Thursday, November 01, 2007


Guard Your Heart

Spiritual Disciplines 1. Guarding The Heart
Last Sunday our Brother Neville Davies highlighted 2 things to us. How long has it been since you heard a sermon about the blood of Christ? And how long has it been since you heard a sermon about sanctification, about becoming holy people. I was grateful that he reminded us of these two vital principles of spiritual life. This is what our Christian living is to be about.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.—Proverbs 4: 23. Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.A Jewish young man hearing these words would not have thought as we do when he heard the word "heart". We tend to think of the heart as the seat of emotions. We love someone "with all our heart"; or we're "heart-broken" when that someone doesn't love us back. But to a Jew, it wasn't the heart that was seen as the seat of emotions, but rather the "belly"1; which makes more sense. After all, when you're emotionally moved, doesn't your stomach respond? If a young Jewish man wanted tell his girlfriend that he had a lot of deep feelings for her, he'd say that, whenever he looked into her eyes, he felt something in his intestines. And she'd be complemented! The Valentine's card he'd send her would be decorated with pretty, laced stomachs and livers. To the Jewish reader, the "belly" was, symbolically, the seat of emotion. By distinction, the "heart" was considered the seat of the will and thought-life. It was in the "heart" - the inner self - that the personhood of a man or woman was centered. It was sometimes used as the symbol for the whole, inner, spiritual aspect of a person. It was parallel to what we think of when we talk about the "mind"; but it included much more than just thoughts and intellect.
As the 17th century preacher, Matthew Henry wrote; "We must keep a watchful eye and a strict hand upon all the motions of our inward man. ... God, who gave us these souls, gave us a strict charge with them. We must set a strict guard, accordingly, upon all the avenues of the soul; keep our hearts from doing hurt and getting hurt, from being defiled by sin and disturbed by trouble; keep out bad thoughts; keep up good thoughts; keep the affections upon right objects and in due bounds.
The heart of man is the worst part of a man before he becomes a Christian, it is his worst part after he becomes a Christian, and it can be his best part as well!
The greatest difficulty in conversion, is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is to keep the heart with God. The way to life a narrow way, and the gate of heaven a strait gate. We need to know how to keep our hearts!
To keep the heart is to be careful to preserve it from sin. Sin makes the heart unhealthy. We need to maintain that spiritual frame of heart which enables us to have a life of communion with God.

A. KEEPING YOUR HEART IS HARD WORKKeep… energy is necessary. our action is to be that of "watching" (NASB), or "guarding" (NIV), or "keeping" (NKJV) it. Thought is necessary. Attention is necessary. "with all diligence". In the Hebrew text, Solomon uses a word related to that which describes a prison guard keeping watch over a prisoner in a cell. It can be translated, "With all guarding, watch your heart." It speaks of the exercise of serious, vigilant, careful diligence in "keeping an eye on" and protecting the heart
1. It is the hardest work. Heart-work is hard work indeed. A bit of religion costs no great pains; but to set yourself before the Lord, and tie up your loose thoughts to really knowing the Lord will cost something. To be fluent in prayer is easy; but to get your heart broken for sin, while confessing it; and to be melted with God’s free grace and to be really ashamed and humbled though seeing God’s infinite holiness, and to keep your heart in this frame not just while you pray but after, will really cost you some groans and pains of soul. It involves the killing of the root of sin within, and this is no easy thing.
1 Timothy 4:7, 8: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
“Train yourself to be godly”, expresses a fundamental theme of Paul’s belief. He is telling Timothy, his son in the faith, how to succeed in leading God’s people. The term “train” is translated from gumnaze (we get our term gymnastics, gymnasium). Instead of spending time dwelling on godless myths and legends, Paul tells his young friend he is to be at work in the spiritual gymnasium.
One of the pathways to godliness is exercising or practicing. Practice puts feet to commitment. It is not some ethereal exercise. It is practical, down-to-earth, and even a bit grubby at times as the Holy Spirit works on us.”
Psalm 63:1: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Philippians. 3:12: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Hebrews 12:14: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”
2 Peter 1:5-7: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
“There is a price to godliness, and godliness is never on sale. It never comes cheaply or easily. The term train, which Paul deliberately chose, implies persevering, painstaking, diligent effort.”
2 Timothy 2:3-6: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs – he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.”
Paul uses the three pictures of the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. All these images portray the attitude and the actions of persevering and disciplined people to portray passionate and purposed pursuit in the Christian life. We need to practice, we need to persevere in our practice and that will result in character in our lives.
