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Hardness of Heart

For many people, especially those who are achievers or self-made, repentance is hard to come by. While they trust in themselves, they can’t trust in God. Everything is shallow – their humility, their ‘repentance’, their faith, their commitment, their zeal, and their fear of God.

In contrast, the prodigal, who wasted all his inheritance and ended up destitute, was abased by his circumstances and his inescapable folly. He was so broken by what he had done, and the shameful way he had lived! He was crushed by the sheer weight of his sins (Luke 15:12-21).

He had been so humbled that he was willing to be an unrecognised servant from now on. Distraught and emotional, he went back to his father to ask to be his servant, with no special privileges.

And so it is with each of us when we come to see the depth of our sins, for which we deserve death.

But there are some, who, despite knowing these things intellectually, do not respond like the prodigal.

What is it that prevents them repenting?

They don’t see their sins in the same light that the prodigal saw his. They have hard hearts (emotions). They are not soft, malleable, responsive. If they don’t soften them – which involves letting go of the emotions and being humbled, instead of maintaining their own integrity – they will end up lost, as Paul warned:

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart, you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God (Rom 2:5).

Why Don’t They Repent?

Why are these folks, who seem to mean well, just not able to respond to God as they should?

You have to look deeper into the heart of man. What is it in each one of us that God wants to break? Remember Jesus said that He wants you to fall on Him in complete dependence, and emotional contrition:

Whoever falls on this Stone will be broken, but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder (Matt 21:44).

He doesn’t want to have to do the latter. He yearns for you to do the former. But will you?

And of those who won’t do it, why not?

They are still so preoccupied with self that self is more important to them than God. And, while they give self pre-eminence, humbling eludes them, and repentance is far away. Their hearts are hard, like flint, unyielding, uncaring about how they have hurt God by their stubbornness, their pride and their self-reliance.

The root of the problem for many is that they think they are pretty nice people. They have a good estimation of themselves. They can’t see their sins and character deficiencies in the same light that God sees them. So, they are unable to repent in sufficient depth.

It’s the same problem that Job had, and many other ‘good’ nice people have. This complacent, feel- good attitude, content with oneself, shuts the Spirit out.

Such a person can seem repentant. He can say all the right things, have the right answers, have the knowledge of God in his head, but simply not know God.

Knowing God

This is serious. Remember what Jesus said:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ [And the answer is ‘Yes, they may have done such things.’] And then I will declare to them, ‘I never KNEW you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness’ (Matt 7:21-23).

How frightening! How tragic! But why?

Notice the salient word ‘knew’. What does He mean? He says the same thing in Matthew 25:11-12.

Go to Genesis 4 and see what it says there:

Adam knew Eve, his wife... (Gen 4:1).

Adam was not having a superficial relationship with Eve. It was very intimate. So intimate, in fact, that she conceived and bore a son. There was sharing taking place. Nothing was hidden between them. They spent all their time together and shared everything.

And in such intercourse they expressed the full depth of their emotions in passionate love.

That is what God wants for you, spiritually. He wants to share your life. He wants to intimately come into you, and live within you. He wants you to share yourself with Him, and not hide your secrets from Him.

An independent, self-reliant person does not let himself have such a relationship. He doesn’t want God to come that close. He doesn’t want to let himself surrender to God so intimately. Why not?

Pride and self. That marriage in the human spirit prevents your marriage with God taking place.

So, such people do not repent, because they don’t have the emotional expression that is needed. It doesn’t have to be outwardly expressed, but it must be expressed inwardly, in your spirit, towards God. You must love Him more than yourself. You must yield to Him, and let your emotions loose to express what you would express towards your wife in deep love.

If you don’t, you are selfish, shallow, derelict.

Knowing God in a way that counts is not an intellectual thing. It is spiritual. It involves surrender. It involves emotions. It involves laying your self down.

A person with unconquered pride cannot do it. HE means more to himself than God does, as incredible as that may sound. Yet, MANY people are victims to themselves – victims of their own self-pride.

Demons block them going further – going lower. If you are like that, you will subconsciously think, “I’m not a proud person.” Yet the pride is very subtle. It’s unseen, bound up in the attitude “I’m OK; I’m happy with myself the way I am. I do what God says. I obey Him. I seek to do His will.”

Self-delusion accompanies such pride. So, he thinks he’s a pretty good person. His conscious mind would say differently, because he knows Jeremiah 17:9. But, subconsciously he’s not like the prodigal who was broken up and contrite because of all the sins he had committed.

