by Pastor Tim Burt
If you don’t know this about me, I’m a passionate gardener! I have my hands in the garden soil almost every day from Spring to Fall. I usually wear gardening gloves, but even so, my hands get dirty and I’m constantly washing them. By the time Summer has arrived, the skin on my hands has become fairly rough and rugged. 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 soften a hardened heart toward God was to apply lotion to it, but that’s not the case. When someone has hardened their heart toward God, it’s happened because they’ve wandered from Him and begun to embrace worldly lures. This has been happening since God created man. The following verse 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.” Though it looks like this is saying God will forsake us, it’s not. The Hebrew meaning of the word means God will permit you to make that choice and walk away from Him. He will because He gives us free will even though it might hurt us. His love allows us to make our own choices.
So why would anyone make a choice to walk away from God? Most people don’t. Backsliding from God usually starts with at least one of three mistakes. First, people prioritize most things before God. God soon takes a back seat, if a seat at all. Secondly, people make wrong choices when it comes to problems. Most people look first to themselves for solutions to their problems. They exhaust themselves trying to solve problems and become distracted from the One who knows how to solve their problems instead of talking and praying with God in faith about it. Thirdly, when it comes to carnal desires, they don’t understand that their flesh is never satisfied and always hungers and whines for more, especially sinful desires. And so yielding to these temptations soon becomes a new habit and the new norm. Before you know it, God has taken a back seat, and Bible reading and prayer have become an obligation and an afterthought at best, maybe even non-existent. And shame begins to grow until the heart hardens and doesn’t feel anything!
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 a 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 they are left only seeing an ugly world without God that leads them down an entirely wrong path of making their own way through life. They eventually crash and burn!
For example, a man begins paying attention to a woman that isn’t his wife. Or 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 repetitive, 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. Some people do great damage to their life and relationships, eventually hitting bottom and crying out to God while others are simply too blinded to do anything but crash and burn.
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 that 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 hearts. Then we put our faith in the grace of God and believe that the supernatural 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, so we lotion them until the skin softens again. Our hearts can get calloused, but recognizing it, repenting of it, and drawing close to the Lord, will lead to the lotioning of your heart by His tender grace and mercy. Your love for God will be 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, authentic, and 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.”
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In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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