The Subtlety of a Hardened Heart

“They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then he climbed into the boat and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed; for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.
”(Mark 6:50-52)

Can you imagine walking with and living with Jesus 24/7 and not fully grasping who He was? After hearing Him teach the masses, seeing thousands converted, and watching many healed from crippling diseases, their maturity level was at best basic. The Scripture says, referring to all the miracles they saw Jesus do, “Their hearts were too hard to take it in.”

From our modern day Christian perspective, it would be easy to criticize the disciples. But a careful observation will reveal that we suffer from a similar hardness of heart.

The hardness of heart that the Scripture is referring to is not a deliberate, stubborn unbelief, like the Pharisees and Sadducees possessed. But it’s a hardness of heart that is a result of spiritual immaturity. It’s an immaturity caused from a self-centered, unbroken life.

Were the disciples zealous? Yes, they were even willing to die with Him? Were they serious and committed? Yes, they left their business and family to follow Jesus. The disciples were all those things and more, but they lacked one key ingredient, a brokenness that is a result of surrender and abandonment of the self-life. They were committed followers but their scattering at the arrest of Jesus was an indication of their lack of abandonment.

In a similar way, we are no different than the disciples. Many of us are committed followers of Jesus. In many ways, we are an example to our community and neighbors, and that’s a good thing. But there is more. The Lord wants to move us to another spiritual plain. This comes to us when we are willing to abandon ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s examination and let Him reveal our self-centeredness. We must give Him permission to reveal our lack of surrender, our selfishness, and our dependence on our own strength.

That’s what suffering, disappointments, and set-backs are about. The Lord uses those things to strip us of operating out of our own strength. He is bringing us to the Cross. The Cross is the death process that must be constantly at work in each of us. (2 Cor. 2:9)

Roy Hession, a gifted writer of the past, says it best regarding our personal death process.
“Every person who crosses us, every person who discourages us is God’s way of breaking us. It creates a deeper channel in us for the life of Christ. The only life that pleases God is His life, never our life. Our self-centered life is the exact opposite of His. We can never be filled with His life unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.”(Calvary’s Road)

Bottom Line

The goal of the committed follower of Christ is to desire a “deeper channel in us for the life of Christ”. The more we are willing for our flesh and self-life to be revealed and put to death, the more we will experience the fullness of the life of Christ. What is the end result? The life of Christ will be manifested through our life to others – which is God’s intention. Others will be affected by the quality of your life. You will be free to be the person God created you to be and you will be a sweet aroma to all those around you.

“Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Cor. 2:14-16 NLT)

Surrender and Abandonment

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. “ (Romans 12:1)

Surrender and Abandonment are not new concepts; this Biblical principle is seen throughout Scripture. God’s relationship with man is based on his degree of surrender and abandonment. Because of His absolute Holiness and sovereignty, He demands absolute surrender and abandonment of our life.

To the outsider, this may seem like an unreasonable request, encroaching on man’s free spirit and the ability to live his own life on his own terms. However, to the committed follower of Christ, we realize that God in His wisdom knows that unless we are willing to cast ourselves on Him completely, we will go the way of the world. In other words, absolute surrender and abandonment is for our benefit. The deepest contentment and inner peace is found in absolute surrender and abandonment.

When we live in this state we are living in complete trust and dependence upon our Lord. The Biblical principles of “In order to receive we must give” and “In order to save our life we must lose our life” are all connected to the principle of surrender and abandonment.

God wants us in the position that we have no place to turn but Him. He wants us to hold on tightly to nothing but His promises. He wants nothing to be more passionate to us than our love and devotion to Him. The unique thing about this proposition is that it enables us to love our friends, spouse and our children with a quality of love that we could never manufacture on our own. It causes us to love and give ourselves to those who are unlovely, troubled and hopeless. We become a magnet of God’s love to the world.

About this time every year my thoughts move toward how I want next year to be different. Rather than setting a lot of goals that I will probably give up on in a few months, I like to focus my primary New Year’s resolutions on a renewed commitment to surrender and abandonment. I review those areas that I struggle with surrendering. I examine those areas that I have a tendency to surrender and then take back. What are those areas of my life that I just can’t let go of?

I think I am doing pretty well at living the Christian life until I start to examine those areas where there is a lack of surrender and abandonment. One of the things that helps me with this process is to read over various prayers of surrender by saints of past centuries. I have listed a prayer below by Francis Fenelon, a 16th Century priest who was one of the great spiritual voices of France. It is one of the prayers I am focusing on this year. I must admit, reading through this does not give me great pleasure, but it does allow the Holy Spirit to remind me of my inconsistencies.

