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Have you heard the expression said “follow your heart” when it comes to making important decisions? I have heard it many times, sometimes from truly well intended sources too, the only problem is it’s terrible advice when you analyze closer. Why you ask? Well first of all let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about the heart:
“9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NKJV).
So immediately we observe that based on the Word of God our hearts are deceitful and wicked. We also see that God looks at man’s heart. While we observe the exterior and see how people act, God sees the interior and He judges the motivations of our hearts. Suddenly when we put 2 and 2 together like that it sounds a bit disconcerting doesn’t it? Fortunately, I believe we do have many silver linings, but the key is to rely on Jesus Christ for our identity and the continual purification of our hearts. We know that through Him we can be purified, observe what Matthew 5:8 has to say:
“8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” (NKJV). Matthew 5:8 (NKJV).
Not only are the pure in heart called blessed, but furthermore it says that they shall see God. We need to continually seek that our hearts be purified, and additionally we need to guard our hearts from being contaminated by the world. Check out what Proverbs has to add about this matter:
“23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV).
We need to be consistently aware to guard our hearts, because the Word of God is clear that our hearts are what “spring the issues of life”. In other words from the status of our hearts come our words, desire to resolve issues, love others, get involved, and the numerous other activities of day to day living that we all need to pay close attention to.
When we put all the pieces of the puzzle together it’s clear that on our own accord we are capable of nothing. By ourselves our hearts can easily be perturbed or made toxic. We may revel in pride or ego due to the admiration of our own talents or our capacity to attain more resources. We may also fail in allowing others to always trample over us, bottling up the emotion inside and letting those breed bitterness, grudges, or other forms of heartache. There is a time to allow someone to trample over you verbally and there is also a time to stand up for what you believe is right. Pray that God gives you the discretion to know the difference between each situation and I would recommend erring on the side of staying quiet and allowing someone to seemingly run you over. You never want to bring a knife to a gun fight, and humility is an underrated asset that is typically the path of least resistance. Despite this fact there are times in life where you’ll need or want to stand up for your priorities, even for Jesus Christ. Don’t allow those opportunities to make a stand for the gospel go under your radar, they’re valuable and can make a high impact for His kingdom.
Without straying too far off course, what our hearts need is nothing short of Jesus Christ Himself to repair us. We need to pray for consistent purification of our hearts. Ask God to purify your heart and not allow your mind to be conformed to the pattern of this world. To instead transform it by the renewing of your mind. This is one of the reasons why pornography is such a subtle, deadly trap. It causes us to enter a state of double-mindedness and adds problems involving anxiety, worry, annoyance, fear, depression, and bondage to sin. I myself have had a long standing issue with pornography that I pray God will break the chains of addiction by His grace for His glory. I cannot claim victory at this time, but I know that I will be and I don’t want to leave any more room for compromise. The good news is that I am consistently winning more battles. Rather than giving in on a day to day basis, I am going stretches of a week, weeks, or even months without giving into this depravity. It’s not complete deliverance, but it’s better than where I once was. I am confident that the work God has begun in me will be seen through to it’s completion. God is not in the business of leaving us astray when we’re answering His calling.
This is just one example of many sinful traps that could impact the heart, of course appealing to the insatiable appetite of the flesh has a negative impact on your heart. You’re allowing lust to pervade your thought life (mind) and your desires are contaminated by lust as well (heart). Both are closely intertwined in some respects, so when the Bible recommends that we ought to keep our heart with diligence because of how integral it is to keep it clean in order to resolve our life issues (paraphrasing Prov 4:23) we need to recall to keep our minds unexposed to perverse materials, questionable content, and generally speaking follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Our heart’s nature, and human nature in a nutshell as a result of that, gravitate towards what is evil. We are in a fallen state. We desperately need to rely on God day in and day out if we want to conquer these problems, because each day brings a new set of battles. That’s why when you’re dealing with conquering a habitual sin you cannot look too far out in the distance. It can look daunting to peer into the vast distance of a lifetime, but when we look at the length of one day, a few hours, or even 1 hour or less we can see that there’s a possibility of winning. That’s why the Bible instructs us to allow each day to worry about itself and not worry by ourselves. (V*1). We can see that when we rely on the strength of Jesus that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. (V*2).
