Phil Cox


(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)

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Above all else Guard your heart

20th April 2006

In my last column, we looked briefly at Proverbs 4:20-22, which says this:

My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely 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 a man’s whole body.

It may surprise you to know that in the next verse says:

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

This is the first thing the writer says after telling us to pay close attention to what he says. So it must be important! And it starts with the phrase "Above all else". So it really is important!

And it says "guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life".

Is that what you would have expected the writer to say first and above all else? Let me ask you:

  • How much thought do you give to guarding your heart?
  • When was the last time you thought of your heart as being the wellspring of life?

Christians get confused about their hearts. We're not sure what we're supposed to think about our hearts. Are our hearts good or bad? Here's a couple of scriptures that might help us out:

Ezekiel 36:24-27
"‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Many of us are familiar with these passages, but maybe we haven't noticed that they teach us that, if we are truly born again into God's family, then:

  • We have been washed clean
  • We have been given new hearts
  • We have been given the Holy Spirit
  • God Himself works in us to make us want to obey His laws
  • God's Law has been inscribed on our new hearts
  • We all have a real personal relationship with God
  • We really have been forgiven all of our sins

This is good news! In particular (for today) if you're a Christian, then God has ALREADY given you a new, soft heart and He has already written His law on that heart - that's why your sins bother you so much.

Now, understanding that our hearts are God-given and good (although there is still an impulse towards sin in our flesh) we need to understand what the writer of Proverbs was saying:

This new heart that you have been given is the wellspring of your life.

It follows that the degree to which you enjoy the abundant life that Jesus came to give you (John 10:10) depends on how healthy your heart is.

So - Guard your heart:

  • From temptation
  • From discouragement
  • From strife
  • From accusation

How do we guard our hearts? Here are a few ways to start.

Firstly Choose what you do - Practice obedience

Proverbs 10:8
The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

Proverbs 10:17
He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.

Proverbs 12:1
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

Practice a life of of truth and righteousness. So much of the effectiveness of false accusations and abuse is lost to our enemy when we are living in righteousness and know that we are.

Ephesians 6:14
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place

And so much of the power of lies is lost when we hold on to our faith in Christ.

Ephesians 6:16
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Secondly, Live at peace

Proverbs 14:30
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 15:16-17
Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.
Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.

Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Thirdly, choose what you say - be wise in what you say to whom

Proverbs 9:7-9
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

Give encouragement to others, and spend time with others who encourage you.

Proverbs 15:30
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

Fourthly, take pleasure in what is good, and not is what is cruel or dirty

Proverbs 10:23
A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.

Proverbs 10:32
The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.

Fifthly, choose what you listen to

Proverbs 18:21
The tongue has the power of life and death.

Hear what the psalmist says:

Psalm 57:4
I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts — men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

Psalm 59:7
See what they spew from their mouths — they spew out swords from their lips.

Psalm 64:3
They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows.

But on the other hand:

Proverbs 15:4
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 12:18
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Who do you listen to? Guard your heart, listen to those who build you up, not those who tear you down.

These are just a few ideas to get you going. There's probably too much here for you to remember from one reading. And there's lots more that I haven't put in this article. But the principle is vitally important:

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.