by Pastor Tim Burt
Besides Pastoring, I’m a Master Gardener and absolutely love gardening. I have a fairly large garden and it takes me about two months of steady dedication in the Spring to get it where I want it. I usually wear thin gloves when gardening but even so, my hands get dirty and I’m constantly washing them. By the time Summer has arrived, the skin on my hands gets pretty rough and hard. I have to lotion them repeatedly to get my skin back to normal. If I didn’t, they’d remain hardened.
I wish all it took to get a hardened heart soft toward God was to apply lotion to it, but that’s not the case. When people harden their heart toward God, it’s happened because they’ve wandered 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. Love always give free will! And when that happens, He is not forsaking you. He will simply feel further from you because you’ve allowed distance and feelings to diminish. That happens in marriage all the time.
So why would someone make a choice to walk away from God? Most people don’t. Backsliding from God usually starts with two mistakes: people prioritizing most things before God, and giving into small wrong choices that violate their conscience. Problems cry for attention distracting you from the One who knows how to solve your problems. And carnal behaviors are never satisfied and always hunger and call for more. And so the yielding to these temptations soon becomes habit and the new norm. Before you know it, God has taken a back seat and Bible reading and prayer becomes an obligation and after-thought at best—even non-existent. 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. The clarity of seeing life through God’s eyes with the help of the Holy Spirit begins to cloud and diminish. That ability is soon gone and you are left only seeing an ugly world without God that leads you down an entirely wrong path of making your own way through life. You’ll crash and burn!
A man begins paying attention to women that isn’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 and masturbates. 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. 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 relit 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 NIV 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 the 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.
Our hands can get dry and calloused and we lotion them until we get them back. Our hearts can get calloused but, by recognizing it and repenting of it and drawing close to Him, it will lead to the lotioning of our heart by His tender grace and mercy. Your love for God will refreshed and your heart soft once again. So, 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
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