THE OPEN HEART [28]

So what is a closed heart?

“I will take out the heart of stone, and replace it with a heart of flesh”? – The Old Testament.

“Flesh” is a New Testament term that relates to human nature and the sinful condition, or at the least, it refers to man in his natural state. In this case however, it relates to the commonly accepted terms of hard heart, soft heart. The New Testament speaks of the “hardened heart” in disparaging terms.

Pharaoh is said to have hardened his heart, or that God hardened his heart. What does this mean? [God used Pharaoh for his purposes, we should not consider God’s purposes as typical, but it still typifies the action of heart hardening.]

Typically, it is going against the “soft” option. It is a realisation that the choice about to be made is one that will have dire consequences for somebody, and is consciously going against the option that presents itself as being closer to that which would otherwise retain a “clear” or at least less damaged conscience.

Moses asked for the Jewish nation to be released, but Pharaoh “hardened his heart” against them, and rather than release them, not wanting to appear “weak”, he refused them liberty and retained them under his slavery.

“Do not harden your heart”…when he speaks…when you hear his voice. There was the thing about him not being in the fire or the whirlwind or whatever, but that he is in the still small voice.

One assumes it is largely talking of the conscience. The cleansed conscience enables the Spirit to be heard.

A “soft” heart is accepted as meaning an emotional response to a situation. It is willing to yield ground for the sake of peace. The hard heart is more likely to retain its territory, and not give in to anything that reduces its influence or “power”.

The soft heart will be merciful, the hard heart will be harsh and judgmental.

And so, under the threat of punishment, of wrath, of anger and judgement, of accusation; people harden their hearts because they are defensive and have nowhere else to go. They retreat into “their shell”, and respond from a long established position which has been built up over time, out of the “necessity” of self protection.

But God’s position is that he has rescued all people from death, and wishes to reconcile them to himself through the body of his son, who took all the injury upon himself. We cannot be injured anymore, if we accept God’s position and viewpoint. We need not be defensive, since he has defended us, and continues to do so.

We are not accusable, according to his position, his view of us. The heart has now been softened by the reception of the gospel of peace, softened by the love shown towards us, and this “new” heart responds in kind, in love towards God and man. Softened by his forgiveness of us, and softened in kind in our acceptance of him as our forgiver and the one who has rescued us from our prior miserable condition.

“We love because he first loved us”. The Spirit which comes to man when and as he believes his new state as proclaimed by God and demonstrated by the cross that took our sin and death and proclaimed it dealt with, ended, finished. The Spirit is the spirit of life itself, and comes with the response of the soft heart, the renewed heart, the loving heart, because it brings God’s heart to us.

Such confrontation with the reality of what God has done for us in Jesus, is not going to be without emotion, nor should it be. After all, we are talking about life and death, frustration, despair and hopelessness, not to mention futility and tragedy. If the flow of the Spirit tends to bring us to tears, then we should recognise that the Spirit is confronting that which is in us that has been “hardened”, and has hitherto been given a wrong response to that situation.

Unless we react and respond to the Spirit’s prompting and urging, unless we accept his direction, we will direct our thoughts and thinking and response in a way similar to all previous responses, those of the hardened heart. It should be commonplace to respond to all things, in the light of his mercy and love for us, in the light of the truth. All this arises from the peace of the cross, and the resolution of our conflicts through him and in him.

The heart opens itself to truth, and to the dynamic of true life, no longer being closed off and wary of rejection by man, since there is now total acceptance by God. It is also spoken of in terms of the heart being cleansed of former sinful influences and preconditioning. The heart is renewed in its appreciation of life and living, it is released into the beauty and truth that was always intended.

“I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly”.

Cheart

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