Monday, March 16, 2009

Spiritual Questions #1: Do I Have A Hardened Heart?

Each week I receive emails from women cross the country, inquiring about how to handle a certain situation in their life, heal from past hurts, or find forgiveness. I always feel so humbled that I am even given the opportunity to minister to these precious women, although I feel so unworthy and unqualified to do so. However, I believe every interaction is a divine appointment, and rely on God to lead me to the right truths to share that will encourage them in their faith.

Since the issues that are brought to my attention are ones that I feel sure that many women struggle with each day, I thought I would share some of these issues and Gods truths about them, with my readers over the coming days.

This past week, I received an email from a lady who had been taught to believe as a child, through her former church, that a persons heart could be permanently hardened. She was living with the overwhelming fear that maybe since she had turned away from God so many times in her life, and rejected His ways, that there was no hope for her. That her opportunity for salvation and eternal life with Christ had passed. That all was lost.

It broke my heart to read those few short sentences, and hear the fear and hopelessness in her voice. So in case there is anyone else who is holding onto that fear that it is too late for them to have a relationship with Christ, I am focusing on that subject today.

This untruth was taught to her via reference to Hebrews 3:7-11 :

So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest.'

Now consider these two verses below:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 15:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

These two verses above are absolute truths. As you can see, in neither verse, does God mention that His love and eternal life are promised with strings attached, time frames attached, or a set number of times when we can turn from Him and never be allowed to know Him. These verses simply say that He sent His son for us, and that we can always get to the Father through Jesus.

I know and believe that our God is a God of second chances, and third, fourth, fifth and infinite chances! Each day we are given a new opportunity to start anew, to ask for forgiveness, and to strive for a heart that loves Him and a life that lives for Him.

We all stumble and fail, but we are forgiven upon request and loved nonetheless.

Each day that we reject Him, He longs for us. Each day that we turn from His ways, He wishes we would choose Him. Each day we suffer the consequences for our own bad choices, He hurts for us, catches our tears, and calls out to us. But never, does He turn His back on us.

As a parent, when my child disappoints me or does not follow the Godly ways of living that I have taught them, I would never consider in a million years the thought of forgetting about them, or kicking them out into the street to fend for themselves, writing them off forever. Nor does God feel that way about us. He forgives a million times over, just as we do for our own children.

Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

This verse in Matthew reassures us that Jesus will continue knocking on our hearts for as long as we live. Even if someone does not repent and accept Christ until they are within moments of death, as long as they open the door to let Him into their hearts before they die, then Jesus is there with open arms.

The ONLY time that it would be too late to accept Jesus and the gift of salvation is after our death, because then we have no power to make decisions or choices anymore, and our whole lives were lived apart from Christ. Then is the only time when we could hear the words, “I never knew you”, as we see in Matthew 7:23.

I have read that there were only 2 specific times in history, when the door to salvation was actually closed, with no turning back, no second chances.

One: when Noah warned people for 150 years that God’s judgment was coming, but they refused to listen and went about living their lives apart from Him, and they were all killed in the flood without another opportunity to believe Gods Word. Once the doors of the ark were shut, those people did not have another chance.

Two: Sodom and Gomorrah, the people of those sinful cities were warned and given plenty of opportunity to believe, but they continued to live in habitual ways that were against God, and after Lot and his family were clear of the cities, He destroyed the cities and everyone in them. They did not have a second chance.

The Bible clearly warns us in Revelation that there is ONLY one last world-wide judgment for the entire world, which is the Tribulation. Those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus now, will escape it and will be taken to heaven immediately when the Tribulation begins. Those who have died before the rapture will be resurrected and given glorious new bodies, and those alive will be instantly transformed with new bodies without having to face death. Jesus warns that when He returns for the Tribulation, that our world today will be in the same state as it was in Noahs time and in the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Some people think that the Tribulation may be sooner than later, since our world seems to be operating in a perpetual state of lack of values and slowly trying to remove Christ from all aspects of our lives, but only God knows when that time will come. As believers, that is not something we need to worry about, because whether it happens now or later, we will be safe and happy with Jesus.

God wants us to understand by the “hardening of hearts” reference in Hebrews 3, that the time to love Him, commit our lives to Him, and follow Him NOW.

Life is fragile, and we have no way of knowing how many days we will be given to live. Waiting to accept Gods call on our heart, is kind of like playing Russian roulette with our eternal life. We have the opportunity, while we are living on this earth, to open the door as He is knocking. If we wait too long and our opportunity passes because of death or Tribulation, only then is it too late.

If you are worried that God has possibly hardened your heart because of the way you have lived your life so far, then you can relax in knowing that your heart is not hardened. If your heart were hardened, you would not care about what God thought, or whether or not you heart was hardened. If you seek and desire a relationship with God, then your heart is preparing a place for Him.

Hebrews 3:7-11 is talking about people who continued to harden their hearts and rebel against God. They never repented. They did not desire to repent. They did not care about God.

A 'hardened heart' does not mean that God will no longer want you because your heart is hardened, it means that ones heart would be so full of sin and rejection of Jesus, that one would no longer desire God.

Any person who sincerely desires to repent can be saved. If God is not dealing with your heart, then you would not care about your spiritual condition or eternal life.

If you have every worried if God has turned His back on you because of your ways, or if you do not feel Him working in your heart and secretly wonder if He has hardened your heart, consider reading Luke 15. No matter how many sheep a shepherd had, he would always search for the one who was lost. The same goes for you, Gods child, if you are lost, rest assured that He is searching for you, even if you have walked away.

Forever is a long time, forever is eternity. You can have the gift of eternity forever with God, simply upon the asking. DO YOU KNOW JESUS ?

Do you have a spiritual question that you have been struggling with? Send me an email or post a comment and I would love the opportunity to address it during this series.

{Please note: I do not claim to be a biblical or theological scholar, however, I commit to fully rely on Gods Word 100%, and will also check with my pastor, if needed or if I am uncertain, to confirm any information or biblical answers about spiritual truths that may be in question.}

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Angie said...

A hardened heart was the definition I have been using about myself lately, but I see how wrong it is to say that. Do I have a hardened, my heart is preparing a place for Him. A place that He has not been in a long time. I guess I use the phrase "hardened heart" because of the lack of emotions I have for so many things.
God is speaking to me in so many ways, every day.
Thank you for sharing this today.

Joyful said...

I often pray for the Lord to soften my heart, and to replace my heart of stone (Ez 36:26).

Reading this has reminded me of an old Keith Green song:

"My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood"

Praying for a heart like His,

Anonymous said...

Tracie--He speaks to me thru you today. For most of my life, I wonder why I've asked to be saved thousands of times, but never seem to change, never FEEL diffeent, and wonder if he has not chosen me. I feel like His love and Word never penetrate from my mind into my heart. But you told me today that there is still hope. Thank you. Thank you, Jesus.

Come, Lord jesus, come.