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 Heart Matters - 9/13/10

A Critical Factor in the Spiritual Life of Christians

September 13, 2010

Introduction
In this short letter, I will outline some thoughts and burdens that God placed heavily on my spirit over the weeks and days leading up to my last tumor surgery on August 12, 2010.  These thoughts were about the importance of the condition of our heart in giving us the ability to see, hear, and believe the things of God’s kingdom. The issues of the heart and its affects on us are critical to our understanding of how to walk in victory and power in the spirit-filled and abundant life that Jesus promised us.

For a basic foundation when understanding heart matters, let’s start with Jeremiah 17:9 which says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The basic premise here is that the heart (yours and mine) is naturally and hopelessly hardened like stone and evil. Without the goodness that comes only from God and the Holy Spirit as He prompts and convicts us, there would be no good thing that comes from our hearts and our actions would all be selfish and evil continuously.

Blinded by Nature
In the Old Testament God said of the Israelites on several occasions that they were a stiff-necked and rebellious people and that they had hard hearts. For example Exodus 32:9 says “And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people:” In Deuteronomy 20:16 Moses admonished the people of Israel to circumcise the foreskin of their hearts and to not be stiff-necked anymore. This hardened condition of their hearts caused them to be stiff-necked and to do some things that we can look back at now and say were somewhat silly. For example, shortly after personally witnessing the awesome power of God as He parted the Red Sea, allowed them to walk through on dry ground, and then closed it in to destroy the pursuing Egyptian army, the Israelites built that golden calf, called it their god, worshiping it and giving it credit for bringing them out of Egyptian bondage. Sounds pretty silly when we look back at it, doesn't it? Perhaps it is not.

In the New Testament, Jesus said several times of His 12 disciples that because of their hardened hearts they could not believe. Further they could not understand the meaning or significance of the miracles they witnessed. For example, in Mark 6:52 after they had just seen Jesus feed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and a two fishes, they were sore amazed and wondered how He could walk across the Sea of Galilee.  The scripture says that they were astonished with disbelief because of their hardened hearts and did not even consider the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 which they had just taken part in only hours before.  If this isn’t bad enough, just a short time later after more travels, the same disciples got a second chance when Jesus fed 4,000 people with seven loaves and a few fishes.  This time they misunderstood again after taking part in the miracle when in Mark 8:15 Jesus cautioned them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. They thought He was angry at them because they had not brought any bread with them and only had one loaf available on the ship. Jesus asked them why they still could not understand or perceive what was happening and suggested that it was because their hearts were still hard.  He then reminded them of both the miracles of feeding 5,000 and 4,000 and then asked “How is it that you do not understand?”

Once again, looking back we might tend to think that it was pretty silly the way the disciples reacted after they had just taken active part in these two miracles.  We might think “surely I would not have been concerned anymore about having enough to eat when I knew that God was with me and knew how He could feed so many.”  But I believe part of the reason that God included this account in the scriptures the way He did was to illustrate to us the impact that the condition of our hearts has on us spiritually.  Much like the Israelites in the Old Testament, the disciples’ hardened hearts blinded them and did not let them see or perceive the awesome power behind the miracles that they saw.

Just as in these cases, having hard hearts can cause us to be blinded to what God is doing in and around us. This condition can also cause us to deceive ourselves into self-righteousness, causing a false sense of security. Hardened hearts is a ploy that Satan uses to try to keep the world blind to the kingdom of God and the awesome power that God makes available to those of us who see and believe on Him.  In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul says that Satan has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. In John 12:39-40, the Apostle quotes Isaiah and says that they could not believe because their eyes were blinded and their hearts hardened.

Every Man for Himself – It’s All About Me
Hardened hearts make us focus on ourselves and have a tendency to be selfish. Tender hearts give us the ability to experience and give God’s love (agape love). In this kingdom type of love, me, self and I are bypassed and our hearts pure desire is focused on pleasing God first and other people next.  In the perfect community of God’s heavenly kingdom, when everyone has this type of love and are focused on pleasing others first, no one ever does without.  For we will all be endlessly motivated to please and help others.

