"Harden Not Your Hearts"
By Lois J. Stucky
Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks sweetly and gently to us in a personal way concerning some matter in our life needing correction in order that we be more conformed to the image of Jesus. The love in His voice is unmistakable and gains our quick and willing response. And sometimes the Spirit’s voice comes to us with stronger force, even as a stern warning. It is still love that speaks, but He is dealing with a matter of greater consequence and urgency. This seems to be what the Holy Spirit is conveying when He says to us: "Today, if you will hear [God’s] voice, harden not your hearts…" (Heb. 3:7-8). This is repeated twice more: "Take heed…harden not your hearts" (3:12,15; 4:7).
Earnest Christians living today face great temptation, not so much to lose our faith, as did the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years, but to slip from the high calling we have to be conformed to the image of the Christ we love (Rom. 8:29). Especially must we not lose a sensitive conscience toward what pleases God most. Jesus said, "…I do always those things that please Him [the Father]" (John 8:29). And the Father could say on various occasions, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Jesus had a perfect heart.
Any believer, if not taking heed and being watchful, hardly realizing it can gradually move toward conformity to sinful society, with the result of a hardening of the heart. It can be seen as we become more lenient toward questionable things, more tolerant of what we used to avoid as sin, less careful about abstaining from even the appearance of evil (1 Thes. 5:22), less conscientious in upholding biblical standards that society counts outmoded now, less inclined to self-denial, more likely to be self-indulgent. We might find ourselves with less trust in God’s guidance and provision, leaning rather upon the world’s ways and means, or perhaps we feel less keenly and help less generously when we learn of needs of the poor and helpless, whether near at hand or around the world.
We may still be careful about rejecting more gross, visible sins, but gradually our conscience can become less sensitive and our hearts less tender toward the voice of the Spirit regarding what we consider "smaller sins," if we acknowledge them as sins at all. In the innermost core of our being, a hardening could be setting in.
We are instructed by God’s Word to "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). "Thou desirest truth in the inward parts" said David of our holy God from whose eyes nothing is hidden, and David repented. It took Jesus’ plain speech to bring to the attention of the Ephesian church that they had lost their first love out of their hearts (Rev. 2:4). Outwardly there was much to commend, but inwardly there was a hardening and Jesus gave the warning that sad consequences would follow if there was not correction.
I ask myself, "How can I love Jesus with due passion if I allow my heart to harden? How can I have a heart-cry for revival? How can I weep for the lost?" Might we all be more conformed to the tender, obedient heart of Jesus! The articles in this issue have potential for helping us along this line. Please read prayerfully and hand this issue on when you have finished, or write for additional copies to share. Let us "Exhort one another daily…lest any…be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13) and might we begin by examining ourselves and humbling ourselves and repenting of anything leading to hardness of heart.