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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Please, Please Guard Your Heart

 Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

I just got news that a young couple in my church are getting a divorce. They seemed to have such great potential. They gave their hearts to Christ and appeared very committed to Him and to each other. What happened?

They neglected to guard their hearts.

The heart is the wellspring of life. Evil will always seek to invade it. The Evil One wants to destroy it especially if it has been given to the Lord. The heart is such a treasure that it must be guarded. The heart does not contain the treasure of  an individual. It is the treasure.

It is the place where our love begins:

 Matthew 22:37 (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

It is a place separated for the presence of Christ:

 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

It is at the center of our trust of God:

 Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Doing God's will begins in our hearts:

 Ephesians 6:6 (NIV)
6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.

The evil one wants to turn the heart of the believer to:

Harden his heart so he will not respond the Spirit:

 Ephesians 4:18 (NIV)
18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

The individual cannot see in the darkness. The darkness of the heart keeps the individual from seeing and realizing the truth of things in the Spirit. He is separated from God's Spirit so that it is as if he is dead. A dead body cannot respond to the stimulus, thus we call it dead. A darkened heart cannot see (and thus respond) to the Spirit and acts as if it is dead. (Thus, it is separated from the life of God.)

Make him unable to respond to conviction:

 Romans 2:5 (NIV)
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

While this scripture is specifically addressed to those who are unrestrained by God and are, therefore, non-believers, it is easy to understand why Satan would want to return the heart back to its lost state. The believer becomes rebellious to spiritual things. He shuns spiritual instruction. He desires what his flesh desires and plunges his heart into these desires.

 Acts 7:51 (NIV)
51 "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

What can be done for this couple who have separated and will soon divorce if things go as they have planned? Nothing but prayer. Unless their hearts are recaptured, there is no real hope for their marriage. In fact, there is no real hope for their spiritual walk either.

This couple is not unusual. I hear this same story often. It always carries a tale of one (or both) failing to guard their hearts It is a story that could be told of all of us unless we guard our hearts.

Robert Robinson penned these words in the hymn "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing:"

Prone to wander, 
Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;

Here's my heart, Lord,
Take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

It should always be our prayer.


Anonymous said...

Wow! So wonderfully penned, I must say, Ps Prentis.

Many years back, I got this inkling which I believed it was from the Lord, that I must research into the treasure that is embedded in the word, "heart" in Scripture. I never did quite complete that; in fact, I have returned to it again, and still there is so much there in the Word. And so, the "heart" word always lingers in my heart, and mind.

Ps Prentis, I have benefited much too, from your entries, and I encourage you to continue with your writings. I wrote, in one of my blog entries that I believe it is the Lord's desire that I would follow your blog for a season and a time. Whatever the reasons, I know one thing, and it is that even as I read your blog, the Lord uses it to put into me revelations of verses and truths found in His Word, that I previously did NOT have, even though it may NOT be that you have reflected the understanding in the writing.

For example, as I read this entry of yours, the Lord gives understanding concerning what it is meant in 1 Pet 1:16 that we are to be holy as He is holy. I have had some revelation concerning the subject of holiness, yet to talk to people about holiness on a more practical sense seemed so very difficult, for we really have grasped so little, about holiness. When conversation hits "love", whether or NOT, what is dished out is actually correct, almost everyone can and will jump into the bandwagon and gives his "2 cents" worth. But what is holiness? It appeared that it is very much a "God's thing", and the (only) aspect revealed with a definition is that concerning being set apart, and being set apart for service. The word, sanctification connects to it, in that way - to be purified for God's use. Analogy or metaphor that is commonly used is the objects of the Temple, which are dedicated for the Temple's use; they are set apart for use to minister to the Lord; and so, they are NEVER to be used for any other way.

So when we tell others to be holy as God is holy, practically, what are they to do? You see, people brushed away this poser, because their minds straightaway turn to "Ah! You mean I have to do nothing but to do the work of God, full-time!" Would you (maybe NOT you, Ps Prentis) NOT switch off? Many would. You talk about righteousness, many would steer away, you talk about holiness, who would turn up?

Be holy as being set apart for service for God is a definition coming through from the OT; much like laws and commandments are to be obeyed, still in the NT, is an understanding flowing through from the OT; for the dealings of God is of continuity, flowing from OT to NT; and it is NOT that the OT's God was one God, and the NT God is another, although, people with less understanding sometimes are tempted to think that way.

In relation to laws, in NT, we are introduced the concept of laws inscribed upon the heart, as opposed to written laws, on paper and ink; similarly, I now believe, “Be holy as God is holy”, as being set apart for the Lord, is parallel-ly to be understood as being the heart being set apart for the Lord as is reflected in 1 Pet 3:15 (which you, Ps Prentis, quoted). In other words, as a "scripture interprets scripture", 1 Pet 3:15 interprets 1 Pet 1:16. As a support, similarly, the idea of physical circumcision of the OT as a sign of one was under the Old Covenant, is in NT, re-introduced as circumcision of the heart. Enlightened students of the Word will of course know that all of these are NOT that the old laws were wrong, but that the truths of God being revealed in part and in tandem with God’s actions, and the old laws as being a shadow of the more perfect things (or perfect laws) progressively being revealed now and in the time to come.

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Anonymous said...

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We understand the enigma of laws written in the hearts of men, as NOT that literally, laws are inked into or onto the heart, but it is that the Holy Spirit works there, revealing the laws of God for the circumstances on hand. At times, I really was hoping that the Holy Spirit is more insistent (although at other times, I was also hoping that He would NOT prick), so that I will do what is right in God's eyes; but the truth is that, basically, under normal circumstances, the Holy Spirit respects the volition of men; it is part of the Creation grace of God, that men be with volition. In some other words, we commonly hear it being said, "The Holy Spirit is gentle".

It is very clear in NT teaching that God looks at the hearts of men, and God knows the heart of men by their spirits, and for believers, God knows their hearts by His Spirit indwelling them (This, I have an article written on it, on my blog). For a believer, the Spirit of God knows the condition of the human spirit, for He (the Holy Spirit) is right there, and He knows by His interactions or the lack of interactions (because you "permit" Him NOT), with the heart of a man.

My understanding of The Fall of Man and Jesus' redemptive works on the Cross is that the authority to "run one's life", which basically is what volition is about, is “lost over” to Satan when Man fell. Adam and Eve's choosing to listen to the Serpent (Satan) has caused the authority over Man's life be “handed over” to Satan. Putting it in another way, a fallen man is reckoned or counted with Satan.

Jesus’ victory on the Cross resulted in God winning back the authority that had become vested in Satan (legally). In other words, Jesus took back the volition right of every man; He holds for all men, until each comes into salvation. At the time of your entry into salvation, Jesus hands over your volition right, back to you. What is redemption? Redemption means a “restoring back to a previous condition and situation”; in other words, Jesus’ works of redemption brought a believer to the pre-Fall condition of having his volition right – a right to run his own life. What do you do with this right? Who is still after this right? What must you do, for your own sake, with this volition right?

We must know no matter what Jesus’ work on the Cross did, one thing is undeniable and cannot be reversed, and that was that Man had eaten the fruit from the Tree of knowledge of good and evil, which means that, we no longer, even after we have become a believer, can be naked and feel no shame, like pre-Fall Adam and Eve. The simple reason has to do with firstly as stated, because we now have the knowledge of good and evil, and two, Satan replicated “Iniquity” in us all in that Fall; this Iniquity resides in our flesh (from the writings of the Apostle Paul). One way to understand this iniquity is to liken this “iniquity” as the voice of Satan. This voice of Satan works with the knowledge of good and evil, and drives the volition of man to cause man to sin (This is roughly what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he referred to the laws being a “problem” for men). To counter this, God’s solution was and is that He embeds His own voice through the embedding of Holy Spirit (or you can even say the Holy Spirit is the voice of God). Scripture said, at born-again or entry into salvation, God indwells His Spirit into the believer; this is God’s grace for us, believers, providing the means with which we can win over Satan’s future attempts to ensnare us, to get us to be once again counted with him.

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Anonymous said...

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Now, remember, the right of volition, Jesus has given it back to you, a believer. But you have to know what you are to do with this volition right. If you hand it back to Satan, like Adam and Eve did, you are going to be counted with Satan, all over again. You think it cannot be possible? Don’t try it, but if you renounce your allegiance to God, and re-pledge your allegiance to Satan, you will be ensnared and be counted with Satan again.