The stony hearts of fallen man is the reason why God had Moses include in the law provisions for divorce.  You see when God designed marriage between Adam and Eve, it was before the fall when both of their hearts were pure.  God designed them to be the perfect union where each one cared more about pleasing the other than them self.  God designed this union in His very own image, using the triune Godhead as a model.  This is why God said through His prophet Malachi that He hates divorce… because He sees it as tearing apart an image of Himself.

However, after the fall when man’s hearts became stony, it became possible for two stony hearted (completely self-oriented and rebellious) people to make life simply miserable and torturous for each other.  This is why God had Moses write provisions for divorce into the law.  I believe this is precisely what Jesus was describing in His response to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:8 when he said “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.”  I believe this is a key reason why God commanded us to not be unequally yoked with non-believers.  He wasn’t trying to arbitrarily restrict us or to take away our potential to be happy.  To the contrary, He was trying to protect us.  You see, if a husband and wife are both fully committed to God and have regenerated hearts, there is truly no force on earth that can tear them apart.  Even when the worse of storms comes along, their love for God and for the other will always motivate them to die to themselves and to do what is best for the other.  Even when the worst of offenses are committed, when true repentance is expressed, compassion and true forgiveness follows (just as it is with us and our Heavenly Father).  With pure hearts, we don’t focus on the mistakes or faults of our spouse, but we consider our own faults and think “there but for the grace of God go I” and then we try to help lift them up.  Just as God has given us such incredible grace, we also give freely of that grace to others.  A threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12b).

What can we learn from this?
The hardened condition of our hearts can make it impossible for us to see God’s kingdom or hear the Holy Spirit when He talks to us. It restricts our spiritual vision, blinds us to the things of God and makes it so that we are not able to exercise true faith.  This can in turn cause us to miss out on the wonderful promises that God has made for us and worse, miss out on the opportunity to have God do great things through our lives because we leave the authority and power that God has given us on the table. 

Satan would like nothing better than for us to remain blind because that power and authority that we have is over him and his devices.  John 12:39-40 says “Therefore they could not believe because that Isaiah said again, For this reason he hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted and I should heal them.”

This is the worst part; hard hearts can inhibit our ability to even receive the seed of the Word of God as described in the parables of the sewer of the seeds. God might be trying through a variety of methods to deliver these seeds to us but a hardened heart (stony ground) will make it impossible for us to receive them (for the seeds to take root in us, change us and ultimately allow us to produce fruit).  This can inhibit our ability to receive God’s free gift of salvation or, worst yet, allow us to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are saved when we are not.

In light of all of this, recognize the state that we are all in and pray that God will help you to correct your heart condition.  Pray for yourself much like David did in Psalm 51. 

In the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says in Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”  Seeing God’s Kingdom is very important in the life of a Christian because once you see it (once you see Jesus), it changes you forever and you can not take your eyes off of it.  Nothing that this world or its prince has to offer will ever be able to dominate you again.  Once you really see Jesus, He changes you forever.  This is one way that the power in His name is manifested… when you know Him, it makes you want to know Him more and will literally change your appetite.

Finally, it is my firm belief that the healings that Jesus did when He was here were done to communicate many things to us.  While they clearly represented physical healing to the people who received them (as they do to you and me), they also represented types or examples of spiritual healings.  When Jesus restored sight to blind people, I think He was demonstrating a very important spiritual principle for all of us… our need in our fallen and blind state to have our spiritual blindness healed.  Notice the example in Matthew 20:33-34 where Jesus healed the two blind men near Jericho and their response (like ours) was to follow Him.

I am also reminded of the man who had been blind from birth in John 9 and Jesus’ words at the end of the chapter in verse 39.  “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and they which see might be made blind.”  Let us brethren not be fooled by our evil hearts into thinking that we can see when we can’t.  And let us not make the same mistakes that the Nation of Israel made in the wilderness.  “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness…” – Psalm 95:7-8

Pray for God to do a work today in your heart – “Create in me a pure heart, O God; and renew a right spirit in me” – Psalm 51

Peace be with you - Shalom

 

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© 2010 Gerald L. Prater

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