Apart from asking God to purify our hearts in prayer and to help us not to conform to the pattern of this world but instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds there are some very specific strategies that we can employ every day to safeguard more diligently. We need to put on the full armor of God. The full armor of God is mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-20, which I will include in its’ entirety at the end of this article. (V*3). Equip yourself with the Helmet of Salvation in order to recall that you are a citizen of Heaven, your salvation is secure, and guard your mind. Also, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God itself. The thought and spoken Word of God, but I think also possibly even the written Word of God would qualify as being labeled the “Sword of the Spirit”. This is our chief offensive weapon against our adversary, the devil and his demons, and we should employ it on a regular basis. Spiritual warfare is a reality of this life whether people realize it or not. Recall that in a war if you are on the offense, chances are the enemy isn’t going to easily be able to counter-attack you. As this nugget of human wisdom would offer us, it is important to wield the Sword of the Spirit by keeping God’s word in our hearts and memorizing appropriate scripture for situations at hand in our lives. Recall a scripture of comfort such as “all things work out for good to those who put their trust in God and obey His commandments” (V*4) when you experience a brief period of doubt or “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (V*5) for situations where you feel weak or weary. Sometimes you will find a desire to verbalize these audibly, and other times you will be content in mentally recalling them and stating them in your mind. Each situation will dictate what you ought to do. Another important component of God’s full armor is the “Shield of Faith”, the Bible says that it extinguishes the fiery darts of the adversary.
This should remind us to constantly be vigilant and alert because the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Ask God to place each and every component on you in faith and trust that there is a purpose for all of them. “The Breastplate of Righteousness and Approval” should remind us that we are approved by God and that we aim to be righteous. Do not be overrighteous, for you don’t want to destroy yourself. Do not either be overwicked, for you don’t want to die before your time. Neither be overwise, because you don’t want to look highly on yourself. Aim to be righteous as God calls you, avoiding self-righteousness and following God’s calling. A place where you don’t worry about the opinion of people and you hate everyone compared to how much you love God. (V*6) Despite this you still love God and love people as the Bible ultimately commands are the two greatest commands (V*7). It’s a challenge to understand some portions of the Bible no doubt, but I believe what it means by not being overwise or overrighteous is that we ought not to show the full extent of our knowledge to everyone. There are some secrets that should be kept just between you and God for example. There are also instances that for a matter of personal security, you would not want someone to know everything you know about an operation or an event, because their knowledge that you know the full extent of it could be interpreted by them as being a liability to their success. In general just be tactful in how you comport yourself around others, I wouldn’t dwell on the word “overrighteous” too much, since we’re clearly aspiring to be as righteous as we can in practically every area. Also remember that we’re not to operate in a spirit of fear, you only want to fear God in a sense of awe, worship, trembling, and respect — in the common sense of the word fear you want to avoid it all together. Do not be afraid of anything or anyone, because when you fear God in the prior sense fear has no place in the mind or heart of any believer.
The “Girdle of Truth” is mentioned to guard our loins. Knowing God’s word without compromise. Don’t take my word for it, don’t take a popular evangelists point of view for it, open the Bible for yourself and read it with your own eyes resolving your own conclusions. There is no replacement for digesting your own Spiritual food. Certainly someone like me may shed some light on a matter once in a while. Most certainly a reputable evangelist such as Erwin Lutzer or John Piper may produce audio or video footage that may very well shake the foundations of what you thought about a verse or recommend fantastic ideas. That’s all very fine and dandy, but at the end of the day you should still be digging into the Word of God on your own and making sure that this is a consistent part of your life.
Finally, the “Sandals of the Gospel of Peace”, I believe should remind us of bearing good fruit. One of the fruit that we are called to bear as Christians is peace. This also reminds me of the others such as joy, long-suffering, and kindness to name a few among others. (V*8). We should also remember that scripture is clear if you are someone who is a peacemaker, you will be blessed. It’s in Matthew 5:9:
“9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9 (NKJV).
What an honor to be a child of God. The sandals remind me how important it is to follow in the footsteps and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even though such a standard is an impossibility for human achievement, don’t let that dissuade you from drawing closer to Him and attempting to live an excellent and praiseworthy life to His glory by His grace. On our own we are nothing, but with Him and the provisions that we can say He laid out for us we can be a great impact for the Kingdom of God.
Now that we’ve gone over a few of the defensive measures that should help us in the fight to guard our hearts, we should make it clear what it is to steer clear from. Pornography is obvious, or at least should be obvious to the majority of us, but what else might be a potent force to be averted?
In my view each Christian has to look to God and ask Him to unsear their conscience so that they may be more sensitive to what would grieve the Holy Spirit. We need to also be sensitive in a similar manner to our own personal shortcomings and temptations. For example, although we might all agree that porn is bad, there may be a certain range of agreement or disagreement as to what amount of violence is acceptable for us, our friends, or our children to partake in. Clearly our friends should be able to decide for themselves what they want to allow in their lives, but as for me and my future wife we need to choose for our children what is acceptable in their lives and set an example by not dwelling on that content ourselves. Another very important area is music. There is a scripture that hints that Lucifer (the devil before his fall), had something to do with worship and possibly music in heaven. (V*9). Knowing this we should be particularly aware of what music we allow in our homes. Secular music tends to glamorize sex, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, lust, instant gratification, and a host of other culprits to the status of our hearts. If we focus on Christian music or avoid most music all-together (a rough solution but a respectable one if Christian music doesn’t appease your personal decision-making) then at least we aren’t giving the devil that foothold where he can influence our minds and our vicinity (including the people nearby). Christian music has a wide range of genres where it touches these days, so it would be a surprise for there not to be something out there that captured your interest. Some of my favorites include the likes of Casting Crowns, Third Day, Hillsong United, TobyMac, Tenth Avenue North, and Jesus Culture just to name a few. Clearly in this short list there are already several genres represented, but overall it’s hard not to find something that will fit.
Movies are another area of great cultural influence that should not be ignored in the slightest. I personally tend to have a high tolerance for what movies I would be willing to watch, but I would respect a lower tolerance for them and also believe that I should evaluate my own preferences in movies. Perhaps I am overestimating my defenses, which are God’s defenses and when I recall include prayer before the films as well, but the question is this: Am I unecessarily exposing myself to filth that could be avoided? Is the marginal entertainment value provided by “X” film completely obliterated by its’ potential to offer pervasiveness and depravity. Does the substance provided by the film outweigh the possibility of personal harm? These are the questions that each person, or the parents of said person, need to ask themselves before entering each movie. It’s clearly a very subjective thing, I would not advocate a 13 year old entering into R rated movies today, but at that age I was already viewing them. I also think that at my age R rated movies were far different than what R movies are today. Clearly I turned out okay, but maybe at the time it was a negative Spiritual influence? It’s hard for me to tell, but God knows and skipping a few movies back then couldn’t have done me much more harm than some temporary disappointment.
The more we look at the long list of susceptibilities of men and women, the more we can see that we’ve got “fiery darts” coming towards us from all sorts of directions. I haven’t even delved into the possibility of how our circle of friends could impact our hearts. People that are consistently commenting negatively about your life or lifestyle despite your best intentions aren’t suggestable to keep around you. Neither do you want to surround yourself with people who only keep unrealistic optimism and fake smiles on their faces. What you want to surround yourself with are real friends who know your character and respect your stance on things in life. You’re not afraid to be yourself with them because you know that they won’t make a long-term judgment from a short-term situation. Clearly these are gem-like friends, they are few and far in between. Don’t expect to have more than your fingers full of friends that reach this kind of loyalty in your life. If you’ve got 2-5 you’re doing great, and if you’ve got closer to 10 I would be vastly impressed. Your 1,000+ FB friends aren’t going to all make the cut, sorry to give you the bad news now but you cannot even realistically keep up with that many people on a close level. Your hundreds or thousands of Twitter followers aren’t part of this group either. Maybe a few of them are, but that’s for you to decide and discern for yourself. Be content in God. When Jesus Christ is the only friend you need, nobody can steal your happiness. Your satisfaction is in the gratitude of being alive, because Jesus Christ gave you another day to live. Another day to follow His will in a life that all belongs to Him. Another opportunity to bank up heavenly treasures and obey Him because that’s where you find true satisfaction. When Jesus Christ is all you have, want, and need any other earthly friend or relative is a bonus. I have excellent parents, I am blessed beyond measure. Not everybody has excellent parents, but that doesn’t mean God hasn’t blessed you beyond measure as well.
Life is like an elaborate Poker game that none of us know the hole cards or board texture to. You’ve got two cards in your hand, and your best three cards from the board make your best five card hand. Don’t compare your hand to anybody elses, and remember you can start with the worst hand in Poker 27off-suit and still end up with a winner by the end (the river). The board comes out 75577, congratulations my friend you’ve just made four of a kind 7s. Guess who is in control of your hole cards and what board runs out in your life? God. So you can have full faith that no matter what trials, struggles, or tribulations you find yourself in there is a reason for it. You may be being refined in the fire of struggle as we speak, and you’re going to come out looking like a flawless diamond without any occlusions. Only God can do that, and He isn’t in the business of letting those who serve Him and believe in His Son Jesus Christ down.
Poker analogies aside, ultimately what I am trying to say is God is your best guide and you shouldn’t trust anybody else on that level. Keep in mind what God’s word says about the heart, but resolve to pray that God helps you to rectify that on a daily basis. You need open lines of communication with the King of Kings. The more you avoid sin, the easier that will be to achieve, and the better you’ll understand His character. How beautiful is that? If you do consider the advice of others in your life, whether it be close family, friends, acquaintances, or strangers — keep in mind the context in order to determine its’ validity and the possibility it is accurate for you in your life. If it is someone who has your best interests at heart, that’s fantastic, but remember they also have to know about what they’re talking about. I have had interactions with some family members who probably mean the best who don’t really know what they’re talking about. Not because they wished me wrong, but they simply didn’t understand the area of discussion or didn’t see eye to eye with me on the matter at hand. That’s perfectly fine, try not to offend them or discuss it and move on. Just as possible, a stranger who doesn’t really know you might have a moment of sincerity where he’s throwing out pearls of wisdom forward and gives you something that hits you in the face so hard you might as well have fallen on your butt. Don’t let those pearls get lost in the noise of life. Catch them when you get them, because God works in mysterious ways and He may be providing you with what you need from unlikely sources. In the end trust God above everyone for guidance, but remember He also employs other people in our lives to guide us on His behalf. Learn to sift through the good and the bad, so pray for wisdom, prudence, and discernment too. (Yes, that prayer list is getting longer and longer, better get on your knees.)
Lastly, just as other people have been and will continue to be a blessing to you in your life, be a blessing to them. We are to love God first and foremost, but the second commandment is to love people as you would yourself. Keep that in mind as you go forward and have opportunities to “pay it forward”, donate to worthwhile causes, or to spend time doing things for God’s glory.
V*1: 6 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34 (NKJV).
V*2: 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37 (NKJV).
V*3: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:10-20 (NKJV).
V*4: 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV).
V*5: 13 I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV).
V*6: 25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27 (NKJV).
V*7: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NKJV).
V*8: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV).
V*9: 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes Was prepared for you on the day you were created. Ezekiel 28:13 (NKJV).