1. It’s Hard Work To Keep An Eye On Your Heart. There are some people who have lived forty or fifty years and have never taken a good look into their own hearts. It is a hard thing to bring a man and himself together on such business, but the benefits are tremendous. The heathen could say, "the soul is made wise by sitting still in quietness." The guy in debt doesn’t want to check to much at the bank about his accounts, but godly people will want to check. "I commune with mine own heart," says David. The heart can never be kept until its been examined and understood.
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23)
The residents of a Sydney apartment building awoke to a terrifying sight outside their windows. The ground beneath the street in front of their building had literally collapsed, creating a massive depression, a sinkhole. The RTA in Sydney had directed the drilling of the new Lane Cove motorway under the North part of the city of Sydney just a little too close to their apartment. You saw the effect on TV. Our lives can have sinkhole syndrome. Often it is discovered almost too late that the private world of the person is in a state of disorderliness or weakness. And when that is true there is always potential for the sinkhole syndrome. Our outer, or public, world is easier to deal with. It is much more measurable, visible, and expandable. Our outer world consists of work, play, possessions, and a host of acquaintances that make up a social network. It is the part of our existence easiest to evaluate in terms of success, popularity, wealth, and beauty. The majority of us have been taught to manage our public worlds well. The result is that our private world is often cheated, neglected because it does not shout quite so loudly. It can be effectively ignored for large periods of time before it gives way to a sinkhole-like cave-in.
We must choose to keep the heart. Its health and productivity cannot be assumed; it must be constantly protected and maintained. One of the ways that we guard the inner life is through discipline. The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. “Slowly and sometimes painfully, I have discovered that to bring organization to the private world where Christ chooses to live is both a lifelong and a daily matter. Today I find dust balls in my private world every day. But I have to keep ahead of them in the daily discipline of bringing order into my inner sphere.” To bring order to one’s personal life is to invite his control over every segment of one’s life. Do the things that are most important. We make our commitments, then our commitments make us. Once they are chosen, many other choices follow as a matter of course. Self-discipline is the ability to regulate conduct by principle and judgement rather than impulse, desire, high pressure, or social custom.
2. It’s Hard Work To Keep Humble About Your Heart Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart. Many an upright heart has been laid low before God; 'O what a heart have I.' Its like the eye; if some bit of dust gets into the eye, you wont stop fiddling with it, rubbing it and watering till it has wept it out: so the upright heart cannot be at rest till it has wept out its troubles and poured out its complaints before the Lord.
3. It’s Hard Work To Pray About your heart "Cleanse thou me from secret faults" " Unite my heart to fear thy name." Believers have always been drawn before the throne of God's grace about the evils of their hearts; this is the thing which is most trying with them before God. 'O for a better heart! O for a heart to love God more; to hate sin more; to walk more evenly with God. O for a heart to praise my God. O for a closer walk with God.”
4. It’s Hard Work To Take Hold Upon Your Heart to walk more carefully with God, and avoid temptations to sin. Sometimes deliberate vows are very useful to guard the heart against some special sin. " I have made a covenant with mine eyes," says Job.
5. It’s Hard Work To Constantly watch Your Heart. He that will keep his heart, must have the eyes of the soul awake and open upon all the disorderly anal tumultuous stirrings of his affections. ' Happy is the man that thus feareth always. By this fear of the Lord it is that men depart from evil, shake off sloth and preserve themselves from iniquity. He that will keep his heart must eat and drink with fear, rejoice with fear, and pass the whole time of his sojourning here in fear.
6. It’s Hard Work To Constantly remember God's presence with us, Set the Lord always before us. When the eye of our faith is fixed upon the eye of God’s omniscience, we dare not let out our thoughts and affections run amuck. Job tells us, "Doth not He see my ways, and count all my steps?"
The keeping of the heart is a work that is never done till life is ended. You don’t get time off for a holiday from this. There’s no time off for good behaviour. Just as it was with Moses' hands while Israel and Amalek were fighting, no sooner do the hands of Moses grow heavy and sink down, than Amalek prevails. Not being constantly watchful over their hearts resulted in David’s adultery and Peter’s denials, and many a Christian man’s failure.
Galatians 6:7-9: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Paul uses the analogy of farming. You need to keep sowing the right seeds if you are going to receive the right harvest. And in order to keep sowing you have to keep going. If you want to be trained, you must practice, and to practice you must have perseverance – “let us not become weary…do not give up.” Jonathan Edwards “resolved, never to give over, not in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.” Proverbs 24:16 says, “for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” If we would succeed in our pursuit of holiness we must persevere in spite of failure. No one ever becomes godly without a commitment to pay the price of the daily spiritual training that God has designed for our growth in godliness.