“That’s simple, why don’t I give my volition right to God!” But how do you give that right to God? There are things we still have NOT understanding, perhaps, somehow, the right of volition is tied to life itself, it cannot be taken outright, without killing the person (physically); Satan did NOT take the right outright; because of it being lost to Satan, the latter controls it through his voice of sin or iniquity; and so, I believe too, the right wrestled back by Jesus (legally; legally, Satan lost to Jesus on the Cross), you can only give it to God by allowing it to be harkening to the voice of God, which is the Holy Spirit. This volition right is in your heart (of course, NOT the physical heart).

When we are told to be holy as God is holy, the only way to achieve that is to set apart our heart for Christ Jesus, which is what 1 Pet 3:15 is talking about. Not going into the exposition of the Trinity, Scripture said that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, He is also the Spirit of Christ; just accept it, that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and so, to set apart our heart for Christ Jesus is to set apart our heart for the Holy Spirit, the Voice of God.

Just as the whole laws and commandments of God are NOT in an instance, all written in the heart of a man (a believer), but are situational-ly prescribed by the Holy Spirit, the right of volition of a man is to be continually given to God. In other words, the heart, where volition right resides, must be set apart for the Holy Spirit, it continually be given to the harkening of the voice of the Spirit. Set apart means it allow NOT, itself to listen to the voice of another (the voice of Satan or iniquity or carnal flesh), but it is to listen solely and at all time, the voice of Holy Spirit – this is the only way, the right over our life, can be given unto God, as a living sacrifice.

So how do you “Be holy as God is holy”? First, you have to receive understanding, then you have to make the decision to set apart your heart for the Lord or the Holy Spirit, and you have to follow that up with a guarding of your heart. You might say, “But he has NOT addressed what holiness is!” Yes, but “holiness” is indeed of God. One can only be holy when one is in perfect synchronization with God, and you can only achieve that, albeit momentarily (currently), through doing as prescribed by the Spirit of God; and you can only do that, if you have set apart your heart to listening to, only the voice of the Spirit (and no other voice). Other voice (the voice of Iniquity) will try to come in, and so, you have to guard your heart.

Does it then mean “Be holy as God is holy”, no longer means being set apart for God’ service? No, but in the same way that now, obedience (to laws and commandments) must first come from the yielded or contrite heart condition, so must service unto God, be first, coming from a heart being set apart for the Holy Spirit. If you begrudgingly do a thing for the Lord, it may please NOT the Lord, for your heart condition is NOT right. Moses, once did just that, he “begrudgingly” (“bad grace”) did what the Lord said, to get water out of the rock (Num 20:1-13). What did God said against Moses, for that occasion, which caused him (Moses) the “right” to enter the Promised Land? “you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites”.

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Anonymous said...

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How does one even to begin to listen to the voice of the Spirit, and NOT listen to another voice, and so, guard our heart? I will NOT go into much details here, but a few pointers can be given:

1. For a start, we all need to learn. We need to learn to recognize the voice of the Spirit. Is it NOT absolutely necessary? Yes, if you do NOT recognize the voice, how can you know what or who to follow?

2. Where to begin, to recognize the voice of the Spirit? Here, the written Word of God. The premise is, and this is always the premise for all believers, and it is that, the written Word of God is infallible. What this means is that the Holy Spirit cannot contradict the written Word. He can reveal things in addition to what has been written, but He cannot contradict what is written. One of God’s ways is along this line: If you cannot love what you can see, your neighbors, how can you love what is unseen, God? If you cannot be faithful with the little that I have given you, how can you be faithful with much more that I could give you; and so, if you would NOT take in His written Word which you can see and read, how can He teach you and guide you with His Spirit, not to mention to reveal more to you? In other words, to be holy as God is holy, you have to begin with studying and receiving in, and applying the written Word of God.