Please remember that surrender and abandonment is not about “doing more for God”, but about allowing God to do a work in your heart so that you may be in sync with Him. As you read this prayer may the Holy Spirit give you a nudge toward a greater degree of surrender and abandonment.

Dear Lord, I desire to give myself completely to you. Give me the courage and strength to make this leap of faith. My Spirit longs for you. Strengthen my will and my reserve to surrender all of the compartments of my life to you. If I don’t have the strength to give you everything, then draw me by the sweetness of your love. Lord, I know that I am your child and I belong to you. I am horrified by thought that I belong to myself and to my passions! Help me find all my happiness in you, for there is no happiness outside of you.

Why am I afraid to break out of my chains? Do the things of this world mean more to me than you? Am I afraid to give myself to you? What a mistake! It is not even I who would give me to you, but you who would give yourself to me. Take my heart.

What a joy it is to be with you, to be quiet so that I might hear your voice! Feed me and teach me out of your depths. Oh God, you only make me love you. Why should I fear to give you everything and draw close to you? To be left to the world is more frightening than this. Your mercy can overcome any obstacle. I am unworthy of you, but I can become a miracle of your grace. (Francois De Fenelon 1651-1715)

Six Spiritual Truths That Guide My Life – Part 2

4. A Biblical World View.

There is a century- old belief that says you are the books you read and the people you hang-out with. While that may be an indicator of where your system of thinking comes from, I think it goes deeper than that. I believe you are a product of your “Worldview”.

A Worldview is a belief system that forms your foundation for decision making. Down through the centuries, society has formed many different belief systems, but all belief systems stem from only two Worldviews, a secular Worldview and a Biblical or Christ-centered Worldview. Each Worldview is a system and standard for morality, behavior and decision making.

A Secular Worldview is based on a man-centered logic that everything is relative. It is driven by societal and cultural changes. The sense of right and wrong is based on cultural patterns that change with the belief system of the current culture

In other words, there are no moral absolutes. Anything goes as long as society thinks its ok. A recent example is the redefinition of marriage and the status of an unborn child. Who would have ever thought that our country would murder over 6o million babies through abortion? It is a secular worldview that causes a society to eventually make the decision for what is morally right and wrong.

A Biblical/Christ-centered Worldview is based on, and guided by a set of moral absolutes. God, through the Holy Scriptures, gives us moral absolutes that guide and direct our life. As followers of Christ, we have the Holy Spirit, and the life of Christ within us, to make the written Word alive. That enables us to live with a sense of peace and joy, even though the world around us is falling apart. We no longer have to fall victim to a world system that brings us moral confusion. We know who we serve, who we are, how we are to live and where we are going.

5. Expect the light of Christ to affect those around me.

Sociologists say that every person influences at least 5 people. That means that at least five people are influenced by what I say, what I do and how I treat other people. They are influenced by the decisions I make and how I respond to adversity and disappointments. They watch our response when we don’t get our way. They observe how we react when someone disagrees with us.

The Scriptures teach that we are to be “Salt and Light” to the world. Even though salt can be an irritant, its primary function in the end is to bring healing and flavor. Our life should bring healing to those who are hurting and are looking for answers.

Our life is to bring light to a dark world. It is not necessarily our words that bring light but the inner glow of Jesus that draws others to the light.

I have been preaching and teaching for several decades and the best sermons and lessons I have ever delivered are given without a word spoken. It’s the light of the risen Christ shining through me, emanating the Light of the world. Wherever I go, every stranger I meet could be a recipient of His light through me. That’s the reason we should never underestimate the power of a smile or a kind word.

6. Develop moral absolutes.

Moral absolutes are lines you have predetermined not to cross. These may be lines that our culture says is OK, but because of my Biblical/Christ-centered Worldview, these are lines that we have decided not to cross. It’s having a set of moral absolutes that act as a daily guide for your life. It’s not a law but rather a discipline based on the absolutes of God’s Word. It keeps us from crossing a line that would cause us to have regrets. (Titus 2:11-13)

Bottom Line
God has given us everything we need to live a victorious and happy life. But we must allow God’s truth to drive us to the sufficiency of Christ. Do you have some moral absolutes? If not, think about developing your own set of biblical moral absolutes that will serve as a guide to your daily walk with God (Colossians 3)

(See last week’s post to read part 1.)


