Faithlife Sermons

Do Not Harden Your Heart

Have you ever encountered a person who says they want help or advice or whatever, and so you talk with them, and offer help and advice and no matter how much you say they don't listen? They don't make any changes. They keep asking for help, keep complaining - you keep talking but they don’t listen. Eventually what do you do? Stop talking
Last week we talked about the Holy Spirit as a person. When we talk about God (Father, Son and Spirit) as a person, we're talking about His characteristics and how He reveals Himself and interacts with us in this relationship. I emphasized that the Holy Spirit speaks to us and with us. This is a relationship, and in a relationship, you must have communication. The Holy Spirit speaks.
Ever struggle to hear His voice? Ever experience a period of time when it seems like God is not speaking?
Especially if you're familiar with His voice - and then one day you wake up and He’s silent. And maybe weeks go by, or months, maybe years - where is God's voice? I've been there and it's frustrating. Maybe he did stop talking because we stopped listening.
So let's turn to Hebrews 3 and look at one possible reason why sometimes we do not hear the Spirit's voice.
In the first several chapters of Hebrews, the author argues for the supremacy of Christ. As great as Moses and the Law was, they are inferior to Christ and His work on the cross. The death and resurrection, and the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is superior to Moses and the Law.
In chapter 3, the author reminds his audience that after the Exodus, when God brought Israel out of Egypt, God led them to the Promised Land - the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now, in this land, God said in Leviticus 26, that if Israel obeyed His voice and walked in His statutes, He would bless them with rain, bountiful harvests, He would protect them from their enemies. God promised to provide. He would be their God and they would be His people and if they listened and obeyed, they would experience peace, rest.
If you remember, the generation that left Egypt (20 and older) never entered the Promised Land with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. That generation failed to enter God’s rest. They failed to enter that place of peace and blessing. Why? They failed to enter God’s rest because they hardened their hearts. Ultimately, Hebrews chapter 3 is a warning to Believers in Christ - do not be like that generation who hardened their hearts to God's voice.
So that’s the context. But what does that mean for us?
Hearing God's voice is probably the number one struggle for Christians. There are many reasons that hinder our ability to hear God. Unconfessed sin, we don’t take the time, we haven't learned to listen - there's many reasons, but I'm only going to cover one reason this morning. So, if you are struggling to hear His voice, I'm not saying this is your problem. What I am saying is that this might be the problem.
Hebrews 3:1-6 again, The author is arguing for the supremacy of Christ and because Christ is superior, verse 7 …
Hebrews 3:7–11 ESV
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, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”
Let’s talk about three things:
Cause. Effect. Cure.
1) What causes a hard heart?
When it says do not harden your hearts, that means do not be stubborn toward a command or request of God (written or spoken). Do not be stiff-necked, unyielding, rigid. Don’t dig in your heels against God. A heart does not become hard when we sin and repent, or when we make a mistake or make a poor choice.
A heart becomes hard when there is a continuous willful refusal to obey God's voice.
Whether it’s as big as the call to salvation, or as minute as, “Hey, I want you to do this one thing.” No matter how big the command or how little, a heart becomes hard over time when there is a continuous willful refusal to obey - even in one area of your life.
Let's say God asks you to change something, and you struggle to make the change. It takes six months or a couple of years, whatever to make the change. That's not what we're talking about. What we're talking about is hearing God's voice to do something specific and knowingly refusing to obey. The more God asks, and the more you refuse - that is what causes a hard heart and that is what prevented a generation of Israelites from entering a land of peace and rest.
Jesus often said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” He wasn’t talking about these flappy things on the side of our heads (I can flap mine). See, Biblically we don’t hear with our physical ears. Think about it - how often does God audibly speak? Not very often. So, having ears to hear must means something different.
Biblically, hearing God’s voice takes place in the heart. We listen with our inner person (whether reading His Word or listening to His voice). So what stops us from hearing God's voice? Not always, but sometimes we stop hearing because we stop listening, we refuse to obey, and our hearts become hard and we struggle to hear His voice.
So, what causes a hard heart? A continuous willful refusal to obey God's voice
2) What is the effect of a hard heart?
I want to point out something here, we can ignore God’s voice and still be “good” people - nice people, fun, successful, admirable, whatever. We can look like we've got it all together on the outside. We can have all kinds of things - life going our way - even good church people - all while ignoring His voice.
There is one thing we can never have - Peace
- Christian or not - if we continuously willfully refuse to obey God’s voice - we will never have peace - peace with God and peace in our soul.
Hebrews 3:18–19 ESV
And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
The heart that is hard toward God's voice is a restless heart - often frantic in its pursuit for peace and rest.
The heart that does not hear God's voice desperately pursues answers to life's most troubling issues which it will never find. (e.g. rioters - why do you think they’re rioting? They haven’t heard God’s voice and if they have, they have rejected His voice)
For the Christian, if your heart is hard your heart will lack peace - it will be restless. Not only is the heart restless, but we run the danger of going places God never intended for us to go. Look at
Hebrews 3:10 ESV
Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’
Hebrews 3:12 ESV
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
You may say I don't have an evil heart. Maybe by your standards. But the word evil here means morally corrupt . And if we have a hard heart, if we are refusing to obey God, we have some corruption.
I want to reiterate that it's not necessarily sin that causes a hard heart - especially when there's repentance and learning and maturing. It’s not our imperfections or our struggles. A hard heart is formed when we continuously knowingly refuse to hear and obey God’s.
3) What is the cure for a hard heart?
Again, Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brothers ….
Take care (blepō) - be on the lookout, be vigilant - Pay close attention to what's going on on the inside. You know if you're saying no to God.
Hebrews 2:1 ESV
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
This is called introspection, self-evaluation - it's called being honest with yourself. This is called, “Lord search my heart and see if there's any offensive way within me.” And when the Spirit points something out - then repent. To take care, to be vigilant ultimately means this and this is
The ultimate cure for a hard heart is submission.
Want to hear God’s voice? Yield.
One more thing that will help
Help for a hard heart is accountability and encouragement.
Hebrews 3:13 ESV
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 4:11 ESV
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
There is a lot I could say about this - about the need for consistent Christian community, the need for consistent accountability and the need for consistent encouragement of one another to live like Jesus - But that's kind of a different topic. but I will say this accountability in Christian encouragement is part of the cure have a hard heart.
To the one who does not yet know Jesus Christ as Savior, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” Respond. Yield. Say yes to Jesus. Invite Him into your heart. Confess your sins.
To the one who struggles to hear God’s voice - search your heart. Is your heart hard? If so, repent, yield and say yes to Jesus.
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