“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.”
Ezekiel 36:26 New Living Translation
During worship on Sunday I felt a strange softening of my heart. Tears came to my eyes as I sang. I say strange because I’m sad to say, it doesn’t occur very often. Most of the time I keep a tight lid on my emotions.
People will challenge me with “Come on Paul … let loose. After all, you probably go crazy at football games!” To which I reply, “No, I don’t.”
It’s the way God made me.
But to fail to become emotionally involved in the greatest love story of all times … the story of a God who loved me enough to allow his Son to take my sin just so He could have a relationship with me … seems to be a very cheap response (or lack thereof) to such a story.
John Wesley, founder of Methodism and itinerant preacher through most of the eighteenth century had a defining moment in his spiritual life. While listening to someone reading Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Wesley gives this account: “About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.”
Is our religion so pious, so mechanical, so cut, dried and dissected … so explainable that it fails to soften our hearts from time to time? Where is the humble awe of relationship with God?
It’s not the sunshine only that makes things happen, but the material on which it shines. It melts wax. It hardens clay.
There are a lot of reasons why the human heart turns hard. Callouses on the heart occur anytime we seek protection from the pain of living. Being lied to, being abandoned, being deceived or taken advantage of … all can harden our hearts.
Indicators that it has happened to us can be cynicism, distance from people who should be close, distrust of everyone and everything and a growing difficulty of even believing God. (Mark 16:14)
Left unattended, a hardened heart creates chaos and emptiness.
This week look for any evidence that you have allowed your heart to harden. Then ask God to give you a tender, responsive one. Open your heart to God’s Word, worship authentically and enthusiastically, and refuse to let anyone or anything steal your joy and God’s peace.
There are enough things in life that are hard … don’t add your heart to that list.