Years ago I picked up a saying from my military training in the Air National Guard; “Your attitude determines you altitude.” This is one of those truths that stick with you throughout your life because having the right attitude impacts every stage of your life.

No matter what season of life you are in, your attitude is a key player in your level of contentment. Attitude is more important than wealth, education, good looks, popularity and almost anything else the world may consider important.

As a follower of Christ, your attitude is an indicator of your level of trust and devotion to God. Having a vast knowledge of Scripture will not necessarily make you a successful believer. Some of the most miserable people I have met are Christians. They weren’t miserable because their faith didn’t work, they were miserable because their attitude was rotten.

If you are a business person, your attitude will determine your success, but it will also see you through a tough business climate. If you think you can’t succeed or make it through the tough times, then your attitude will be your downfall.

As committed followers of Jesus, it is important to maintain an attitude that reflects our dependence and trust in a sovereign God. Knowing that He will guide and direct us is an important element in maintaining inner peace. Many times we can’t control our circumstances, or what others say about us or do to us, but we can control our attitude. Attitude is always a result of your reaction to a given situation. We can choose to trust God, and believe He is in control or we can choose to be fearful and hopeless.

When you live with a Christ-centered worldview, the normal response to any crisis is to let go and trust God to give you wisdom and peace. By trusting God in every situation, we develop an attitude of dependence. We have this inner peace that everything is going to turn out right – even though we can’t see the end result. Why? Because we know God is in control.

The Holy Spirit allowed Paul to use the word “Abba” when referring to God in Galatians. Abba is a term of intimate affection that denotes “Daddy”. Our heavenly Father is not only our God, but He is also our daddy/protector who loves and cares for every area of our life. “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his son into our hearts, crying “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6

Because we are loved, cared for and watched over in every way by our loving God, we should quickly deal with any attitude of discouragement and despair. Remember, your attitude determines your altitude.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)

Christ is Enough

Learning about your “Identity in Christ” is probably the single greatest discovery of a true follower of Christ. That’s because many believers wander through the Christian life like the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness.

They instinctively know that God has a plan for their life but they just can’t seem to put that puzzle together. Questions like, “What does the normal Christian life look like?” Or, “What am I supposed to do for God?” dominate their thinking.

I think most Christians believe that if they could just discover what God wants them to do, then they would have the key to the Christian life. After all, isn’t that what the Christian life is all about, doing things for God?

The Christian life is not about what we can do for God, but allowing Christ to live His life through us. He is the giver of divine life and we are the receiver of that life. Our journey is not one long test trying to measure up, but it’s all about rest – resting in Christ as enough.

God never meant for us to try to measure up to some imaginary standard of performance. His intention is to place a divine nature within us that becomes our very life. That divine life is Christ’s life. We become one with Him (John 17)

The moment we are saved we take on a new nature (2 Cor. 5:17). We become someone we have never been before. We are a new creation. Our righteousness is not something we obtain by good works, but it is imputed or given to us by God. So we could never do enough good works to earn God’s favor.

Therefore, God does not want us to “figure out what He wants us to do”, but rather He wants us to focus on the person of Christ, and in doing so allow Christ’s life to flow out through us.

God has provided everything we need to serve Him and bear spiritual fruit. (Col. 2) As we rest in Christ, and abide in Him, the will of God will automatically be done in our life. You can do more for God by resting in Him as enough, than you could ever do in a lifetime of striving to measure up to some religious standard.

The normal Christian life is acknowledging that “apart from Him I can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is totally and completely depending on Him to show you what, when and where. You don’t have to “help God out”.

Place your trust in the living Christ within you. Turn every area of your life over to Him and allow Him to lead you every step of the way. Be patient and wait on God. He has not forgotten you, forsaken you, nor is He neglecting you. He is always on time. When God speaks, you will know it, and so will those around you.

This reminds me of a song I that I use to sing as a child. I bet you know the song also.

Since I started for the Kingdom,
Since my life He controls,
Since I gave my heart to Jesus,
The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows.

The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows,
The more that I love Him, more love He bestows.
Each day is like heaven, my heart overflows,
The longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows.

Stewardship of the Mind

During most of my Christian life nearly every sermon or lesson I heard on the subject of stewardship had to do with money. So to me, spiritual stewardship was about our relationship to money. It wasn’t till years later that I realized that our relationship to money was only a part of spiritual stewardship. Biblical stewardship relates to every area of our life.

Giving money, reading your Bible and regularly meeting with believers is just part of our spiritual stewardship. I have met numerous believers who were tithers and faithful church members but their lives were a mess. I think part of the reason is they neglected the necessity of being a good steward in all areas of their life.

