I once was acquainted with someone who when they were a child their conscience was firmly planted in the realm of right and wrong. This person told me stories about their childhood transgressions. They once stole a pack of bubble gum from a store, they felt so bad that before they could go to sleep they had to confess their pilfering to their Mother. Later another episode happened when they took some cigarettes and smoked, not only did they get sick, but they couldn’t go to sleep without confessing their wrongdoing to their parent. That’s good examples of how our conscience serves to guide us, to help us stay the course, right?
Now, fast forward many years into adulthood. The conscience of said person has been continually shaped by their actions. This mischievous, sometimes misguided, child has become an adult. This now adult displays some of the conscience that they had as a child. One week before their wedding, this person slips up, they imbibe a little too much at their pre-wedding celebration and a pre-marriage indiscretion takes place with someone who is not their intended spouse. They feel remorse, so much so, that they are sick over it. They confess their transgression and the wedding takes place. Over the years there are patches of behavior that exhibits unfaithfulness which intensified over time – flirting with others, vulgar actions to their spouse in public, suggestive comments to the opposite sex, pornography, emotional affairs, secrets, solicitation of the opposite sex, and full-fledged adultery.
This person who started out as a child who couldn’t face going to sleep because they had done something wrong, morphed into an individual who betrayed the very person to whom they had pledged to be faithful. The marriage did not survive. The soft-hearted child became a hard hearted adult.
That story above is an example of what I believe demonstrates a certain downward spiral that we humans can, and often do, experience. It starts ever so slowly. It creeps upon us in increments. It begins in our minds, moves into our heart, and is played out by our actions (or in some cases our inactions). Ever so slowly we change. Ever so slowly we become jaded. And, if we don’t watch for the signs, and don’t rein in our actions, we can easily become hard hearted. That area/actions in our lives that we once deemed unacceptable become accepted and it’s moved from being firmly planted on the “don’t do it” side to firmly planted in the “it’s perfectly acceptable” side.
God warns us about these actions in Zechariah 7:11-12 “Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.” ( NLT). I love to read commentaries about Bible verses, and I consult many when I ponder sections of Scripture. One such source is The Life Application Study Bible, and the commentary regarding these two verses hit the nail on the head for me: “Zechariah explained to the people that their ancestors brought God’s great wrath on themselves by hardening their hearts. Any sin seems more natural the second time—as we become hardened, each repetition is easier. Ignoring or refusing God’s warning hardens you each time you do wrong. Read God’s Word and apply it to your life. Sensitivity and submission to God’s Word can soften your heart and allow you to live as you should.”
This is worth repeating: “Any sin seems more natural the second time — as we become hardened, each repetition is easier.” Wow!
That’s why Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” (ESV) is so very important to me. I need to keep this verse top of mind, to enable myself to be sensitive to the things that God wants in my life. Upon awaking each morning, I pray Psalm 51:10 over my day. As my day goes on, my mind gets cluttered and I get distracted. As the things of the world encroach my day, I need to pull my attention and desires back to the Lord and recite Psalm 51:10 again.
Psalm 51:10 – that’s my daily lifeline, and after pondering this reflection on what it means to become hard-hearted, this verse now becomes even more important to me.
Is there a verse that you have identified in Scripture that helps you to keep your heart, mind, and spirit on your relationship with God?
But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. (Jeremiah 5:23, ESV)
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. (Proverbs 28:13-14, ESV)