March 25, 2012

Heart Softeners

Last night I found myself in a "mood."  You know what I mean?  The kind of mood that comes with He never thoughts about my husband and I always thoughts about myself that, if allowed to take root, grow faster than the vines on the Pittsburgh hills.

So, there I was at the fork in the road.  Would I follow the signs to Obedience passing through Repentance and Faith?  Or would I take the high-horse road to Disobedience making long stops in Self-righteousness and Unforgiveness?

About this time, a dear friend texted to see if I wanted to join her for a Sunday morning walk before church.  And I found myself at another point of decision.  Would I "get real" and let her in on how I was really doing at that very moment?  Or would I stick to making arrangements for our walk?

By God's grace, I chose to let her in on my dirty little secret: I'm a big 'ole sinner.  She knows, of course, but my pride wanted to keep me from revealing the depth of my weakness.  But God doesn't want us to stay there, to hide from Him or others, to pretend and remain hard-hearted.

The text exchange went like this:
Me: I'm grumpy pants at the moment; fighing the bad attitude when I want to give into it and let the sin snowball.  Tell me something to stay strong or something else encouraging......
Friend: You can do it, mama!  Pray continually ... God will soften your heart if you cry out to him!
Me: Dang ... Now I have to do that instead of acting like a toddler.  Thank you, friend; good counsel!
Friend: I love you.  See you tomorrow, trailhead by your house, 7:45.

*     *     *

As I sat in Sunday School and church this morning, I got to thinking about the built in "heart softeners" that come with following Christ, the means God gives us to press deeper into intimacy with Him and with fellow believers.  Hearing the message of grace spoken in Sunday School got me thinking about the foolishness of my annoyance with my husband the night before (it really was foolish people, childish silliness); I wanted to run to him and beg his forgiveness.  Grace melts the heart, softening it to seek and receive the mercy offered in the Gospel, then opening it to extend the same mercy to others.

In the middle of our self-love, high-horse, me-me-me moments, however, remembering that grace that saved a wretch like me can be nearly is impossible to do on our own.  BUT GOD has provided us with close and accessible "heart softeners" to rescue us in our time of need: the church, worship, and the Holy Spirit.

The Church: By this I am not referring to worship services or specific buildings, but rather the Bible's definition of the church - God's people.  When we find ourselves in moments of weakness, God has given us fellow believers with whom to pray, from whom to seek guidance, on whom we can lean, and to whom we can turn to be reminded of the Gospel.  The question we have to ask ourselves here is, Will I be honest, so that I can be changed?
Worship: When we "go to church," referring here to worship, if our leaders are doing their job, we are led to encounter God through Scripture readings, singing songs, hearing the word preached, confessing our sins, praying prayers of adoration & supplication, and participating in the sacraments.  In worship we're told who God is, who we are, and the lengths God went to, even in His awesome holiness, to rescue us and reconcile us to Himself.  (Hallelujah!)  The question we have to ask ourselves here is, Will I surrender, so I can be changed?
The Holy Spirit: This is the very, most, awesomest and best "heart softener!"  He is a Person, dwelling in us, pointing us to Christ, who then points us to the Father.  That conviction you feel?  That's Him!  That joy you experience in Christ?  That's Him!  That desire to be reconciled?  That's Him, again!  Without His presence, our hearts would remain the hard rocks that we inherited from Adam.  Praise be to God for the heart softening work He does in us through the Spirit!  The question here, then, is this, Will I listen to His whispers, so I can be changed?

Here's to a week of heart softening, my friends.  Ain't no one who can do it but the Almighty God ... and He is willing, giving us the means to have our hard hearts softened and to be instruments of change in others' lives as well.  Go forth in grace; it's the best way to go!


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