Protect your heart.  I want to take a look at Proverb 4:23 and will be using it for my key verse.  Every proverb is certainly full of wisdom, but this one tells us something of very great importance.  I have spent the last few Sundays talking about the heart, and I feel that this proverb wraps this series – That Special Thing – up in a nice bow.  Let’s look at what this proverb says to us about what is most important when it comes to our heart.

Keep Your Heart Above All Keeping

23 Keep your heart with all diligence,

For out of it spring the issues of life.

key verse – proverbs 4:23 NKJV

Now, let us pay very close attention to what the proverb says and try to understand it.  I want to take a look at the first part of this proverb first.  First, the proverb says to us “keep your heart”.  What exactly does that mean?

When you are the keeper of something (for example: a car you purchased), it is in your possession, right?  You may either be the sole owner of that possession, or you may be a co-owner of that possession.  There are other cases where somebody may loan something to you and tell you to “keep it” for a while.  Even then, you have become the possessor of whatever it is that is now in your keep.

When you are the keeper (possessor) of something or someone (for example: a child or a pet), they are also now in your care, right?  So, because they are in your care, this means that you are going to do everything possible to make sure no harm comes upon them.  You are going to feed them, clothe them, and do everything possible to keep them safe.  This is what keeping something is:  guarding, protecting, and preserving.

This is what God does for us when we pray to Him, “keep us in Your care”.  God guards and shields us from all harm; He protects and preserves us from all hurt, harm, or danger.  So, this proverb is telling us to do the same exact thing God does for us when it comes to our heart (our spirit).  

Let’s also note that the proverb also adds that we should do this “with all diligence”.  To be diligent in something means you are being steady, earnest, and constant.  So, we should be constantly keeping – guarding, protecting, preserving – our heart.  To say to do this with all diligence then means to do this (to keep) above all other things that you keep.

A Need To Guard the Heart

Why is it so important for us to guard and protect our heart?  Well, let’s think about what I spoke about when I was talking about our body system last Sunday.  Our bodies are made up of all kinds of systems.  Last week I mentioned our nervous system and talked about how the brain sends messages down our spine and throughout the rest of our body.  (The brain is how we have motor skills – the ability to talk, walk, run, jump, etc.)

Our body is also made up of several other systems including:  skeletal, muscular, respiratory, reproductive, and digestive.  The list does go on, but I think I will stop at the circulatory system.  At the heart of our circulatory system is the heart – the one that beats.  Our heart is not physically located at the center of our body, but you could certainly think of it as the center of your body.  It is from our hearts that blood of life is pumped throughout our entire body.

Now, I say all of that to set up something that I stated last week about our other heart — the spirit.  Our spirit is the starting point for absolutely everything that is our character — who we are.  Every thought that you have, they form in your spirit first.  Therefore, every action you take, they form in your spirit first!  Lastly, every word you say, they form first in your spirit.

As our physical heart is the center of our body and circulates blood throughout our body, our spirit is the center of who we are.  The proverb tells us this truth when it says, “for out of it (the heart) spring the issues of life”.  So, do you yet see why this proverb is so important?  Do you understand why it is so important for you to guard and protect your heart?

What are you putting in the world

If not, that is OK because we are going to dig deeper into this proverb.  Let’s use this proverb as a jumping off point in our sermon today.  So, again, “from the heart spring the issues of life” is what this proverb says.  I don’t know about you, but I really want to dive into the “issues of life” for a moment.  What does this mean?

Jesus actually taught on this subject quite a bit to His apostles and followers.  As I told you last Sunday, the heart is very significant and is covered quite a bit in scripture.  There is an occasion in scripture (Matt. 15:1-2) where the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus and asked, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

Imagine that, they were stressed because they believed the disciples to be committing a transgression because the disciples did not wash their hands before they ate.  (Parents get upset when children do that, but I don’t believe they view it as some sort of transgression.) The transgression (the violation or defilement), I want you to note, was against the tradition of the elders.  I want that noted because they are not upset about a transgression against the Law, but against a tradition that man created.  (So, they were upset about something minuscule; they were triggered about nothing.)

To this question (or charge if you look at it that way), Jesus responded (Matt. 15:3), “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?”  Jesus, I want you to note, rebukes the scribes and Pharisees sharply and continued to do so in the follow up verses where He charges that they do not honor their father or mother.  Jesus goes so far as to even call them outright hypocrites in their way (Matt. 15:3-7)!  Afterwards, He then called the multitude to Himself, and said to the multitude something I want us to see. 

Jesus said (Matt. 15:10-11), “Hear and understand:  Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”  Look at what came out of the scribes and Pharisees and what they had just put into the world; we would say they were putting a bunch of mess into the world with their hypocrisy.  Now, the hypocrisy came out of their mouth but where was this action actually conceived?