The prodigal son KNEW deep down in his heart, as well as in his mind, that he had GREATLY transgressed, and was not even worthy of forgiveness!

The same with David after his terrible sin with Bathsheba, killing her husband to get what he wanted for himself. David was crushed by the realisation of how dreadful his actions were. It was that attitude that endeared him to God. Utter contrition!

You can read about it in Psalm 51, and see the true repentance that flowed from his heart afterwards.

For us, however, in ‘respectable’ Britain – especially if you are part of ‘decent’, ‘good’ Middle Britain, and even more especially if you are ‘one of God’s people’, ‘God-fearing’ and all the rest –  we just can’t see OUR selfishness and pride as despicable as the blatant sins of the Luke 15 prodigal.

And it’s that view of yourself – your respectability and decency – that God finds so abhorrent, because it masks the inner pride which is despicable to God.

Pride and self have many friends. Complacency is one of them. Yet Paul reminded us:

...while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord (2 Cor 5:6).

God’s Anger

You as a Christian probably rarely think about how angry God is at sin and wrongdoing. Grace or forgiveness is more desirable, so you probably assume that you are in God’s favour. However you need to consider the former aspect of God’s character:

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. OTHERWISE YOU ALSO WILL BE CUT OFF. (Rom 11:22.)

I bet you don’t think those last words apply to you! But if you have not yet repented, I’m sorry to say that those words DO apply to you. If you don’t repent, you won’t be saved. You are under God’s wrath, and it is a frightening prospect!

God’s fury against sin knows no bounds!! That’s why Jesus had to suffer such a terrible fate, dying on a cross in agony, to try to tell physically-minded, selfish, complacent ‘believers’ how God regards your sin!

A brother, who was trapped by his own hard heart, wrote and told me of a dream God gave him:

“I am writing this as a sorry excuse of a man. I see myself as having failed in so many ways.

“I was shocked by a dream I had yesterday morning, 19th. I remembered some flashbacks from my sleep as I was waking up. I was part of a group of people. (What we were up to, and where we were is unclear.) In one scene, I was alone with an American actor called Martin Sheen. He plays serious roles on the screen such as a political advisor (I think) in the TV series, 'The White House'.

“I haven't seen him much but I knew him in my striking dream. He was a supervisor or leader in my dream. [So he was representative of God in your dream.]  He waited until he got me alone and then he 'let me have it'. He was angry and displeased with me.

“He accused me of insulting and mocking him in front of other people. I remember thinking, or saying, ‘You are so unfair to be like this towards me. When did I ever insult you?’

“That part of my dream was most clear when I woke up. The other details were lost.

“I tried to make some sense of what was in my head. Then I wondered if Jesus was represented by Martin Sheen and HE was telling me I had insulted Him by my disobedient and selfish lifestyle. I was disturbed by this possible interpretation. I was shocked into making a new commitment to live for Jesus / God. It was, in a sense, a life-changing dream.”

I can imagine how disturbing the dream must have been for him! God meant it to be so. God does not mince His words. Why was God angry with him? Because he had dismissed input which God previously gave, and not taken seriously his sinful condition and repented.

The root of his moral lassitude was pride / self. Where a person does not relinquish self, but instead protects himself and his pride, he allows demons to hold him captive. He says to God, in effect, “I prefer to have an intimate relationship with these demons than with You!”

Now you know why God was insulted!

Demons Will Hold You

The correspondent went on:

“I am trying to put out of my head the several major negative memories I've carried around with me since about 1993. Several people mainly related to jobs I had in England have left me with mental scars that bug me from time to time. Sometimes anger and regrets overwhelm me and I feel defeated that I have not let go of them by now. I must say, I have been good recently in not allowing them to make me upset or angry. Perhaps God has released me from the curse of carrying them around in my head. Praise the Lord.”

Well, if they are still there, it is because you have not resisted them, because they are planted by evil spirits. Demons try to disturb us with negative thoughts and moods. If we give in to them, they take us captive.

“I have never known what being loved is like. For that reason I have not wanted to receive criticism or rebuke either. In my heart, I know that is wrong. I know God says He rebukes those whom He loves. It’s for our own good. May God melt and heal my heart so I can change in that regard.”

