Monday, May 2, 2011

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Harden Not Your Heart

First, what does it mean to harden your heart? Have any of you experienced moments in your life when you personally became so stubborn, hard headed, and self-willed that you insisted on getting your own way no matter what evidence was produced that you were headed in the wrong direction? I think of the array of books that have been written on how to deal with the “strong willed” child. I can only imagine how it must be for God in dealing with the “strong-willed” child within each of us. Then the thought of how in the world could God have loved each of us, even as we are so puffed up in our own individual self-will, that He would still be willing to send His Son to die for and save us from our sins and the destruction that would surely come our way?

I know that even my faith is a gift from God and is not something that I can point to as an achievement of my own. Faith is a response to the gentle wooing of the Holy Spirit. He calls to each of us, but, because He is a gentleman, He will never enter in until He is invited. God doesn’t give up on any of us easily. However, if we choose to continually ignore Him there is a point at which He knows that we have hardened our hearts so much that, no matter what He does, we will never choose to listen to Him.

I think each of us can understand the difference between choosing to do right or wrong even at the most basic level of humanity. The first time you do something you know to be wrong, most likely you will feel the agony of the pangs of guilt. However, if you continue to commit that same action, eventually it seems to get easier and easier until you feel no guilt at all. At that point, that sin has overtaken you and has even become an old “friend.” Pretty soon you then find that you are enslaved. That particular sin has set up house keeping in your heart and completely taken over to the point that instead of you controlling it, it now controls you.

Listening to and obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a choice. He called to the apostles to “come away” with Him. Note He did not demand, but gently asked each of them to follow Him. They made the choice to heed His call, and “drew nigh” unto Him. Every time we choose to draw near to God, He draws near to us. But then look at others who were also given an invitation to draw near to Him and follow Him. Look at the story of the rich man.

He was invited, but he put his riches first in his life instead and rejected the greatest treasure of all. So it goes in out own lives. As the Word tells us, we can’t serve two masters. We will either choose to serve ‘Self’ or God. Serving ‘Self’ means that we take ourselves out from under the protection of God; thus, we are then fair game to anything and everything that Satan chooses to send our way. Satan is the great liar, and deception is his greatest tool. He always puts in just enough truth to make his lies seem right. In this way, he turns lives upside down.
Right becomes wrong, and wrong becomes right. Isn’t that so evident in our world today?

My relationship with my earthly parents has often helped me gain insight into my relationship with my Lord and Savior. God reaches out to us in many ways, including through other people in our lives. My own family members have had strong influences upon my walk with the Lord. Thank God for their prayers and guidance as they were, and still are, instrumental in my growth in the Lord. But each of us has to want to take an active part in that journey to draw nearer to God if we are ever going to learn to take more than just baby steps closer to the Lord. If we hunger and thirst after Him, He will give us the kind of bread and water that will truly fill us beyond satisfaction.

I can relate to what it means to harden my own heart against the foundations of protection and provision that my own earthly parents laid down for me. One time in particular looms forth in my memory. I was in the fifth grade and a little boy had asked me to meet him after school to go to the movies with him.

I first went home, intending to ask my mother’s permission. She wasn’t home, but my oldest sister was there. I told her my intentions. She wisely warned me not to go. Even though I knew right from wrong in my heart, I stubbornly insisted on having my own way, no matter what the consequences may be. I remember her warning to this day, “You better not go; you know you’ll get into trouble.” Yet even that did not stop me. I set my “hardened heart” on the goal of having my own way in the face of danger and dire consequences.

I headed down the broad path of destruction- to disobey my parents was surely sin, and I knew it well. They had done their part in teaching me right from wrong, and yet I chose to ignore the limits that they had set for my own protection.
I didn’t even have a guilty conscience about doing it. I remember thinking, “I know I’m doing wrong, but I want to go, so I’m going to do it anyway.” I met up with the little boy and walked the rest of the way with him to the movie. Much to my surprise it was a double feature, which meant we were there longer than I had thought. Afterwards, as we headed home, I ran into my first problem – darkness was beginning to set in. Then the second problem arose, we came to a point where he had to go one way and I another, leaving me to walk the rest of the way home all alone and in the dark.

Things began to take an even greater turn for the worse. I now realized that things did not look the same at night as they did during the day. Yes, I was completely lost and had no idea where in the world I was or how to get back home. Suddenly, I was faced with the full realization of the consequences of my own rebellious, hard hearted, self-willed sinful nature. Fear gripped my heart. I had been walking for quite awhile when I finally saw a lady carrying her groceries into her house. I prayed, “Lord, please let her be a nice lady.” With fear and trembling, I told her my address and asked her if she could give me directions to get there. She asked if I was lost, and I told her I was. She kindly offered to take me home. I accepted her offer, but still prayed for God’s protection as I knew I was taking a chance on getting into a car with a stranger. As she dropped me off in front of my home, I felt so relieved to be back safe and secure, all the while knowing that my ordeal was far from over. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was going to have to face the wrath of my parents that would come swiftly.