“A muscle needs to repeat an action about two hundred times to remember what it’s supposed to do. The idea of practice is to build muscle memory. Do it right, again and again, and your muscles will gain the habit you want. You’ll begin to react without effort, without even thinking.
Spiritual discipline is developing soul reflexes so that we know how to live. We discipline ourselves to develop soul memory in normal times so that we’ll be equipped for the times of high demand or deep crisis. The superior power and efficiency of disciplined character are seen especially in great crises, times of sickness or bereavement, or financial adversity. Discipline enables us to walk by faith because we’ve been over ground like this before.
Jay Adams “You may have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness. There is no such thing…We want somebody to give us three easy steps to godliness, and we’ll take them next Friday and be godly. The trouble is. Godliness doesn’t come that way.”

B. KEEPING YOUR HEART IS IMPORTANT WORKIt is important work because everything else flows from it.
Prov 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Your words flow from your heart: Luke 6:45; "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."
Your desires flow from your heart Mark 7:15 Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, he should listen!”17 When He went into the house away from the crowd, the disciples asked Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you also as lacking in understanding? Don’t you realize that nothing going into a man from the outside can defile him? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into the stomach and is eliminated.” (As a result, He made all foods clean.) 20 Then He said, “What comes out of a person—that defiles him. 21 For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, 22 adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, lewdness, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”
Without this we are just empty professors of religion without the true reality of it.
(1.) It is important work because It is the will of God for you to be holy.
Keep your heart! 'This is the will of God, your sanctification.' Sanctification is the theological term for keeping your heart! As God's word must be the rule, so his will, the reason of our actions. This is the will of God, our sanctification. Perhaps it is not the will of God we should be rich, but it is his will that we should be holy.
(2.) It is important work because Jesus Christ has died for it. Give me your heart…He died to redeem it. Christ shed his blood to wash off our impurity. The cross was both an altar and a laver. 'Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity.' Tit ii 14. If we could be saved without our hearts being affected, Christ needed not have died. Christ died, not only to save us from wrath, but from sin.
(3.) It is important work because its how we begin to resemble God. It was Adam's sin that he aspired to be like God in omniscience, but we must endeavour to he like Him in character. It is a holy heart in which something of God can be seen. Nothing of God can be seen in an unholy man, but you may see Satan's picture in him. The heart is the dwelling place of God. Two persons of the Trinity are said to reside in the heart of the believer: God has given us the "Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor 1:22) and Paul prays that "Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph 3:17).
(4.) It is important work because God has a great love for your heart. Not any outward ornaments, high blood, or worldly grandeur, draws God's love, but a heart embellished with holiness does. Christ never admired anything but the beauty of holiness: he slighted the glorious buildings of the temple, but admired the woman's faith, and said, 'O woman, great is thy faith.' As a king delights to see his image upon a piece of coin, so where God sees his likeness he gives his love. The Lord has two heavens to dwell in, and the holy heart is one of them.
Psalm 51 "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart - these, O God, You will not despise" (v. 17). David's great prayer request was, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (v. 10).
(5.) It is important work because this is the only thing that makes us differ from the wicked.
God's people have his seal upon them. 'The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.' 2 Tim ii 19. The godly are sealed with a double seal, a seal of election, 'The Lord knoweth who are his,' and a seal of sanctification, 'Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.' This is the name by which God's people are known, 'The people of thy holiness.' Isa lxii 18. As chastity distinguishes a virtuous woman from a harlot, so sanctification distinguishes God's people from others. 'Ye have received an unction from the Holy One.' I John ii 20.
(6.) It is important work because It is shameful not give Him our hearts. To have the name of a Christian, yet be lacking in vital godliness is shameful. These things ought not to be. It is the same as having the name of a bank manager and lacking integrity; or the name of a virgin, and lacking chastity. It exposes religion to reproach, to be baptized into the name of Christ while unholy, and to have eyes full of tears on a Sunday, and on a week-day eyes full of adultery: 2 Pet ii 14; to be so devout at the Lord's table, as if men were stepping into heaven, and so profane the week after, as if they came out of hell; to have the name of Christians while unholy is a scandal to religion, and makes the ways of God evil spoken of.
(7.) It is important work because it fits us for heaven: 'Who hath called us to glory and virtue.' 2 Pet i 3. Glory is the throne, and sanctification is the step by which we ascend to it. As you first cleanse the vessel, and then pour in the wine; so God first cleanses us by sanctification, and then pours in the wine of glory. Solomon was first anointed with oil, and then was a king. I Kings i 39. First God anoints us with the holy oil of his Spirit, and then sets the crown of happiness Upon our head. Pureness of heart and seeing God are linked together. Matt v 8.


