Most of us are concerned about the condition of our heart. Every trip to the doctor involves a check of our ‘vital signs.’ Vital signs which assess either a direct metric of our heart’s performance or some downstream effect, such as our blood oxygen level. No matter what medical concerns brought us in, our health care providers want to know our heart is working well. Nothing in the machinery of our anatomy reflects the frailty of life like our heart. Only one heartbeat separates life and death, the here-and-now from eternity.
Despite our modern debates, the presence of a heartbeat is still the core criteria for distinguishing life from death. A sound heart is so fundamental to being alive, that our language enshrines the ‘heart’ as the center of our being. It represents our will, our desires, our affections, our deepest thoughts. We use the heart to describe our physical, emotional, and spiritual condition. And so, the thought of having heart problems brings existential crisis. The clinical term is cardiopathy which refers to any disease or disorder of the heart.
The thought of cardiopathy creates anxiety and imminent concern for our mortality. Especially, cardiopathies with few effective treatments. I recently read about “stiff heart syndrome.” Stiff heart syndrome is a condition in which the heart muscle thickens due to chronic high blood pressure. It is a warning sign of developing congestive heart failure. When the heart muscle can no longer efficiently pump blood, it can lead to fluid build-up in the lungs and limbs and cause shortness of breath. The heart quite literally becomes hard.
Degeneration and death come from a slow, progressive process of heart hardening. The good news is that it can often be prevented through diet and lifestyle choices. But once you have it, it is not easily treated. Any time a life-giving organ turns to stone we should be concerned. But are we as concerned for the hardness of our hearts, spiritually – a condition far more deadly, with eternal consequences?
The Bible shows us the devastation of a spiritually stiff heart through the example of the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. The plagues, or mighty acts, God used to deliver his people from the oppression of Pharaoh were a judgement against both the people and the gods of Egypt. And they were connected to Pharaoh’s hard and hardening heart. From the start, the Lord declared that only the death of the firstborn would bring deliverance, but He graciously brings the progressive destruction of the plagues to reveal His glory, that the Hebrews and the Egyptians might “know the Lord.”
But Pharaoh persisted in unbelief. And it brought disaster to his nation and his family. He is a prime example of the destruction produced by a spiritually stiff heart. And a warning to us. The author of Hebrews warns.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled?HEBREWS 3:12-15
How many times have you heard the free offer of God’s grace and yet rebelled? Is your heart hard or hardening? Take heart! There is good news. Hard-heartedness need not be the last word. The Bible promises, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” And “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” There is a cure for spiritual stiff heart syndrome. Join us this Lord’s Day to hear more as we examine Exodus 7:14-25 and consider the consequences and cure of a hard heart.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.