How to have a hardened heart
A revision of an old post.
I remember reading a local church tract, with the title “How to Go to Hell.” When you opened it up, it was blank. On the back the author explained that hell was the inevitable end point if a person did nothing. I am not sure I would use that approach with others, but I do remember it!
In the same way, if we do nothing, is there an inevitable slide to a hardened heart? In Mark 10:1-14, Jesus was tested by the Pharisees when they asked, “Is it lawful to divorce?” Turning the tables, Jesus masterfully says, “what did Moses say?” “Moses permitted it,” was their natural response.
Then, Jesus prepares to drive home his point when he provides the reason Moses permitted divorce, “because of the hardness of your hearts.”
Hardening of the heart makes me think of the book of Hebrews and the warning passages in which hardening is but one step in a slide away from God. First there is “drift” (2:1), then “neglect” (2:3) For this to occur, I don’t really have to do anything wrong but I may not be doing anything right! And so, my lack of progress becomes a dangerous digression.
“Hardened”, “unbelieving hearts” in which there is a “forsaking of the living God” comes next in Hebrews 3:12-13. Now, there is an intentional movement away from God. Thinking of hardened hearts reminds me of rebellious Israel wandering in the wilderness (Psalm 95).
Next step, is a “falling away” (6:6) in which there is a “sluggishness” or a “dullness” (5:11). Sounds like a spiritual paralysis–I see what is happening but I seem to be unable to do anything about it.
Things rapidly turn bad at this point: we deliberately keep on sinning (10:26), we have contempt for the Son of God (10:29, because of 10:26?), we fall short of the grace of God(12;15), we refuse the one who is speaking (12:25) and finally we reject the one who warns (12:25).
On the other hand, Hebrews is so positive in describing believers. For example in 6:4–we are those who are “enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who are partakers of the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the good Word of God and miracles.
So Moses permitted divorce, said it was lawful, because of hardened hearts. Paul says 1 Cor 6:12 and 10:23, that many things “may be lawful”, may be “possible” but the question is: Are these things helpful? Do they build others up? Are they beneficial for me? Do they control me?
The path to a hardened heart begins with drift and neglect.
Lord, rescue me from having a hardened, stony and cold heart. I don’t want to go there anymore. By your grace, enable me to continue to make progress in moving on to maturity (Heb 6:1). Let me be both an imitator and a model of those who through faith and perseverance inherit the promises (6:12). I need others around me to courageously make the right decisions.