How can you return to God when you have a hardened heart?

The question I received and will answer in this article reflects the condition of many people today:

I have loved God since I was a child, but for some time now, a temptation is taking me over, trying to get me away from God. It’s like I have a hard heart, so I do not serve Him with zeal, and I’m not as I was. I would like to be, but I seem to have a hard heart. Please, tell me, what should I do?

With few exceptions when God hardens the hearts of some people, like Pharaoh, man is guilty of hardening his heart. This is his choice or the consequence of previously unwise choices. The Lord Jesus Christ said that the people who came and listened to many parables were hard-hearted, which is why He spoke to them in parables. The purpose of the parables was not to hide the truths He wanted to communicate, but to make them curious and eager to know them. Since they hardened their hearts, they did not want to know or ask any questions. I am always astonished when I read the Bible and see the example of the sower and other parables in the Bible. I see that people were traveling such great distances to come to obey the Lord Jesus, but they did not ask questions when they did not understand the parables. This lack of interest in knowing the Word of God was called “hardening” by the Lord Jesus. The verb is in the reflexive diathesis to show that the subject doing the action has directed it to himself. So, they alone hardened their hearts. It was their choice.

The recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews have done the same thing. They have hardened their hearts or were about to harden them. That’s why the author told them openly three times to not harden their hearts: twice in chapter 3 and one time in chapter 4, verse 7.

Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, and saw My works for forty years. (Hebrews 3:7-9)

When you hear the Word of God, His call, you must answer immediately and not delay. By delaying, you give the devil time and opportunity to harden you so you become insensitive to the message of the Word of God (a state which you say you already see in your heart and are aware of). If you do not act urgently, things will degrade to the point that you will no longer be aware of this state and will depart from God.

In chapter 3 of the Epistle to Hebrews it is written:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me”. (Hebrews 3:12-15)

Notice the verse which says that sin deceives and then hardens the heart. How? Here’s an example: a married Christian spends time with another person of the opposite sex at her/his job or while studying. She/he begins to fall in love and be attracted to that person. Sin deceives her/him into believing that as long as there is no sexual relationship, there is nothing terrible. She/he begins to admire that person and wants to spend time with him/her. But, this only increases the sinful attraction. The Holy Spirit rebukes, warns and gives them the thought of asking the pastor for help, but instead of doing so, she/he is deceived by sin and hardens her/his heart until serious and bitter consequences arise. How could they not harden their heart? Follow the urge of the Spirit immediately, act according to that call the very day you received it. I am sure you’ve noticed that one of the key words is “today”. In order not to harden or to stop the hardening of the heart, you must repent, act today, and flee today from that state and the things that make you harder. Identify those things and stop doing them today.

You said it was a temptation, a sin that works destructively by hardening your soul. You did not call that sin by name, and I do not expect you to tell me that. Go today (for this is what the Scripture says) to your pastor and confess this sin. Ask him for help to conquer the temptation, to avoid hardening and falling from the faith. Do not be deceived any longer by the sin that says to you, “Do not go to the pastor… He is not a trustworthy man… He can tell others… You will be able to get out of this sin alone… There are other people who sin…” All these are the whispers of Satan who hardens you trying to destroy you. Run today to your pastor, repent from your heart, and flee from any trap or lure that sin tempts you with. I pray that the Lord will help you to be victorious.

Translated by Liza Barladeanu

Read this article in Romanian.