One of the major areas of neglect is in the area of setting our mind. Our mind is a wonderful gift from God. Our mind has the ability to create, reason, compute and to dream great things. When we become a follower of Christ our life changes and we have a brand new nature (2 Cor. 5:17), but our mind needs to be developed to think consistent with our new nature. Theologically, that’s called the act of sanctification. It is up to us to be a good steward of our mind and learn to think with the mind of Christ ( 1 Cor. 2;16). If we don’t intentionally set our mind upon truth, then our mind will naturally go the way of the flesh and the culture. The Scripture admonishes us to set our mind on things above in Colossians 3.

In this devotional I want to address four hindrances to good stewardship of our mind.

Worry – Worry begins with little things, things that seem insignificant. But if those little worries are left unchecked a pattern of worry will develop, and soon worry becomes a way of life. As a follower of Jesus, there are many reasons for us to avoid falling into the worry trap. First of all, if God takes care of the flowers and the birds, He will take care of us. (Matthew 6:25-34) Also, the Scripture tells us to be “anxious for nothing” in Philippians 4. Worry is our acknowledgement that we don’t believe what God says applies to us. We must learn to bring everything to God in prayer and trust Him to give us wisdom and strength to face every issue of life. Bottom line, you can choose to worry or you can choose to trust God.

Indifference – This is a slippery slope and a very serious place to be as a committed follower of Christ. Indifference is tied to the principle of fence sitting. For some it is a safe place to be, but the decision to be indifferent is really based on fear. The Bible speaks about indifference in the book of Revelation when it refers to the church of Laodicea. Jesus said, “Because you are neither cold nor hot I will spit you out of my mouth. “ (Rev. 3) The Scripture teaches anything less than radical trust in God is lukewarm. When we are indifferent in our commitment to Christ it affects every other area of our life. We become indifferent about our relationships, about opportunity, our job, and about hard decisions we need to make. Indifference is a choice of the mind. If you are a fence sitter, get off the fence and get back in the game.

Indecision – Motivational speaker Jim Rohne said, “Indecision is the thief of opportunity.” I can’t tell you how many times that indecision has caused me to miss an opportunity to share my faith or give comfort and care to someone who needed an encouraging word. It has also cost me to miss out on a business opportunity or two. Indecision sometimes causes us to over-think a situation and causes us to not trust the voice of God. Is your indecision based on fear or a lack of wisdom?

Doubt – Doubt is tied to indecision and fear. We ought to be cautious and careful to weight our decisions with logic, but you can’t let doubt take over your life. Once doubt sets in you doubt the past, the present, and then the future. This is where setting your mind on truth is essential. When you surrender your rights and expectations to the Lord and begin to rest in Christ’s love, your legitimate doubts will become a red flag and your unfounded doubts will flee. The Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Proper stewardship of the mind begins by giving our worry to God, trading in our indifference for positive faith, then casting our indecision and doubt aside by putting our trust in God.

Preparing for the Pass-Through

After the disciples left their professions and began following Jesus, they were convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah and that He had come to deliver them from Roman tyranny. They believed that Jesus had come to setup his kingdom on earth. The more miracles He did the more they were convinced that Jesus was God and that the new kingdom on earth would soon be a reality.

But the disciples missed the point of why Jesus came to earth. He came to die that they might be delivered from the power and the penalty of sin. “For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own son…as an offering for sin.” (Romans 8:3).

to accomplish God’s purpose of redemption. Jesus had to go to the cross. So near the time of his crucifixion Jesus sat down with the disciples and had a very frank and direct conversation. We read about this event in John 12-14.
It was the last Passover in the upper room. Jesus was once again foretelling his death. Just before He washed the disciples feet they were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom (Luke 22:24). They were self-focused, discouraged and confused. Then Jesus said to them;

“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so I would have told you. For I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. Thomas said to Him, “Lord we do not know where you are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said, “ I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:1-6)

In this one statement Jesus revealed three eternal truths to the disciples that day.

1. I must go so I can pay your sin debt.
2. I am going to prepare a place for you because this is not your home. You are a pilgrim and a stranger just passing through this world temporarily.
3. In order to pass through this world you must first pass through me.

Notice the emphasis to “passing through” in the above statements. As a committed follower of Jesus, our whole life is about passing through. We first pass through Jesus for our salvation. We then take the position of passing through this life because we recognize that we are “other worldly”. This world is not our home because we are now strangers and pilgrims.

