Annual meeting sermons offer hope,

“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10:12)

CORPUS CHRISTI?About half the meeting hall?more than 200 people?answered the altar call given by guest SBTC speaker Tom Elliff following his message of conviction regarding the sin of a hardened heart.

After reading Hosea 10:12, Elliff said a “fallow” or hardened heart is a condition to be feared by Christians. As the reprobate heart is to the lost, the fallow heart is to the saved and both can incur God’s condemnation. He noted that speakers at the convention called for revival among families, churches, and the nation, even giving advice on how to bring it about. But a true spiritual awakening in America will never happen until the hearts of individual Christians experience revival.

Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., used the hard, packed earth of his home state as an example of what a fallow heart is to God. Homesteaders saw the prairie lands as fertile ground just waiting to be plowed and turned to accept the seeds of crops. But, Elliff said, they soon discovered how hard, tough, and impervious the ground truly was. Settlers had to use axes to pick at the earth in order to dig up sod to build homes and begin working soil for farming.

Such is the hardened heart, Elliff said. It is unmoved by the Holy Spirit’s pricking and any other spiritual emotion or sentiment.

Seed cannot take root in impervious ground, he added. Such a heart could read the word of God, hear it in a sermon, or listen to it in a song and not be changed.

Stubbornness is yet another indication of a hardened, fallow heart. Most people know the response they will get from a stubborn person because it is always the same and, Elliff added, usually negative.

As a fallow heart can accept no seed it certainly can bear no fruit. There is great potential in fallow ground but, left untilled, it will only lay barren.

A fallow heart, Elliff said, “will require incredible effort if change is ever to be produced.” What, he asked the pastors, will God have to do to wake them up to the needs of their own families and churches. “Every problem is God saying, ‘Give me your attention, please.'”

After giving all the warning signs of a fallow and hardened heart, Elliff struck a cord. He said to those in the congregation who have fallow, hardened hearts, “This message will mean little to you.”

To change requires a choice. Elliff implored the people to allow the “plow of God’s Holy Spirit” to dig deep into the dark, secret places of their hearts and to turn up the “creepy crawlies” which are kept hidden and expose them to the light. To choose not to respond to God’s call for brokenness is to invite disaster. He said, “If you refuse to break up the fallow ground of your heart, your most effective days of ministry are in the past ? Life is only going to get worse, not better.”

Seek the Lord and let him make changes, Elliff said. Changes for the good only occur in our families, churches, communities, and country following a change in each individual. To think it can be done without sincere introspection is the “height of ignorance,” he claimed. He said people are the way they are because of the choices they make in their lives. Individuals, for the most part, cannot control the circumstances in their lives but they can control the way in which they respond to them, he noted.

Elliff encouraged his audience to create a “sin list.” At the top of the page they can write God’s promise from 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

“Be specific,” he told them. Don’t make a list of vague misdemeanors, but a list of true unrepentant sins.

Emphasizing the urgency of the situation, Elliff urged, “If you choose not to break up the fallow ground of your heart, this could be your final choice in the matter ? Seek God while he may be found.”

The “plow of the Holy Spirit” moved through the convention hall, turning people from their seats and moving them to the altar.

Nearly a year ago, San Antonio pastor George Harris received a visitor to his hospital room where he was recovering from a catastrophic motorcycle wreck. The tattooed biker wearing a leather outfit told Harris’ son he’d heard one of the “motorcycle buddies was down and out” and he wanted to come by and pray for him.

Harris had broken 184 bones in his face, requiring 10 hours of surgery over a three months.

“They took my face off, cutting me from this ear to this ear, pulling my face down to about my nose.” Eleven titanium facial plates and two orbital implants were used in the process of reconstruction. With his skull fractured, his jaws were wired together and a feeding tube in

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