“As long as everything is exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible.”
Are you totally flexible? The bible talks about those who aren’t. Do you know what the bible means when it talks about someone having a “hard heart”? In Mathew 19:3, some Pharisees started questioning Jesus, trying to find fault with Him. And so they said; “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”
And Jesus said to them; “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning, made them make and female, and said; For this cause (the cause being that the male and the female should be joined and married to one another. That’s the reason that God made male and female, so that they should be joined together) “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? Therefore, they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
And the Pharisees said in verse 7; “Why did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” And Jesus answered and said; “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives. But from the beginning, it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Well, the Pharisees answered back and said; “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better to not marry.” So what they were saying is that if you have to remain faithful to the one you marry, then you might as well not marry in the first place. Now, what does that statement say about the hearts of the Pharisees? Doesn’t that statement simply prove what Jesus had already said? “Because of the hardness of your hearts”. That question simply proves the hardness of their hearts! If I have to be faithful, I might as well not even get married.
Do you know what “hardness of heart” means in the original Greek language? It means.. “perverseness and obstinance”. The Pharisees were too perverse and too obstinate, to even imagine remining faithful. Is it any wonder they couldn’t remain faithful to God, if they couldn’t imagine staying faithful to a wife?
A perverse and obstinate heart. A heart that simply doesn’t want to be tied down to faithfulness and obedience, to the way God has ordained that things should be.
Have you ever seen Christians with a hard heart? I have. Too perverse and obstinate to obey God. Too perverse and obstinate to be faithful, even after God has forgiven their past sins, even after He’s given them the promise of eternal life; Too obstinate, too perverse, to live faithfully, according to how God tells us to live.
God said to the prophet Ezekiel, in Ezekiel 2, verses 3& 4; “..Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation, who have rebelled against Me; They and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. And children who are stubborn and hard-hearted, I am sending you to them, thus says the Lord God.”
Rebellious, stubborn, hard-hearted, obstinate, perverse, all those words describe the people who rebel against God and His word. They are the people who won’t believe what the bible says, no matter how plainly it says it. And they are the people who won’t DO what the bible says to do, because they’ve got other things they’d rather be doing. And those are the people who still claim to be in love with God.
Don’t you think all of Israel claimed to love God? Of course they did, they had such tender loving hearts, until it came time to actually do anything. Don’t all those who claim to be Christians, also claim to love God with such a soft and tender heart? Of course they do. UNTIL, God asks them to do something. Then the tender heart, becomes the hard heart.
I’d like you to ask you a question, and I’d like you to think about it; Does God view Christians, as “stubborn and hard-hearted” children, exactly the same way as He viewed the nation of Israel, who were also His sons and daughters. Is that what Christians are in God’s eyes? Stubborn, hard-hearted, obstinate, rebellious? I’m afraid that too far too many Christians are hard-hearted. But I suppose that if even one Christian was hard-hearted, that would be too many.
How does a person become, hard-hearted? Are some people just, “that way”? Don’t they have any choice in the matter? Who is it that hardens our heart? There’s a verse in Exodus 9:12, which says; “And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Literally, that word “hardened” means, “to make strong”. It’s kind of like when concrete hardens. Concrete gets pretty strong when it hardens, doesn’t it? It’s almost impossible to penetrate. That’s how a heart gets, when it becomes hardened. It gets too strong, and too hard, and nothing can penetrate it.
“And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart”. Twice in chapter 7, it says; “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened”. But also twice in chapter 8, it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. So then which one is correct? Did Pharaoh harden his own heart, or did God harden his heart? Actually, they’re both correct, and here’s HOW they’re both correct.
God sent Moses to Egypt, and to Pharaoh, to instruct Pharaoh, to free the Israelites from their slavery. Here’s what God said to Moses in Exodus 7:2 & 3; “You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh, that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, that I may multiply My sings and My wonders in the land of Egypt.”
God gave a command to Pharaoh. Through the mouths of Moses and Aaron, God commanded Pharaoh to let the sons of Israel go. Did God take away Pharaoh’s opportunity, and ability to choose, whether or not to obey God? No He didn’t! That’s why God kept sending Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh, again and again, demanding that he let Israel go. But each time Pharaoh chose NOT to obey the word of God. And each time, the scripture says that his heart was hardened. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened because the Lord gave him a command.
If God hadn’t made any demands of Pharaoh, would his heart have been hardened? No. What if Pharaoh had simply done what God had asked him to do? Would his heart have been hardened then? No. Then what was it that caused Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened? It was Pharaoh’s own stubbornness, and his self-will, that caused him to refuse to do what the Lord had commanded. And it was his stubbornness that caused his heart to be hardened.