Upon entering my home, I was greeted by these words from God, “Go to your room and bend over your bed.” No, not really, it was only the voice of my Daddy, not God, but as far as I was concerned, it might as well have been God. I was about to receive the chastisement that comes to any true child of God, for a loving God will always discipline and correct His true children. No one enjoys being chastised, but I thank the Lord, that I had parents that cared and loved me enough to do all that was necessary to see that I did not continue in that same state of rebellion, or hard heartedness. God granted them authority to exercise over me in His behalf. Yes, I got the spanking of my life that night-from both of my parents. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely NOT!! Yet to this very day, I appreciate and admire my parents for what they did for me that night.

Over time, I learned about the awfulness of the anxiety and worry that I had caused them to suffer that night. Not only that, because of my own self-willed stubbornness, I had placed my own life in great danger. What if: that lady had not been nice, I had been kidnapped, I had been molested, or I had been killed? Yet in the end, whose fault would it have been? Can you hear the “Accuser” say, “How could loving parents choose to send their child to suffer like that?” Did my parents send me out into the path of destruction or even death? No, they had taught me to be obedient. They had provided the safety and security of a good home. I was even provided an older, and wiser, sister to warn me against the foolishness of choosing to go my own way. In other words, they had provided the plan for my “salvation” from the wrath to come. Yet, I am the one that chose to reject that plan.

In that same manner, God has provided the plan for our eternal salvation through His only begotten Son who sacrificed His life on the Cross that we might be saved through our faith in Him and all that He has done for us. God gave a foreshadowing of the power of the shed blood of Jesus in Exodus 12. To spare the lives of their first born child from death that was sent as a part of the sentence against the Egyptian Pharaoh because he would not set the Jews free, the Jews were told to select a lamb without blemish to be sacrificed. They were to take the blood and apply it to the doorposts and the lintel above the door. As the plague was sent forth, wherever the blood had been applied, those within would be protected and all within were saved. We too must “apply” the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins that we may be saved through faith. All we have to do is repent, or ask God to forgive us for our sins, believe in Jesus the Christ as our Lord and Savior, and trust daily in His Word to transform us into His image by the power of His Holy Spirit. He has even gone so far as to show us through His resurrected Son, that we too shall be given a new resurrected body and an eternal home in Heaven that we may be with Him forever and ever.

Yet, even after all that, you will still hear the unbelieving “Accuser” say,
“How could a loving God condemn or send anyone to an eternal Hell?” Had I been lost, separated from my parents and family forever that night, there would have been the “unbelieving Accusers” that would have tried to place the blame on my parents, saying that their plan for my “salvation” was not sufficient. In like manner, today there are still the unbelieving “Accusers” that will reject God’s plan for their salvation. They will ignore and reject the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus. They will reject the “payment in full” plan provided by the shed blood of Jesus. They will ignore and reject the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that is sent to lead and guide us into all truth if we will only believe and ask Him to come into our hearts. They will reject the one, true, living God, our Heavenly Father.
And then, they will still accuse Him of condemning people to Hell. What absolute arrogance, foolishness, and, yes, hard hearted people.

No one has an excuse for not knowing God, for His power and marvelous majesty is made visible to all- just take a look at all He has created! Deny God and He must deny you. Yes, He is a loving God, but He is also a just God. The night I was lost was a direct result of my denial of the parental authority over me that was given by God for my safety. Their “word” of authority I had heard. I knew it well in the depths of my heart, but I had chosen to ignore it. In other words, I chose to walk in rebellion and unbelief which resulted in a hardened heart and led me to my demise that night. So it is with our spiritual growth in the Lord. If we continually refuse to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we are choosing to harden our hearts toward God. Eventually, we may become so hard hearted that we will never choose to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

God has given us His Word to study that we might gain the God kind of knowledge, which is the only kind of wisdom that will equip us to live a life that is safe and secure. It is His Word that teaches us the will of God for the true purposes of our lives, here and for eternity. Does our faith in Him and His Word mean that we will never have trials and tribulations? No, but He has promised us His presence to help us and see us through all the trials of life. However, if we choose to ignore His Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we then open our minds to believe every lie of both Satan and the secular world, giving them dominion over our hearts and every part of your thinking processes. The only way to be like-minded with Christ is to study His Word and allow it to renew our minds; that is to learn to think, understand, and see things as God does instead of the faulty kind of thinking prevalent in the secular Godless society of today. This is the spirit of the antichrist; remove God from being first in our lives, place self on the throne of our hearts, and choose to become your own little god. We are then free to live in the arrogance of denying our need for the one, true, and living God. Remember the song, “I Did It My Way”?

Once that is done, it isn’t hard to take the next step to create our own plan of “salvation”. It becomes easier to replace God’s command, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” with ideas such as: being an atheist is ok, I can try to be as good a person as I can and that will be sufficient to get me into Heaven, I don’t really need to read, study, believe and obey God’s Word, there are many paths to God – like Buddha, Mohammed, pagan gods, mother nature, the goddess of whatever, or whatever I choose to believe or not believe in is sufficient. Yes, any and all become acceptable for, according to My way of thinking, “I Did It My Way” and that is sufficient! (A man’s ways are right in his own eyes.) What an absolute insult to the value and power of the blood of Jesus. Remember, the protection of the blood of the lamb for the Jews in Egypt was only available to those that “applied” it. Have you, through faith, applied the blood of Jesus to your life, or are you still lost in the deception of “there are many paths to God?”

