The Closed Heart
Whenever you hear phrases such as “I will never…” or “I absolutely refuse…” or “There’s simply no way…” no doubt there’s a closed heart standing behind those words. Accompanying such words are attitudes that are closed, opposed, or negatively disposed against a person, concept, or suggestion. A closed heart is usually a reflection of a closed mind, which in turn is a depiction of a life that believes it knows more than others, has thought through a conviction to its “right” conclusion, or simply knows how best to feel under the circumstance. As a result, there is little one can say or do to penetrate the blockade that barricades one from even considering a new or different way. A closed heart is impenetrable even from the wisest, softest, wittiest, or clearest alternative.
Jesus quotes from Isaiah in describing one with a closed heart, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them,” Matthew 13: 15. This same principle from Isaiah is quoted by Paul in Acts 28:27 as he preached boldly about the kingdom of God to both closed and open hearts. In describing the wicked, the psalmist writes, “They close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance” (Psalm 17:10). This description is in sharp contrast to being known by God as “the apple of His eye” (Psalm 17: 8), one who is willing to have God probe and examine the heart, and ensure its openness to the wonder of God’s great love.
An open heart is simply more pliable in consideration of alternative ways to think, feel and/or act. The polar opposite of a closed heart is an enormously wide open heart, one that can be in danger of being so open as to be non-sensible or extremely liberal. However, a healthy open heart is one that’s balanced with perspective from a variety of vantage points and multiple voices. This kind of open heart is desirous of wisdom and perception that grows out of listening carefully to all sides before choosing one to follow. An open heart is the antidote to the rigidity, inflexibility, and intolerance which often follows the person who demonstrates a cold, calculating, and sometimes cruel closed heart. One thing is for certain: God opposes the pride of the closed heart, and seeks to gently open such a heart to receive fully the love, joy, peace, and hope of the gospel.
When we are open to receive from God and others, we in turn become open to becoming our full, true selves. Openness is an attribute that grows out of a teachable heart, one that wants to remain malleable in the hands of the Almighty One. Like soft, supple clay in the hands of our Maker, the Potter of our souls, we are formed, conformed and transformed more and more into His likeness. Openness to God and one another is depicted visually in the out-stretched arms of love displayed for us by Christ on the cross. His openness to His Father’s will and way led Jesus from heaven into the womb of the virgin Mary, among people He could serve sacrificially and generously even to the cross, and eventually through the empty tomb of the resurrection and back to glory forever. God chose to send His Son into this world so that the alternatives of our choice for the God we serve would be made clear. Jesus’ openness to the Father and the Spirit all throughout His earthly ministry is an abundant testimony to the gift that an open heart can be to all whom we are called to serve in Jesus’ name.
In Philippi, a businesswoman by the name of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, became a worshiper of God. “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” after which members of her household joined her in the waters of baptism and practiced hospitality to Paul and his team (Acts 16: 13-15). Her openness to the Lord transformed her into a woman of devout worship and generous hospitality. Lydia is a great example for all who follow Christ and desire to remain open to His leading hand through the presence and power of His Spirit. This type of genuine conversion of heart is found embedded in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1: 18, 19).
More than any other tangible instrument that opens a closed heart is the Word of God. Likewise, more than any other intangible means of grace that opens a closed heart is prayer. In the masterpiece Psalm 119, we read “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (verse 18). This verse combines the Word with prayer…so that the Law of God, His instruction and teaching, can profoundly elicit holiness in the heart of the believer. Without the empowerment of God’s Holy Spirit we can only see what the natural eye can fathom. So, it’s incumbent upon us to seek the gracious illumination of the Word and the Spirit to open up our closed heart so we can earnestly seek Him with all our heart. An open Bible needs an open heart. Will you remain open to the fresh, renewing, heart-changing gospel today?