One time when I was a boy, our pastor came to visit our home. I will never forget the experience. I was not talkative. I just went in and saw him. After he left my mother told me, “You hurt him.” I replied that I had said very little. She said, “You didn’t greet him, you weren’t pleasant, you weren’t courteous. You were almost like you were standing there dead. That hurt him.” In thinking about it, I concluded that I had been hard-hearted.
Last month we studied the first three ways that we can become hard-hearted. (1) By not being trained as children to be kind, sympathetic and affectionate. (2) By forming friendships with worldly people. (3) By refusing to forgive someone who has wronged us, and holding a grudge against them.
A fourth way that we make our hearts hard is by dwelling on the faults of others. This is exceedingly dangerous because so often we say, “Well, I have to recognize reality.” First Corinthians 13 says that love does not keep track of or take account of error. It does not continue to dwell on the sins or errors of others. Every one of us, if we look around, know people, even in our own families, that have faults. If we dwell on them, we will become hard-hearted.
“Let us remember that others’ faults and defects are very poor food. Christ said, ‘If ye shall eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye shall have eternal life.’ We must grow up into Christ, we must be partakers of his divine nature. Just as the branch is joined to the vine, and partakes of the nature of the vine, so we must be daily receiving nourishment from the True Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ. We must be in Christ and he in us; then the defects will disappear from our characters. The closer we live to Jesus, the more we shall reflect in words and character his image. And the farther we separate from God, the farther we live away from the light of life, and as the sure result, become perverse, dictatorial, hard-hearted.” Review and Herald, August 18, 1885. If I am keeping my eye on Jesus, focusing on Him, studying Him, joined to Him, the defects of my character are going to come out. But if am focusing on somebody else’s defects of character, I am going to become hard-hearted.
A Time To Forget
It is a biblical truth that there are some things we should forget. You do not need to remember every defect of fault or somebody else. It will not be good for you. There is a verse in the Bible where a godly man said, “God made me forget.” Study it sometime. You do not have to remember for the rest of your life some defect, problem, or something said to you that was not nice. You can forget. As we get our eyes focused on Jesus and the loveliness of His character, our hearts will become tender.
Failing to help the erring is a fifth way we can become hard hearted. “Shall any one who professes to love God, and to love the truth, be cold, unsympathetic, and hard-hearted toward those who stumble, toward those who err, and fail to give them a helping hand when they need help? By their neglect of the erring, by their unsympathetic words and indifferent deportment, some show themselves to be of that class that pass by on the other side.” Review and Herald, January 15, 1895. Who are the class who pass by on the other side? The story of the Good Samaritan is a true story. It actually happened just the way it was related by Jesus. The hard-hearted people passed by on the other side; the tender-hearted person stopped to help him.
Speak Words Of Encouragement
If you just pass by on the other side, that is bad enough, but some people just about curse when they are passing by on the other side. Ellen White says, “Some pour out words of gall and bitterness in censure, in reproach of the erring, and it is like pouring vitriol into an open wound, instead of pouring in the healing oil.” Review and Herald, January 15, 1895. There are people all around that make many mistakes. What do you do about it? Are you trying to help them get to heaven? Or are you pouring in some gall?
Have you ever been in trouble because you made a mistake? I have. Has someone else in the church said, “It’s too bad, but it was your own fault.” That might be the complete truth. Some things that are true are not Christ-like. Some words are true that are not Christ-like, because that kind of speech comes from a hard heart.
Because I am a pastor, I know what people tell pastors. Sometimes people that have been given Bible studies come to historic Adventist churches and when the pastor visits them, he finds them discouraged because they feel they are not as good or nice as the people in church seem to be. Why do people think and feel this way? They are hungry for some words of encouragement. Every church member needs to be encouraging people. “Instead of lifting up the finger, instead of speaking vanity, instead of reproving and condemning and taking away the last ray of hope that the son of Righteousness sheds into their hearts, let your words fall as healing balm upon the bruised soul.” Review and Herald, August 20, 1895
Healing Instead of Destroying
There are bruised souls all around you. If you do not know it, it is because you are hard-hearted. Concerning Jesus, scripture says, “The bruised reed He will not break. The smoking flax He will not quench.” What is the bruised reed and the smoking flax? It is a human soul that has almost given up. Jesus was so tender-hearted He reached out to those people and always gave a word of encouragement to them. They found out that they could make it.
