Have you ever been taught that your heart is wicked and hardened because you don’t obey God? For much of my Christian life, I was. I believed it and later taught it to others. However, we need to ask ourselves these questions. 1. Can a Christian harden his/her heart? 2. Does a Christian have a wicked heart? 3. Where do these ideas come from?
These ideas come from at least two Scriptures. Hebrews 3:15 says, “As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.'” Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Let’s hold these Scriptures up to the light of the gospel of grace that shines so brightly.
We never see anywhere in Scripture that a Christian can harden his/her heart. Hebrews 3:15 is being addressed to Jewish people who were being taught the gospel of grace in contrast to the Mosaic law. The Holy Spirit, writing through the author of Hebrews, was challenging them to let go of the law and embrace Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Savior. He was exhorting them not to turn away from the gospel of grace because doing so would mean they hardened their hearts. A hardened heart is a metaphor for a spiritual heart that chooses unbelief in Jesus Christ and His life-giving blood. It happens to Gentiles (non-Jews), too. A hardened heart is a result of someone who hears the gospel of grace and chooses not to believe.
When I was in seminary, a man lived below me in another apartment who hardened his heart. As I got to know him and shared the good news about Jesus and His salvation, he was defiant and said he didn’t believe that junk. He went on to tell me that I could use him as an example of someone who didn’t believe.
Now let’s consider whether a Christian can have a wicked heart. Jeremiah 17:9 is written to Jews from the nation of Judah which had severed itself from the nation of Israel. They had also turned away from God as their true God and were worshipping other gods. In essence, they were committing spiritual adultery. God was speaking through Jeremiah to tell them what their problem was, the same problem every person has who is in Adam. Their spiritual heart was deceitful and desperately wicked. The law was intended mainly to show the Jewish people and the entire world that they are sinners in need of the Messiah, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
A Christian cannot have a hardened heart or a wicked heart. Why? Because God has removed that heart from us and replaced it with a new, soft heart. Another Old Testament guy, Ezekiel, prophesied by the Holy Spirit that our Father would give this new, soft heart to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Do you see it? There is no harder heart than one made of stone-a metaphor for an evil unbelieving heart in everyone outside of Christ. The soft heart is another metaphor for a brand new one that is infused with Christ in us which has the deepest desire to enjoy God and to love Him and others.
As a Christian, your new heart in Christ is righteous, pure, holy, good, and perfect. Let’s rejoice at the goodness of God the Father to each of us!