You know what’s terrifying?
A hard heart.
It’s something I experience many times a day. I should apologize, but I don’t want to. I should get off my phone, but this is interesting. I should pray, but this sugar will give quicker relief. I should go help, but I’m busy.
Those may not seem like “biggies,”but that’s where the biggies start. Not apologizing or self-medicating with sugar may not have a huge consequence right now. But they will, if they go unchecked.
A hard heart starts small, like a snowball. But if it’s not stopped, it will roll and roll into an avalanche and cause real destruction.
The Proverbs say, “whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity”(Proverbs 28:14).
No one wakes up with a sudden urge to divorce, or embezzle, or murder. Those urges start out with seemingly small, selfish acts. The selfishness grows, by small increments, in the corners of our hearts where no one sees.
Then they gain momentum and start to show a little. We hurt those around us just enough to create some distance. Rather than softening right then, we look around for validation. Others with hardened hearts say You’re doing the right thing, keep feeding the snowball, let it grow, doesn’t it feel right?
The stakes are high. Paul says we can be “alienated from the life of God…due to [our] hardness of heart”(Ephesians 4:18). In our hard-heartedness we have a choice: stay the course, or confess our transgressions and obtain mercy (Proverbs 28:13).
This truth applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. We all have a conscience and understanding of right and wrong (Romans 1:18—20). But when we are rescued and redeemed by Jesus, God says, “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God”(Ezekiel 11:19b—20).
What will we, the redeemed, do with these hearts of flesh? Will we nurture them and protect them, feed them grace and truth? Or will we take them for granted and assume that we will keep walking in God’s statutes without any effort?
What’s terrifying is that our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Whether it’s about mindless scrolling or entering an extramarital affair, our hearts deceive even ourselves. We must be vigilant, because it’s from the heart that our lives flow (Proverbs 4:23). Sure, the biggies wreak the most havoc–absolutely. But they start small and none of us are immune.
Keeping a soft heart requires keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). It means not gratifying our own flesh, but instead gratifying the Spirit of God. It means choosing his way, not our own way, even when it’s hard, doesn’t feel right, and hurts. Jesus really does ask us to come and die (Luke 9:23—24) and because he did, he empowers us to as well.
After two decades of ministry, I think the key in maintaining a soft heart is in maintaining Christian community. A hard heart can only grow in the dark, away from the light of other believers. We need other redeemed, soft hearts, who love us unconditionally, to be in our lives. We need other Christians to call us out–to label our sin a sin, to remind us of God’s goodness and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and to urge us on in the faith.
This is deadly serious. Those who profess Christ but refuse the accountability and edification of his community will fall away. Hard hearts alienate us from the life of God. Hard hearts are damning, eternally condemning. This isn’t just about clean living and wise choices–this is a matter of heaven and hell, of life and death.
Paul says, “Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints”(Ephesians 6:18). We need each other. We must keep alert, persevere, and pray for each other together. Perseverance is a community project.
A hard heart is terrifying. But it is not inevitable. With God’s help–through his people, by the power of his Spirit, and the formation by his word–we can prevent the snowball from becoming an avalanche.
Originally posted here.