“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
We all know the importance of exercising and eating healthy foods, in order to maintain good health. One of the diseases that we want to prevent is heart disease. In Singapore, heart attack is the number 2 killer after cancer. Therefore, we want to make sure our heart is healthy. Proverbs 4:23 also exhorts us to guard our hearts; however, the proverb is not talking about guarding our physical heart, but the spiritual. The heart represents our inner man/the soul; we need to keep it safe with all diligence.
It is important to guard our hearts, because what we think in our hearts defines who we are: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). We do not want to be as Simon the sorcerer, who was found to have a heart that was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21). Rather, we want to have a heart that is pure before God: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The Bible instructs us that we can purify our hearts by faith (Acts 15:9). In order to have faith, we must be guided by the word of God (Romans 10:17; cf. 1 Peter 1:22).
In order to guard our hearts, we need to guard what goes into our hearts. We do not want to be as Ananias, who allowed Satan to enter into his heart, which led him to lie to God (Acts 5:3). When we allow Satan to enter our hearts, all sorts of evil arise: envying, strife, hatred, anger etc. (James 3:14). Rather, we need to allow Jesus to enter into our hearts. The Bible tells us that Jesus dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17). Additionally, we need to have the law of God enter into our hearts (Hebrews 10:16). We need to have the peace of God in our hearts (Colossians 3:15-16).
In guarding our hearts, we not only need to watch for what goes in, but we need to watch for what comes out of our hearts. Jesus tells us that what comes out of the heart reveals what is inside (Matthew 12:35). Furthermore, the things that proceed out of our mouths have the potential to defile us (Matthew 15:18-20). Back in Proverbs 4:23, we are exhorted to keep our hearts because “out of it are the issues of life.” That which comes out of our hearts has the potential to extend life and grace to those around us; but if we do not guard our hearts, death and corruption will be its fruit.
“Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” (Proverbs 4:24)
The Proverb writer goes on to give three practical ways for us to guard our hearts. Firstly, to guard our hearts, we must guard our tongues. We must not allow our tongues to produce perverse and filthy words. We must refrain from corrupt communication (Ephesians 4:29), foolish talking & jesting (Ephesians 5:4), and we must put away “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
It is important to control our tongues because what comes out of our mouth reflects what is inside, and they defile us (Matthew 15:17-20). Therefore, if we think we are religious, but cannot control our tongue, we are deceiving ourselves! (James 1:26). We must control our tongues, such that only edifying and graceful words come out of our mouths (Ephesians 4:29). What kind of words come out of our mouths?
“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee” (Proverbs 4:25)
Secondly, to guard our hearts, we must guard our eyes. We need to focus on eyes on a straight path. Jesus Himself warns us that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). One of the ways that Satan ensnares us is through the lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16). Instead of looking straight, we are distracted by sin.
Therefore, it is important to be careful where we focus our eyes upon. Jesus teaches us that “the eye is the lamp of the body” (Matthew 6:22-23 ESV). What the eye focuses on affects what the rest of the body does. If our eyes are focused upon earthly wealth, that is what the body will do. We need to focus our eyes on heavenly treasures (Matthew 6:19-21). We need to focus our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). What are our eyes focused on?
“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:26-27)
Lastly, to guard our hearts, we need to guard our feet. We need to plan where we are walking, so that we can walk the right path, and not fall to the side. One of the things that the Lord hates: “feet that be swift in running to mischief” (Proverbs 6:18). We must be careful not to walk in the path of the ungodly and sinners (Psalm 1:1; Ephesians 4:17).
Instead, we ought to walk in the right path. Since our conversion, we ought to have been walking in newness of life: a life turned from serving sin to serving God (Romans 6:3-4). We are to walk in truth (3 John 1:4). We are to walk after God’s commandments (2 John 1:6). We are to walk in the light (1 John 1:7). We are to walk in love (Ephesians 5:2). Where are our feet walking?
Brethren, let us guard our hearts with all diligence, that we may be pure in heart before God.