When Sermons Become Songs
The State of Our Hearts
I love white noise. It’s the sound created by combining countless different frequencies together into a single, complex concoction. White noise has the powerful ability to block out all of the other sounds and distractions around you. Whether you’re trying to get work done at a bustling coffee shop, or some R&R in a home of screaming toddlers, white noise gives you peace and quiet by blocking out the world around you.
But did you know that you can use white noise to block out God’s voice from your life? If we’re not careful, we can tune out God’s voice in Scripture with the white noise of a hardened, unrepentant heart. Repeatedly ignoring God’s warnings and failing to turn from disobedience will slowly numb the Spirit’s conviction like white noise until you can sin and feel nothing at all.
A classic example was the nation of Israel. Ezekiel 33:30 explains how the people loved listening to the prophet’s warnings of coming judgment for their sins. They would rave about his messages in public and private conversation, and they would eagerly gather with their friends to hear Ezekiel’s prophecies. To a passing bystander, the Israelites looked like a captive audience or a fervent congregation.
But God saw the situation differently: “Behold, you [Ezekiel] are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. When [judgment] comes—and come it will!—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 33:32-33).
Though captive in a foreign land, the Israelites listened to Ezekiel’s messages like they were pop songs. Their ears tingled, and their hearts fluttered, but they failed to grasp the spiritual truth of the prophet’s warnings. Because their hearts were hardened, they had no problem listening to Ezekiel’s messages of repentance while continuing in their rebellious lifestyles. And because of their blindness, God warned that His imminent judgment would blindside Israel. The nation would only see the gravity of Ezekiel’s words after it was too late.
This is the spiritual danger that we risk when we harden our hearts against God’s Word by not repenting of sin. It becomes easy to hear God’s Word and assume the message doesn’t apply to us. It becomes easy to ignore Scripture’s calls for obedience and wrongly think we’re “okay.” It becomes easy to sin brazenly and listen to sermons with a smile. The Word of God is dangerous if we do not heed it, because we will callous ourselves to its spiritual truths.
This danger is why we need to continually examine the state of our own hearts. The question that Jesus asked His disciples in Mark 8:17 is the same question for us: “Are your hearts hardened?” Are you receptive to God’s Word and responsive to its truths? Or do you ignore His voice when Scripture points out the skeletons in your closet? We need to take an active approach in seeking out obedience and honesty. Believers should pray as David does: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts” (Ps 139:23).
The beauty of the Christian life is that despite our sin, our hardheartedness, and our spiritual blindness, there is still room for grace. Regardless of how much you may have willingly rejected God and His Word, His mercy remains freely available to all who would come and believe in Jesus. God promises that if you confess your hardened heart, He will renew and restore it (Ps 51:10).
It was the potential of grace’s power which led John Newton to write his famous hymn, Amazing Grace. Though Newton lived a spiritually-blind life, he found freedom in forgiveness. And it was this forgiveness that compelled Newton to writes those famous, famous words: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”