Proverbs 4:23–26 instructs believers to, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. 25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”
When Solomon refers to guarding the heart, he really means the inner core of a person, the thoughts, feelings, desires, will, and choices that make that person who he/she is. The Bible tells us that our thoughts often dictate who we become (Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee; Proverbs 27:19 As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man). The mind of a man reflects who he really is, not simply his actions or words. That is why God examines the heart of a man, not simply his outward appearance and what he appears to be (1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart).
Just as there are many diseases and disorders that can affect the physical heart, there are many ailments of the spiritual heart that can impair growth and development as a believer. Atherosclerosis is a hardening of the arteries due to accumulated cholesterol plaques and scarring in the artery walls. Hardening of the spiritual heart can also occur. Hardening of the heart occurs when we are presented with God’s truth, and we refuse to acknowledge or accept it.
Although Egypt was stricken with one calamity after another when the pharaoh refused to release the Israelites from their bondage, he hardened his heart against the truth that God Almighty intended to deliver His people from Egypt
Exodus 7:22 And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the Lord had said.
Exodus 8:32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
Exodus 9:34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
In Psalm 95:7–8 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden, not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
King David pleaded with his people not to harden their hearts in rebellion against God as they did in the wilderness. There are many things that can harden the heart and lead a person to deny God, and just like cholesterol blocks blood flow, they keep a believer from having a free flow of God’s peace and blessings derived from obedience. Guarding against a rebellious spirit and cultivating a spirit of submissive obedience to God’s Word, therefore, is the first step in guarding the heart.
Heart murmurs are abnormal flow patterns due to faulty heart valves. Heart valves act as doors to prevent the backward flow of blood into the heart. Spiritual heart murmurs occur when believers engage in complaining, gossip, disputes, and contention. Believers are instructed many times to avoid grumbling, murmuring, and complaining
- Exodus 16:3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
- John 6:43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
- Philippians 2:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
By engaging in these activities, believers shift their focus away from the plans, purposes, and past blessings of God to the things of the world. God sees this as a lack of faith, and without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Instead, Christians are instructed to strive for contentment in all things, trusting in God to provide what is needed in His good time (Hebrews 13:5). Guarding against a complaining spirit and cultivating a spirit of gratitude and trust is the second step toward guarding the heart.
Congestive heart failure is an inability of the heart to successfully pump blood through the body due to weaknesses within its walls. Congestive heart failure can result from hypertension (high blood pressure), myocardial infarctions (heart attacks), and abnormal enlargement of the heart. The spiritual equivalents are anger, giving in to temptation, and pride. Anger acts like a poison on the body, both physically and spiritually, and makes a believer more vulnerable to the temptation to hurt others with our actions and words. Ephesians 4:31–32 instructs, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Every Christian is locked in a constant, intense war with demonic forces. Many of us become so intent on fighting the external spiritual war that we forget that much of our battle is not with external forces, but with our own mind and thoughts. James 1:14–16 tells us, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.” Sin always begins in the mind. A sinner must first conceive and dwell on the sinful action before he actually carries it out. The first line of defence, therefore, must be to refuse to even contemplate a wrongful action. The apostle Paul tells us to take every thought captive so that it conforms to the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:3–5 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;).
Proverbs 16:18 tells us Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:5, says, “Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.”
Pride was the first great sin of Satan when he thought that he could be like God and incited one-third of the angels to attempt a coup in heaven (Ezekiel 28:17). For this reason, Satan was cast from heaven. Satan also tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden by appealing to her ego. He said, “For God knows that when you eat from [the forbidden tree] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve desired to be as wise as God, so she capitulated to Satan’s advice to eat of the fruit of the tree. Pride was, therefore, the downfall of man, as well. Satan did not want the man to obey God but to become his own god—determining for himself reality, meaning, and ethics. This satanic philosophy is the foundational philosophy of sorcery, secular humanism, and New Age mysticism.
Avoiding anger, pride, and temptation are also critical elements of guarding the heart. The apostle Paul instructs us, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). Dwelling on these things will help to build a guard fence around our hearts.