3. It is often that simple, yet it is NOT easy to comply. Can I worship another god in addition to God? Can I kill another man? Can I divorce my spouse? No, No, and No (except under conditions permissible by the Lord). I say it is simple, because it is written there, in the written Word; it is NOT easy to comply, because we do NOT want to simply obey. I always say, “Obedience is NOT ‘I know that’”. So very often, we treat obedience as that; it is wrong, obedience simply means we do or NOT do (as the case maybe) of what has been asked of us. When the instruction is coming from God, you do NOT even need to understand it; you just do it or NOT do it. I tell you why it is NOT easy to comply:

a. You entertain the other voice. If the written Word said, “No”, then it is a “No”; do NOT entertain any other voice.
b. Fear. If you are living out the truths of God, don’t fear. Stand on the written Word that said, “The truth shall set you free”.
c. You sought ungodly counsel. When in doubt, and we can be in doubt (only the overly grace believers are kidding themselves to think that they have the full mind of Christ, and therefore do NOT need anyone {except the overly grace heroes} to speak into their lives), seek godly counsel. Prov 11:14 - “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”

4. Stay together; don’t be a wandering sheep. Scripture gave us the picture of the shepherd had to leave 99 sheep to go after the 1 sheep that had wandered off; why? Because it is dangerous for that sheep. So, a believer must stay within the body of believers, the local church or be part of a proper Christian fellowship. Share life with fellow godly believers; think about the herd of sheep, they roam together, eat and drink together, and they alert each other.

5. Walk daily with the Lord. If you harkened to such teachings as “once saved, is always saved”, or “salvation and Lordship are separate” or “you are forgiven of all your sins, past, current and future, all at the one time, and that one time was at your time of entry into salvation or born-again”, you are NOT going to be of much conviction to walk daily with the Lord. Think about it, would you be still guarding your heart, with these types of understandings. Stay away from heretic and apostate teachings.

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Anonymous said...

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6. I said it again, be open to godly counsel. God speaks through His written Word, He speaks through godly counsel, and He speaks through His Holy Spirit. Roughly, it is in that order; if you refuse the written Word, and godly counsel, chances can be that you would NOT be able to hear His Spirit, even though it might NOT be that the Spirit is NOT wanting to speak to you. And if you refused the first 2, and the Spirit of God still “force” through to you, you better count it exceeding grace that God is granting to you, like Saul before he became the Apostle Paul. Look, it is NOT every day that someone like Saul, is blinded on the highway! Follow the norm prescribed by God, please.

7. Be in the normal, and then expect supernatural. “I thought he is going to give some incredible supernatural keys to holy living that would moved God!”; No, you and I are to do the normal to guard our hearts, and when we are obedient, faithful and steadfast, in His time, the supernatural will come in. When Abraham was told to sacrifice his son, Isaac, he just obeyed; and up the mount he went, and when he was NOT wavering in his faithfulness and steadfastness towards the LORD, God intervened supernaturally, and Isaac was NOT sacrificed.

8. Don’t numb your conscience. Ignore those overly grace teachings that tell you to ignore your conscience. The conscience is part of the heart, if you ignore the pricking of your conscience, you may very well be ignoring the Holy Spirit. If listen to the overly grace preachers to ignore your inner voice (your conscience), sooner or later, you will be “dead meat”, because what you are doing is that you are hardening your heart (Eph 4:18).

9. Distinguish between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. What is difference? Does it lead you to repentance? If NOT, then it is NOT godly sorrow. Godly sorrow has a place in the life of a believer. Worldly sorrow, it happens to us, but discipline and self-control must be applied, and it should cease.

10. Be engaged in some service for the Lord. For one thing, God’s grace is found in abundance when we are serving. Experiencing and seeing the grace of God do help in our transformation. So long as you adopt a proper perspective of humility (in your service), it really does NOT matter if you have NOT the anointing yet, to do all of the service required. It is wrong to legalistically tell people NOT to serve because they have NOT the anointing. You may abstain from holding an office formally, when you have NOT the required anointing that comes with a calling, but it is NOT that you cannot or should NOT serve. My understanding is “All can serve”.

Ps Prentis, of course, has given many verses concerning the heart as being the seat of our spirit, and is the place God looks at, when He deals with each of us, and it is from it, that we can engage God in true spiritualism. Our understanding should be that, the heart here is in NO way referring to the physical heart, which just a biological pump!