I recently read a summary of the book by Ron Pettey entitled “Heaven is Real”. It is the story about Ron dying on the operating table during brain surgery, and his visit to heaven and back. I don’t normally read books like this but I was intrigued by his story and it seemed believable to me.

In his visit to Heaven the angel refused his full entry because it wasn’t his time to die, he had to go back into his body and finish his time on earth. Before he left heaven he encountered several events including seeing the Lord Jesus. Here is his account of Jesus welcoming the saints into heaven.

“As the young man came near Jesus, the lad glanced at me and smiled. Then he disappeared, engulfed in the flowing sleeve of Jesus’ glowing garment. Suddenly, I realized the boy had literally passed through Jesus into Heaven.
The truth of John 14:6 suddenly became clear. “No one comes to the Father but through me.” Could it be that the scriptural reference to Jesus being the door and the gate into Heaven were not figurative as I had thought? My mind could scarcely contain what I had witnessed.” (Heaven is Real,

Life is not about accumulating stuff, it’s about living our life surrendered to the one who is preparing a place for us. Heaven is the superior of everything good. It’s where we are meant to live, and experience all the best that Jesus has prepared for us.

As you reflect on the meaning of Christmas this year, remember that Christmas is not only about the birth of the Christ child, but it is also about celebrating the indwelling Christ, the One who we will ultimately pass through, and dwell with forever.

” To be “in the will of God” is not a matter of intellectual discernment, but a state of heart… It’s motto is –” My Father can do what he likes with me, He may bless me to death, or give me a bitter cup; I delight to do His will.”
– Oswald Chambers

The Power of the Holy Spirit and Christ

The primary difference between a committed follower of Jesus and a well-informed religious church member is one key element, and that is the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to indwell every true believer. He refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth because there is a spirit of error in the world (John 14:17). Being led by the Spirit is a key link in living and functioning as a committed follower of Jesus.

Bible knowledge, education, great people skills, gifted speaking ability and a charismatic personality does not change lives. Only the power of God changes lives.

Every teacher and preacher desires to increase their ability to communicate effectively, but we know in the end, it’s only through the power of the Holy Spirit that brings change and transformation. Most committed believers have experienced giving counsel to someone, and as we walked away from the conversation we said, “Where did that come from?” We know that the wisdom of our words was generated from and by the Holy Spirit of God.

Dependence upon the Holy Spirit is to be the norm for us, not just an occasional experience. We are commanded in Scripture to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father to teach and guide us into all truth. It is important for us to memorize Scripture but it is the Holy Spirit that makes the Scripture alive and enables us to use it appropriately when speaking with others.

I believe that being filled and led by the Holy Spirit is one of the most important elements in the Christian’s daily walk. Dr. R.A. Torrey, one of the great evangelist and scholars of the past, makes an important point when it comes to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He writes, “The Holy Spirit is a real Person, infinitely holy, infinitely wise, infinitely mighty and infinitely tender, who is to get hold of and use us. When we think of Him in the Biblical way, as a Divine Person, our thought will be how can He have more of me?”

One of the key functions of the Holy Spirit is to reveal and manifest the life of Christ that is within us. How does the world see Christ at work in all His power and glory? They see Christ in us. That’s God’s plan to indwell man with the very life of Christ. Colossians 1 and 2 tell us that the “Mystery of Godliness is Christ in us”. God’s design is that the world experience what God is like through us, in and through our daily walk with God. It is the Holy Spirit that makes Christ within us known.

It is one thing to read about Jesus in the scripture and another thing to see His life lived out in the life of a human being. It is the filling of the Holy Spirit that allows Christ’s life to be shown and manifested through our life.

I want to encourage you to add a simple but profound prayer to your daily routine. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a fresh filling of His Spirit every morning. As you are asking for His divine filling, also ask Him to examine your life and to show you anything that would hinder the flow of His Spirit through your life.

My prayer for you today is that the Lord will bring someone across your path that needs an encounter with the living Christ, and you will be that encounter as the Holy Spirit reveals Christ through you to a needy soul.

“(Speaking of the Holy Spirit) I can think of no thought more humbling or more overwhelming than the thought that a person of Divine majesty and glory dwells in my heart and is ready to use even me.” (Dr. R.A. Torrey 1910, Chicago)


Note: If you would like to have a PDF copy of Dr. R.A. Torrey’s book, “The Work and Power of the Holy Spirit” , email me and I will send you a copy.  This is a classic book, published at the turn of the century, and is no longer in print but is available in a eBook format. Email: