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.
For the past week, my family has been taking turns with the stomach virus. Carl the Culprit brought it into our home a week ago. A couple of days later, Gary got it and ended up in the E.R. 48 hours later, Neal and I stayed up all night with it (not the most romantic thing we’ve done together). Dale got it the next day. That’s all of us, so we should’ve been in the clear. But then at 3:00 this morning, Carl was in the bathroom being sick again. And literally, as I type this, I can hear Dale getting sick. He just said, “I didn’t get it all in the bowl….”
I thought we were supposed to be immune once we already had it?! I now know that this monster virus comes from a persistent germ. You have to use a bleach-based cleaner to get rid of it. Neal hates the smell of bleach so I’ve been using other cleaning products and disinfectant spray. I also learned that you’re contagious for three to seven days after you feel better. We are a household of cootie carriers, surrounded by germs, and I hate seeing my big strapping teenagers doubled over in pain. This week alone we’ve missed or will miss Teens in the Word, Wednesday Bible class, tonight’s soup and singing, and Sunday’s worship and Teacher Appreciation dinner. This virus has become the enemy and I want it out of my house.
I can’t help but make the analogy:
- Sin is pervasive- Isa. 1:4-6
- Sin is “crouching at the door; and it’s desire is for you, but you must master it”– Gen. 4:7
- Those who engage in willful sin miss out on the Good Life– Gal. 5:19-21
- It’s possible for sin to rule over us– Psa. 19:13
- The cords of sin hold us down– Prov. 5:22
- Sin is described as an “unclean,” “filthy,” “withering,” “powerful” thing that “takes us away”- Isa. 64:5-7
- Sin separates us from God– Isa. 59:2
- Sin is contagious– 1 Cor. 15:33
- Sin can only be removed by the blood of Christ– Rom. 6:1-18; 1 John 1:7-9
We all struggle with it and I’m thankful for God’s grace in covering it, but may we never gloss over it. Sin is sin. It’s contaminating, poisonous, and can take down loved ones. It has lingering effects. It makes us weak. The world may embrace it or rename it, but let’s always see it the way God does. May even the thought of sin cause us to shudder with revulsion. Let’s want nothing to do with it (not sinners, but sin itself). Let’s determine to keep it out of our homes. Jesus suffered for it, and that alone makes it vile.