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           And with this fourth and final installment I share my last bits of knowledge about a Heart of Stone.  I hope you all have found this helpful.  If not, stick around.  I am sure something I write will reach you where you are.  Until then, read on and start the new year off surrendered to Christ and the Word of God.  

            Spiritual Blindness, Doubt and Unbelief can also lead to a hardened heart.

Mark 8:17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 

Jesus reminds his disciples of the miracles they had witnessed.  The feeding of the 5000?  The feeding of the 4000?  Then he asks them again in Matthew 8:21 “Do you still not understand?”  

            Ephesians 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

            Over and over in the bible people are told not to be afraid.  In the parable of the talents, it was fear of the master that caused the man with one talent to bury it in the ground.  Fear of failure.  Fear of being rebuked.   

            Unforgivenness also plays a hand in the hardening of our hearts.  My mother went to her grave riddled with unforgivenness towards her parents and so many others.   Matthew 5:22 “But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  23 So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

            What are some negative effects of maintaining a hard heart?  A person with a hardened heart doubts God’s supernatural abilities and continues to rely on their own natural ability.  They look for earthly means to solve spiritual issues.  Hard heartedness is contagious.  You’ve been hard hearted so long that you haven’t even noticed or cared how your attitude infects others.  There are questions to ask yourself: Do you want help and What can you do?  Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.  

            Hebrews 12:14 “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life…15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”

            Hard hearts alter your spiritual perception and keep you from perceiving spiritual truths. This is why everyone in a church service will hear the same message, and some will receive while others won’t. It’s not the Word that’s the variable but rather the condition of the heart.   Matthew 13:14-15 “‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed…”

            A physical example of a spiritual problem.  My uncle was diagnosed with a a rare heart condition.  The pericardium or sac around his heart began to calcify over time.  The calcification began to restrict the movement of his heart.  Rather than being able to pump blood efficiently, the heart was forced to work inside a restrictive calcium box.  My uncle couldn’t walk more than a few steps without having to rest and his hearing was diminished.  He went in for surgery and they had to peel his heart like a hard boiled egg.  At the height of his recovery, he could walk around freely and his hearing returned, once his heart was softened.  Spiritually, many of us are walking around with a hardened heart that is diminishing our senses.  Just like my uncle’s real heart was dulling his senses.   

            Hebrews 3:7 That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, 8 don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled… 10 So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me.  They refuse to do what I tell them.’ 12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.

            A hard heart can lead to separation from a Church body.  Proverbs 18:19 An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city.  Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.  It can lead to separation from family and friends.  Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God commanded you. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

            1 Timothy 5:1-2 Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. 2 Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.

            Damage Control: Don’t Panic!  There is hope for softening a hard heart.  Forgiveness is the key.  The bible says, don’t let the sun go down on your anger.  Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”  Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
 on the day of testing in the wilderness,

            Practice kindness to one another.  Mark 12:31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

            Prayer- Yours and Others.  Don’t be afraid to ask for prayer.  And don’t be dumb enough to forget or neglect to pray on your own.  Philippians 4:6 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”  Tell God what you need.  Thank Him for all He has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

            Clean up your life!  Ephesians 4:30 “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.  31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

            Fellowship with Christians!  Hebrews 10:25 “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

            Submit to Christ! Repeat!  Ezekiel 36:26, 27 “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”  The bible says that those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.   

            An old mentor of mine said it best.  Maintaining a heart of stone is like renting satan a room in your head.

            When God gives you a new heart, you will be vulnerable again and subject to hurt, but trust in the Lord with all your heart.  When you allow yourself to experience pain in the presence of God, an open wound heals and a scar forms.  An open wound is a sign that we are still hurt and bleeding.  A scar is a sign of healing. 

            Some of you have been praying for years for something: healing, deliverance, strength, finances.  Are you living in obedience or disobedience?  Does Jesus have to continually rescue you or is he free to boast of your triumphs?

            Hebrews 12:1 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus… 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”

            Let’s travel back to the tomb.  The authorities wanted a guard over the stone at Jesus’ tomb to prevent the disciples from removing Jesus’ body.  Their hardened hearts were guided by human wisdom not the heavenly knowledge that Jesus would rise from that grave. In their minds, “The stone was to be maintained.”  While the stone remained, the story of Jesus was silenced.           

            The stone blocking the entrance to the tomb represents our hardened hearts my friends.  Every time we say No to God, we dispatch another “soldier” to secure the stone around our hearts.  God wants to roll the stone away and give us access to Jesus once again. 

             Hebrews 4:16 “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

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