You guard your heart if you do not give your heart away to just anything or anyone.
So let me ask you: who or what does your heart belong to? Does it belong to drugs, alcohol, sex? Does it belong to money, possessions, and things? Does it belong to your dairy or your cows? Does it belong to a boyfriend or a girlfriend who is not a Christian? Does it belong to golfing, fishing, and camping? Does it belong to a sports hero, or a favourite team? Does it belong to work or school? Does it belong to games, toys, dolls, and computers? Who or what does your heart belong to?
To "guard your heart" your heart needs to belong, first of all, to God. You need a heart that's right with God, that is full of Christ, and that is led by the Spirit. Christ has to take hold of your heart. The Holy Spirit needs to transform your heart into a vessel of God. You see, it is only when your heart is full of Christ that you have the strength to guard your heart. Our text says that the heart "is the wellspring of life." Well, Jesus is the water of life that you need to have bubbling up in your heart.
1. To Guard your Heart First Give Your Heart.
Give Him your heart, then Keep your heart. " My son, give me thine heart," is God’s request. My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. Prov 23:26 God wants your heart above anything else. He doesn’t care what else you give Him, for if you haven’t given Him your heart, you haven’t given Him anything. God rejects everything or anything else which are offered him without the heart. John Bunyan rightly said of prayer, “Let your heart be without words, rather than your words be without heart.”
2. To Guard Your Heart Secondly Garnish, nourish Your Heart With The Word of God.Prov 4:13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Prov 4:20-22 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. (21) Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; (22) for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body.
(Deut 4:9) Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
The Bible is a road map, an owner's manual, that tells us how to live and to walk in a sin-filled world. It tells us how to "guard the heart." 'Sanctify them through thy truth.' John xvii 17. The word is both a glass to show us the spots of our soul, and a laver to wash them away. The word has a transforming virtue in it; it irradiates the mind, and consecrates the heart. (Watson)
3. To Guard Your Heart Have faith in Christ's blood.
'Having purified their hearts by faith.' Acts xv 9. She in the gospel who touched the hem of Christ's garment was healed. A touch of faith purifies. Nothing can have a greater force upon the heart, to sanctify it, than faith. If I believe Christ and his merits are mine, how can I sin against him? Justifying faith does that in a spiritual sense which miraculous faith does, it removes mountains, the mountains of pride, lust, envy. Faith and the love of sin are inconsistent.
4. To Guard Your Heart Breathe after the Spirit.
It is called 'the sanctification of the Spirit.' 2 Thess ii 13. The Spirit sanctifies the heart, as lightning purifies the air, and as fire refines metals. The Spirit at work generates its own likeness everywhere. The Spirit stamps the impression of its own sanctity upon the heart, as the seal prints its likeness upon the wax. The Spirit of God in a man perfumes him with holiness, and makes his heart a map of heaven.
5. To Guard Your Heart Associate with sanctified persons.
They may, by their counsel, prayers, and holy example, be a means to make you holy. As the communion of saints is in our creed, so it should be in our company. 'He that walketh with the wise shall be wise.' Prov xiii 20. Be a part of a church, of a group of believers, who encourage you and hold you accountable and help you in your relationship with God, and pick your friends from this group. Find your companionship from among those who love God. You know the saying: "Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Cor 15:33). But the opposite is also true: Good friends lead to good character. Says Proverbs 13:20, "He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm." If you have the right kind of friends, they will help you "guard your heart." But if you have the wrong kind of friends, they will help you lose your heart.
6. To Guard Your Heart Pray for sanctification.
Job propounds a question. 'Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?' Job xiv 4. God can do it. Out of an unholy heart he can produce grace. Oh! make David's prayer your own', Create in me a clean heart, O God.' Psa li 10. Lay thy heart before the Lord, and say, Lord, my unsanctified heart pollutes all it touches. I am not fit to live with such a heart, for I cannot honour thee; nor die with such a heart, for I cannot see thee. Oh create in me a new heart! Lord, consecrate my heart, and make it thy temple, and thy praises shall be sung there for ever.
7. To Guard your Heart Turn Away From SinProv 4:24-27 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. (25) Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. (26) Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. (27) Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
How is your heart? Do you remember the old chorus? “How about your heart? Is it right with God? That’s the thing we ask today. Is it black with sin? Is it pur within? Could you ask Christ in to stay? People often see you, as you are outside, Jesus really knows you, for He sees inside…. How about your heart?”

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