Sunday, March 7, 2021

Keep a Close Watch on your Heart

The “Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as "the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity," "the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will," and "the center of a person. The place to which God turns."
-J. Stowell, Fan The Flame, Moody, 1986, p. 13.

Tell me about your heart and I’ll know who you really are. Not who you pretend to be in front of people. But who you really are, when no one is looking. The heart is the place from which you make your decisions. Your heart is the center of your being. Now we’re not talking about the muscle that beats in your chest and guides blood around your circulatory system. But it’s a good comparison. The heart is the center of your blood flow, and your blood is your life. Similarly the heart in scripture, is the center of who we truly are and is of great concern to God.

Jesus was once challenged by the Pharisees because he did not have his disciples wash their hands before eating. They said this made them defiled. Jesus responded this way:

Matthew 15:18-20 ESV “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

So out of our hearts comes who we truly are and we speak it out. And it either reveals that we have a good heart, or a wicked heart.

It’s interesting that in the book of wisdom proverbs we’re told to: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” -Proverbs 4:23 ESV

So that’s our challenge for today. I want you to learn today how to “keep a careful guard around your heart.”

Hebrews 12:14-15 “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”

We see this word in scripture episkopos, which challenged us to watch over our hearts in case of bitterness. In the Greek it means “to look or to watch over.” It’s actually the same word in 1st Timothy 3:1 that is given to a bishop who keeps watch over a group of churches. So we’re challenged to watch over our hearts and our reactions in the same way that a bishop keeps careful watch over the churches under their care.

And here’s a very important point: We are not victims of what comes out of our hearts and minds. We’re the stewards commanded to keep watch over our hearts and minds. So we’re not victims, if we find evil coming out of our hearts, it’s because we’ve made bad choices.

You have the choice, about what you’re going to put into your heart and mind. And you’re the one responsible, by the Spirit’s leading, to think the right thoughts, and have the right attitude about life.

Often times we are tempted to blame our bad attitudes, resentments, or negative feelings on others, or on life. But plain and simple, we are the ones responsible for our thoughts and emotions.

If my thoughts are very negative, or bitter, or hostile to others, or irritable, then it’s my responsibility to begin to bring change in what I’m doing and thinking and how I’m approaching life. .

Some of us here can sometimes be quite negative. We can often have a bitter outlook on life. And it’s up to us, with God’s great help, to begin to change how we think and react to situations.

Keep watch over your heart, and what you’re thinking about. You have the choices to make. Am I watching gory movies? Am I constantly buzzed on the news, constantly taking in all the bad news? Am I watching pornography and then shocked when my heart has twisted views toward the opposite sex? Am I lying to people, and then surprised that our hearts are bitter? Let’s change our behavior, let’s change the words we speak, let’s change what we’re doing, and replace it with closeness with God, and study of His word and prayer, and watch how God begins to change our hearts.

Episkopos your heart. Keep careful watch over your heart. Your heart is like a garden. Have you ever seen a really beautiful garden? It’s carefully tended, all the rows set just right. There are flowers dotting the outside, and the dirt is well watered. The plants are strong, and fences are built to protect the plants against animals. My grandma had a beautiful garden growing up. She tended is very, very carefully. She had boards you could walk on to go deep into the garden. She had beautiful flowers along the outside, and within there were various crops, corn, peas, radishes, pumpkins, squash, and my favorite part, the raspberry plants. But she was always out there, working in the garden.

And it’s the same with your heart. If you keep careful watch to tend your heart, your heart will be in good shape to walk closely with God.

As the word says, Matthew 5:8 ESV “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

If you keep careful watch over your heart, pulling out the weeds and keeping away the predators, you’ll be one who trusts God, as in Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Ultimately, none of us would have any chance to have a pure heart if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ our savior. He’s the one whose made us born again, and replaced our rocky bitter heart with a new soft heart of love.

But it’s our duty as we walk in the Holy Spirit, to keep a careful episkopos, a careful watch over our hearts, as a bishop watches over their churches.

As the word says, Proverbs 21:2 ESV “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”

We look at our ways, and we think, it’s all good. But God looks past our ways, right to our hearts.

Honor God by keeping a watch on your heart. Protect the garden of your heart, pull up the weeds now, and build the fences to keep out the foxes.

Discussion Questions:

1. In what ways have you seen God change your heart?

2. How do you keep a careful watch on your heart?

3. If you sometimes struggle with a negative attitude, how can you become more positive?

4. Do you have unforgiveness in your heart toward someone who hurt you? Offer them forgiveness right now.