It’s good that he was willing to express a desire to finally be free of all this bondage that he has carried with him for years. But an affirmation by itself is of no use unless you knuckle down with determination and resolve to oppose those spiritual influences, and persevere against them day after day.

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Yes, intentions alone are not enough.

Coupled with the resolve to counter evil powers there must be an accompanying heart response of contrition like the prodigal’s, seeing that you have insulted God, treated Him with contempt, and His holy standards with disdain.

If you protect your pride and self, by not letting your heart mourn for your wrong attitude and approach to sin, you don’t repent and God can’t forgive you. You will only carry on in your sin... all the way to perdition! But God doesn’t want to see you go there. He wants to save you. However, the decision to relinquish self and pride, and repent, is yours and yours alone. No one can make that decision for you, and no one else can help you to be contrite. Only you can do it.

Will you let yourself? God hopes you will!

Our friend said that he has never known what being loved is like. Yes he has, but because he is so selfish, he is blinded on that.

His mother loved him. God has loved him. Jesus has shown Him much love! There is just one example of it above in the dream he received. We have shown him love. But people forget kindnesses and favour they have been shown when they absorb it all for themselves.

If a person is intractably selfish, they don’t think they are loved because they are not loving others. That selfishness makes them feel unfulfilled, and things don’t go well in their lives. They don’t get what they want – for themselves – as much as they would like, so they think they have not been loved. Yet they have.

Such is the demonic mindset. It is deluded.

Of this same individual God gave Helena a dream in which he was portrayed as really ugly. This is a spiritual ugliness to God. He was prodding or poking Helena, and his behaviour was very revolting.

The poking or prodding represented how demanding he is, expecting to get what HE wants from other people, and demanding they give it to him. His arrogant behaviour amounts to stealing, by taking what he has no right to expect from others.

How does God say we should behave? Like that – or like this below?

Give and it will be given to you... (Lk 6:38).

By this we know love, because He laid down His own life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 Jn 3:16).

Dying To Self

A short while ago I received this unusual dream:

23rd Feb 2009. M. Dying to self
I can’t put it in words what this dream conveyed. I was trying to die, but couldn’t. I was standing upright, somehow just expecting to shrivel up and die.

But it would take so long and was simply impossible because I wasn’t born to die but to live. It went completely against all natural inclinations. I couldn’t see how it would be possible, even though it was expected of me.

Meaning: An allegory of how difficult it is for anyone to die to self. Yet Jesus asks that of us. But it’s something we cannot do by ourselves. We need Him to help us achieve it.

There is only one way to die to self. It’s painful. No one can do it for you. You’ve got to do it. It means giving up what you want for yourself and doing what God wants instead. And He requires much!

Don’t Deceive Yourself

One widespread problem which hard of heart people have is that they mistake their intellectual acquiescence of their problem with repentance. Because they have analysed what their problem is, and know in their minds what they should do, they delude themselves that they have done it or are doing it, when they aren’t. They have only acknowledged it.

The heart-wrenching change has not taken place in their spirit. They have not repented; have not been broken, and are not contrite. But try telling them that. At first they won’t believe you. And if they are obdurate, they will resist it to the bitter end.

There is very little hope for such a person. Obduracy or stubbornness, pride, self-will, and all the delusion that accompanies such complacent traits, will shut the door of the kingdom in your face. You will continue on, all the way to hell!

Until you come to the point of weeping – at least inside to begin with, if not openly – for your sins, God cannot accept you, give you His Spirit, and live within. Your life will be empty and unfulfilled.  And you won’t be broken up for your sins as long as you are so selfish that you are uncaring about God’s feelings. He is hurt by the way you are.

You may mentally acknowledge your sins, but that just amounts to acquiescence, not repentance, like mental assent is not faith.

There has to be something deeper take place in your spirit for it to register with God.

You may think you are responding appropriately to God and that you can't do anything differently, but that's because you are a creature of habit – your habit – the way you have designed your life and responses. You are not used to having an emotional wrench inside. It's an area many have nullified.

But that is the essence of what it means to be broken. Your emotions ‘crack’, and you feel not just sadness and sorrow for what you have done and the way you have been (at variance with what God wants, and therefore extremely hurtful to God), but also a depth of feeling that is so intense that you weep for your sins and failings.

Kassahun had a dream about this:

Feb. 18/09. Weeping
I was weeping so much I couldn't be comforted. My tears were gushing uncontrollably. There was no one who could wipe away my tears. (Sometimes God allows this kind of experience not for ourselves but for others who should be totally broken in spirit.)

