49. Hearts are soft until they are hardened. Hearts are open until they are closed.

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}

If it is true that the only thing that can ever separate us from God is a totally-hardened, implacable heart, and that the reason that separates us from God is because it has placed us beyond the point where His light can penetrate our darkness, then we must conclude that this condition is an ultimate one. In other words, we don’t begin with a totally-hardened heart that we then have the option of softening or not.

No, though we may experience relative degrees of hardness or softness throughout the process, a heart is “soft” until it is irrevocably “hard.” Another way of saying this would be to say that a heart is open until and unless it is finally and completely closed. Or another way of putting it would be to say that God can reach your heart... until He can’t. And once He can’t, He can’t. Hearts are soft until they’re hardened. Hearts are open until they’re closed. And once they’re completely closed, they can’t be opened again.

Why is this important to understand? Because it’s pretty much the exact opposite of the typical, unspoken assumption in Christianity. Most of us (even if we don’t realize it) believe that people are “lost” until they are “saved.” We believe that if a person is living the wrong lifestyle or doing “bad” things, they are “lost,” and if they die in the middle of that condition, all hope for them is gone.

But let’s observe the example of Saul, the Pharisee who was going around persecuting the early church, who became God’s greatest disciple after an encounter on the road to Damascus. Even though Saul was sincere, he was not doing the right thing by murdering Christians. But what was the condition of his heart at this point? Was it totally closed? Was he unable to respond to light from the Spirit?

Apparently not, for he was actually blinded by light on the road to Damascus, and instead of rejecting that light, he embraced it, and everything changed. So we must conclude that, even while he was going around doing bad things, Saul’s heart was still, in some measure, open to God. He had not yet irrevocably cut himself off from truth by hardening his heart.

Fortunately, we get to see the miraculous transformation that occurred in Paul’s life. But what if he had died the day before his conversion experience? What if he had been kicked in the head by a camel on the way to Damascus? Would that have changed the condition of his heart? When he saw God face to face, would he have been “lost” or “saved”? If he had died with a heart that was still open to receiving light, would God have arbitrarily dismissed that fact simply because Saul died a day early?

There are many other examples in Scripture as well of people who were way off on the wrong path, headed toward destruction, when the Spirit was able to penetrate their darkness with light, and they chose to turn around. That is only possible if our hearts are still soft. Once they’re totally hardened, they’re implacable. Once they’re totally hardened, the light can no longer penetrate, so it stands to reason that our hearts are soft until we ultimately harden them. They are open until they are closed for good.

If you want to dig deeper—
Proverbs 2:13-14
Daniel 4
Luke 16:27-31
Revelation 3:5
Revelation 22:11