by Pastor Tim Burt
I have spent a fair amount of time recently working in my garden. When I have my hands in dirt and water repeatedly, the skin on my hands gets rough and hard. I lotion them repeatedly to get my skin back to normal. If I didn't, they'd remain hardened for some time.
I wish all it took to get a hardened heart soft toward God was to apply lotion to it, but that is not the case. When people harden their heart from God, they have also wandered away from Him. This has been happening since God created man. The following verse is was spoken by a prophet named Azariah. He was speaking to the king about the hardness of the people's hearts toward God. He was trying to help them come back to God. We read in 2 Chronicles 15:2 (NIV) "He went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you."
What I am about to say is not contradicting scripture but giving you insight to God’s word. It appears that the verse we just read says “if you forsake Him, He will forsake you,” yet Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) says that God will “never leave us nor forsake us.” So are these scriptures contradicting each other? The answer is absolutely not! In the Old Testament, the Hebrew verb for “forsake” is a causative verb that implies God will allow you to walk away from Him as a choice of your own free will. He will not interfere with your choices as much as He'd love for you to stay close to Him.
So why would someone make a choice to walk away from God? Most people don’t. Backsliding from God starts with someone giving into small wrong choices that violate their conscience. Carnality only hungers and calls for more and so temptation repeats and is yielded to again and again. This is the beginning of a gradual hardening of one’s heart toward God. Hardening of the heart results in the blinding of the eyes of that person’s understanding. You could describe it as a supernatural darkness descending from small disobedient actions.
A man begins paying attention to women that aren’t his wife. A woman gets tired of her husband and begins dreaming of building an independent life. That man clicks on a porn site. The woman goes out on a night with the girls and does and thinks things she knows are outside of the godly boundaries she had previously established. Those initial wrong actions bring guilt and conviction. But, they become repeated and soon the conviction is replaced with a hard and calloused heart. I’ve seen a lot of that lately. I’ve seen people backslide from God playing with the fire of the world’s ways. As I said, when you become callous and walk away from doing what is right, you become blinded by the very sin you’ve given yourself over to. If you don’t acknowledge and turn from it, you will become the person on a course that eventually crashes and burns. Some people hit bottom and cry out to God and some are so steeped in their own pride, they stay blinded.
King Asa listened to the prophet Azariah. He knew what the prophet said was the truth. He opened up his heart and let Azariah’s words penetrate and soften his heart. He immediately became encouraged for himself and for his people. The desire to seek and draw close to the Lord was re-lit within him. 2 Chronicles 15:12 (NIV) tells us what they did to get it right! "They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul."
Romans 12:1 tells us, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." The reason we are called to be a living sacrifice is because when you begin to seek God to soften your heart, it is often an act of faith that your flesh doesn't want to do and that your mind struggles with. You may get on your knees and pray and cry out to God but you might not feel a thing. The hardness of your heart may have dulled your emotions toward God. Even so, this is the way to start! Get on your knees and pray. Cry out to God sincerely and ask Him to restore a tender heart toward you. Confess your sins to Him openly. Then read His word and let it speak to you. Begin to thank Him for who He is and all He has done for you. Go to church, sit under the teaching of the Word of God and praise God with others!
Don’t wait until you hit the skids and crash and burn. If you’ve made wrong choices, then let the prophet Azariah still speak through the pages of God’s word to your heart today, "and the people of God entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul." That is what we do to soften our heart. Then we put our faith in the grace of God and believe that His supernaturally supply of His Spirit is there to help us make the changes that are needed. In time, your heart will become soft again. You will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and will be able to obey the Lord. You will be sensitized and once again notice and see God working in your life.
Being close to God is awesome and He desires it for us. Draw on Him for grace and strength to say NO to the No's of our flesh and YES to the yes' of God. Be blessed as you seek Him and experience a close, a real, and an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Trust me, He is calling out to you today!
Isaiah 55:6 (NIV) "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while he is near."
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt