By Irvin Himmel
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).
A person’s outlook depends on the state of his heart, not outward circumstances. One may be cheerful in the face of depressing conditions, or he may be miserable in the face of encouraging conditions. One’s character depends on the state of his heart.
Why The Heart Needs Guarding
The following are a few basic reasons why everyone needs to keep watch over his heart:
(1) Thoughts are formed there. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts. . .” (Matt. 15:19). The word of God is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. . . ” (Prov. 23:7). “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (Matt. 9:4) Since all thinking is done in the heart, it must be guarded with all vigilance.
(2) Purposes are planned there. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat. . . ” (Dan. 1: 8). “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give” (2 Cor. 9:7). Barnabas exhorted the new converts at Antioch “that with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord” (Acts 11:24). Whether good or bad, all purposes and plans are made in the heart.
(3) Desires are produced there. “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire. . . ” (Psa. 10:3). “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psa. 37:4). Paul said, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Rom. 10: 1). Desires arise in the heart, hence it must be guarded carefully.
(4) Decisions are reached there. All determinations, judgments, and conclusions are made in the heart. “Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God. . .” (Deut. 4:39). “Judge in yourselves. . . ” (1 Cor. 11:13). “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed. . . ” (Psa. 57:7). All the reasonings, ponderings, and considerations on which decisions are based, and all the verdicts reached, call for guarding against wrong conclusions.
(5) Actions are generated there. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: Ali these evil things comes from within, and defile the man” (Mk. 7:21-23). “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Lk. 6:45). The words of the mouth and the deeds of the life are but a reflection of the heart. Whatever else might be worth guarding, the heart demands close watchfulness.
How to Keep the Heart
Each person must be his own heart keeper. Someone else might serve as his housekeeper, shopkeeper, or ground keeper, but no one else can be the sentinel of his heart.
(1) Keep the understanding. Solomon asked that he be given an “understanding heart” (1 Kgs. 3:9). God gave him “a wise and understanding heart. ” But in later years Solomon did not guard his heart. He married foreign women who “turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kgs. 11:4). The proper way to guard the understanding is to keep the mind enlightened by the word of God.
(2) Keep the will. The volition is that faculty of the heart that purposes, chooses, and decides. To guard it is to keep it in submission to God’s authority. “. . Not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk. 22:42).
(3) Keep the memory. This is the part of the heart that stores information. It should be kept free of rubbish and stocked with valuables. The Israelites remembered the onions and garlic that they had in Egypt and forgot the mighty power of God.
(4) Keep the conscience. This is the faculty of the heart that approves or condemns. Paul was careful “to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16).
(5) Keep the emotions. All our feelings and passions must be controlled according to the will of God. Holy emotions should be stirred by the promises of the gospel. “Rejoice in the Lord alway. . . ” (Phil. 4:4).
Every faculty of the heart must be kept under constant watchfulness. “The power to talk straight, look straight, and to walk straight comes only from the heart that is right with God” (George Kufeldt).
The Wellsprings of Life
The heart is like a reservoir which feeds the streams which flow from it. Whatever is in the well of the heart will show up in the bucket of deeds.
If the source, whether a fountain, spring, or reservoir, is polluted, the streams which flow from it will be polluted. A corrupt heart produces a corrupt life.
The heart is the control center of one’s life. There can be no real change in character without a change in heart.
“Fill your heart so full of the word of God that it becomes the controlling force of your life. This is the secret of the easy way to speak and to live as you should. . . ” (R.L. Whiteside).
Unbelief makes the heart evil and leads it away from God. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:12).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 8, p. 232
April 17, 1986