Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23
In the Swahili translation, the first part of this scripture reads: “Guard your heart above everything else…”
In other words, there are other things that we should guard; but it is the heart that we are to guard above everything else.
I believe there is much to this scripture than I dare try to expound here. But there is a small light that has been shining in my heart with regard to this scripture, which is what I want to share with you this morning. And it has to do with what I have just explained concerning what it says in the Swahili translation.
There are many areas in our Christian life where we can mess up; but it should never be with the purity of our hearts. We can “blow it” in may areas of our lives; but it never should be with the heart.
Let me illustrate this to try and bring out the light that I have seen in this scripture. Let’s say you and your wife have a disagreement over something. A disagreement often leads to some form of altercation. Unfortunately, this occurs quite often between married couples. But this is not the real problem. The problem, as far as God is concerned, is when we come away from such a situation with bitterness in our hearts. Bitterness causes us to close our hearts to the people who have hurt us. On the other hand, we can walk away from such a situation with a pure heart.
The Corinthian church hurt Paul deeply. He had paid such a big price to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to them but the minute he turned his back, they reverted back to the flesh in a big way. When Paul heard the news, he was deeply distressed. But he did not close his heart. In other words, Paul guarded his heart to the extent that he did not allow any bitterness to seep in. And hence he was able to write them:
“11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. 12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” (2 Cor. 6:11-12)
Paul had such grace that, the more they sinned against (him) the more his heart became enlarged towards them. That is the heart of grace that the Bible talks of and that we should always carry in us.
It is not okay for us to arrive at disagreements, but that is the lesser of the problems that God sees in us. The disagreement or the altercation is not the problem; with God the problem is the condition of our hearts.
In Matthew 5:8 we read:
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
You can do everything well and be blessed; but in order to behold God’s face – in order to get up close to God – you have to take care of the condition of your heart. But, pray, what does it mean to “see God”?
I believe we can find the answer in 1 Peter 3:7
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
Here the Apostle Peter says that if husbands play it roughshod over their wives, God will not grant them an audience. He will not hear or answer their prayers. In other words, such husbands will not be able to “see” God. On the other hand, when we guard our hearts and maintain patient and loving hearts towards our wives, God is pleased with us. He gives an ear to and answers our prayers.
This is as it should be for in Isaiah 57:15 it says,
“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
It is in the same spirit that Jesus taught about forgiveness.
“6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mat. 6:14-15)
Forgiving requires a denial of self. Ultimately, therefore, we have to come back to the cross to be able to keep pure hearts. Only a man or woman who has crucified their lives with Christ can keep and maintain a pure heart in a world that waiting is to defile our hearts every waking moment of our lives. The Bible says that a man’s enemies are those of his own house (Mat. 10:36). That means that it is the things that are closest to us that easily defile our hearts. And what could be closer to us than our own selves. It is when we are unable to rein in our carnal nature that we get defiled in our hearts.
Personally, I can say that in my married life it was my wife who became the biggest thorn in my flesh. Presumably. I had never heard the cross taught as the Apostle Paul expressed it, and I therefore always had something to be bitter towards her. It took me a painfully long time to realize that the key to unlocking the victory over the bitterness lay in my heart. But today, by the grace of God, it is no longer so. Whatever may come between me and my wife, I am glad (and greatly surprised) to see that there is no aftertaste of bitterness after all is ended.
I believe that is one of the true victories that we can claim in the Spirit. But the price we have to pay for such a victory is to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.
Above all things, may we keep a pure heart.
[Called upon to keep and maintain a pure heart]