Consequences of a Hardened Heart – Ephesians 4:18-19
Careful Living in 2010 (Ephesians 5.15)
Consequences of a Hardened Heart Ephesians 4.18-19
>Paul tells us what we were like before we came to Christ so that we might know how great a work God has done in us and how rich we are in Christ. We also know how we are to live as Christians and what needs to change.
v17, General description
= Futile in their thinking
v18, Basic cause
= Hardening of the heart
= Ignorance in them
= Loss of sensitivity
v18 Results if Ignorance
= Darkened understanding
= Separation from God
v19 Result of loss Sensitivity
= Sensuality and Impurity
> The Fall of man and man’s sin has hardened the heart and drastically affected the spiritual life, understanding, and moral life of man.
The Ignorance that is In Them
> A result of the Fall of man into sin. The Greek Perfect tense – past action with ongoing consequences.
> Ignorance is IN them. Not lack of access to knowledge but a lack of desire to truly know God.
> Darkened in their understanding. Not without intelligence or creativity but blind to God’s truth. 2 Corinthians 4.4; Psalm 14.1.The need for God to bring light and understanding. 1 Corinthians 2.14.
> Separated from the life of God. Physically alive but spiritually dead. You must be born again.
Loss of Sensitivity
> No more feeling. A conscience numb to conviction by God’s Spirit. Beyond shame and regret.
> Given to sensuality to indulge in every kind of impurity. A focus on fulfilling physical/mental desires and lusts. Priority given to self-indulgence.
> We need to be aware of what sin has done to us and to the world around us and how this corrupt nature by which we used to live is still being influenced by sin all around us. We need to purposefully live in the direction of our new life in Christ.
Careful Living in 2010 (Ephesians 5.15)
Consequences of a Hardened Heart Ephesians 4.18-19
-Let me hold before you again this morning the challenge to “Be very careful how you live” in 2010. Careful living today will reap great rewards when you stand before your Lord tomorrow.
-Over the last couple of weeks I have been focusing on what you and I were like before God made us new creations in Jesus Christ. I have given you some very negative descriptions of mankind. Man in slavery to sin, under the influence of the world, the Devil, the flesh, and under the wrath of God. I have described mankind as born with a heart that is hardened to the God of the Bible and to God’s truth, a heart that easily turns toward sin, and a heart that prefers to walk in darkness and not in the light of God. I hope you have not become too discouraged by all these negative descriptions. Instead I hope that you have come to realize in a new way the helpless and hopeless and desperate situation you were in as a sinner, and how much God has done to save you from sin. Paul says in Ephesians 2.7 that “in the coming ages God will show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus”. In heaven God’s people are going to gratefully worship God because we fully realize what God in His grace did for us in His Son Jesus Christ.
-Paul’s motive in these vivid descriptions of our bondage and corruption as sinners is to make us aware that God has done a supernatural work in saving us from sin. Paul wants to encourage us to partner with God to make this new life evident in our walk, to the Glory of God. Paul gives us the bad news of sin so that we can rejoice in the good news of the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. Paul shows us the negative so we more clearly see the positive. Paul shows us our great and desperate need so he can point out God’s rich supply to us in Christ Jesus.
-In verse 17 we find a general description of mankind without God, “they are futile in their thinking”. Mankind under sin aims at the wrong target and misses God’s purpose for his life. The lives of those in the world are like a pretty, round, multi-colored bubble that floats through the air with all its beauty and charm and excitement, but with nothing inside it. One day the bubble will burst and its emptiness will become evident to everyone.
-In verse 18 we find that the basic cause of mankind’s problem is hardening of the heart. Mankind is born with a hardened heart and continues to harden his heart by sinning. Only God can change a hardened heart to a responsive heart. That is what God has promised to do in the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ for all those who call upon God for salvation.
-In verses 18 and 19 we are told of the consequences of a hardened heart. Paul teaches us of two direct consequences which result from the hardening of the heart by sin and then names three areas that are affected by these consequences
-The two direct consequences of a hardened heart are ignorance and loss of sensitivity. The three areas affected by these consequences are the understanding, the spiritual life, and the moral life. Without a doubt the Bible teaches that the whole man has been corrupted by sin.
-A hardened heart results first of all in “the ignorance that is in them”. Because of a hardened heart man does not know God as He should be known, and does not have the life of God in him. Because of a hardened heart man does not know his need for the Gospel and the cross of Jesus Christ. They are living in blissful but tragic ignorance of God, their need of Christ, and what awaits them in eternity.
-Notice that Paul says the ignorance is IN them. This ignorance is not because they have never heard about God and the gospel. They may be well aware of the Holiness and Love of God, of Jesus dying on the cross for sins, and of heaven and hell, but there is no desire in their hardened hearts to search these things out, to learn about them, and to know them personally as they should be known. And so they remain ignorant of these things, not because of a lack of access, but because of a hardened heart. Their ignorance is not circumstantial but the result of their fallen nature. The ignorance is in them.
-This inborn ignorance that is the result of a hardened heart visibly affects two areas, the understanding and the spiritual life. They “are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God”.
-Now I need to teach you some Greek this morning. When a verb or participle is in the perfect tense in Greek this means that an action has been done in the past with consequences continuing in the present. If you wanted to illustrate a perfect tense you would draw a dot to represent the past action and then a line extending from it to represent the continuing consequence. Take for example a wedding ceremony. That is a past action with continuing consequences.
-The two affected areas that I have mentioned that come out of inborn ignorance are in the perfect tense. They should be translated as “having been darkened in their understanding and having been separated from the life of God”. These two perfect tenses point to the Biblical truth that darkness in the understanding and separation from the life of God, are ongoing consequences of a past action. In other words both darkened understanding and separation from God are the result of Adam’s sin. Darkness of the mind and separation from God go much deeper than individual sins. Both, along with hardness of the heart and ignorance, are part of the sinful nature that man is born with.