We’re really no different than Pharaoh was. When we don’t want to do something, we harden our hearts, and we don’t do it! When we’re talking about our “heart”, what we’re really talking about our attitude. Do you know what kind of attitude that Pharaoh had? Here’s a verse that describes Pharaoh’s attitude; Exodus 5:2; “..Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” That pretty much sums it up. I don’t know God, He means nothing to me, and I’m going to do exactly as I please.
Now that’s pretty stubborn attitude to start with, but what happens when someone with that attitude, is asked to do something that they don’t want to do? Their “heart” so to speak, gets even harder. So then, how did God, “harden” Pharaoh’s heart? All the Lord God had to do, was simply ask Pharaoh to do something that he didn’t want to do. That’s all it took to “harden” Pharaoh’s heart. And that’s how God hardens our heart as well. All God has to do is ask us to do something that we really don’t want to do, and our heart becomes hard. God’s word can’t penetrate our heart, because we don’t want to do what He says to do.
And we might say; Oh, My heart’s fine, I don’t have a “hard” and impenetrable heart. I’m simply not going to do what God says, that’s all. Well, that’s exactly how Pharaoh felt; Who is the Lord that I should listen to Him? Isn’t that how people think today? Who is the Lord? Well, the Lord is the one who inspired the words of the bible. The Lord is the one who has commanded us to do the things He desires.
The Lord Himself asks us, in Luke 6:46; “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” The things that the Lord says to do, are the very things that will assure us of eternal life. And the Lord is the one who assures us, in Mathew 7:21; “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES the will of My Father who is in heaven.”
Has the Lord hardened your heart? It’s easy to tell if He has or not. Just very honestly ask yourself; Are there things that the Lord has asked me to do as a Christian, that I simply refuse to do? Are there things that I know, God expects me to do, that I simply won’t do? If there are, then yes, the Lord has hardened your heart. Simply by the Lord asking, and by us refusing, He has hardened our hearts. But in reality, we’ve hardened our own hearts with our refusal to do, what the Lord asks us to do.
What about things that the Lord hasn’t directly specified, but that we know are good things. Things that we know will help build us up in faith. Things that we know will build up this congregation, if we would just do them. What about those things? What’s the condition of our heart, when it comes to those things?
There is a verse of scripture, in James 4:17 that says; “Therefore, to the one knowing to do good, and not doing it, to him it is sin.” Knowing what would be the good thing to do. Knowing what things would be of lasting benefit. Knowing what would strengthen ourselves, and what would strengthen others, and not doing those things.. To the one not doing those things, to that one, it is sin! And sin is not forgiven, unless repentance is made. And repentance involves a change of conduct doesn’t it?
A hard heart can cause us to be lost. It’s difficult, and it’s not pleasant, to think of ourselves as having a “hard-heart”; And usually we don’t have a hard heart. Usually we can read from the bible, the things that God would have us to do, and we’re totally flexible, and willing to do exactly what God says. But sometimes, we’ll read something that just “rubs us wrong” I guess, because we refuse to do what it says. We just don’t want to do it. For whatever the reason, we don’t want to do it. You know what happened when that occurs, don’t you? Our heart just became hard, to the word of God. I’m totally flexible, but don’t ask me to do that.
About thirty years ago, Jan and I had some friends who adopted some wild horses from the BLM, and we helped them train the horses. There was this one really tall horse named Stepladder. You about needed a stepladder to get on him. But anyhow, Stepladder somehow had gotten into the habit of refusing to turn to the right. If you reigned him to the left, he’d flex his neck, and bend in that direction, but if you tried to reign him to the right, his neck just locked up tight and he just kept going straight ahead! So wherever you wanted to go, it better be to the left, cause he wasn’t goin’ to the right.
That’s how some people’s hearts are. They’re so soft and supple, as long as they’re going in the direction they want to go. But the minute God asks them to go in a direction that they would rather not go in, they stiffen their necks, and harden their hearts, and it’s like you hit a brick wall.
Don’t let your heart be like a brick wall. No matter what God asks you to do in His word, be flexible.. Please. For your sake, be flexible. Be flexible enough to do what God requires for you to become a Christian. And then be flexible enough to do what God requires for you to remain a Christian.
Believe in Christ and His word, repent of your sins, confess your faith, be buried in baptism for the forgiveness of your sins, and continue faithful and flexible, to God’s word, for the rest of your life.
Make God’s way, your way.. As we stand and sing our invitational song.