There are young people in our own families who are coming to the conclusion that they cannot be Seventh-day Adventists, that the standard is too high. They are discouraged and bruised. What are we doing for them? “Be not like desolating hail that beats down and destroys the tender hope springing up in the heart. Leave not the hungry, starving soul in his helplessness to perish because you fail to speak words of tenderness and encouragement.” Review and Herald, August 20, 1895. Do you see why we need a tender heart instead of a hard heart? A hard heart cannot speak tender words. You have to have a tender heart to speak tender words. As you practice speaking tender words to people, your heart will stay tender.
A sixth reason that we are so hard-hearted is because of selfishness. That is frequently a reason for divorce. We say, “She/he doesn’t make me happy.” A tender hearted person asks what can I do to make him/her happy? We are so hard hearted because of our selfishness. “Those who are unfeeling and hard-hearted do greater harm to themselves than they do to others, for they deceive themselves by their own spirit and course. Selfishness leads the one who exaggerates every little offense, and attaches great importance to that which is said of himself, which leads him to attribute guilt to one who is ignorant of having done wrong. Selfishness works in the unsanctified heart, and leads men to depreciate those who do not highly esteem them and show them the honor which they think is their due.” Review and Herald, May 14, 1895
Have Your Lost Your First Love?
The Lord Himself puts His finger on the seventh reason in Revelation 2:2, 3. “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.” Revelation 2:2-5. This church is not heretical. They have not accepted the new theology. They still teach the apostles’ doctrines, but correct doctrines and theology are not enough. Jesus continues, “Nevertheless I have this against you, you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4, 5. When you lose your first love you are in the process of becoming hard-hearted. Jesus likens it to a moral fall. He says, “Remember from where you have fallen. You have lost you first love.” There is nothing like love to make the heart tender. When we lose that first love the heart is starting to become cold and hard.
An eighth reason we become so hard-hearted is because of the desire and ambition to have power. The result is that a person becomes hard-hearted. There is a story in the Bible, about a man who became exceedingly hard-hearted because of his ambition and his desire to show his arbitrary power. It is the story of the unjust judge in Luke 18. The widow came and said, “Avenge me of my adversary.” And he would not do it. Why? His desire for arbitrary power and ambition led him to be hard-hearted toward the needs of others. Self was his god. He finally gave her a judgment to avoid tarnishing his reputation.
Resisting God’s Message
Number nine is really an important one even though it is the last one we are going to consider. People become hard-hearted when they resist evidence and despise messages of warning that God gives them. Ellen White gave a special testimony to those in the Review and Herald office one time. “Some of you have become hard-hearted. You have resisted evidence and have despised the messages of warning of light and truth which the Lord has sent you by the Holy Spirit because He loves you and is loath to give you up.” 1888 Materials, 1452. As you resist the messages of truth and warning that God gives you, you become hard-hearted.
The devil is hard-hearted and likes to cause suffering. And he wants to make you hard-hearted so he can get you to cooperate with what he is trying to get done in the world. Ellen White says, “Some have come to these meetings with a cold, hard, critical, loveless spirit. Such may do great harm for with them is the presence of the evil one that keeps them on the wrong side. Not infrequently their unfeeling attitude toward measures under consideration brings in perplexity, delaying decisions that should made. Testimonies to the Church, vol. 7, 256
We Must Have The Love Of God
I have studied these things, because I wanted to know what could be done in the Historic Adventist movement so that we could learn to get along. And one of the things that has to happen if we are going to learn to get along is that we all have to become tender-hearted. We have to get over our hard-heartedness. Hard heartedness is one of the big reasons for divorce, for trouble in the churches, and one of the big reasons why God’s people cannot get along. We are not going to heaven this way. “Why,” Ellen White asked, “are we so cold? So hard-hearted? So critical? If we are children of God, why not have the love of Jesus revealed in our lives and expressed in our treatment of one another. Should one drop into the grave there would then by hung in memory’s hall the pleasant pictures of kind words spoken, of kindly acts, of a spirit of brotherly love and tender forbearance exercised.” 1888 Materials, 179
If somebody in your family should die right now, would you be struck with remorse because you have not expressed to them tenderness, affection, kindness, and courtesy that you should have? When somebody does die you are never going to do one more kind, courteous thing for them ever in this world. Most of us here have loved ones who have already died and when that happens we can always remember the kind things that we said or did to them. Often, we wish we had done more. The time to change the record is when they are alive. When they are dead it is too late.
Do you want to be cured of hard-heartedness? Everybody in heaven is tender-hearted and we have to become that way if we are going there. I want to be cured of all my hardness of heart. I want the stony heart out and a new heart of flesh. Let us claim the promise of God. He says, “I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26