Tenderhearted: The Heart of Flesh
by Dennis Michelson
Ezekiel 36:25-27 compared with II Chronicles 13:7 and Ephesians 4:32
Introduction: The hallmark of a believer is the removal of the heart of stone and the transplantation of a heart of flesh. If this has not happened then there has been no conversion and there can be no salvation. The genuine believer is tenderhearted not soft headed! The term "tenderhearted" appears twice in Scripture.
It is used of Rehoboam in II Chronicles 13:7 with a meaning of compromising and impressionable. This "tenderheart" will dig its own grave because you fail to stand for nothing and fall for anything. The second instance of the term is found in Ephesians 4:32 and has the most literal sense of "healthy bowels of compassion" marked by forgiveness and the trait of easy to intreat.
This is the heart of a Christian. Unlike other religions Christianity begins with the heart and works outward. Pharisaical religions begin on the outside with forms, rituals, and rules and works inward. The new birth results in a new heart. The heart of stone is gone.
The Holy Spirit does not even attempt to improve or redeem human nature. He lays the axe to the root of human nature and creates a new heart. It is unfortunate that we have settled for "enlightened understanding" as a counterfeit for genuine biblical conversion.
When a person can make an "A" on his theology exam but lacks a tender heart then he is in trouble. Such a false Christianity enables him to sin but have a greater weight of responsibility. He knows it is good to be good, but he still prefers evil. He sees the light but loves the darkness. The problem is that the person who loves evil is still evil.
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." There is nothing better than renewed heart. There is nothing worse than an unregenerate one. When grace works on the human heart then it becomes TENDER, warm, and sensitive. The opposite is a heart that is stubborn, obstinate, and callous. Therefore, a tender heart is an undeniable and indispensable result of salvation.
1. This Tenderness is Absent in the Unregenerate Heart
Human nature does possess a sensitivity in some areas but it falls short of a regenerated heart. The tenderness of parents toward children. The tenderness of friends toward friends. There is often a temporary conviction and reformation because the heart has become "tenderized" by the legal terror of the law of God. The following are marks of the unregenerate heart.
(a) All have a natural stoniness of heart. Not all unsaved people have the same degree of hardness but they are all hard to some degree. The Bible says that humanity "goes astray from the womb, speaking lies." All of you who have raised children can shout amen at this point.
(b) This hardness is increased by contact with the world. This is one of the reasons why children raised in a sound and solid Christian home go bad. The external control of the home produced an artifical obedience that came from the outside rather than the inside. Rules are necessary but they do not produce righteousness. Parents who become more concerned about being "right" than being "righteous" know about this one.
(c) This hardness is increased by sin. Sin is like a falling rock influenced by the pull of gravity. Sin makes subsequent sin easier.
(d) This hardness can be increased by circumstances. Both prosperity and adversity can yield hardness. The prosperous do not need God. The suffering do not like God.
(e) Holy influences can increase hardness. A gospel-hardened sinner is most difficult to reach. The gospel is a savor of life and/or death, depending upon the inclination of the heart.
(f) A mere profession of faith increases hardness. Spurgeon said, "To cover a vile life with the coverlet of a Christian profession is a sign of reprobation." To join oneself to the communion table while indulging in continued sin is a sure indication of a hardened heart at best and an unregenerate heart at the worst. Even Satan could not produce a Judas until he first found a false apostle.
2. True Spiritual Tenderness is a Gift From God.
A heart of flesh is the evidence of Divine grace. A rock cannot act upon itself and become flesh. A rock cannot be argued or convinced into becoming flesh. An outside force (Spirit of God) must act directly upon the rock in order for it to be transformed into flesh.
3. This Tenderness - When Given - Is Observable
(a) There is a sensitivity to fear. We are told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. The Scripture says "blessed is the man that feareth always." There is a holy fear and humility in the genuine heart of flesh.
He that never doubted of his state,
He may, perhaps, he may, too late.
(b) There is a sensitivity to conscience. Such a person does not need a bomb to get their attention.
Quick as an apple of an eye,
O God my conscience make;
Awake my soul when it is nigh,
And keep it still awake.
(c) There is a sensitivity to Divine love. Some Christians shed more tears over the "royal wedding" in London than the real Royal Wedding to be held in Glory.
(d) There is a sensitivity to gratitude.
(e) There is a sensitivity for others.
4. This Spiritual Tenderness Should be Prized and Cultivated
(a) To those who are troubled - Do not settle for physicians of no value and provide slight treatments for mortal wounds. If you have prayed for peace and have not obtained it then that may be a good thing. True peace can only be found in Jesus and Him alone.
(b) To those who are not troubled - You ought to be! Have you become callous in your fellings toward someone. Then you were probably callous toward God first.
When I find a believer content with himself - I worry.
When I find a believer content with Christ - I rejoice.
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