-What does it mean to be “darkened in their understanding”? The fall of man into sin affected every part of man’s being, including his understanding. Paul describes it here as darkened. At the Fall the light of man’s understanding of God was darkened and has been growing darker with each passing generation. The fall and the growing darkness of the world left man groping through life like a blind man trying to find his way home. Only mankind does not know where home is to be found. The world is full of futile suggestions of man’s origin and purpose, with no basis in truth. Man still has a sense of home and God, but does not know which way to go to get home or to know God.
-A darkened understanding does not mean that man is without intelligence and brilliance and creativity. It simply means that he is blind in regard to his understanding of God, God’s Glory, God’s truth, and God’s purposes. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4.4, that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”. This world considers man the measure of all things but God calls man in the darkness of his understanding a fool. “The fool says in his heart ‘there is no God’.” (Psalm 14.1) The search by philosophers for truth is a record of darkened understanding ending up in intellectual and moral bankruptcy. We have all met people who are darkened in their understanding. They are normal, intelligent, well educated people but their minds fog up and their eyes glaze over when it comes to understanding God. You can even find them on the Larry King show as religious leaders. They are clueless about God, God’s Glory, God’s truth, and God’s purposes. Paul writes, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”. (1 Corinthians 2.14) They cannot understand, they cannot see the light. Paul tells us that only God “who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ can make His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ”. (2 Corinthians 4.6) The only hope people have to take them out of darkness and lead them to God is the mighty and gracious work of God in their hearts. Only God can remove the ignorance and the darkness of our understanding. That is why we need to pray for the light of God to reach down and renew hardened hearts in our community. That is why Wednesday prayer is so important in the work of God. Come and join us to pray for God to shine His light into hardened hearts and darkened minds.
-Another area that is affected by the ignorance that is in them is the spiritual life. Man is separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in him. Let me remind you that this is a perfect tense and the result of Adam’s sin.
-When Adam sinned, he and the entire human race after him was separated from the life of God. Man is born physically alive but spiritually man is dead. Man is separated from God because he does not have the Holy Spirit living in him. If a man dies physically while still being spiritually dead, he will then live forever separated from God. Every man born is born needing the life of God. We can only receive the life of God through the forgiveness of God in Christ and the coming of God’s life-giving Spirit to live in us. As Jesus said, “You must be born again”.
-So let me review. We were born with hearts hardened toward God because of Adam’s sin, and we continued to harden our hearts by sinning. Adam’s sin brought ignorance of God in us, a darkened understanding, and separation from God. All of this ignorance and darkness and separation from God was inherited from Adam and continues to be enhanced by our living in sin. God is the only one capable of giving us a new heart, and enlightening our darkened minds, and bringing us back into relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.
-The hardening of the heart not only leads to ignorance in them but also to a loss of sensitivity. Literally this word means, “no more feeling”. This is not talking about emotions and desires which are full of feeling in the wrong direction, but about the conscience toward the holy standards of God. They are no longer sensitive to the conviction of God’s Spirit. They sin without caring about God’s commandments. They are beyond shame and regret. This is only increasing in our society today. Young people today sin openly and unashamedly and do not even realize how they are sinning against God. Their conscience has been numbed by a godless society. This is also a perfect tense and points back to the Fall which has corrupted man’s mind, his relationship with God, and here his conscience and his morals and relationship with others. This insensitive conscience leads man to focus on the fulfillment of his own desires and lusts. This is described in the rest of verse 19.
-They have given themselves over “to sensuality to indulge in every kind of impurity”. The word used here means that they let themselves go to follow their desires. There is little restraint and little respect for those involved in their sin. Much of our world today makes self-indulgence a priority through entertainment, fashion, travel, immorality, overeating, alcohol and drugs. It is difficult to go for a walk in the Summer without strolling into a cloud of marijuana smoke. Sin and lust is normal.
-The verse ends by saying they have “a continual lust for more”. Lust is a regular pursuit to which they give themselves.
-I want to close by asking you this week to read Ephesians 4.17-19 over again this week and to think about what is written there. Try to remember what has been said in the last three sermons. Then I want you to pray and ask God for insight into the world around you, and insight into sin, and insight to see yourself. I want you to ask questions of the world around you and of yourself as well.
-Are those around me really hardened in their hearts toward God as this passage says?
-Are they ignorant of God in that they do not really want to know God?
-Is there understanding darkened so that they just don’t get it no matter how many times I tell them about the gospel?
-Are they separated from the life of God and just existing like a bubble that will soon burst?
-Is their conscience without sensitivity to sin?
-Are they living to satisfy their sensual desires and looking for more ways to satisfy their lusts?
-Ask yourself why people do the things they do. What is their motive? What is their goal? Who is going to be glorified in this?
-Ask the programs you are watching on TV what they are teaching others and what they are teaching you. Are they stirring the flesh or the Spirit of God in you? Are they helping you to grow in Christ? What see and read???
-How has sin distorted the truth and deceived others and me, in this situation?
-What is the thinking behind these actions and choices? Is that God’s way of thinking?
-My desire in these series of questions is to have you see the world and the lost in terms of God’s Word as described in Ephesians 4.17-19. These verses are a very real description of the world that we live in today. These verses accurately describe the state that we were in before we came to Christ.
-We need to be filled with gratitude at the Grace of God to us in Jesus Christ. We also need to be aware that sin can still influence us back to what we used to be. We need to purposefully live in God’s direction in line with the new life that God has given us in Christ. We need to live very carefully in line with God’s Word and by His Spirit.