I have explained about this in the article An Unusual Burden. I experienced it when God used me to be a burden-bearer for someone’s sins. I wept and wept and wept, when I writhed in agony. I suffered for days. It was a most unusual experience, and certainly one I would not want to experience again!

Some Kill Their Emotions

Many people, especially in Britain, kill their emotions. They may have been brought up with the concept that it is not ‘manly’ to express certain emotions. They may have been led to believe that to weep is a sign of weakness. But Jesus wept (Jn 11:35). He was definitely not weak!!

Or they may have been similarly fed the lie that it is wrong to get heated or show anger of any sort. But Jesus got furious at certain sins, especially hypocrisy! (Matt 23:13,14,15,17,23,25,27,29.)

If you are the ‘unflappable’ type, always ‘cool’, lacking any intensity of emotion, it is probable that you have not yet developed an aspect of your spirit that still needs your attention. And while your spirit is thus underdeveloped – dare I say retarded?! – you will limit the effectiveness of God’s Spirit working through you – if you even get that far. For, some people just cannot come to a proper repentance of the spirit, which involves the rending of the heart – emotions that feel like they could ‘tear’ you inside!

Folks with their pride in place, and a protected self, don’t want to experience heart-wrenching emotions. So they just don't go there. They avoid that area of spirituality. They don't express such feelings. They shut them down if they begin.

But if you are to be a child of God, not merely your own man, you must let the Spirit birth it within. Of course this is in conjunction with your mind. Your mind retains ultimate control over your expressions. But as you begin to let go of your emotions, and give them free rein, true feelings of remorse can rise up, pride is subjugated, and repentance can occur.

If you don’t let emotional expression happen, you are denying not only your spirit, but also the Spirit of God, which is trying to transform you. That trans- formation begins within, in the seat of the emotions.

Why do some people have hard hearts in this respect? They may accept intellectual matters to do with truth, but not emotional and spiritual aspects.

I believe I know why. Let me explain, using myself as the ‘guinea pig’.

I remember the way I was as a teenager and can now see that I had that trait all those years ago. I wouldn't shed a tear for the sins I committed, even though I had come to 'obey' God (intellectually, that is). I kept the Sabbath and holy days, tithed, and did all the things that one can do in the flesh. But when it came to acknowledging my wrongdoing with tears of repentance, they weren't there. I didn’t even 'weep' inside, without shedding literal tears. I think that is a more common response for a man, whereas a woman will generally weep outwardly and openly, which is good.

Now, 40+ years on, I feel inside some of the pain God suffers for our wrongdoing, and it engenders a feeling of remorse within me and consequently it can lead on to repentance.

Why wasn't it in me all those years ago, when my mind was 'sold out' on the things of God? Because I was too self-centred and selfish to care. I didn't care about God. I cared about me. So the feelings He wanted in me weren't there.

Instead I had hardness of heart.

Is The Idol Which Shuts Out The Spirit

I have thought about this recently and I think it's true that the more selfish a person is, the less they can truly repent, because the less they feel emotionally about their wrongdoing. Often they just don't see it as being wrong because it's so much a part of self – "that's the way I am" – the ego says. And, because that's the way the person is, and doesn't know how to be any different or react any differently, that's the way they stay, and true repentance doesn't take place. There is merely a superficial, mental acquiescence that deludes the person they have repented when they haven't.

Self is tied to pride, and pride to stubbornness. And that unholy trinity rules the spirit, preventing God granting the person repentance. Only when a person is willing to relinquish self, and begin to live a life toward God and others – loving God with all our heart, and loving others as ourselves – does the Spirit find a home within, cleansing us of all our vileness and spiritual filth.

Oh how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God! Jesus didn’t mean just rich in wealth. Those who are rich in themselves, of and by themselves, are equally culpable and vulnerable!

If that is you, ask God to break you. Yearn for Him to come in in a new way, setting you free from your bondage. Take hold of what He tries to birth within you. Be prepared to release yourself from the shackles of pride, and be willing to surrender self – even though it is hard work and painful!

Then let go of your emotions. Let tears roll for your sins. And then you can let God’s Spirit come in and cleanse you.

Be no longer hard-hearted, but tender towards His love for you.

He loves you. But do you love Him?

O Lord, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear? Return for Your servants’ sake, the tribes of Your inheritance (Is 63:17).

Malcolm B Heap


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