ESSAY-LIKE SUNDAY MORNING: Today’s lesson was entitled, A CHANGE OF HEART. The Scripture was from, Ezekiel 36:22-36. The KEY VERSE was verse 26 which reads, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (NIV).
These verses, and in particular the KEY VERSE, suggested to me this subtitle:
AMERICA HAS A HEART CONDITION!
It is a well-known fact that Americans are among the unhealthiest people of any Western country. We owe this unique designation to a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fats and our penchant for leading sedentary lifestyles. Heart disease is the #1 killer in America.
Approximately every minute, someone will die from a heart attack.
Of deaths attributable to heart disease, 34% occurred before the age of 75, which is about 4 years earlier than average life expectancy.
Heart disease causes more deaths in Americans of both genders and all racial and ethnic groups than any other disease.
HOWEVER, this is NOT the type of HEART CONDITION that I’m speaking of today. The condition that I’m speaking of today is called HARDENING of the HEART. America has a HARD HEART! Just as Israel had a HARD HEART in today’s Lesson.
When we live on an unhealthy diet of irrational fears and anger towards others and ourselves we develop this DANGEROUS condition called—A HARD HEART! At this stage, the heart has lost its ability to believe. “A callousness forms around the heart, so even when a passionate message of freedom is delivered, the eyes are veiled and the hearing is dulled”*. Many times, people with this condition have been cultivating their bad habits for years, with no desire to change. This is a sign that HARDNESS in the HEART is present.
Hard hearts don’t hear encouragement or hope anymore. It takes a divine work of the Holy AND the person’s willingness to be healed. The only solution to a HARD HEART is the act of humbling ourselves before God as well as others. When we do this, we position our HEARTS for the HARDNESS to melt off and tenderness to take residence.
In today’s Scripture God spoke of AMERICA…I mean ISRAEL like this:
22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.
23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.
24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
29 I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.
30 And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen.
31 Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.
32 Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus, what was the GREATEST COMMANDMENT, The Doctor Who’s Never Lost a Patient, gave the prescription for healing a HARD HEART when he replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ 38-39 This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’ 40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others.”