Above all else, guard your heart, it is the wellspring of life.
I take guarding my heart and mind seriously. There are lots of television programs, movies, music, and magazines that I won’t watch, or listen to, or read. If I want to be saturated and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the last thing I want to do is to suppress him with ungodly and ungracious clamour.
I want to understand and interact with people in our society in relevant, meaningful, generous, and loving ways, but watching and listening to unwholesome programs, and thinking about ungodly and worldly things, can give the enemy a faith-destroying foothold into our lives.
The Bible gives us good advice about how we can guard our hearts.
1. We can guard our hearts and minds through the knowledge of God’s word.
Knowing the Bible well is key. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews has said,
Solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:14
Paul says in Romans 16:19 that God wants us to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (Compare this with 1 Cor. 14:20.) We do not need a comprehensive understanding of the Kingdom of Darkness to be able to recognise and defeat its forces. Rather, we need to be wise about God and his ways, and lead lives that are informed, guided, edified, and empowered by his Word and his Holy Spirit.
2. We can guard our hearts and minds through prayer and noble thoughts.
Paul promises that God will guard our hearts and minds when we submit everything to him in prayer (Phil. 4:6-7). Paul continues this theme of a guarded heart and mind in the very next verse:
. . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or worthy of praise – think about these things. Philippians 4:8
If we are constantly desiring worldly things, and thinking worldly, shallow, and mean-spirited thoughts that don’t include God, we are letting our guard down. Instead, we should follow Paul’s advice:
Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on worldly things. Colossians 3:1-2
3. We can guard our hearts and minds through holy and consecrated living.
As well as virtuous thoughts, we also need to live virtuous lives. As representatives of Jesus and his Kingdom, we need to set high standards for ourselves in regard to faith, love, generosity, and holiness. In several of Paul’s letters, he urges the believers to live their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Eph. 4:1; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12).
Many modern Christians seem to have lost the desire to live holy and helpful lives that are consecrated to God. I wonder why that is? When was the last time we heard a message about keeping our hearts and minds pure?
God calls us to nothing less than holiness (Eph. 5:26-27; 1 Pet. 1:15-16). We were “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This is a high calling!
However, while it is important that as we aim for personal holiness, we need to be careful that we don’t impose our standards on others or judge others who do not share our aspirations. We must let God do the sanctifying work in ourselves and in others, and this work takes time.
God calls us to offer up our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Him, and not to be conformed to the pattern of this world. This necessitates having our minds transformed and renewed. Only then can we discern and know God’s perfect will, and only then can we respond to his will accordingly (Rom. 12:1-2).
It is easier for God to work through us, speak to us, and bless us when we are living righteous and obedient lives (Jas 5:16b). Conversely, this kind of life makes it more difficult for the enemy to influence our hearts and minds.
4. We can invite and allow God to guard our hearts and minds.
As well as the external evil influences that threaten to infiltrate and sully our hearts and minds, we must also be on our guard from our own internal sinful pressures.
Jeremiah, in perhaps a dark moment, observed,
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
But God answered his question with reassurance:
“I the LORD, search the heart and examine the mind.” Jeremiah 17:10
When we continually offer our heart and mind to God, he will search it and sanctify it with his Holy Spirit. King David wrote,
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me . . . Psalm 139:23-24
Paul wrote rhetorically about internal struggles with sin. He wrote that it is only God, through Jesus, who can rescue a person from his inherent sinful nature (Rom. 7:15-25). Only God can cleanse our hearts and minds, but we need to cooperate with his work.
Paul was committed to guarding his heart and his mind and making every thought captive to (under the control of) Jesus! (2 Cor. 10:5). This happens when we are led by the Spirit and live God’s way.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6
A mind and heart set on God is a peaceful, trusting heart. Isaiah 26:3
I am committed to being close to God and living for him. I don’t want anything to jeopardise that. So I am also committed to guarding my heart.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8