Last week, we were challenged to expand our mindset and view of worship. We were challenged to see it as God sees it; not just a genre of music, but a lifestyle of laying down ourselves to exalt God.
It’s kind of like looking at an acorn not seeing it not just for what it is, but for the potential within it. Worship is not a silly-hatted little nut, it’s a vast, dense forest of mighty oaks producing acorns and other oak trees until Jesus returns! Worship is so, so much more than a song!
This morning, we’re continuing to allow God to stretch our perspective and understanding by listening to His voice and not hardening our hearts.
We begin again with worship by turning to a Psalm written by David:
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah (which means quarreling),
as you did that day at Massah (which means testing) in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
Paul quoted this same scripture emphasizing what the Holy Spirit spoke here through David and went on to say:
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
We do not want to be like the generation that Moses lead out of Egypt to the promised land! They were never able to enter into God’s promises because of their sinful, hardened hearts. They grumbled and complained and quarreled and pretty much did everything but what God desired them to do.
They covered their ears and didn’t want to hear God’s voice. Instead of drawing near to God’s Presence in awe and worship, they stayed away at a distance and hardened their hearts against God. Instead of bowing down their lives to be filled with God’s Presence, they bowed out and left God’s Presence.
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
No, we don’t want to be like them! We want to instead be like the Joshua generation that took hold of all of God’s promises and defeated everything that stood between them and their promised land! They listened to God’s voice and allowed it to lead them in fullness of trust.
How do we know if we are suffering from hardness of heart? After all, sin is deceitful. The deceitful thing about deceit is that we’re deceived and truthfully, honestly believe that we are not being deceived by deceit.
We can’t know on our own if sin’s deceit has hardened our hearts. It often takes one of our brothers or sisters in Christ coming alongside of us to show us where our hearts have become hardened by sin’s deceit.
Why? Because when our hearts are hardened, we’re not usually hearing God’s voice on our own. Or, if we are hearing it, our fingers are in our ears ignoring it.
Several times, David wrote this prayer:
Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind
So today, if you hear God’s voice…
One indicator that our hearts are hardening is if we no longer hear God’s voice. Or, when we hear what we believe to be God’s voice, it never brings correction to our own lives.
If the voice that you are hearing is always criticizing others or pointing out their sin, you are likely filtering out God’s voice and have hardness of heart.
When someone takes us aside and shares a word of correction with us, how do we respond? This often reveals the true condition of our heart. When God’s actual voice spoke to His people that was intended to correct them through Zechariah, how did they respond?
11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. 13 “ ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.
Why did some people walk away from Jesus instead of surrendering their lives into His hands and following Him? He said:
For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
If we are to ever reach our full potential, if we are ever going to be able to truly worship the Lord, if we are ever going to experience a move of God in and through our lives bringing revival, then we have to start as David did, within ourselves.
Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind
We have to be willing to hear and receive correction. Then, we have to be willing to allow God to change us. We have to be willing to trust God and lay down our lives into His hands; true and proper worship. We have to cry out to God:
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
God has some incredible things to say about us! He has incredible revelation to share with us!
If we cover our ears when it comes to correction, we’ll miss out on all of the good things, too! If we harden our hearts about changes that God wants to make to improve our lives, we’ll never reach our full potential!
Not only will our lives head off-course from God’s plans and purposes, but we’ll lead others there as well! Instead of leading people further into God’s potential for their lives, we’ll encourage their hearts to harden along with ours.
If correction comes our way and we defend ourselves or justify our attitude or behavior instead of seeking after God and allowing Him to do the changes that He wants to make, we’re living a life of sin. We’re missing God’s mark for our lives.
A hardened heart makes us comfortable living in sin and makes it very difficult to actively hear God’s voice. It causes us to despise correction instead of embracing it and rejoicing that God is still at work in our life and has even greater things for us.
There’s far, far too many scriptures to mention, but listen to what just the book of Proverbs teaches about correction:
Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.
Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.
…whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die.
Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise.
Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.
Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
Remaining humble and teachable and being a God-worshipping, follower of Christ are inseparable.
After all, how else can God do a work in our lives, how else can we become a new creation, how else can the Holy Spirit transform us if we don’t receive correction?
The first and greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your what? Your heart! And mind and soul and strength, of course. However, it begins in our hearts.
The good news is that whatever parts of our hearts have become hardened can be made new. Several times in His word, God promises to do this!
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Why would God want to do this? Because everything in our lives begins in our hearts.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
If our hearts are hardened and resistant to God, our lives will quickly steer off course into sin. Deceitfully so, too, because we don’t see anything wrong with our attitudes or behaviors. We will think that we are right and will be able to defend this stand even when God says that we are wrong.
If our hearts remain soft and teachable, God will be able to consistently guide and direct us to keep us right on His path for our lives. God will be able to be the great Potter and we will be like clay in His hands. He’ll be able to shape and form us into the people that He created us to be.
If we harden ourselves like kiln-fired clay, the only thing that God can do is to break us and rebuild us to do any good thing. That’s why God doesn’t promise to soften our heart, but over and over again, to give us a new heart of flesh replacing our heart of stone.
Today, hear God’s voice… And I hope and pray that you do have ears to hear His voice! Whether spoken through me, a fellow brother or sister in Christ, through the Spirit directly, or even through your enemy; that you hear God’s voice.
Why? Because He is absolutely crazy about you! He has amazing things to say about you! He sees great things in you! He wants nothing less than His best for your life!
Even God’s correction is ultimately encouraging and builds us up because it means that He sees even greater things in us than we see in ourselves!
Today, hear God’s voice. He has some awesome things to say! Don’t do as the world says, “Listen to your heart.” God’s word speaks in contrast to that bad advice. Remember the acorn from last week?
7 … blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
9 The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Our hearts are deceitful. We need not listen to our hearts, but instead, listen to God’s voice. We don’t allow our hearts to lead our lives, but rather, allow God to shape and form and lead our hearts. We lean into and trust not in our own understanding, but in Christ alone.
We bow down our lives into God’s hands and allow Him to raise them up; true and proper worship.
Today, let’s hear God’s voice. Today, let’s truly worship. Let’s allow God to constantly and consistently correct our lives. We have been filled with the Holy Spirit, enabling this prophetic word to be possible in our lives:
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Let’s listen to that voice and accept it’s correction. God’s voice is leading us into an abundance of life. God’s voice is leading us into our full potential.
Let’s listen to it and follow it alone.