Proverbs 4:23: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (New Living Translation)
or “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (English Standard version).
Your heart is the central and innermost part of you where moral activity takes place and therefore includes your soul; emotions, intellect and mind. If one has a pure heart, then it means that one lives devoted to God and for the sole purpose of glorifying Him. God’s nature is to look at man’s heart while man has the tendency to focus on outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7).
This is why our pious acts of worship and involvement in church ministry do not impress God if we are living secret sinful lives or in hypocrisy. He takes our heart condition before Him very seriously.
When I think of this verse in the bible (Prov. 4:23), I note that it is full of the counsel of God. If my heart is guarded by worshipping God in Spirit and in truth (His Word of truth) and prayer, then the outflow from it bears witness to the fact that I am a child of God. This is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit.
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17 KJV).
The course of my life is therefore dependant on what I “feed” my heart and from the scripture above amongst others in relation to the Spirit of God, the importance of life lived in fellowship with the Spirit cannot be underestimated.
Two key words of counsel derived from Proverbs 4:23 are that we
1.Watch the Company we Keep.
There are certain people who are inclined to gossip or speak negatively about others and the more I stay close to them the more I will find myself speaking the same way even without realizing it. In fact the mere fact that I listen to such talk means that I am in alliance with their gossiping and malicious banter.
The bible states
“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” (Prov. 16:28 ESV).
“There be six things which the LORD hateth; yea, seven which are an abomination unto him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood;An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief;A false witness that uttereth lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Prov.6:16-19 ESV).
The Apostle Paul gives this noteworthy advice for our application:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”. (Eph. 4:29 ESV)
If I choose to hang around gossipers and malicious people thinking I will change them then I am likely to be disillusioned. Why? Because it is not possible to change someone over night and honestly God is not giving me that mandate unless he knows that I am spiritual strong enough to resist adding to their gossip or malicious talk and partaking of their ways. Even then, God will give me the wisdom to wait on Him for the right time to confront them about their behaviour.
Having done so if they choose to continue, then it means it is time to separate from the one who has chosen to walk the way of the ungodly despite professing to be in Christ. Such people are to be removed from the category of close friends to that of acquaintances who I do not stop praying for, but I guard my heart if I happen to find myself in their company. I accept my calling as a child of God to love the brethren in Christ with the love of God, however not everyone is meant to be my friend. As I walk with the LORD, my priority is to cultivate heart- felt intimacy with Him in true holiness as is humanly possible.
Nothing and no one should be able to prevent me from sustaining a heart from which flows the life of God so that I am able to be in fruitful service unto Him. Therefore if anyone or anything stands in the way, I must step back and take a hard look at that thing or person and pray seriously about it before God, there is no beating about the bush. Satan does me no favors and comes as an angel of light, but praise the Lord that his dark ways through certain people and situations.
It is also important to self examine. If I am so easily influenced by people and even though I know better, I continue to be part of such a crowd and partake of their gossip and malicious conversation (yes even one word) then it means I have formed an unholy alliance which will forever be an obstacle to the power of God working in and through me. This is a serious matter brethren! That I would be quick to acknowledge my sins and repent before the LORD!
We have a Heavenly Father who is merciful and forgives those who acknowledge and confess their sins before him (1 John 1:9).
2.Have the characteristics of true children of God
As believers in Jesus Christ we must remember that we are those who live on God’s “Holy Mountain” and there are characteristics that affirm we are children of God:
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on others; who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
Strife is not the portion of the child of God and from these verses we are also presented with the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. “(Gal 4:13-18 NIV).
May the Lord help us to have and sustain the characteristics that bear witness to the fact that we are true children of God;
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. “(Gal 6:19-26 NIV).
3.Cultivate a life of intimacy with God;
To have the “light of life” (John 8:12) or a heart which is a well spring of life so as to be the “Light of the world” (Matt.5:14) in christlikeness, we must follow the leading of God our faithful Shepherd:
“The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want.2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps.23:1-3 KJV).
The secret place of the most high, that place of intimacy is also abiding “under the shadow of the Almighty” as according to psalm 91, and with psalm 23 we are expressed the profound peace, protection, goodness and mercy we receive as children of God.
If we have the attitude that the sanctification process of the believer in Christ means being restored to the place of having the nature of God the Father, then we will see this process as a partnership which involves us consciously doing our part in obedience to the Word of God. This involves starting our day being still before the Lord, in praise, prayer and bible reading and meditation and also ensuring that throughout the day our focus is on Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Setting time aside with God during break times at work, school or from whatever we are doing. Any time with the Lord is a form of resting in Him “beside still waters” in “green pastures” or in “paths of righteousness”.
In doing the aforementioned, the outflow of the life of God which speaks of one full of the Holy Spirit to overflowing setting the course of one’s life is not only sustained but increased so that we can do more for God. The reality of the “Life-giving Spirit” Jesus’ words in John 14:12 become evidenced in our lives.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12 NIV).
In addition, our discernment and sensitivity to God’s Spirit and His ways is increased and so we are spiritually strengthened and mature enough not to fall into temptation nor act on carnal or satanic provocations.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me (Ps.51:10-12 NIV)
You are blessed. Determine to stay blessed!
©Deborah E. Nyamekye 18/12/2015