Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Guard your Heart: Block the Evil, Bring in the Gold

Have you ever had a conversation or experience, or a moment in your life that you took to heart?

You took it to heart. It impacted you so deeply that it stayed with you through your whole life.

I remember numerous experiences in my life that I took to heart. It affected me in a way that it went deep down inside me. It went into my heart and changed my life forever.

There are also terrible negative experiences that I unfortunately “took to heart” as well and they damaged my heart. I'm sure the same is true for you.

But God can redeem anything. He can take something meant to hurt us and turn it into a testimony.

The goal every Sunday is that you would, during the service, take things to heart, whether it’s something said in a prayer, or a line from one of the worship songs, or a word during the sermon.

The goal is you would notice a nugget of truth throughout the service, and stop on it, and say: "That is something I’m going to take to heart."

So you see something very beautiful with growing Christians. They’ve gathered all these gold nuggets of truth, and fashioned them into beautiful things, and they are a tree decorated with hundreds of gold nuggets of biblical truth.

They’ve carefully listened to allow the word of God to really change their hearts over time.

I think we naturally have things that go into our mind from the message. That’s a good thing, we want knowledge for the mind, but something powerful happens when it hits the heart. Something in the message we "get." We realize how profound it is, and we allow it to sink into our heart.

Or not. 

That’s why you’ll see people who have gone to church for 30, 40, 50 years but they are still unsaved. It’s all gone in the mind. And it’s never gone into the heart. And so they’ve been in church for 40 years but they’ve never been changed by the message. They’ve never allowed it to go in.

There’s a scripture from Proverbs chapter 4 that helps us understand the heart.

It a prescription you might say, for a young believer, a prescription for good heart health.

What does your doctor say when you’re having heart issues? They give you a prescription. They give you a list of foods to eat, foods to not eat.

This is a prescription from God about how to minister to our hearts.

It says this, Proverbs 4:20-23, “My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.”

The first point today is that only God can really change your heart. If you don’t have Jesus in your heart today, then there’s no point in studying about how to keep your heart healthy or how to guard it or anything else, your heart is not able to do anything truly useful apart from Christ.

So what you’ve got to do is give your heart to Jesus right now, and invite God to change your heart.

As the scripture says, Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

That’s the cry of the psalmist, and it finds it’s completion in Jesus Christ.

It say again in Ezekiel 36:26 ESV, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

So if you have a stone heart today, but you feel Jesus tugging at your heart, invite Him in today, become born again, and then you’ll be able to consider the next steps.

The second point for today is that we want to “keep the word of God in our hearts.”

Now that Jesus has given us a new heart, our job is to continue to feed the word of our God into our hearts.

We do this by studying the word, praying the scriptures, listening to the word read aloud, and by listening to sermons and messages.

We allow the word to affect our hearts. Or we block it from our heart, and it all goes into the mind, and that knowledge puffs us up with pride. But we never change. That's dangerous. Don't block the word, let it in! 

The third point for today is to “guard your heart with all diligence, for all you do flows from it.”

There are many influences in the world. I often see Christians who are young in their faith and they get stuck. They get stuck in sins. They get stuck in their walk. They stop growing.

And often what I see is that they’ve got a spout, a faucet running into the heart, and what’s coming from that faucet is filth and slime. And it’s pouring like a mighty river into their heart. And then they are shocked that they aren’t growing and are living double-minded and trapped in sin.

Turn off that spout! What is that spout? It’s the influences of the world that are being poured into your heart from television, movies, news media, radio, billboards, wrong friendships, wrong relationships, and worldly influences. You’ve got to turn off those sources and replace them all with Christian content, Christian movies, Christian sermons, Christian radio, Christian friendships, and Christian influences.

And as you do, you turn off the bad spigot and you turn on the pure spigot, and instead of filth, pure living water of God’s word is flowing into your heart and pretty soon you begin to grow in your faith once again.

Guard your heart. That’s the goal. Don’t let those things into your heart. Because once something gets control of your affections it’s very hard to get rid of, only Jesus can remove it once it’s there.

