From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 14 – Step one in detail – repent
In many churches today, even among some leaders, there is blatant ongoing sin, for which those individuals feel no shame. They are not repenting and don’t intend to repent. They are “brass-faced”. That brazenness comes from repeatedly refusing to repent. It begins in smaller ways, as people sin here and there and “get away with it”. At least they imagine they are getting away with it, because other people don’t find out and don’t stop them. So they carry on and commit bigger sins, and more frequently.
Whilst this is going on, God will speak to the person through their conscience. The still, small voice of the Holy Spirit will speak quietly to the person to urge them to stop, repent, seek forgiveness and start afresh. But, the person ignores God’s voice and suppresses it. They do not want to stop. So they repeatedly ignore their conscience and God’s voice.
Unbelievers do this too, but my point is that even believers, and those who call themselves believers, do it. It is a very dangerous thing to do, because although God will try, again and again, to speak to you and to urge you to repent, if you persist in ignoring His voice and go on sinning, then there will come a day when you will no longer be able to hear Him. Moreover, God will eventually step back from you and let you pursue the foolish and sinful path that you have chosen for yourself:
“So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,Psalm 81:12 (NASB)
To walk in their own devices.
When that happens, it is as if your conscience is switched off, as you might turn off a radio. The conscience (or radio) is still there, but not functioning. It cannot pick up the ‘transmission’. The biblical phrase for this is that the conscience is “seared”. That means it becomes leathery and hard, like skin that has been branded with a hot iron. Look how Zechariah describes it:
8And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’ 11“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. 12They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. 13” ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty.Zechariah 7:8-13 (NIV)
This is a terrible condition to be in. If you are not listening to God, it is as if you are flying with your radio and your instruments switched off. In the end, it will result in disaster. God will eventually bring along someone or something to expose your sin and to bring judgment. Sometimes, when disaster comes and a marriage or a ministry is destroyed, the person finally repents and sees what a fool they have been.
However, usually they do not. Instead, they abandon even the pretence of being a Christian. Such people find it very hard later on to soften their hearts towards God and seek His forgiveness. They could, if they wanted to, but they usually don’t choose to. The hardness of their hearts, which has built up over years of disobedience, becomes almost incurable.