20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
listen closely to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to a man's whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.
24 Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
27 Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
The heart is much discussed by Puritan writers. The Bible has 743 verses with the word "heart". Jeremiah indicates that it is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and the very next verse indicates that "I, the Lord, search the heart. I try the reins..."
God knows our hearts. He knows our frames. We're weak and full of sin. That's why we're admonished to guard our heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Everything begins within. It's the inner man that we must be aware of. All sin begins inside...we think about it, then we carry it out.
Mark 7: 20 He (Jesus) went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "
Some sin doesn't even manifest in action, but as Jesus said, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he". If I think about murder, I am a murderer. If I ponder adultery, I am an adulterer. Such is the purity and holiness of God. Such are His exacting standards.
That's why we need a Saviour! Because our hearts are deceitful, and because we sin every day in multiple ways (and many times are unaware of how much we fall short of the glory of God), we need to draw close to God, to guard what we are thinking, and to guard our heart attitudes and motives. We need to be watchful. We need to mortify (put to death) the sin as it rises, in the heart, before it manifests itself in wrong actions, or words.
The Puritans spoke much of "coram deo" - our heart before God.
Remember the passage that says "out of the same mouth comes blessing and evil...brothers, this thing ought not to be so"? We must guard that the words we say and the thoughts we think and the actions we perform are those that are pure, reflecting the image of Christ in our lives.
Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
26 Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.
We must study the Word of God…not just to shun sin, but to learn what we ought to do. Matthew Henry says,
The attentive hearing of the word of God is a good sign of a work of grace begun in the heart and a good means of carrying it on.
A great duty required by the laws of wisdom, and in order to our getting and preserving wisdom: Keep thy heart with all diligence. God, who gave us these souls, gave us a strict charge with them: Man, woman, keep thy heart; take heed to thy spirit.
We must maintain a holy jealousy of ourselves, and
set a strict guard, accordingly, upon all the avenues of the soul;
keep our hearts from doing hurt and getting hurt,
from being defiled by sin and disturbed by trouble;
keep them as our jewel, as our vineyard;
keep a conscience void of offence;
keep out bad thoughts; keep up good thoughts;
keep the affections upon right objects and in due bounds.
Keep them with all keepings (so the word is); there are many ways of keeping things—
by calling in help,
and we must use them all in keeping our hearts;
and all little enough, so deceitful are they, #Jer 17:9.
Or above all keepings;
we must keep our hearts with more care and diligence than we keep any thing else.
We must keep our eyes (#Job 31:1),
keep our tongues (#Ps 34:13),
keep our feet (#Ec 5:1),
but, above all, keep our hearts.
2. A good reason given for this care, because out of it are the issues of life.
Out of a heart well kept will flow living issues, good products,
to the glory of God and the edification of others.
Or, in general, all the actions of the life flow from the heart, and therefore keeping that is making the tree good and healing the springs. Our lives will be regular or irregular, comfortable or uncomfortable, according as our hearts are kept or neglected.
So, ABOVE ALL ELSE, guard your heart.
Examine your thoughts.
Ponder your priorities.
In Whom do you put your trust?
What do you think about throughout the day?
What goals do you have? What are you striving for?
All of this introspection should lead to action. It's no good to be looking at your life under a microscope if it doesn't translate into right actions.
The children's song reminds us:
Be careful, little heart, where you lean.
Be careful, little tongue, what you say.
Be careful, little feet, where you go.
Be careful, little hands, what you do.
Be careful, little eyes, what you see.
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So be careful...
and GUARD YOUR HEART.