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Heart:  What does it mean to have a hardened one?

Gary Googe Apr 10

The first time this subject is discussed in the Bible is in the case of the one spoken of as the Pharaoh of Egypt.  There we have passages that speak of God hardening his heart when He was working to have him let His people go from his bondage of them as slaves in Egypt.

Exodus 4:21

21 And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. [Emphasis added]

Then later in this situation we see passages where it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

Exodus 8:15

15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said. [Emphasis added]

What are we to think of this?  Exactly how is it that God hardened his heart, and then Pharaoh also hardened his own heart? In both cases it involves the creation of resistance.  In the first case the resistance came when God brought suffering upon the people of Egypt with a variety of plagues.  By doing this there’s a real sense in which He did some miraculous things that hardened his heart.

Exodus 7:3

3 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. [Emphasis added]

But in reaction to these things Pharaoh hardened his own heart.  He became all the more determined not to let the people go.

Exodus 8:32

32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go. [Emphasis added]

The apostle Paul speaks of this same principle but calls it a darkening of one’s heart.

Romans 1:20-22

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [Emphasis added]

So exactly what can we learn from this? Answer: Resistance to God’s will results in a hardening of one’s heart. As the resistance continues, we become less sensitive to His will.  We see this in anyone who continues in their resistance to the gospel message of salvation.  They steadily develop more and more resistance and insensitivity to it as long as they stubbornly reject the truth so that they might be saved.

I suspect you’ve noticed that when you do work with your hands using a hoe or a shovel you can develop blisters that can in time develop callouses.  In the process of developing the callouses your hands become less sensitive in those places.  This is how it is in the hardness of one’s heart.  The more one violates the norms and standards of one’s conscience, the more one becomes less sensitive about doing those things.  We even speak of habitual criminals as hardened criminals. Over time, in doing these things the person becomes less and less sensitive to their wrongdoing. They become less nervous and less likely to perspire as much in their act of wrongdoing.  This is why lie-detectors don’t work well on some people.  It is because over time they have become so hardened, so calloused and insensitive to their own wrongdoing.  They get to where their lies are less detectable.

One of the virtues of Christian living is having a “pure heart” and a “good conscience,” one filled with divine norms and standards for wise decision-making.  That spontaneously happens when a believer consistently learns and applies God’s Word.

1 Timothy 1:5

5 Now the end [or outcome] of the commandment is charity [AGAPE = love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned [ANAPOKRITOS = without hypocrisy]: [Emphasis added]

This “end of the commandment” is what we might also call “the bottom line” to the situation.  These things mentioned here are normal outcomes of living one’s life responding favorably to the teaching of God’s Word.  However, if we choose to resist it, the outcome is a hardened and impure heart, one that tends to become more and more insensitive to wrongdoing—sin.  This is why the prophet Jeremiah makes his statement about the condition of the heart of man apart from God.

Jeremiah 17:9

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? [Emphasis added]

One of the most important passages of Scripture about all this is one written by our apostle Paul—

Ephesians 4:17-24

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

This verse is dedicated to those who foolishly think “true” Christians don’t sin.  Here he’s telling believers not to live like unbelievers.  Such a statement wouldn’t be necessary if they were incapable of such.  Living in the “vanity of one’s mind” is to be empty-headed, being ignorant of God’s Word.  This “vanity” creates a kind of a vacuum into which is drawn wrong thinking and sinful activity.

18 Having the understanding darkened [good norms and standards being destroyed], being alienated from the life of God [failing to live a Christian life] through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

This “blindness of the heart” is to do with not “seeing the truth” and gaining divine norms and standards for wise decision-making.

19 Who being past feeling [becoming calloused or insensitive to one’s sin] have given themselves over unto lasciviousness [ASELGEIA = unrestrained living—following one’s lusts], to work all uncleanness [AKATHARSIA = impurities (where we get the word catheter)] with greediness [PLEONEXIA = implacable – can’t be satisfied – a constant desire to have more].

Inevitably such a person ends up in what we sometimes call a frantic search for sustained happiness that simply can’t be found in the temporal things of life.

20 But ye have not so learned Christ;

Meaning that such thinking doesn’t come from our Lord.

21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

Again, if believers weren’t capable of such, there would not be the need for such a command.  But the reality is that believers are capable of any and every sin you can name.  They, of course, shouldn’t do such things, but they sometimes do when they allow themselves to be controlled by their sinful nature and other bad influences.  The subject matter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church proves to be a good example of this.  They were guilty of all kinds of things.  Therefore, they’re exhorted here to “put off” like a coat their former manner of life. To do this one must comply with what we’re told in these next verses.

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

This renewal is the ongoing intake of God’s Word.

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. [Emphasis added]

If we do otherwise than this, we’re warned about the consequences of having a hardened heart and the life of misery that comes with it.  So, how is it that a person can avoid this hardness of the heart?

  1. The first step is to respond to the message of salvation—what is spoken of in Scripture as our gospel.  You’ll find what you need to know about this in the writings of the Apostle Paul. If you haven’t done that, this is certainly where you need to begin with this.  As you’ll see on this website, I refer to this next passage often because it deals with something first and foremost that must be addressed if salvation is to occur and the hardness of one’s heart is to be avoided.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]

It is essential for you to believe He did this for you to be saved.

2 Corinthians 5:19-21

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]

  1. After you’ve put your faith in Christ for your reconciliation and resultant salvation, you then need to realize that just as your body needs quality food every day to remain healthy and to grow, so you also need a daily diet of the Word of God.  This website offers you that freely with hundreds of articles and videos that cover a variety of subjects.  A team of people who care for you has made this to be readily available to enable your spiritual growth.  The only thing it will cost you is some time in serious study.
2 Peter 3:18

18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. [Emphasis added]

  1. It will help matters if you will seek out and find some other believers who are also working at growing spiritually.  This will usually involve a local church and/or a ministry like what you’ve found through this website where the Bible is taught under the principle known as the “right division” of Scripture.  Whatever you do on this, you just need to be sure you get a daily “feeding” of the Word of God.  Otherwise, you will definitely be a spiritually unhealthy believer and develop a hardness of heart.
Matthew 4:4

4 But he [Jesus] answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. [Emphasis added]

2 Timothy 2:15

15 Study [APOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]

To avoid the hardness of your heart, this is one thing you want to make time to do.

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