Saturday, January 24, 2009

guard your heart

Above all else guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk from your lips.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
-Proverbs 4:23-27

I was looking for something in my Bible the other day when I ended up stopping and dwelling on these verses for a while. There is so much practical and important truth in them. I honestly think that sometimes the simplest truths are the most important ones. But we tend to move quickly past them in search of the deeper, more complicated stuff. I want to spend some time on these verses, and the simple truth they contain.

The first truth and instruction is to guard your heart above all else. What we allow to influence our minds will have an impact on our hearts, which affects how we live. Think about it: When we are surrounded by negative things in the music we listen to, the TV and movies we watch, and even the people we spend time with, what happens? That negativity that we have surrounded ourselves with infiltrates our minds and we begin to see everything negatively.As our minds become negative, so do our hearts. And ultimately what is in our hearts is how we live, so this negativity becomes the basis for our interactions with others and for our attitudes.
Because of this, we must heed carefully the advice given in this first verse. We must guard our hearts at all costs. If we do not it will have a huge impact on our lives.
How do we guard our hearts? First and foremost, we must be filling our minds with things that are good - with the things of God. We must be active in seeking out the good and things that please God, so that our hearts are filled with them. Secondly, we must evaluate everything we be tempted to allow in. This means taking an honest look at our books, movies, and TV shows to see what kind of influence they have on us. We may even need to look at the people we are spending the majority of our time with.

The next verse seems like it should be rather easy, but in reality it isn't as easy as it seems. Keep corrupt and perverse talk away from you lips. It is much more difficult than it sounds because we are surrounded by this kind of speech that we want to avoid everyday in our culture. When it becomes normal for us to hear, it can begin to become normal for us to say, even though we know that we should not be.
Keeping our speech pure can also be helped by paying attention to what we are listening to everyday. If we are spending time with people, watching TV and movies, and listening to music that is full of speech we should be staying away from, then we may find it more difficult to do so. I don't want to come across as saying that we should never spend time with people whose language isn't clean - just that we need to be careful.
When it comes to keeping away from corrupt and perverse speech, I think this also includes gossip. It is probably the biggest thing that followers of Christ can struggle with. It is easy to talk about people, and I think we often do under the guise of sharing a prayer request. Think about it the next time you are going to say something about someone who isn't there: If this person were here would I still say this? If the answer is no, you probably shouldn't be saying it without them there.

The final three verses really seem to go together. They talk about staying on the path that we should walk. Our goal is eternal life with God and our eyes need to be fixed on God. Our eyes need to remain focused on our goal, without wavering. It is when our eyes wander that we leave our firm path and swerve to one side or the other. It must be our daily choice to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as we walk the path that He has laid out for us.
As the author of Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I pray that this challenged you as you spent time looking and thinking about some of the more basic truths and commands of Scripture.

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