Proverbs 4:23 gives us this instruction: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV). To guard and keep your heart means to protect what comes in and goes out. You have to constantly be on guard and keep your heart with all vigilance because it’s the command center for all your words, actions, and desires.
John Flavel, an old Puritan pastor, used the example of guarding your heart like a besieged garrison with enemies on the outside and treacherous citizens on the inside. The imagery is dated, but the idea is good, so let me run with it in a modern equivalent.
Before I was a follower of Christ, I had an unguarded and rebellious heart that engaged in all types of trivial activities. My heart was like a frat house that partied hard (no offense to good wholesome fraternities). I had no restraints on the anger and foul language that came out and that I let in. I had no guard on the amounts of sexual immorality that I expressed and invited in. Greed came out of my heart and freely welcomed new greedy ideas. There was freedom for sin to come out of my corrupt heart and to come in to corrupt it even more. The trivial life abounded.
Then Jesus demolished and removed my frat-house heart and gave me a new “White House” heart. The imagery I moved from was an everything-goes frat house to a heavily guarded “White House” (one of the most guarded homes in the country). My heart is now purified and the Holy Spirit lives in me and enables me to guard my heart (house). By God’s grace, I am now to be vigilant in guarding what comes in and out of my heart (house). I must not let in sexually immoral images. I must keep out offers of greed and anxiety. They may knock but they aren’t getting in.
I must also keep my heart guarded against rebellion within. It’s as if I see my heart filled with these rooms of indwelling sin. One room is for anxiety, another for sexual immorality, and another for greed, and on and on. They often want to deceive me and get out and run free. That is why I must be brutal with them and bring the heat of the gospel and put them to death (Romans 8:13). Greed will come out of his room and roam the halls and tell me that guys my age are cashing in and I’m missing out. Then I see an ad for a “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” seminar, which is basically telling me that I’m the lame, poor dad. The combination of the internal and external attacks can cause greed to spill out all over the place. That’s why I must guard my heart both internally and externally.
If you are a believer, your heart is now purified and the Holy Spirit lives in you and enables you to guard your house (heart). By God’s grace, you can now be vigilant in guarding what comes in and out of your heart in your words, actions, and desires.
Proverbs 15:28 tells us: “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”
The heart of a wise person speaks with timely, appropriate, and wise words. But the opposite is seen in the fool who gushes out junk and triviality. Your words reveal your heart condition. If your words are foolish and hurt others, you don’t have a word problem—you have a heart problem. Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” If you tend to be cutting and sarcastic toward others, it might be helpful to explore what is lurking inside your heart that causes you to go off.
Your actions are derived from your heart. Following a discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus put it like this in Mark 7:20–23, in the context of what defiles a person, not clean or unclean foods but the heart:
And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The heart is the root issue of all these evil and trivial behaviors. Again, what is going on inside your heart that causes you to act in ways you later regret?
Proverbs 6:25 teaches: “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes.” This is a father instructing his son how to avoid adultery. He warns against letting the imagination go wild in his heart. The words of Jesus in Matthew 5:28 concur: “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It’s much easier to let the mind and imagination go wild than to guard against the temptations that happen in the heart. An unguarded heart will always go back to its trivial default mode unless guarded on a daily basis.
Excerpted from The Trivial Life by Jason S. Lancaster