Today I am going to share with you what I shared with my congregation on Sunday. I am going to talk about how we can once again soften our hard hearts.
We have came to discover, although not in a condemning way, that we have allowed our hearts to become hardened. It was not something that we consciously set out to do, or that we wanted to see happen, but it was something that has gradually crept up on us.
I believe that if you will listen with your spiritual ears, you will also hear the still small voice of Jesus speak to you about areas in your hearts that have become callous and rough and are no longer the soft soil that the Lord would want them to be for Him to plant His word into.
I started the message out with the passage in Hosea that tells the hard hearted people of his day to break up their fallow ground. Let me share that passage with you.
HOSEA 10:12 NLT
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come
and shower righteousness upon you.’
The prophet Hosea was called by God to live out a prophecy against the people of God. God called him to marry a prostitute and show the people by a visual and living prophecy what they were doing to God by example.
The people of God were chasing after false gods. They were allowing idolatry to come into their lives. Now, idolatry is one of the biggies. It is probably the biggest thing that breaks the heart of God.
It is the same to God as it is to a married person that has an unfaithful spouse. This is exactly what God was trying to get across to His children. Idolatry breaks His heart and wounds Him tremendously.
So we asked ourselves the very hard question. What is an idol? All of us agreed that an idol is ANYTHING that we place in higher priority than the Lord.
Then we started asking what were some of the things that we have a tendency to place in higher priority than the Lord. There were many different things, but I will name a few off the top of my head.
They were things like money, jobs, other people, saving face, respect, relationships, and many others. Ouch!
As much as none of us want to admit it, our nation, our communities, our families are a lot like the people of Hosea’s time than we want to admit. The first step in softening our heart is realizing we have a hard heart. That you have allowed areas of your heart to become calloused and given over to idols.
Next we looked at a very famous passage that is always quoted when people talk about the need for our nation to be healed. It is found in 2 Chronicles.
2 CHRONICLES 7:12-14 NKJV
GOD’S SECOND APPEARANCE TO SOLOMON
12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Now most of the time when I hear people preach or teach on this passage they seem to skip over all of it and focus on the repentance part. The turning away from the wicked ways. That is an important part, but to see a real change in your heart you have to take each step one at a time. There are 4 steps to this process.
I think the biggest roadblock that most Christians have today in seeing their hardened hearts changed, is the fact that they have convinced themselves that they are doing okay.
They look around and compare themselves to each other and as long as nobody is outwardly doing the major sins, they think that they have arrived.
There is a really big pride problem in the church today. We have to come to the point that we once again see our need to tear down the idols that we have allowed to rise up in our hearts and lives.
Prayer has been turned into some type of magical formula that get’s God to do what we want. Prayer is not designed to be used to give Santa Claus your wish list.
It is supposed to be a deep and intimate conversation with your heavenly Father. We must get back to that intimacy with God. We must start dealing in prayer with the realization of our idolatry and hardheartedness.
Here is the whole key to seeing your hard heart softened. This is the answer to how you can get to the point of turning away from your wicked ways.
A good friend of mine many years ago told me that I had a choice before me. He said I should go look into a dumpster and see all the garbage, and then I should go and look out from the local mountaintop at all of God’s creation.
He then asked me, which one do I want to look at all the time? Well the answer was obvious.
When we seek God’s face, we are looking to see His beauty and glory. When we see that beauty and glory, then why would we want to settle for dumpster diving?
It softens our hearts and makes us willing to turn from the garbage that we have been holding onto and viewing as some type of treasure.
It is when we have completed the first 3 steps that our heart and will is changed and we no longer want those wicked ways, but instead we want the beauty and glory of God in our lives. The turning becomes easy.
Jesus recognized the difference between a person with a hard heart and a person with a soft heart.
In Luke’s gospel we see where Jesus vividly points out the difference.
LUKE 7:36-47 NLT
JESUS ANOINTED BY A SINFUL WOMAN
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.[a] 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.
41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver[b] to one and 50 pieces to the other. 42 But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
47 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”
Now I am going to ask you a question that I hope will turn the light bulb on for you. Was this woman a bigger sinner than the Pharisee Simon, or was it that she knew that she was forgiven a lot?
I would say to you that the difference here was not the amount of sins that needed forgiving, but it was the amount of sins that had been forgiven.
If you are going to see your heart become soft and ready for the Lord to do His work in you, then you are going to have to once again understand how big God’s grace and mercy is by understanding how much you needed and still need forgiveness.
When you realize such the size of the gift that has been given to you, when you realize how high the price was to give you that gift, then you will once again love Jesus with a passionate love and that love will soften your heart.
Pastor Duke Taber is the Senior Pastor at The Vineyard Church in San Carlos Ca. He is an alumnus from Life Pacific College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He is a husband, father, and grandfather.
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