Oh dear friends, I am writing to you today from a heart that’s been humbled and moved by the living God. I’ve tried for so long to think that I, somehow, am exempt from the “really bad” sins that plague human hearts, that somehow the outward signs of good character and self-control equated to my own earned righteousness to some degree. While saying that out loud seems clearly opposed to the Gospel we know and love, the deceit of pride caused my heart to believe it. I’m not saying this to sound extra-pitiful, and I’m not saying this because I need God more than anybody else. It’s just that no matter how “put together” we are, we all desperately, deeply, undeniably need Jesus and the power of His blood that makes us holy.
And here’s the beautiful thing about our amazing God: if our hearts are willing, even just a little willing, He will have His way with us…eventually.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness…
-Hebrews 3:7-8 (ESV)
But the question is, how long? How long will it take before we submit fully to the work God is doing within us? How long will we have to roam in the wilderness before we’re able to enter His rest in the deepest places of our hearts?
When I think of the words “hardened heart,” I think of grumpy people, bitter people, cynical, unhappy, unbelieving people. But as it says later in Hebrews 3, we need to protect one another from being “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (vs.13). Sometimes a hardened heart can look disciplined, or unselfish, or even righteous.
For me, I can even use kindness to try to manipulate situations to cater to my own needs and desires. For you, maybe it’s anger, or cynicism, or social influence. Whatever it is, if we’re trying to use it to control and change things, it becomes a way of hardening our hearts to what God wants to do — in us and around us. Instead of trusting Him, we’re trying to do it our way…and in doing so, we’re protecting the sin and pride that God so lovingly wants to deliver us from.
It is the prayer of my heart that I will grow in a humility and an understanding of God that will make me quick to listen, quick to follow, quick to let go. As we continue onto Hebrews 4, we’re reminded that, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (vs.12 ESV). It is not up to debate: God will speak to us if we’re listening. The Word of God will convict us and sometimes break us, if we’re willing. Oh that we will admit our need and allow God to do the work in us that only He can do.
This is not a reason for despair or discouragement, my friends, but a reason for rejoicing. We have a real and living God who actively pursues our whole hearts. We have a Father in heaven who speaks to us by His Spirit and changes us by His power. We have a Savior, Jesus, who died to set us free from all things, who is ever-interceding for us and offering us freedom and rest by His grace.
Jesus, we ask of you, speak, and may we not harden our hearts as You lead us through the refining fires of the wilderness.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)