I’ll give you an example, at one point in my life, I let drugs into my heart. I really loved drugs. And once it’s there, something loved and cherished, it’s very hard to get rid of. I had to go to treatment, detox, and pray, and seek God, and it was a whole ordeal to get rid of it.

Another example, is you’ll see a woman who falls in love with a guy and she lets him into her heart. This is a beautiful thing when it’s done in marriage and happens in God’s will. But sex traffickers have discovered, that if they can get a woman to fall in love with them, they can then control that woman later, and turn them into a prostitute, and force them to work for them.

That’s the power of what we let into our hearts.

Next point, God can set you free even if it’s in your heart. So if you’ve allowed something into your heart that has control, surrender it to God, he can set you free. You may need treatment though. You may a need a bit of detox. You may need to go deep with a counselor or pastor. But don’t give up hope. You can be free.

So to review, let God’s word go deep into the heart.

At the same time guard your heart, because sin is knocking at the door, trying to get us addicted.

But there’s more to that scripture in Proverbs 4, in verses 24-27 it says, “Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

Have you ever seen an old castle from the medieval era? There’s the main keep, and surrounding the keep is a wall, but then there is another longer wall along the outside, sort of a second line of defense.

Your heart is the keep. And you must guard it with the inner wall.

But there is a second level of defense, an outer wall, and here we see what the outer wall is. It's your senses. And there are gates where your senses take in information along the wall. We must guard these gates carefully. 

First, we need to guard the mouth gate.

Guard what you speak. I know this one from experience. I’ve been free from cussing for a while now. But there’s been a few times over the years where I got very upset and let a cuss out.

And it’s amazing how hard it was to get it gone again. Once you start cussing, or slandering others, or gossiping, it’s very hard to stop.

The word says the tongue is, "set on fire by hell." Once hell sets it afire, only a cold splash of the Holy Spirit can put it out. Without God's help, it just goes, burns and burns, like a blazing fire.

Guard what you say. Guard the mouth gate. Because once the mouth is uttering garbage, it’s hard to get it to stop, and that gate can lead to the inner gate, the heart.

It also says guard your eyes. “25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”

Watch what you look at! That’s another pathway for the enemy to get bad things into your heart.

Guard the eye gate.

Watch what you look at. Watch what movies you view. Watch what you focus on. Keep your focus on the goal, which is Jesus Christ, and the gospel message.

I watched a movie recently, very popular, but I knew there was a nude scene in it somewhere. But I really wanted to see the movie, it was historical and interesting. So I carefully watched the movie trying to guard against the nude scene, but sure enough, it came on so quickly I couldn't block it, and even to this day that image remains in my mind of that scene. How terrible! We can't unsee the things we see. We can be forgiven. But our mind remembers. 

Lastly, guard your pathways, the place you go.

It says Proverbs 4:26-27, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

You know what they say, if you hang out at the barber shop long enough you’ll end up getting a haircut.

Guard the Foot gate.

Don’t hang out with the wrong people. Don’t hang out in the wrong places. Follow God’s leading for your life. You’ll know if you aren’t in the right place. You’ll know because God will tell you. You will sense it, "something isn't right here."

Don’t turn to the left or right, keep walking the path God has for you. That is the challenge in life.

Don’t get distracted. Keep walking God’s pathway. That’s another gate, where you go, where you walk, where you step, a gate that you must guard.

Guard the outer gates, your senses. Guard the inner gate, your heart. Allow in the right content, block the wrong content, and you will be stable as Christian. You'll gain victory over double-mindedness. You'll become a single-minded Christian. But if you allow in the filth along with the pure, you'll always find yourself double-minded and as a consequence, unstable in your walk with Christ. 

Review of Main Points:

1. Only God can truly change your heart (through Jesus Christ)

2. Keep the Word of God in your heart (Let the message affect your heart)

3. Guard your heart with all diligence (Block the filth from your heart)

4. God can remove something bad from your heart (Surrender it to Him)

5. Guard the Mouth Gate (Speak life, guard against evil speech)

6. Guard the Eye Gate (Look at what is good, avoid what is evil)

7. Guard the Foot Gate (Follow God’s path, avoid dangerous situations)