BE ON GUARD! (Part 1)

Text: Proverbs 4:23, Luke 6:45, Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 12:1-2

In my last post I asked you to notice a couple of things from our foundation verse in Proverbs 4:23. 
  • I wanted you to be aware that when the Bible makes mention of the heart, it is referring to the innermost aspect of a person’s life.  It often refers to the way a person thinks about oneself and about life in general.  
  • I also made mention of the fact that from the very beginning of our individual existence, our hearts are under attack from indwelling sin (cf. MK 7:21-23) and from the devil (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). We could add to these two spiritual enemies the world system—a way of thinking that is opposed to the will and ways of God (cf. 1 JN 2:15).
  • And I also noted that the writer of Proverbs 4:23 calls us to be on guard regarding what we are thinking, feeling and doing, because the heart is the starting place for everything that we eventually feel and do. 

As a result of these enemies that surround the heart, I challenged you to start the process of guarding your heart by acknowledging that we are all under daily spiritual attack.

There is an important word that I don’t want you to miss in the last sentence of the preceding paragraph.  It is the word “process.  You see, guarding your heart is a process.  It takes time and intentionality for us to guard our hearts from the deceptive ideas of this world.  So how then do we actually go about guarding our hearts?

Let’s allow Scripture to inform us as to our next steps.  Take a look at Luke 6:45.  Jesus says, “A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Our Savior is telling us where good and evil words and actions originate.  They come from the heart!  But notice that word “storeroom.”  Apparently the things we say and do come from what we have been storing up in our hearts for…YEARS!  

Consider another text.  It is actually one long sentence found in Proverbs 2:1-5.  I want you to see the wisdom writer’s call to obedience in verse 1, followed by the result of that obedience in verse 5.  He writes, 1My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you…5then you will understand the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God.  In both of these texts there is an emphasis on storing up things within the heart—the very place that is prone to what I like to call “spiritual terrorism.  

So how do you protect your heart (your thoughts) from spiritual terrorism?  

I think I can anticipate what you are going to ask at this point.  How do I fill my heart with God’s Word?  How do I store up the things that will protect me from the fierce enemies of my heart?  I’m glad you asked.  Here are four things you can start to do immediately.
  • First, if you are going to fill your heart with God’s Word, you need to intentionally surrender to a new teacher.  Jesus said, “All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves (cf. Matthew 11:29).  Just as a parent drives a son or daughter to college, and surrenders that child to the college faculty, so must we surrender to the teachings of Jesus.  It is our choice, but we must be intentional about making that choice to let Jesus be our teacher.
  • Second, if you are going to fill your heart with God’s Word, you must approach Jesus as a worshiper.  The Apostle Paul put it this way, “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship (cf. Romans 12:1).” Once we realize that our salvation is all of grace and has nothing to do with our personal efforts, the only logical response is to…WORSHIJesus!  Therefore,to surrender to Jesus the Teacher means that we must come to Him out of a desire to worship Him exclusively. We aren’t coming to get more facts about Jesus.  We are approaching Him for the supreme purpose of worship!
  • Third, if you are going to fill your heart with God’s Word, you need to start replacing ungodly thoughts with God’s thoughts.  Paul went on to say in Romans 12:1, Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (cf. Romans 12:2).”  Think of it this way: In a matter of months the temperatures will change, and the wardrobe of summer will have to be replaced with the warmer garments of winter.  Some things will come out of your closet and will be replaced by something completely different.  Renewing of the mind is similar.  We confess that the old thoughts are wrong, and we affirm new thoughts that have been given to us from God.  
  • Fourth, it goes without saying that if we are to fill our hearts with God’s Word, we will need to obey what our teacher says.  Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me (cf. Matthew 11:29a).” Jesus was referring to the process of “yoking,” where a young, untrained animal would be “yoked” to an older, well-trained and obedient animal.  As time passed the immature animal learned to “obey” the path the “teaching animal” was following.  The same is true for those who guard their hearts.  They obey what Jesus is teaching, believing it is the true “source of life.”

So how would you know what thoughts to discard and eventually replace with God’s thoughts?  So often we face uncomfortable, disconcerting situations, only to assume that what we are facing is someone else’s faultAnd yet, the Bible is clear that the emotional upset we are facing isultimately a problem of the heart.  So to get to the bottom of things and start “renewing” our minds and hearts, let me suggest that you start a “thought journal.”  In a notebook or on your computer, draw four columns on an 81/2 by 11 sheet of paper.  
  • Label the first column “Tension.”  In the “tension” column write down any frustrating or unsettling events that happened that day.  Keep your entries brief.  Place a date next to them, because you will want to review these “recordings” as time progresses.
  • Label the second column “Thoughts.”  As you reflect on the disturbing things that happened, write down (in total honesty) what you were actually thinking when it happened.  Were you angry, sad, disappointed, fearful, or even filled with shame?  Write down what was going on in your mind.  
  • Label the third column “Truth.”  After giving some time to reflect on the first two columns, ask God to reveal what it is that is going on in your heart.  Ask Him to reveal His specific truth to you for the event upon which you are focusing.  Ask Him to reveal anything that might be robbing you of truly worshiping Jesus as your King and Teacher.  
  • Label the fourth column “Take-Away.”  That is, what is the “take-away” from what God is teaching you?  Is there some verse of Scripture you need to memorize?  Is there some relationship you need to restore? What is it that God wants you to do in response to His truth?

I want to call your attention to a word that I identified at the beginning of this post.  It is the word “process.”  Guarding your heart is not a one-time-event.  It is something you need to do every hour of every day.  But to be effective in this “heart-guarding-process” you must commit to getting rid of destructive, idolatrous thoughts and start storing up God’s Word. When you do, your heart will become the true wellspring of life.  So for today and every day…GUARD YOUR HEART!

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