By Kathy Pollard
I know what a stony heart feels like, don’t you?
- It’s when I am indifferent to the needs of others.
- It’s when I am disengaged in worship week after week.
- It’s when I’ve been involved in sin and my conscience is no longer pricked.
- It’s when I withhold forgiveness.
- It’s when I no longer hunger for the Word.
- It’s when I stop thinking souls.
- It’s when Calvary doesn’t move me.
- It’s when my heart has become divided instead of devoted.
It is an unhappy thing when you know your heart has hardened in any of these areas but you lack the desire or discipline to do anything about it. Perhaps the choices you made over the past year were hard on your heart. Perhaps you can tell you’ve drifted away from God, or you’ve allowed your connection to your church family to grow cold. When that happens, it’s easy to become disheartened, discouraged with yourself, or indifferent in your spiritual walk. Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked, “What’s the matter with me? How did I get here?”
Listen to what God said to His people.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
God gave this beautiful promise to people who had misrepresented His holy name. They weren’t acting like people who belonged to Him. Those who saw them acknowledged their hypocrisy. In modern terms they said, “They call themselves ‘Christians’ but they don’t act like it” (v. 20). Yet God still wanted their heart. He wanted to redeem them and give them His Spirit (v. 27).
This encourages me. There are times when my heart problem is obvious to others. But there are times when only I am aware of the hardening while I continue to go through the motions. Either way, I can know that God still desires to cleanse me and save me (v. 29, 33). God is willing to act on my behalf for my good (notice all the “I will” statements He makes in v. 23-38). This may not be pleasant at first. It may be in the form of exposed sin or an unhappy trial. But I can see how necessary it is to shake me out of my complacency. It reminds me of the song, “Break my heart, dear Lord.” I am thankful for the opportunities God gives me to soften my heart again.
Revive Me, Week 51– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord
Spend Time on the Mountain
Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the testimony of God and then “went down to the people to tell them” (Ex. 19:20-25). Jesus “went up on the mountain and…opened His mouth and began to teach” (Matt. 5:1,2). He took what Moses had shared and elevated it. He made it a matter of the heart (5:21,22, 31,32, etc.). What Jesus taught is easy, except for when it’s hard.
The “Sermon on the Mount” is a familiar text. And yet there are moments when I realize I haven’t spent enough time on the mountain. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). The scribes and Pharisees knew the law and they looked the part. They were seen as religious leaders. But they had a heart problem. They liked to tell other people what to do while not practicing it themselves (Matt. 23).
I can talk about the command to forgive but what about when someone really hurts me? I can say gossip is wrong but what about when my loose lips blurt out something that never should’ve been shared? What if a sister wrongs me and I go to her one-on-one and she humbly apologizes, but I still feel angry and keep thinking of more things to say to put her in her place? What then? Well, I need to spend more time on the mountain.
- Be gentle, merciful, a peacemaker (5:5-9).
- Turn the other cheek (5:39).
- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (5:44).
- Don’t just love those who love you (5:46).
- Forgive others (6:14,15).
- Do not worry about your life (6:25).
- Don’t judge others harshly while overlooking your own faults (7:1-5).
What Jesus taught is easy, except for when it’s hard. Does my righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees if I’m not practicing these in my own life?
Jesus said there would be those who stand before Him and say, “Look at all the religious things I did!” But because they ignored the will of the Father, He will say to them, “I never knew you” (7:21-23).
“When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed…[and He] came down from the mountain.”
Suggestions for the Week:
- Read the Sermon on the Mount every day this week (Matthew 5-7).
- Underline or highlight anything Jesus taught on the mountain that you personally struggle with.
- Pray for God to give you the humility to see your own “logs” and the strength to remove them (Matt. 7:1-5).
Most of my tablecloths have a pretty side and a not so pretty side. If I sit down to eat with my family and notice that I put the tablecloth on wrong side up, I think, “Oops. Oh well, it’s just my family.” I’m a lot more careful when we have guests. I make sure they only see the pretty side. Shame on me. Of course I’m not really talking about tablecloths. I’m talking about those times when I act prettier for others than I do for my own dear family.
Shame on me when I snap in irritation at my husband or children. I would never dream of snapping at a neighbor or church member lest they think I’m unpleasant to be around.
Shame on me when I make my impatience obvious to my family but with everyone else I cover it up with a smile.
Shame on me when I use harsher words with my family to make a point but choose my words more carefully and tenderly with friends.
Shame on me when I roll my eyes when my husband asks me to do something for him but act all eager to please when others do the same.
My family deserves my prettier side. I do have one and I know how to display it when I think it matters. Why would I rob the ones who matter most of sweetness but go to great lengths to brighten up for everyone else? I prove my love for my family when I care enough to give them the best side of me.
Prayer for Today: May I daily cherish my family, Lord, by showing them the same grace and honor I extend to others.