Of course, the true authority, Jesus, has stated in no uncertain terms that “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life: no man cometh to the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) His Word is true and He is who He says He is, or He is a liar. Therefore, you and I have the ‘free will’ choice to reject Jesus and what He did on the Cross (our Heavenly Father’s plan and provision for our salvation), or to accept Him, believe in Him as our Savior and Lord, and obey Him. How can we obey Him if we don’t know what to obey? Wouldn’t it make sense to study His Word in order to be taught and led by Him? “Every scripture is inspired of God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Of course, once again, one has the free will to believe or reject the truth of the Bible, but either it is true, or it is not. There is no middle ground. One can not pick and choose what ‘parts’ to believe or reject. Well, on second thought, I guess one has the choice of picking and choosing in order to recreate God and His Word to make up his own form of ‘religion’. That seems to be very popular these days. That way we don’t really have to obey the true God. Instead, once again, one can choose to go the route of “I Did It My Way,” and live life according to our own vain imaginations, placing our own opinions superior to the Word of God.

At this point, I feel I must insert a very strong warning that I pray each of us will ‘hear, believe, and obey’ with the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is a sin that, once committed, is an UNFORGIVABLE SIN. Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt. 12:31, 32) An excellent explanation of this verse is presented in the Tyndale Application Study Bible: “Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is denying that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. Because a person can be saved only through the Holy Spirit’s work, to refuse to repent or even to acknowledge our sin is to refuse God’s forgiveness.” “Only those who have turned their backs on God and have rejected all faith have any need to worry. Jesus said they can’t be forgiven-
not because their sin is worse than any other sin, but because they will never ask for forgiveness. Whoever rejects the prompting of the Holy Spirit removes himself from the only force that can lead him to repentance and restoration to God.”

Once more, hear and understand the importance of the Holy Spirit in relationship to the very source of the scriptures. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star (Jesus Christ) arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Peter 1: 19 – 21)

Further more, Jesus gave His apostles His “power of attorney.” What is that? Read the following scriptures that were said by Jesus to His apostles before His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings; and the world which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14: 23 – 26)

So why is this promise of the Comforter so very important? Jesus invited the apostles to “come away” from their former lives to follow Him that they might not only learn from what He taught, but also learn from the example of how He lived out His life. Then before he ascended into Heaven, while he was “yet present with” them, He commissioned them (gave them the right) to go into all the world to preach and to share in continuing the work He had begun while on Earth.

This included preaching, teaching, healing, etc. Whatever His Father told Him to do, He did, and that work was to be continued through the power of the Holy Spirit that would be sent to indwell them (and every believer). The Comforter would be sent to help in the continuation of His work. This promise guaranteed the truth of the Word of God, for the Holy Spirit would guide them in their teaching and writing, to enable them to remember and teach everything that He had taught them.
Thus, the scriptures are the teachings of Jesus because the apostles were not left to their own devices or faulty memory, but their “remembrances” of all that Jesus said and did were guided directly by the Holy Spirit. For further confirmation directly from the words of Jesus: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8)

I urge each of us to get into the Word of God that through faith, Jesus will abide in us and we in Him. Do not be deceived by the false teachings prevalent in the world today, such as – there are many paths to God. If we want to be accepted into the family of God and have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we must “Have no other gods before Me,” as commanded by our Heavenly Father. We must stay rooted and grounded in the Word that we may have our “minds renewed by the washing of the water of the Word.” Stay strong in our commitment to yield to His Holy Spirit that we may be transformed daily into His image. Through faith in Jesus, we are carved in the palms of His hands, safe and secure. He will enable us to endure to the end until we see Him face to face on that glorious day when He calls us home to be with Him forever and ever. Believe in His Word and He will equip you to withstand and overcome all the fiery darts of the powers and principalities of this world. Through faith, nothing can separate us from our Lord. Remember, as Jesus said, “It is written, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4: 4; see also Deut. 8: 3) By His example of knowing the Word and the power of the Word, should we not also follow His example to study and hide the Word in our hearts?
Put on the whole armor of God that you will not be deceived and turned away from the one, true, living God.

Dear Heavenly Father, bless us and cause your face to shine upon us. Put the seal of your name upon our hearts through the applied blood of your Son, Jesus. Give us spiritual ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart of flesh that we would yield our lives and present our bodies to be a living sacrifice for Thee. Put a guard before our hearts, and a guard before our lips, that nothing would come out to sin against thee, and come back to harm us. Teach us your ways and keep our feet upon the straight and narrow path. Help us to stand, and having done all, to continue to stand till that glorious day when we see you face to face. May we then hear you say, “Welcome home children, my good and faithful servants.” Thank you Lord for who you are, all that you have done, and all that you are continuing to do. Most of all Lord, thank you for giving us the gift of faith in the saving power of the blood of the Lamb, Your Son, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

Ginger Rahn


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