Summary: A message on the nature of the heart and how crucial it is to protect it and fill it with Scripture.

Trinity Baptist Church May 28, 2006

Guard Duty

Proverbs 4:23

Imagine a mountain village sitting at a high elevation. The little village is situated such that its water resources are very limited. Aside from collected rain water, it has only one source -- a sparkling clear, spring-fed lake just up from the village. Every person and animal in the village gets drinking water from that lake. Water for cooking, washing, crops -- and every other need, comes from that single source. There’s no where else to get the life-sustaining substance.

Because it’s the lone source, that spring-fed pool is essential and valuable. Every attempt is therefore made to protect it from any kind of pollution -- because of the significant impact the pollution would be so significant to everyone.

The Bible describes your heart in a similar way. It informs us that the heart is a critical center of life which touches and impacts all we are and all we do.

Scripture also paints a complex picture of human hearts. Your heart is the “real” you -- it’s everything we mean when we describe the inner person. The heart encompasses mind, emotions and will. But the Bible doesn’t ony address our hearts’ complexity -- it tells us they’ve been compromised and damaged.

Hearts are twisted because of the disease of sin. Jesus said in Matthew 15:19 -- it‘s the heart which churns out murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and slander. There’s more bad news.

In the OT Jeremiah wrote The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve. (Jeremiah 17:9, 10)

Jeremiah says, my heart is not just subverted by sin but it also has great capacity to deceive and be deceived. I can fool others. What’s even more amazing, I can even fool myself.

In it’s base state, God‘s Word says, no one can really know us as we really are -- we can’t even know ourselves.

So, I may assume I know my own heart -- but very often, I don’t. That’s why we say things, like, “I can’t believe I have such thoughts” or, “I didn’t know I was capable of that.“ Thomas Hobbes said, “The secret thoughts of a man run over all things holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave and light, without shame or blame.”

So my heart is complex -- and it’s twisted. But it also holds great power. The Bible describes the heart as inner capacity through which God connects us to Himself in worship and relationship or, my heart becomes the place where that relationship can be betrayed.

That happens when the heart is drawn away from Him. As a Christian, my heart becomes the core of God’s spiritual work. But all the way back in Deuteronomy 30 God warned us that the heart can get turned -- and move us toward sin, and finally it says, we’ll end up bowing to illegitimate altars.

So the heart isa critical component of our beings which we obviously can’t ignore. There’s a command tucked into Proverbs 4 -- and it provides us a major step to being “heart healthy”. That’s what I want to look at this morning. Jump back to Proverbs 4, with me, to verse 23. It appears as part of a plea for the reader to pursue God’s Wisdom: in the middle of that plea, it says, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

First, the proverb tells us that

1. Protecting your heart is of highest priority.

The writer says Above all else. The original language is literally, above all keeping, keep your heart. Above everything else you might value -- value enough to take care of and post guard over -- your heart ought to be at the top of that list because of the vast consequences.

The most obvious reason for that top-of-the-list priority is that you have no other resource like your heart -- in nature or capacity or impact.

Let’s go back to that pristine lake. Why wouldn’t the village permit dairymen to let the cows graze nearby? Why not create jobs by letting a nice chemical factory build up there and dump their waste into it. Because the single, critical source touches all of life. The Proverb says -- listen -- that’s the issue with your heart.

Like I said, your heart is the most intimate and the most real part of you. It’s at the core of your being, the real component of who and what you are -- it sets your attitudes, drives your motives, determines your mind-set, houses your convictions and steers your emotions -- all of those and more are governed and stirred by the source that is your heart.

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