“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12, ESV)
As a pastor, I have spent much time in hospitals with people who have had heart problems. One of those problems is that called “atherosclerosis,” commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries. This is a problem caused by cholesterol that can collect in the arteries restricting the flow of oxygenated blood to the body. Today, doctors routinely treat this disorder with various types of surgery. Another very serious heart condition is called “hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,” where a muscle of the heart becomes thick. This makes it more difficult for the heart to efficiently pump blood. Both heart conditions are serious and require treatment.
As serious as this condition is, there is a more serious heart issue that one may face. It is the issue of one’s spiritual heart. It is the spiritual hardening of the heart. Yesterday, I wrote about this section of Scripture that the author wrote to warn the Jewish recipients not to keep following the pattern of their ancestors who wandered in the wilderness for forty-years because of disbelief. In verses 7-15, the writer indicated five times about this being a problem of the heart.
There is a huge difference between the intellect and the heart. Both are vital but the heart pumps blood to all the organs of the body. It is vital to life. Spiritually, the brain processes the information fed to it, while the heart acts upon this information with conviction. Both the mind or intellect and the heart or will are essential in spiritual life. Why does the author warn the reader regarding the hardening of the heart? It is because, just like the physical heart, the hardening of the spiritual heart is fatal.
How is the spiritual heart hardened? It hardens by repeated rejection of the voice of God calling through His word. It is possible to have a hardened heart. When a person hears the gospel call and purposefully rejects what he or she has heard, they can begin to harden their hearts. This heart disease can progress so far that they run the risk of becoming so hardened that they will enter eternity without repentance.
The hardened heart is something that plagues all humanity. The Lord spoke of this problem to the prophet Ezekiel and the solution He would take to remedy the stony heart. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26, KJV 1900)
The Lord earnestly desires that none would perish and that all would come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). What could cause one to harden their hearts and perish? It is the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:13). Friends the sin of all sins is that of unbelief. Anything not of faith is sin (Rom 14:23). This sin of rejecting the salvation offered by faith in Jesus Christ is a great sin that has hardened the hearts of many. Hell is full of people who did not respond to their knowledge of the gospel and died with a hard heart.
The writer’s audience knew the message of salvation through faith in Jesus. He tells them not to harden their hearts through unbelief for to do so will mean falling away from the truth that will set them free. Do not be that person who says tomorrow I will trust in Christ. For tomorrow may never give you another chance. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15, ESV)