What is in your heart

We must remember that the things that come out of our mouth are actually first conceived in the heart.  The scribes and Pharisees had likely seen Jesus’ disciples not wash their hands once before and it most likely bothered them then.  So, they had spent time conceiving and thinking on confronting Jesus about the matter in their hearts before they ever took an action and said a word to Him.  

They were going to confront Jesus in a manner not to learn, but in a manner in which they believed themselves to be right.  There are some folks who will approach you in the same manner today; they have conceived to do so in their hearts. The scribes and Pharisees were lacking in knowledge and understanding but were going to charge the disciples of doing wrong.  This thought did not pop up out of the middle of nowhere; no, it was conceived in their hearts.

I want you to note that Jesus explains this even further to Peter and the other apostles.  Jesus said (Matt. 15:17), “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?”  (That’s our digestive system for you.)  He then said (Matt. 15:18-19), “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”

Let me tell you something:  Don’t ever let someone fool you into believing they just randomly did or said something.  Nobody does anything just randomly!  Our spirit is always active – even while we are sleeping! So, we must always be one guard protection our hearts! Why? Because we are capable of listening in our spirit, and also learning (growing) in our spirit.

Will eventually come out

So, we have seen that we are able to both store things in our spirit but also conceive things in our spirit as well.  This is why it is of the utmost importance that we always be on guard when it comes to our heart:  because eventually what is in the heart will come out of us and be put into the world.  Jesus said (Matt. 12:35), “A good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”

This should make us wonder what kind of heart we have.  What have we been storing up in our heart or conceiving in our heart?  In other words, what kind of treasure is there in our heart:  good or evil?  From that point, we then should think about what exactly have we been putting out into the world.  (What have we been putting out into our homes, our children, our spouse, our community bubbles?)  Again, is it good or evil?

As I said last Sunday, there are so many people that are bringing out their anger and hate and putting it into the world.  Some do this under the pretense of holding up a bible and saying they are doing the Lord’s work.  They do this because that’s the treasure that they are drawing on from their heart! But as Jesus pointed out (Matt. 7:18), “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.”  So are you bringing forth good or bad fruit in the world?

How To Guard Our Hearts

So, how do we guard and protect our hearts from evil (or wickedness)?  How do we ensure that what is coming out of our heart is good treasure?  We ask these questions because we can look around and see all that is going on in our society and we want to be bearers of good fruit.  While there is much anger and hate in our society, I would tell you that I see as much love and compassion, if not more.  We want to be that love and compassion that stands up for others regardless of race, sexuality, religion, or creed.

Where do we start?  As one commentator put it, “What we hear is important.  What we study is important.  What we see is important.”  So, to take care of our physical heart, what do we do?  We try to make sure we have a pretty good diet.  We do our best to get in some form of cardio exercise whether that be running, walking, or sitting and standing exercises.  In other words, we train up and strengthen our hearts to guard, to protect, and to prevent heart disease or heart problems.

Proper caring procedure

To preserve our spiritual heart, we must train it up – strengthen it and take great care of it.  What are you listening to and teaching yourself in your spirit?  Our spirit consumes what we see and hear, and from that what we consume (learn) will eventually turn into what we begin to conceive in our spirit.  And again, what we conceive in our spirit is what comes out of us.

We have seen how Solomon warned about keeping the presence of fools (the wicked). Solomon said (Prov. 14:7), “Go from the presence of a foolish (wicked) man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.”  Let’s remember that Solomon also told us to seek and listen to wise counsel (Prov. 1:5).  In what you listen to, do you hear sound doctrine or the whims of foolish doctrine?   We should always ensure that the doctrine that we hear or study is always doctrine that is sound.  It is sound doctrine when it is based on the way of God – (genuinely helping and genuinely loving others).

You see, we guard and protect our heart the most when we can stay focused on God.  When we set our heart on Him, desire to be like Him, and strive to live in His way, we are training up our spiritual heart the best we can to prevent it from falling.  We should focus on the Lord in our prayer and supplication, and continue to seek out understanding of Him (Phil. 4:7).  This is what eventually moves us to removing things like hate and malice from our heart.

For the last three Sundays I have been preaching to you about our heart.  I had a few goals in mind for each sermon because I value our spirits and believe we should recognize their importance.  My first goal:  I wanted us to see each other just as God sees us when He looks at us.  Second goal:  to recognize the spiritual warfare of today and to know that it is OK to fight for peace of mind!  Third goal:  to know that if you’re fighting for the soul, to do so in a manner that comes from a place of love and not hate.  My last goal: to show us that we need to guard and protect our heart above all other keeping.

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