This article is also available in Urdu here.
Above all else, guard your heart,
It is the wellspring of life.
I take guarding my heart and mind seriously. There are lots of TV 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 worldly, ungodly clamour.
While I want to understand and interact with people in our society in relevant and meaningful ways, I believe that watching, listening and thinking about worldly things can give the enemy a faith-destroying foothold into our lives.
The Bible gives us lots of good advice about how we can guard our hearts.
1. We can Guard our Hearts and Minds through the Knowledge of God’s Word
Our heart is who we are, so we must take care to guard it against the corrupting influences that are everywhere in our world. We must shrewdly discern the subtle (and not so subtle) voices that are constantly presenting seemingly appealing ideologies, which are in fact, opposed to God. We must train ourselves, through the Scriptures, to discern good from evil (Psalm 119:11).
Solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:14
Romans 16:19 says 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 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, by going on to say:
. . . 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 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, 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, consecrated lives for 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. Ephesians 4:24
This is a high calling! However, it is important that as we aim for personal holiness, that we don’t impose our standards on others, or judge others who do not share similar standards or aspirations.
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, because 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 much easier for God to work through us, speak to us, and bless us, when we are living righteous, obedient lives (Jas 5:16b). And it is also much more difficult for the enemy to influence the hearts and minds of such people.
4. We can 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 observes that:
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9). God reassuringly answers this question in the next verse: “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 (or under the control of) Jesus! (2 Cor. 10:5). This can only happen when we live God’s way, being led by the Spirit.
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 (Isa. 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.