us, hidden us, caused us to abandon those that we actually care about.  We’ve have rejected those who have rejected us out of self protection.

Father, help us to have teachable and pliable hearts – soft and tender…

Come Holy Spirit…  we ask that You would be our covering and protection.  You would be our hiding place.

Help us to open our hearts – to love You and to love one another as you have not only called us to, but commanded us to do.

We confess that Your word is true – that the issues of our life all flow from our heart.  

We want healthy hearts.

Thankyou – In Jesus name.  Amen.”

No. 5…  finally – A hard heart is linked to rebellion and disobedience.

Ouch!

Hebrews 3:7-15 (NKJK),  “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

God is reminding us that just like it was in the desert…  that time of testing and trial… when God actually provided for the people day and night… again and again He fed them, provided water for them, their shoes never ran out… He led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  Supernatural provision day after day…  and yet the people rebelled over and over and continually forgot how gracious and good God was to them.

Rebellion and hardness of heart kept them from entering into the rest and security and peace that God had for them.

They were people just like us.

The bible admits that this was a time of trial.  It was a time where the true hearts of the people were being revealed.  They didn’t do so well.

But what about the times of trial that we go through?  Our desert experiences and wanderings?  How well do we do?  

How often do we forgo the righteousness of God for self righteousness.  We think we now better.  That’s called pride!  We rebel against God’s righteous ways and determine to follow our own.  The bible calls that evil. 

The key is to always remember the faithfulness and goodness of God to us in the past.  

And to allow the restoring and healing work of the Holy Spirit to align us again with God’s plans and His ways.

If we truly desire to honour God and honour one another, it’s going to take humility to acknowledge our pride and self righteousness.  It’ll take honesty with ourselves to lead us to a place of confession and repentance.

It will take the love of God to burn again in our hearts – to burn away the dross – the hardness…  to burn down the walls.

To live any other way, is to live a lie.  We can’t fellowship with God or with one another if we are living a lie.

Last scripture!

1 John 1:6-7 (NKJV),  “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Let’s open our hearts to the truth – to God – to one another.  Only then can we truly live a life of honour. 

Amen. 


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